Ground balls and pitching metrics be damned, the only number that Minnesota Twins de facto front-line starter Kevin Correia is concerning himself with in 2013 is the counting number that counts the most: wins.
To get them won’t be easy, not when the righty striking out 4.68 batters every nine innings, and when he only has good, but not pinpoint control (2.42 BB/9 in 2012). Still, as the team’s most notable free agent acquisition to the team’s rotation says, the road to his success is to “pitch as many innings as you can and be consistent out there every time.”
Whether he’ll be able to provide that for the Twins is hardly a sure thing, though, even if it may be the biggest factor to determining whether he’s worth the two-year, $10 million contract the team gave him.
Thing is, there was a time, not too long ago, when Correia wasn’t strictly a guy who generated ground balls at a 51.5 percent rate, as he did last season. In fact, in 2010, the then-29 year old was actually trending upwards in the strikeout department, posting a 7.14 K/9 that represented the peak of a three-year increase.
Getting back there in 2013 is probably a little too much to hope for, given that his swinging strikes percentage had already been on the downswing at the time, but Correia would just as well take the version of himself that walked a career-low 2.42 BB/9 into the coming season, especially if it means that he’ll last longer into starts.
Part of that means he’ll have to stay healthy, as he dealt with an oblique injury towards the end of 2011 that lasted into early 2012. The other part of that plan is throwing more strikes, even if that means he’s going to give up more contact.
He’s done just that over the last couple of years, going from a strike percentage of 60.6 in 2010 to 64.1 last season.
Sure, wins are largely line-up dependent, the fact is that Correia hasn’t been a losing pitcher over the last three seasons, and the Twins are built to play exactly to Correia’s style. Even though he’s “probably not going to strike out 250 guys”, Correia will be looking to establish a career-high in innings pitched in the coming season.
There’s hope for that to happen after he pitched 171 innings, a three-season high, with Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012.
Not getting the strikeouts won’t get him any love in the numbers community, but as pedestrian as his stuff may be, he was still a passable pitcher last year who ate innings with a middle-of-the-road 4.21 ERA.
That’s not going to kill the Twins on any given day in 2013, and if he can lead the rotation with innings last year with those numbers, it’ll go a long way to anchoring a Twins rotation that will have a need for known quantities – which is exactly why they signed Correia in the first place.