Is Minnesota's Brian Duensing a budding ace, or something close? Might his performance to this point make the Twins a tad more comfortable about trading Francisco Liriano? Michael Rand looks at some numbers ...
The career numbers as a starter, over parts of the past two seasons: 22 starts, 12-3 record, 138.1 IP, 2.93 ERA, opponents have a .688 OPS against him. That's a very quality starter who is basically giving up an average of 2 runs while working 6.1 innings every start. While it would be silly to make direct comparisons to the more dominant and strikeout-oriented Johan Santana, who was a combined 18-6 in 2002-03 as a part-time starter in both of those seasons before jumping into the rotation full-time in 2004 and winning the Cy Young Award, it is not unreasonable to think Duensing could be a top of the rotation guy -- a solid No. 2-3 starter capable of winning 15-17 games a year when given the chance.
Just to be clear, almost nobody wins 15-17 games a year. Sure, some years. But the math for that just doesn't work anymore unless you're a Cy Young candidate. Johan Santana was a perennial Cy Young candidate, and at his best he averaged only 17 wins per year.
There are two reasons to be leery about Duensing's future as a starting pitcher. One, he's not yet shown that he can pitch brilliantly and often in the majors. And two, he was solid in the minors but not brilliant, his strikeout rate dropping as he climbed the ladder.
Duensing's performance as a starter is encouraging, and he's good at inducing ground balls, which partially balances his low strikeout rate. But it will be a serious upset if Duensing ever wins 15-17 games in one year.