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Now Entering Second Guess Season

Minnesota’s dreams of postseason glory were cut brutally short on Monday night. Target Field was poised to exploded at the first sign of life from the Twins, but that moment would never come. Instead, fans saw the Twins set many dubious records. Minnesota became the first 100-win team to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs and the club has lost an MLB record 16-straight postseason games.

As the dust starts to settle, where should the blame be placed? Fans begin to move from the postseason to a time of second-guessing choices made by the coaching staff and the front office.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Starting Pitchers
After watching Jake Odorizzi on Monday night, plenty of fans were questioning the decision to hold him off until game three. As the series started, Minnesota’s logic was to use Odorizzi, a fly-ball pitcher, at Target Field, which is a less-prone fly-ball park than Yankee Stadium. Randy Dobnak had been a good story for the Twins, but he was a rookie with few MLB appearances.

Odorizzi had been named an All-Star and he might have been Minnesota’s best pitcher down the stretch. While Jose Berrios struggled in the second half (4.64 ERA, 1.38 WHIP), Odorizzi posted a 2.86 ERA in August and a 3.27 ERA in September. In a shorter five-game series, Odorizzi might have been the better choice in the second game of the series.

Kepler’s Injury
Minnesota, like a lot of teams, deal with injuries down the stretch. Luis Arraez suffered what looked like a season-ending injury in the Twins’ last series of the year as he had to be carted off the field. He came back to hit 5-for-11 against the Yankees and he became the first to record to record four doubles in an ALDS. Max Kepler also missed time at the end of the year, but he didn’t fare nearly as well against New York.

Kepler did not record a hit in 13 plate appearances and he officially finished the postseason going 0-for-10 with three strikeouts and three walks. Some might question if Kepler was healthy enough to play in the post-season, but the second guessing could come in the team’s decision not to play him in the season’s final series against Kansas City. It’s hard to know if Kepler was healthy enough to play. However, standing in for at-bats against the Royals might have helped him to get some of his timing back after being injured.

Bullpen
Taylor Rogers didn’t pitch until the third game of the ALDS and Trevor May was limited to one pitch in the entire series. Some might question whether Kyle Gibson should have even been on the roster. In Game 1, Minnesota turned to Zack Littell after only four innings out of Jose Berrios. From there the Twins turned to the likes of Cody Stashak and the aforementioned Gibson. This wasn’t exactly the power bullpen Minnesota had used the final weeks of the season.

The results from Game 2 weren’t much better as Dobnak recorded six outs before Duffey struggled in his 2/3 of an inning. By the middle of the second game of the series, Duffey was the lone key relief option to make multiple appearances and the team’s two best relievers (Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers) had yet to appear. Rocco Baldelli made plenty of good decisions throughout the season, but his bullpen usage in October is something to be questioned.

If you are second guessing the Twins, what decision would you change? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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56 Comments

Both my second-guesses concern Game 1, and I don't really consider either a second-guess since it would have been my approach from the start. I've stated them elsewhere already.

 

#1, Schoop at 2B instead of Arraez. Facing a lefty, with Arraez still hobbled (as the field staff knew even if we didn't), and with better defense, Schoop is the "book" starter. Rocco went with a hunch, I guess, and the third inning proved pivotal.

 

#2, in the fifth inning, treat this as a winnable game and pull out all the stops where pitching is concerned. To advance, you have to win 3 games, and you only get 5 chances. Not every game might be winnable - so the winnable ones are precious. Leave Berrios in for another inning (especially if that third inning played out differently, then he's got fewer pitches under his belt), and then replace him with no one but your best.

 

Steal Game 1 if it's possible, lose Game 2 and 3 as we did, and then see what happens. That's my second-guess.

    • Blake, Jerr, Sconnie and 7 others like this

The Game 1 Bullpen usage was baffling...I don't know what else can be said on that front.

 

 

    • birdwatcher, Jerr, Platoon and 5 others like this

Well, sure is illuminating to see Tampa employing a BP game ON THEIR HOME FIELD, with their season on the line.

 

Including Minnesota's own, the sublime Nick Anderson (he of the 17Ks/9 innings) shutting Houston down for 2+ innings.

 

Gee, wish we had a guy like that to come in and put out fires.

 

Oh, wait....

    • mdawg888, tarheeltwinsfan, Platoon and 3 others like this

"Trevor May was limited to one pitch in the entire series"

 

I was at game 3 and I do recall Trevor May coming in during the 9th inning and throwing more than one pitch to get a couple of outs, unless it wasn't him and the scoreboards had it wrong. 

 

Well, sure is illuminating to see Tampa employing a BP game ON THEIR HOME FIELD, with their season on the line.

 

Including Minnesota's own, the sublime Nick Anderson (he of the 17Ks/9 innings) shutting Houston down for 2+ innings.

