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Randy Dobnak Should Be the Twins Game 2 Starter

I know what you are probably thinking: “Whoa whoa whoa, hold on, if there is one thing that is set about the Minnesota Twins starting rotation, it’s Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi are their clear cut one and two starters.” This is a sentiment that I completely agree with and is why I think starting Randy Dobnak in game two of the ALDS would be a good idea for the Twins. So, before you go off on why you think this is a terrible idea, just hear me out for a second.
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With the suspension of Michael Pineda, and the poor performance from Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez, it is becoming more apparent that the games, outside of the ones Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi start, will need to be pseudo “bullpen” games to get those valuable 27 outs. While conventional wisdom would be to have Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi start the first two games of the series, and then piece together games three and four with the bullpen, the Twins might actually be better off by splitting the Berrios and Odorizzi starts.

By having Jose Berrios go game one, and Jake Odorizzi go in game three, the Twins can focus games two and four (if necessary) around getting all 27 outs from the bullpen. By having them do it in games two and four, everyone who pitches those nights will get a guaranteed off day the next day, as the teams will have a travel day as they change venues. So, if Rocco needs to burn through almost every arm in the bullpen, he can do so, and they should be back and ready to go for the next game. However, if the Twins were to wait until game three to first implement this strategy, or if they were to start someone like Kyle Gibson or Martin Perez, who could get pulled earlier than expected, it puts the Twins in a real tough situation for game four, as everyone that would pitch in game three wouldn’t get a night off before they might be called on again.

Another benefit of using this strategy is that the Twins can essentially stock their bullpen with 10 or 11 arms, depending if the Twins carry 12 or 13 pitchers on their postseason roster. This will give Rocco Baldelli the ability to have a short leash with some of his pitchers and avoid letting one guy completely ruin any chance of winning that ballgame. It also protects the bullpen, if Jose Berrios or Jake Odorizzi was to have a short start, from needing to burn through the most valuable bullpen arms to get through that game.

So, this brings up the still lingering question: Why is Randy Dobnak the guy I think the Twins should turn to in game two of the ALDS, as opposed to guys like Kyle Gibson, Martin Perez, Lewis Thorpe or Devin Smeltzer? The answer is simply this, I believe he has the best chance to give the Twins three or four effective innings before Rocco needs to turn the chains loose on the rest of the bullpen. Kyle Gibson’s struggles of late have been more than apparent, so to trust him to get through a few innings without surrendering a bunch of runs to either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees roster might be a fool’s errand. Additionally, with both the Astros and Yankees lineups being loaded with a ton of right-handed hitting sluggers, Dobnak is the only pitcher on this list (other than Gibson) that would give the Twins a platoon advantage.

While Randy Dobnak isn’t a pitcher who will strike fear into the hearts either the Astros or Yankees lineups, he does have the ability to be effective in a turn or two through either one of those lineups. Dobnak has been a professional pitcher since 2017, and in that time, he has posted a career 2.57 ERA in the minor leagues, and a 2.01 ERA in 22 1/3 innings pitched at the major league level. His performance this year led him to being named the Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Another thing that Dobnak does well is suppress fly balls. In his brief time with the Twins in 2019, Dobnak’s has a flyball rate of 18.1 percent, which is the seventh lowest of the 525 MLB pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings this season. For the season as a whole, Dobnak has allowed a fly ball rate of just 22.7 percent in his 157 2/3 combined innings between the minor and major leagues. This ability of Dobnak’s to prevent opposing hitters from hitting fly balls could be of upmost importance, especially if game two of the ALDS takes place in Yankees Stadium.

At the end of the day, the Twins playoff hopes could very well rest on the shoulders of Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. Unfortunately, those two can’t start every game for the Twins, so they will need to get creative to find the best way to get outs effectively in the games where they are not on the mound. By splitting up these games, it will give the Twins a lot more flexibility for utilizing their bullpen, as they can take full advantage of two built-in off days throughout the course of a series.

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Your logic is unassailable; thus, it will not happen. However, if it did, I would pitch Dobbie first, then hit 'em with some Smeltzer in their pants. The young lefty has shown an ability to baffle hitters with his slow stuff, and he doesn't. walk. people. Between Dobs and Smelt, you could get 6 or 7 innings with the team still in the game. After that it's Duffey, Romo, and Rogers slams the door. 

    • nokomismod, brvama, woolywoolhouse and 10 others like this

A reasonable plan, but the fact that it is one of our better options if very concerning for our chances in the playoffs....


If we play the Yankees, it will be the first ever homerun hitting contest taking place in the playoffs instead of the allstar break :)

    • DannySD likes this

This sounds like a reasonable and creative tactic. I'm not confident that ANY of the Twins' pitchers can do the job against New York or Houston, but this seems to me to give us a higher probability of success than any other scenario.

    • LA VIkes Fan and SF Twins Fan like this
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    • James and HrbekRules like this
Yes the Dobber and Smeltzer should be starting...they need more innings to improve!
And Rogers sure did slam the door shut last night...on us.

