The Show Must Go On: Pulling Ahead
To get caught up on what we're doing here, you can check out the introductory post in the series for an explanation of the premise and setup. But the quick version is this: We're playing a progressive simulated Twins season on MLB The Show 20 on PS4, and y'all are helping guide the ship. In each installment I'll update you on what's happened since the last, and put at least one key decision up for vote.
Date In Game: 7/5
Team Record: 52-38
Leading OPS: Luis Arraez (.935 in 266 AB)
Leading ERA (SP): Kenta Maeda (3.33 in 105.1 IP)
Leading ERA (RP): Tyler Duffey (1.54 in 41 IP)
LATEST RESULTS (7-3)
Gm 81 @ HOU: L 7-3 (Odorizzi 4 IP, 5 ER, L)
Gm 82 @ HOU: W 5-0 (Maeda 6 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, W)
Gm 83 vs COL: W 9-5 (Donaldson 2-5, HR, 4 RBI)
Gm 84 vs COL: L 8-6 (Rogers 1 IP, 4 ER, L)
Gm 85 vs COL: W (Berrios 8 IP, 1 ER, 8 K, W)
Gm 86 @ DET: W 15-11 (Kepler 4-5, 3 runs)
Gm 87 @ DET: W 11-0 (Maeda CG SO)
Gm 88 @ DET: W 4-1 (Bailey 6 IP, 1 ER)
Gm 89 @ CLE: W 7-5 (Gonzalez grand slam)
Gm 90 @ CLE: L 5-4 (Arraez 3-5)
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
Before we dive into the team's recent positive developments, here's an update on roster moves that commenters helped guide last time around.
The decision up for vote was whether we should: A) Send struggling rookie Brent Rooker down to the minors and recall a different outfielder for the bench, or B ) Send struggling rookie Jordan Balazovic down to the minors and recall a different fifth starter. Although the rotation change won out, there were quite a few votes for each, and multiple commenters basically said, "Well why can't we just do both?" Which, yeah, good point! Both moves made sense, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on both. Except...
We can't send Balazovic down. I guess I kinda knew this before, but had forgotten. Since he was (for some reason) available as a free agent before we added him on an MLB deal at the start of the season, he has no options. I figured y'all wouldn't be cool with exposing our best pitching prospect to waivers, so I moved him to the bullpen, optioned Randy Dobnak, and called up Michael Pineda. In adding Pineda to the 40-man roster, we waived our lowest-rated player, Sean Poppen, who was claimed by Baltimore.
Pineda was solid in his first MLB start of the season, allowing four runs in six innings against Colorado. I skipped his second start, because we had an off day ahead of a crucial series in Cleveland and I had a chance to bring our top three starters at them. Cave, meanwhile, is off to a great start. He went 3-for-4 with a homer in his season debut against Houston and is slashing .381/.519/.524 through 27 plate appearances.
Cave is contributing to an offense that has taken off. Disappointing efforts were routine in recent updates, but here as the calendar flips to July, the bats are heating up. In the past 10 games we scored 67 runs. The highlight (for the hitters anyway) was a 15-11 victory in the series opener at Detroit, in which the Twins collected 21 hits and four homers. They opened the game by jumping all over some bum starting pitcher for seven runs on eight hits in 1 1/3 innings. Going by his name, I assumed the guy was a joke and his performance followed suit.
Fueled by this strong offensive output, our Twins went 7-3 for a second consecutive session, moving past the Indians (who went 4-6) for sole possession of first place. At this moment in the sim, we're through 90 games, and we have split the first two games of a series in Cleveland, with Marwin Gonzalez's eighth-inning grand slam turning the tides in a 7-5 Game 1 victory.
We'll send 10-4 Kenta Maeda to the hill against 10-5 Shane Bieber for the rubber match, with a chance to go ahead by three games in the Central.
Our season is now eight games away from the All-Star break. I'll update next after those eight, rather than the usual 10, so we can have a nice clean ASG checkpoint.
Let's hit the season's unofficial halfway mark on a high note. I'll be calling on your help for a lineup decision that could tilt the odds in our favor in this final pre-break sample. First, here's a look at some trending players.
