Cookin’ Up A Few More Years
A few days ago, I was excited to see that the Twins signed their young ace Scott Baker to a new four-year contract (worth something like $14-15 million, I believe).
All things considered, Baker is the current ace of the Twins’ pitching staff. Though Francisco Liriano may have a better fastball/slider combination and Kevin Slowey probably has better command of the breaking stuff, Baker is able to put everything together in a devastating arsenal of pitches. When Baker is “on”, as evidenced by his near no-hitter towards the end of the 2007 season, he is almost unhittable.
The one key area that Baker needs to improve upon to vault himself into the elite American League pitchers, though, is his ability to pitch deeper into games. For the first five innings of any ballgame, I would take Baker right up there with the best of them. By that point, however, Baker will likely have thrown over 100 pitches already and thus always be on the verge of being yanked by Gardy. Johan Santana had the same problem at some points with the Twins. Thus, Baker needs to either become more economical with his pitches, or condition himself better so as to be able to throw 120 pitches a game (although that would be difficult due to the “magic pitch counts” firmly in place these days).