 

Gee, wish we had a guy like that to come in and put out fires.

 

Oh, wait....

Him and Pressly would've looked real good in this pen...Liked all their moves at the deadline last year, but that Pressly one was a head scratcher, especially with another cheap year before they had to make a decision on him. 

    • birdwatcher, tarheeltwinsfan and David HK like this

Berrios would have come out for the 5th inning in Game 1. Would have gone to top relievers with the game tied or close instead of the minor league guys. Gibson would not have been in the game even trailing 7-4. Gibson wouldn't have been in any game. Definitely would have started Odorizzi in game 2. The Uber driver decision was misguided in so many ways. I am so sick of so called "great stories". This is the story that matters. Swept in 3. Nothing cute about it.

 

Yup. Or "pitching identifiers" and "developers" let Nick Anderson go, too.

 

It is official. As the other 3 series are all tied at 2-2, our Twins are the only team that performed in the playoffs like they shouldn't have been there. Truly embarassing for the team and the fans. I noticed a discussion about how the Twins outplayed the Yankees with hard hit balls, etc in game 3. The only thing that matters is that you score more runs than the other team in the playoffs. Close doesn't count. Stats don't matter. You lose a game 5-1 and outplayed them????? The Cardinals won game 4 in the late innings with 2 hits with exit velocities in the 60's. When you score, you are outplaying the other team. No spin needed. I hate the excessive shifts. Several cost us big time. And they will continue to do so. Hits even go through the shift on the side that is packed, because even where the player would have been, they are not now, and the ball pulled goes right through that hole, because even with 3 on that side, the normal spot is now vacant. We are so smart we weren't even competitive. Embarrassing.

    • wavedog, David HK, bighat and 2 others like this
Uhhh we've questioned this for a while, but why Margo at first and Sano at third? Both have strong arms but Margo has much better hands and range. Sano let two gettable balls get by him in absolute huge spots. Gardner caught him off guard, and the bases loaded double of his glove in Yankee stadium. To me that was obvious during the season and it finally caught up with us at the worst time.
    • birdwatcher, ken and Huskertwin like this
Also, pitch selection. Yankees weren't swinging down in the zone. We were so worried about HR we forgot to elevate fastballs for swinging strikes, pop outs and just to change hand and eye levels. Gibson reinvented himself with the high 4 seamer then came un and threw almost all sinkers at the bottom of the zone. He'd fall behind and no one would respect the slider which he was actually rolling off the table. He threw 1 pitch up and in to DJ and got a swinging strike then hung a slider middle in. Dobnak did the same thing.
    • birdwatcher and Huskertwin like this

Agree with most of these 2nd guesses.  Arraez could play game two but not game one.  Silly.  Schoop not as valuable, especially in 2nd half but far superior in the field and had over an 800 OPS against lefties.

 

Also, all players out for close to a month get some type of rehab to face live pitching.  If Kep wasn't healthy enough, then he shouldn't have played.  Wade is an on base machine.  Play him, especially over the vastly outmatched Cave (especially in the field).

 

Agree on game one, empty the chamber with your bullpen to win game one.  Then, if you do win, improvise...

 

Oh well.  Also it's ok to not acknowledge what a meltdown this was in general, but it's hard to hear that right after the game from the head coach.  At least admit you did not play as you did most of the year.  Fall on the sword while your team and your entire fan base are mortified.  Then a day or two later talk about the amazing year we had.

    • h2oface and Huskertwin like this

I would have grabbed a starter, even if his last name was Lynn, at the trade deadline (although I would have preferred Grienke). I would have overpaid and got Smith from the Giants as a closer.

 

Instead of at bats to Wade/LaMarre/Miller I would have put Kiriloff in the lineup for September.

 

100% only players for round one of playoffs.

 

And Odorizzi should have started Game One!

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
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Lasorda_This_Out
Oct 08 2019 11:02 PM

Full Disclosure...watched zero nanoseconds of all three games. And I was at the 2-0 win at Target Field on Opening Day-28Mar2019 when Marwin's 2-RBI double off Kluber won game one of the 101 wins. Somehow knew any series (single game or a 3 of 5) against the most IMPORTANT CITY ON PLANET EARTH would not end well? Analysis: True

The MLB experts who rarely EVER highlighted the Twins during the Regular Season and blatantly dismissed their chances in Post-season were correct...we don't belong to the anointed Elite yet, ie NY, Bos, Hou, LA....and not even Tier Two's, CLE, SEA,DCA,OAK and Mets? We're "Fargo"? Get it? Laughable. 

Now FalVine have to make bold off-season moves...even it means trading current favorites on the 25 man roster (looking at Rosario and Buxton as a start?) and high prospects ( except Lewis and Kiriloff).

Now or never?