Smeltzer starting,please NEVER, IN a playoff game

Good take - makes sense , Thats why it probably wont happen ?

I've been promoting this idea for a while.The only question is if it goes 5 games do you want Berrios or Odorizzi going game 1 and 5. Bullpen games do not scare me. They have actually constituted our best games lately. I consider them an equivalent of a 3.00 ERA pitcher going 9 innings. Why would you want Perez or Gibson with their 6 ERA's for 5 innings when you can have 5 pitchers with 3.6 ERA or better (except for Graterol) going 2 innings each. We have never had a bullpen like this that can arguably go 9 deep.Smeltzer is not batting practice by the way.He hits corners. While I like the stuff and fearlessness of Dobnak it does appear that a lot of his pitches touch the heart of the plate.  

    • birdwatcher, brvama, woolywoolhouse and 1 other like this

This is what they have to do. 


They have left themselves in no other position. 


We simply don't have enough information on Dobnak or Smeltzer to hand either of them the ball in the playoffs. 


However, we do have enough information on Gibson and Perez to know that we shouldn't hand them the ball in the playoffs as traditional starters. 


I am typing this as the game starts with Perez on the mound and I am saying that it doesn't matter if he throws a shutout this afternoon. We have enough data and that data suggests that Perez should not be a planned starter for the playoffs. 


I have no problem with a bullpen game, in fact, I believe they work. But, I really wish (I've been stating this since June)... we had more innings and therefore information on what kind of pitcher Dobnak or Smeltzer will be so it wasn't such a reach into the raffle drum come playoff time. 


The natural reaction to Dobnak from most will be based on a "Who is this guy" uncomfortableness. As far as Dobnak is concerned... Take a look at what he did this year in the minors and the pros. Then do the same with Zach Plesac of the Indians. You will notice a lot of similarities. 


I'm not saying that Dobnak could be Plesac... I'm saying I don't know but I am saying that both were unranked prospects... One was handed the ball at the MLB level (Plesac) and one wasn't (Dobnak). 


And I'm saying that it is absolutely possible that Dobnak is a better pitcher right now... When we need him to be than Perez is and better than Gibson currently is. Possible... but yet... we don't know and this is unfortunate.  





    • brvama, LA VIkes Fan, mikelink45 and 5 others like this
I agree with Riverbrian. The question really isn’t “should Randy Dobnak start in the playoffs?” It’s “do we trust Gibson or Perez enough to start in the playoffs?” I think that we all know the answer to that question is a resounding “NO WAY!!!” So, Rocco has two choices: 1) go with seniority and give one of the two boys a chance, with a short leash, or 2) go in a different direction with The Dobber ™ or Smeltzer.

How Rocco answers that question will tell us how committed he is to stats and new methods.
    • Riverbrian and MN_ExPat like this
Sep 22 2019 12:53 PM
While we don’t have enough information the Twins have plenty of information. The major league ball spins the same as the AAA ball. They have all kinds of data about which pitches will be effective against the Astros or Yankees. They have all kinds of data on how well the pitcher has executed the pitches they were supposed to throw.

They probably did not know the whether the IL stay may have helped Gibson recover. We know now. He hasn’t recovered.

As for the plan I would be surprised if games 2 and 4 were not bullpen games. We have seen plenty in preparation this month including three in huge games.

Dobnak is truly an amazing story. Few players from his draft class of 2017 have arrived in the majors. Keston Hiura is the only one that stands out in my mind as making a better first major league impression than Dobnak. Dobnak wasn’t even drafted. I am not sure if anyone in his college has ever played in the minors. If he adds playoff success somebody needs to write a book and make a movie.
    • birdwatcher, brvama, DocBauer and 1 other like this
Only Here in Negative
Sep 22 2019 01:20 PM

Dobnak should start Game 1, not Game 2. If you're going to stretch the pen in a Dobnak game, you want Berrios after as he's most likely to give you 7 or 8. That's a break before Odo/Perez, who strain pens in general. And Berrios would still line up to pitch Game 5 on normal rest.

Only Here in Negative
Sep 22 2019 01:25 PM

I think we err in putting Perez in the same bucket as Gibby. Gibby is sick/injured and looks terrible. Perez is just erratic. His last 7 starts include four in which he went five innings and gave up two earned runs or less - and that includes good offenses like Milwaukee and Boston. The other three include a start of 4.2 with 3 ER and two where he got shellacked (though one of those his defense did him no favors). He sometimes is terrible but if you have a quick hook, Perez is a guy I don't mind handing the ball to. He seems as likely to have a solid short start as Smeltzer or Thorpe. They just can't treat him like Odorizzi or Berrios and give him a long leash.


Edit: Of course, Perez is getting lit up as I wrote that :)

    • DocBauer, tarheeltwinsfan, MN_ExPat and 2 others like this

With the way Gibson and Perez are pitching, maybe starting both Dobnak and Smeltzer in their place is a good idea. We are giving up huge leads left and right lately; not a great strategy in trying to win baseball games.

