P.J. Walters is (Sadly) the Twins' Best Starter

When only three potential starters have an ERA lower than 4.50, your options are limited.

It’s the bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded, two outs, the Minnesota Twins lead by a run. Their entire bullpen has been ejected for attempting horrendous Harry Caray impressions. Who do you want out there on the mound? (The ghost of Johan Santana’s left arm is not an option.)

The answer is clearly (drumrolls abound) P.J. Walters. When you only have three potential starters (Kevin Correia, Sam Deduno and Walters) with an ERA lower than 4.50, your options are limited.

Inside P.J. Walters' Numbers

Walters has been a nice little spark of competency for the Twins rotation since his call-up from AAA. In his first four starts, Walters is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA.

This has been a great turnaround for Walters, who finished 2-5 with a 5.69 ERA in 12 starts for the Twins last year. Then again, his ERA wasn’t too far from the starting staff’s ERA of 5.40. That number still brings tears to my eyes.

One of the most impressive things about Walters’ start is how little run support he has received. The Twins have put up more than three runs in only one of his starts this year (an 8-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers). In Walters’ only loss, he allowed three runs (NONE of which were earned) in six innings and picked up the 4-1 loss. Rough.

The scary part about Walters, however, is his WHIP. It’s currently sitting at 1.46, which is just a hair below last year’s total of 1.51. Opponents are actually hitting better against him this year (.298 batting average against) than last year (.289).

The most-P.J.-Walters-start-ever came against the Detroit Tigers. In his first start of the year, Walters went six innings, allowing only two runs… on eight hits. The biggest difference? His HR/FB ratio. It’s at 3.4 percent now, compared to his career average of 15.5. That could be kind of ugly moving forward.

Similar to Kevin Correia, Walters has been relying heavily on his off-speed stuff this year. In 2011, Walters threw curveballs on two percent of his pitches at an average velocity of 70.0. This year, he has thrown the hook 33 percent of the time at an average velocity of 77.0. The velocity of his fastball has also increased to 90.1 miles per hour from 88.6 last year.

The reality is that Walters will regress and probably finish with an ERA over four. But, for now, he is doing a nice job of mixing in his off-speed stuff, going deep into games, and keeping the Twins in low-scoring games, something not a lot of their other starters can claim.

Jim Sannes covers baseball and the Minnesota Twins weekly for numberFire. Contact him on Twitter @JimSannes.