September 1, 2007

Baker Keeps Improving

Scott Baker was very inconsistent last season, but that is to be expected with any young pitcher. This season, he got off to a poor start in Spring Training, and posted a 8.71 ERA, which got him sent to AAA to start the season. On May 13, 2007, the Twins designated Sidney Ponson for assignment, and a week later, Scott Baker would get the call to make his first big league appearance of the season, against the Milwaukee Brewers.

His first outing was a good one, and he pitched 8.1 innings, allowing just two runs and six total hits. After that, he had his share of great games and his share of bad games, but overall showed a lot of improvement from the 2006 season. Through his 18 games before last night, he's seen these numbers:

12 games allowing three or less runs.
6 games allowing more than four runs.
In those six games in which he allowed more than four runs, he allowed six or more runs in four of them, and in the other two allowed four and five runs. In the other twelve good games for him, he allowed no runs one time, one run three times, two runs three times and three runs four times.

And then, last night (August 31st), Baker pitched the best game of his life for his first complete game shutout, and his 13th good game of the season.

Baker looked spectacular in every inning, and with every pitch. As each inning passed after the fifth, the chances of Baker tossing a perfect game, or at least a no-no, looked very good.

Then came the ninth, with the perfect game still in tact.

He lost the perfect game with a walk, and the Royals decided to pinch-hit Mike Sweeney, who had been activated just before the game. He singled to end what would have been an awesome moment both for Baker and the Twins season. Baker finished the game giving up that lone hit, and pitching a final line of 9 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs and 9 strikeouts.

Even though he wasn't able to cap it off, he handled it well, and showed us all what has really overcome from last season to this point. It was always there in the stats, but until we were forced to look deeper after this near no-hit bid, we didn't really realize it.

With each month, and mainly with August, Baker has gotten better. He does, like a lot of pitchers, have some less than stellar outings sprinkled in, but other than those, has been great.

First off, lets take a look at his first full month of his season, which included just three games.

GameIP RW - L
May 198.1 2W
May 255.13ND
May 303.0 6ND

In this first month, Baker allowed a total of eleven runs, and finished with a 5.94 ERA for the month. But, if you take out that one poor outing in Chicago, he had a pretty decent start to the season.

June started off the way that May ended, and his first two outings didn't go all that well. Many people questioned if he should lose his spot in the rotation, but he turned it around, and put up pretty good numbers to end the month.

GameIP RW - L
June 055.2 5L
June 154.26L
June 205.0 2W
June 267.0 1ND

As you saw, he ended the month with two good performances, and July would be much the same. With the exception of one bad outing, the most runs that Baker allowed was four, and other than that, he had two one run games, a two run game and a three run game.

GameIP RW - L
July 018.0 1L
July 065.07W
July 126.0 2W
July 196.1 3ND
July 247.04L
July 308.0 1W

This month was very good, and he ended it with a very decent 4.02 ERA, and an overall record of 3-2. He showed a lot of improvement over the month, but the best thing was the amount of innings pitched. Even in the poor outing, he was able to last five innings.

Now we're up to August, and here is what we saw, including his most recent one-hitter.

GameIP RW - L
August 058.0 0W
August 105.16L
August 156.2 1ND
August 216.2 3L
August 266.02W
August 319.0 0W

In this past month, Baker easily pitched his best ever. He had two outings that he allowed no runs at all, and then had a one run, two run and three run game sprinkled in as well. He had just one poor outing, and with that, still managed to post a very good 2.59 ERA for the month.

Overall, if you go through each month, he progressed in each. His ERA numbers have been the following for each month:

May: 5.94
June: 5.64
July: 4.02
August: 2.59

And, not only has he shown improvement in those numbers, but also in his confidence, and pitch location.

If Baker continues to progress, I think he could turn out to be that pitcher we once prized very highly, and will no doubt be one of out top three pitchers next season.