Following an Opening Day loss to the Oakland Athletics where Minnesota Twins starter Kevin Correia gave up six runs in 5.2 innings, the Twins' revamped rotation only had one quality start in their last seven tries..
Sportswriter John Lowe coined the term quality start while writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1985. He described it as a situation where a pitcher completes at least six innings and gives up only three runs. While it is not an all-encompassing statistic by any means, and it is not rooted in advanced metrics, when a rotation only produces one quality start in seven tries, it is enough to indicate that a team is having issues with its starting pitching.
Minnesota spent $49 million on Ricky Nolasco, $24 million on Phil Hughes and $11 million on Mike Pelfrey in the off-season. Through two starts, Nolasco is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA. Hughes and Pelfrey have only made one start, but the former owns a 7.20 ERA and the latter is sitting at 5.06 with a loss.
So the $84 million question becomes: How much stock do you place on what has happened this season?
Correia, the lone man with a quality start, which came in a 7-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox on April 2, feels that people should not be quick to judge. "The starters were supposed to be a big improvement and hopefully get off to a good start," he says. "We haven't been bad, we haven't pitched great, but it's so early. At this point in the year there's no trends, there's no way you can look ahead and see what's going to happen. It's just early."
Kyle Gibson, a second-year player who is a year removed from Tommy John surgery, owns a 1.80 ERA and got the win in Cleveland on April 5, but did not get a quality start because he only pitched 5.0 innings against the Indians.
Pelfrey, who is also a year removed from Tommy John, coasted through five innings against the Indians the day before, retiring 15 of the 16 batters he faced, but got hammered in the sixth inning and was removed after only getting one out.
"[We're] thinking [he can go] seven, eight, nine innings here, maybe save our bullpen,' manager Ron Gardenhire told Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "But once the next inning started, he wasn't the same pitcher."
"I was efficient. But the way it unraveled, who cares?" Pelfrey told Miller. "It kind of ruined the whole day."
"Gibby had a great start when he pitched and Pelfrey was really close and I think my last start was a good one and this one wasn't," said Correia. "We're not going out there and getting beat up, I don't think, but we're just a few pitches away here and there from getting deep into games. It's so early. It's hard to judge. We're not even through the rotation twice so it's impossible to predict what's going to happen."
Correia got hit around early in his start, giving up two runs in the second and three in the third, but then appeared to settle in. He retired eight straight batters before giving up a solo shot in the sixth that kept him from completing the inning.
"I started pitching in a little more," he said. "They got almost all their hits on off-speed pitches that were down and away so I made the adjustment and I just threw a hanging breaking ball on the first pitch."
Admittedly, the adjustment came too late, but the Twins scored a run in the second and two in the third, so they were only down 5-3 when Correia got the first two outs in the second inning. Derek Norris' homer in the sixth didn't help Minnesota's cause, but it was the two runs in the seventh, given up by reliever Samuel Deduno, that put the game out of reach.
"I would have liked to get that guy out. There were two outs, nobody on, and the first pitch he just jumped on it," says Correia of Norris. "You learn every time you face a guy like that you've never faced before and you see what his tendencies are. They had a different sort of game plan against me the last time I faced them."
While he says that it is too early to judge the pitching staff, Correia's underlying message is that things will get better. "You've got to get a couple starts under your belt and what I've noticed about a pitching staff is that they kind of get on a roll together," says Correia. "Once you start going, everyone feeds off each other and hopefully that's going to happen here real soon."
Tom Schreier can be heard on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3:00 on weekdays. He has written for Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.