Luis Arraez isn't rated all that highly in MLB The Show 20 – his 79 overall rating ranks 14th on our roster – but the game seems to recognize his scrappy overachieving nature. This past 10-game stretch was probably his best of the season, as he delivered two three-hit games and two four-hit games on the way to going 17-for-34 (.500) overall. He now finds himself leading the AL in batting average at .338. Marcell Ozuna is the MLB leader at .360.
It's a good thing we've got Maeda taking the hill for our critical next game against Cleveland, because the man is HOT. His first start of the last batch saw him hold Houston scoreless over six innings of one-hit ball, striking out eight with one walk. In his second he coasted to a complete-game shutout against Detroit, allowing five hits with 10 strikeouts and three walks while the offense scored 11 runs. That's 15 innings with zero runs and an 18-to-4 K/BB ratio, bringing his ERA down to 3.33.
With the All-Star Game nine days away, Maeda has an outside shot at getting in, although Verlander, Kluber, Sale, and Ryu are among the starters with clearly superior cases. The Twins do have a few guys in line to be selected:
- Mitch Garver is leading all catchers in votes, with his .906 OPS and 14 homers putting him ahead of Salvador Perez and Gary Sanchez.
- Max Kepler (.841 OPS, 12 HR, 50 RBI) is holding down the lead in right field as his performance plateaus, although Jorge Soler and Aaron Judge are closing in.
- Eddie Rosario, third among left fielders, is the only other position player with a real shot to get in.
Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey could be in the All-Star bullpen mix.
Rogers has been mostly fantastic in the closer role, but he hurt his All-Star case a bit with an uncharacteristic disaster outing in the second game of the Colorado series. The Twins had rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 6-4 lead, and so we turned to our usually reliable closer. But the Rockies jumped on Rogers for four runs on six hits in one inning, winning 8-6.
To his credit, the resilient lefty bounced back with a scoreless ninth and save the following day, and he added two more saves with clean frames against Detroit and Houston.
Meanwhile, Odorizzi is riding the rotation seesaw. While Maeda has quickly switched gears from ice-cold to red-hot (he was in this section last time), Odo did the opposite.
He entered the latest 10-game stretch with a team-leading 2.86 ERA, and made three starts, on account of the decision to skip Pineda's second turn. Here are the numbers in those three starts for Odorizzi: 9 IP, 13 ER. Covered up by Minnesota's explosive offense in a 15-11 win over Detroit was Odorizzi's hideous start (1 IP, 6 ER), and he lasted only four innings apiece in his other two.
Odorizzi's ERA has jumped to 3.62, which – in fairness – was probably a fair expectation for him coming in. His pattern in the game of going on a crazy run and then offsetting it with a few normalizing clunkers seems true enough to real life. Hopefully he can get into another groove for the second half.
DECISION TIME: MOVE ARRAEZ TO LEADOFF?
My attitude with the lineup has generally been hands-off up to this point. But Arraez's continuing success is causing me to question his spot near the bottom of the order, I've been pretty steadfast in running out this 1-through-5 order regularly:
Versus RHP: Kepler, Donaldson, Sano, Rosario, Cruz
Versus LHP: Garver, Donaldson, Sano, Kepler, Cruz
And these guys have all been quite good. None are necessarily deserving of a demotion, but at the same time, Arraez is sorta forcing the issue. Not only does he lead the American League in batting average, but he's third in OBP at .431, trailing only Trout (.442) and Xander Bogaerts (.433).
So my question for today, as we march toward the All-Star break: Should we make Arraez our full-time leadoff hitter? Or should we stick with the lineup philosophies that have gotten us to this point?
You can voice your opinion in the comments section.
7/5: @ CLE
7/6: vs KC
7/7: vs KC
7/8: vs KC
7/9: vs TOR
7/10: vs TOR
7/11: vs TOR
7/12: vs TOR
7/12: Home Run Derby
7/13: MLB All-Star Game
Part 1: We Can Build This Thing Together (0-0)
Part 2: 10 Games In, 6 Games Back (4-6)
Part 3: Roaring Back (11-9)
Part 4: Over the Hill (17-13)
Part 5: Checking In at the Quarter Point (23-17)
Part 6: Rising Power (30-20)
Part 7: First Place! (Barely) (34-26)
Part 8: Drafting and Dropping (38-32)
Part 9: Cruz Control (45-35)
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