Twins' Scott Baker Might Be MLB's Best No. 5 Starter

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 11: Starting pitcher Scott Baker #30 and catcher Rene Rivera #32 of the Minnesota Twins celebrate a win against the Texas Rangers following their game on June 11, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rangers 8-1. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Twins have generally been a smart franchise, over the years.

They certainly haven't been perfect, though.

Wednesday afternoon, Scott Baker tossed 7-1/3 shutout innings and beat the Dodgers, dropping his 2011 ERA to 3.15.

Baker's performance shouldn't be all that surprising. While he's a bit homer-prone, Baker was exceptionally consistent from 2007 through '10, with a perfectly adequate (4.14) ERA and an excellent (3.41) strikeout-to-walk ratio. And he did those things essentially every year; the guy probably brushes his teeth at exactly 11:43 every night before bed.

For the Minnesota Twins, though?

Sorry, Scott. Not. Good. Enough.

Scott Baker had to fight for a rotation slot this spring. The fifth slot. Just a week before the season opened, four pitchers had already been anointed: Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing.


That left the fifth slot for either Baker or Kevin Slowey.

To their credit, management finally did award the job to Baker. And hey, if you believe the Twins are among baseball's very best organizations, you might even argue that they knew exactly what they were doing; that they intended all along for Baker to start, but wanted to light some sort of fire under his keister.

Whatever their wisdom, though, I doubt if management believed, while (supposedly) deciding between Baker and Slowey, that the winner of the competition for the No. 5 slot would become their No. 1 starting pitcher.

Which is what Baker's been this season. After beating the Dodgers, Baker's got that team-low 3.15 ERA and -- as usual -- an excellent (3.48) strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Scott Baker's not a Hall of Famer. But he's not a No. 5 starter, either. He's a solid No. 2 or 3 for a lot of teams, among them the Minnesota Twins. And if the club really didn't recognize that before this terribly disappointing season, they've got even bigger problems than we know.

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