 

 

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Aerodeliria
Oct 08 2019 11:29 PM

I disagree about Arraez, he had one bad play that arguably could have been caught by Rosario coming in on the bloop, but he also came up with some clutch hitting. On the throw to first, it was low but it wasn't even in the dirt, so that was completely on Cron. You have to catch that!!!!!

 

On the remainder of the complaints, I agree.

 

I was worried by Cron's inability to catch non-perfect throws to first and wanted Gonzales on the infield instead. Use Cron as a pinch-hitter against lefties, but his defense is just not good enough for playoff baseball to be on the field for the whole game IMHO.

 

I've already ranted long enough about pulling Berrios out, so I'll just leave it at that.

    • spycake and nclahammer like this

In hindsight, I would have liked to see the approach to the bullpen use that was used in game #3, used in games #1 and #2.More of a sense of urgency, and not saving your studs for the later innings, which it turned out, the games were already out of reach by then.

Agree with the Kepler 2nd-guess and I posted something about it earlier as well.

 

Game 1 of the ALDS in Yankee Stadium against James Paxon isn't the place to get your first at-bat in over a month. Ridiculous. Kepler should have played during the KC series and if he wasn't good enough to go, he should not have been on the playoff roster. Astudillo could have taken his spot.

 

Waving the white flag in Game 1, in hindsight, looks absolutely terrible. Pulling Berrios. Then having Gibson on the playoff roster and then using him as an innings-eater in a 3-run game still has me scratching my head.

 

Overall it's easy to be a Monday Morning QB. And sure, there were some questionable decisions from the lineup standpoint.

 

But this team lost this series because the players got out-pitched and out-hit. The team faltered under pressure, looked as bad as they did all season. Hard to blame the terrible play of just about everyone on Rocco Baldelli. This embarrassing series loss is on the players, in my opinion.

 

    • Jerr, Dantes929, h2oface and 1 other like this

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. We simply did not hit. My biggest concern was the lineup. Arraez should have batted leadoff and Kepler down in the lineup. As far as Odorizzi, I would have used him in Game 1 or 2 but he had to pitch somewhere anyway so maybe the strategy of waiting til Target field was a wise move.The lack of use of our 3 best relievers was puzzling as well. Finally, we should have had a bodyguard on Pineda to stop him from taking something that would get him suspended.

    • SwainZag, bighat and Huskertwin like this

 

"Trevor May was limited to one pitch in the entire series"

 

I was at game 3 and I do recall Trevor May coming in during the 9th inning and throwing more than one pitch to get a couple of outs, unless it wasn't him and the scoreboards had it wrong. 

I'm pretty sure Rocco checked out before the 9th inning of game 3 (hence how Romo was inexplicably left in for a second inning and a season-high pitch count). So maybe May's appearance beyond that point doesn't count somehow? :)

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one_eyed_jack
Oct 09 2019 07:17 AM

There were a few dubious decisions to be sure but this series was so one-sided that it's hard to imagine a different outcome had different decisions been made.

 

It was such a frustrating series, made even more so by the fact that every other DS is competitive - we're the only team that got so easily sent home.

 

I'm so sick of the condescending pats on the head, the "plucky midwestern overachievers who get routinely stomped by the big bad bullies from the Bronx" narrative.Open the vaults, get a couple of shutdown starters and lockdown bullpen guys and flip the effing script.I don't want to hear about how proud you are of your regular season.I want to hear about how you're not satisfied with being playoff punching bags.

 

 

    • Hosken Bombo Disco, David HK, Battle ur tail off and 1 other like this
Well your best pitcher all season is Berrios. There is no one in the bullpen who is better. Now I can see pulling him in mid June with 80 pitches and a 3 - 3 tie game where only one of his runs were earned, buy not in October!!! I ride that horse for 7 innings, if mechanics look good 110 - 120 pitches. Let's say he gives up another 2 runs and it's 5 - 4 going into the 8th inning, I give the Twins offense a better than 50% chance of winning in that situation. I give them a 70% chance of at least tying the game up. But not down 10 - 4. What were they saving him for, the end is here!!

Then I definitely start Odorizzi in game 2, that at least gives you the possibility of using him in game 5 if need be, why wouldn't you use your best two pitchers the most??? Hell Washington has used their best two pitchers as starters and out of the bullpen, I mean they haven't won anything yet, but at least they have a shot at it now. It's like I get saving these guys a little in June and July so as to get to October, but once in October pull out all of the stops and go for it. I mean Dobnak is a great story but game 2 in Yankee stadium?? And even if the Twins were still in it now Odorizzi is unavailable in game 5.
    • Jerr, Hosken Bombo Disco and Huskertwin like this

I don't quite understand the Berrios criticism. I guess he set down the bottom of their order in the 4th, but he didn't look particularly good before that, and he was already at 88 pitches with the heart of the Yankee order (Judge-Gardner-Encarnacion-etc.) coming up for a third time. Those 3 batters in particular were already 3-for-5 with a walk in the game (including two doubles from Encarnacion).

