Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is Kevin Correia's performance just smoke and mirrors?

There can be plenty of surprises at the beginning of a season.

The Twins find themselves around the .500 mark and most fans would likely be happy if the club was able to keep up this pace for the remainder of the season. It might not be likely but stranger things have happened in the world of baseball.

One of the most intriguing players so far this year has been Kevin Correia. He has definitely surprised plenty of Twins fans with his performances on the mound. Out of the members in the Twins starting rotation, he has been the most consistent. He has thrown seven innings or more in each start by allowing three runs or less.

Correia became the first Twins pitcher to throw at-least seven innings in his first four starts of the year since Ramon Ortiz did it back in 2007. Oritz would compile a 4-4 record and a 5.14 ERA before the team dumped him on the Rockies in mid-August for Matt Macri. So it is important to take into account the wonders of small sample size at the beginning of the year.

When the Twins signed Correia this offseason, there were plenty of people in the industry that scoffed at the contract he was given. Minnesota is paying Correia $10 million over the next two years. That is a decent chunk of change for a man without that great of a track record. His career ERA of 4.54 and a WHIP of 1.41 seemed hardly worthy of $5 million a year but that's what Minnesota is paying him.

Correia's first impression with the Twins wasn't the greatest. He scuffled in spring training and posted some terrible numbers. His ERA was 5.40 and his 1.68 WHIP was tough to stomach. He gave up more than a hit an inning and he only struck out eight men over 25 innings. Twins Territory was left bracing for the worst.

This could have left Twins fans wondering why the team had offered a player like this a two-year deal. But lucky for Twins fans, spring training statistics usually don't matter. Correia has looked great so far but it's hard to know if he will be able to keep up this pace.

The lowest ERA he has posted in a season was 3.45 back in 2007 with the San Francisco Giants. He only made eight starts that season. Since becoming a full time starter, he only has one season with sub-4.00 ERA. He was a Padres pitcher that season and over half of his starts came at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

In recent years, the Twins witnessed the turn around of Carl Pavano, another veteran pitcher with a poor track record. Pavano's flaws had been mostly related to injuries so he was able to put up solid middle of the rotation numbers when he was healthy.

Correia's connection to Pavano isn't exactly perfect because Correia didn't fight a lot of injuries before joining the Twins. He has pitched at least 145 inning since 2009 and that includes a minimum of 26 starts in those seasons. Over that stretch, he averaged 167 innings per season and that would have ranked second on last year's Twins behind Scott Diamond.

If a person is taking bets on Correia, it might be time to sell your stock while it is still high. It doesn't seem like he has anywhere to go but down. His track record shows that he will most likely come back down to earth at some point this season. For now, fans can relish the solid performances he is putting forth on a team that continues to surprise.

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