    • nokomismod and DannySD like this

Perez just got yanked after 2.1 innings (52 pitches) letting in 5 runs after the Twins took a 6-0 lead in the first. 

Can Graterol or Thorpe start or are they not stretched out enough at this point?


While we don’t have enough information the Twins have plenty of information. The major league ball spins the same as the AAA ball. They have all kinds of data about which pitches will be effective against the Astros or Yankees. They have all kinds of data on how well the pitcher has executed the pitches they were supposed to throw.



I believe they have spreadsheets of data with plenty of information that suggest what you are suggesting. I believe the use of that data is important when it comes to making decisions with a higher likelihood of success but I do not believe they have this down to an exact science and I don't think they believe it is down to an exact science either because they know that mistakes have happened. 


If the data they have suggests that Perez is the best they got.


If the data they have suggests that Dobnak or Smeltzer spin rates, velocity, movement, pitch sequencing at the AAA level and small sample of MLB work can't beat what Perez has done at the major league level.


Then the only conclusion is that they have willfully understaffed this team. 


Perez has a 5.92 ERA since the all star break in 62 innings. Dobnak as 22 innings and a 2.01 ERA since the All-Star Break. Devin Smeltzer has a 3.95 ERA in 27 innings since the All-Star Break.


The only thing we know is that Perez isn't getting it done and it's the eve of the playoffs and we know that Dobnak and Smeltzer have been better but we don't have enough information to feel secure about them. 


If the data suggests that Perez should be pitching better so they keep giving him the ball every 5 days into late late September just in case he does pitch as the data suggests. What good is the data? It's just data that has led to consistently the opposite of what the data says it should be and they've let the data lead them into an issue that must be addressed on the eve of the playoffs. 


That same data has led to the signing and high leverage pitching appearances of Blake Parker and the subsequent release of Blake Parker. It isn't fool proof. 


The data is important... the actual results on the field don't always match the data and the results on the field is ultimately much more important. 


So here we are... We have Odorizzi and Berrios. Will the Twins just throw Perez out of habit or in support of the data. Or are they going to bullpen this thing outside of Berrios and Odorizze due to lack of other options? 


I think they are going to bullpen... I believe that they have left themselves no choice. It's quite possible that they would have ended up with no other choice in the end but it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that someone in the rotation got hurt (Gibson) suspended (Pineda) and is pitching below MLB Quality (Perez). This stuff happens all the time.


I'm ok with bullpen games, I'm not afraid of bull-penning games in the playoffs. I watched the Brewers do it successfully last year.


However, the one thing that is clear to me. They have left themselves with this option and this option only and they did so willfully.


If the data did that? That produces a big question mark concerning the data.  




    • davidc3915 and MN_ExPat like this

I don't want Perez or Gibson pitching any high-leverage innings the rest of the year, regular season or "post."


Shoot, I wouldn't give either of them the ball as a reliever in a post-season game with a 6 run lead, for fear they'd make a game of it.


And I'm good with starting Dobs - he's been put out there more than once and done a good job with it more than once.

    • birdwatcher, spanman2, Vagnavs and 1 other like this


Can Graterol or Thorpe start or are they not stretched out enough at this point?

Thorpe recently went 5 innings, he seems to be stretched out enough to go 5-6 tops.


Graterol hasn't thrown that many innings since his shoulder injury, he can probably go 2 innings tops.

    • Dantes929, MN_ExPat and wabene like this
Sep 22 2019 03:24 PM

Yeah, Dobnak or Thorpe I think. I don't trust Gibson or Perez. Looks like we will be praying for rain quite a bit during the playoffs.

What a fantastic suggestion, Andrew.Hopefully, Rocco and his staff have the guts to do something like this.I feel for Gibby, but unless he gets one more shot this week after we clinch and does very well, I don't see how he can even be on the playoff roster.Expect there will also be a lot of thought into whether or not Perez is on the roster.Expect he will be, but might not be on mine.


My 12 man pitching staff would be Berrios, Odorizzi, Rogers, Romo, Duffey, May, Littell, Stashak, Schmeltzer, Thorpe, Dobnak and Graterol.If Perez is on it, expect Graterol will not be.  

    • tarheeltwinsfan and MN_ExPat like this
Sep 22 2019 05:53 PM

Nice article Andrew. Makes sense to me.

Patrick Wozniak
Sep 22 2019 06:52 PM

Great article! While the Twins have no flashy options, I think Dobnak's ability to limit fly balls and induce ground balls gives the Twins the best chance to win. Plus, he seems like the kind of guy who can handle big moments. Kyle Gibson had a really good interview with him on the Twins Podcast that's worth checking out. 

Cooper Carlson
Sep 22 2019 07:50 PM

The only part I disagree with is the idea that Dobnak will not strike fear into the Yankees or Astros hearts. Everyone shoudl fear Dobnak

    • SQUIRREL, MN_ExPat, Aerodeliria and 1 other like this

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