 

The regular season move might be to try to milk another inning out of Berrios, but pulling him in favor of your fully rested pen seems like a solid postseason move.

    • diehardtwinsfan, SwainZag and twinbythebay like this

 

Well your best pitcher all season is Berrios. There is no one in the bullpen who is better. 

By what measure? Berrios pitched the most innings, but "better" implies quality, not quantity. And with a fully rested pen in a tied postseason game in the 5th inning, I think we were looking for quality rather than quantity too.

 

By any objective view, Rogers and Duffey were better *quality* pitchers than Berrios this season. Odorizzi has an argument. If you weigh the last 2 months, May and Littell would enter the conversation too, maybe even Romo.

    • Riverbrian and twinbythebay like this

In high school in a single elimination region game we had a an ace and several other good pitchers. We probably had a 50/50 chance against the first team if we didn't use our ace but less than 50/50 against the 2nd team if we didn't use our ace. Our odds were good against either team with our ace.Our coach did not use our ace in the first game, we won that one, and then the 2nd game 1-0 and went on to win the state championship and everyone called the coach a genius.Another season we had the exact same situation with the same ace and the coach made the same decision.We lost that first game and our playoffs were done and our ace was never used. The coach was 2nd guessed by nearly everyone.The exact same situation and the exact same decisions but with different outcomes and in one the coach is a genius and the other he is an idiot. In this case, in game one, yes, Berrios could have maybe gone another inning but he was obviously struggling with the command of his signature pitch. Take a look at Littell's game log this season and you will see he was pretty much lights out all year long. It should have gone Littell, Duffey, May, Romo and Rogers to shut out the game much like it happened many times this season. Instead Littell, who walked 2 guys per 9, walks the first guy, throws a wild pitch, and then beans a guy. Now Duffey comes in earlier than desired and gives up those two runs.It wasn't the plan that was flawed it was the performance by the players. Aaraez should have had the pop up, Cron should have caught the double play relay and the Twins would have been in position to use the relievers in order.Its on the players. They didn't make the plays and the Yankees did. Its not that our players couldn't make the plays or that they couldn't make contact with no outs and bases loaded. Its that they didn't. Its baseball.

    • mickeymental, chpettit19 and Huskertwin like this
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stringer bell
Oct 09 2019 08:32 AM
I think the Twins strategy was to get the ball to their reconstituted bullpen with a chance to win. Berríos gave four credible innings and Odo five, but the chances of either surviving another full inning weren’t great.

I thought Schoop in the first game was a given and Arraez’ lack of mobility cost them in the field.

The club gambled on giving Kepler maximum rest and lost. Kepler is prone to snags like he suffered in the playoffs, and expecting him to be sharp after missing most of a month was a bad gamble.
    • twinbythebay likes this

On the Schoop/Arraez thing, I posted elsewhere, but I don't get that criticism either. Even as a "lefty masher" Schoop had basically the same AVG and a lower OBP vs LHP than Arraez this season, and Schoop's profile (power, strikeouts) was also largely redundant with several other pieces in our lineup. Arraez turned out to be one of our few effective bats this postseason, and perhaps his unique profile was a contributing factor -- the Yankees didn't seem to have an effective approach for him. (Schoop struck out in both of his pinch hit ABs, suggesting the general Yankee approach was working on him too.)

 

Furthermore, it looks like perhaps Schoop is exploitable in the postseason / pressure spots? Career postseason OPS of .346 before 2019. Others have noted he wasn't exactly "clutch" this year either (-1.10 WPA, -0.58 WPA/LI, both worst on the team, with career negative marks too). Last October the Brewers only started him 1 time, and used him as a pinch hitter 3 times, over 10 postseason games. He shouldn't be an automatic start in the postseason vs a LHP, or anyone, really.

 

I'm sure there's a point where Arraez's health may have warranted Schoop starting, but it's not clear to me that we were at that point, despite that looper dropping in the outfield in game 1.

"Minnesota became the first 100-win team to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs"

 

Well, how many times have two 100-win teams ever even played in the first round of the playoffs? A quick search shows me that this was only the second time ever in the division series (Yankees vs. Red Sox in 2018 the other) and only the fourth time in the wild-card era that two 100-win teams faced each other in any playoff series, including the World Series.

 

That's a dubious record to point out :)

    • ashbury, Riverbrian and Craig Arko like this
My only two things

Schoop should have started game one. No question.

Odorrizi should have started game two.

I agree strongly with the Gibson decision. That keeps the Yankees from seeing the good RP two days in a row.

I was mildly opposed to some of the bullpen usage, but not strongly.

Before the series, people here said the bullpen was vastly improved, and the front office deserved credit for Littell and others. So, which is it?

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