The Show Must Go On: Stretch Race & September Call-Ups
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: 8/31
Team Record: 78-59
Leading OPS: Luis Arraez (.926 in 436 AB)
Leading ERA (SP): Alex Wood (2.42 in 152.1 IP)
Leading ERA (RP): Tyler Duffey (1.99 in 58.2 IP)
LATEST RESULTS (7-2)
Gm 129 vs CWS: W 9-1 (Berrios CG, W)
Gm 130 vs DET: W 5-3 (Cruz 2-4, HR, 3 RBI)
Gm 131 vs DET: W 6-2 (Polanco 4-5, 3 RBI)
Gm 132 vs DET: W 7-2 (Kepler 3-4, 4 RBI)
Gm 133 @ MIL: W 6-1 (Sano 2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI)
Gm 134 @ MIL: W 13-5 (Donaldson 3-5, HR, 5 RBI)
Gm 135 @ TB: L 5-1 (Arraez 2-4)
Gm 136 @ TB: L 8-7 (Buxton 2-4, HR, 2 RBI)
Gm 137 @ TB: W 5-2 (Wood 8 IP, 0 R, W)
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
The decision up for group vote last time was whether we should rearrange the batting order, and voters overwhelmingly said yes. The majority opted for a relatively minor shake-up, which involved moving Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver up, while sliding Max Kepler and Josh Donaldson down. Miguel Sano went from the No. 3 spot to cleanup.
I can't say if these changes were directly responsible, but the lineup absolutely TOOK OFF immediately after we implemented them. We rattled off a six-game winning streak while averaging 7.8 runs per game. We then dropped a couple in Tampa, but avoided a sweep by closing that series with a win.
That's where I stopped simming. We went through just nine games instead of the standard 10 during this batch. Why? Because an absolutely vital stretch lies ahead and I want your help setting us up for it.
But first, let's run back what has happened over these past nine games, and how we drew back within a game and a half of first place.
First, we finished our two-game series against Chicago with a blowout victory, riding Jose Berrios' complete game – along with five RBIs from Josh Donaldson and two bombs from Nelson Cruz – to a 9-1 result.
Then we rolled over Detroit in a home sweep, outscoring the Tigers 18-7 in three games. Various members of the lineup delivered big results, and most importantly we faced up against our old nemesis in Game 3 and roasted him:
Crummy ol' Nick Nelson dropped his record to 1-8 in this one. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings, allowing six earned runs on eight hits. Meanwhile, Alex Wood cruised through seven innings of one-run ball and Max Kepler went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs.
At long last, our Twins were feasting on the soft part of the schedule – a difficulty sometimes, if you've been following – and it carried over into Milwaukee. The Brewers are basically out of contention (7.5 out from a wild-card spot) and we ran over them, piling up 19 runs in two games. Blake Snell finally delivered his first quality start as a Twin in the first contest, tossing six innings of one-run ball while Miguel Sano's two homers carried the offense. Game 2 was a 13-run clinic – Donaldson drove in five again, Luis Arraez had four hits, Berrios picked up his 17th win.
Then it was off to Tampa, where we hit a speed bump. Yonny Chirinos and the Rays bullpen shut us down in Game 1, a 5-1 loss. Game 2 saw Jake Odorizzi go up against Brendan McKay, and in this close match, the tides were turned by Tampa's five-run sixth – keyed by a three-run homer from *gulp* cleanup hitter Eddie Rosario.
We rebounded to take the series finale, with Wood hurling eight scoreless frames (what a pickup!) and Byron Buxton producing from the bottom of the lineup (3-for-4, HR). And that's where we now stand.
Next up: four games at home versus Cleveland, followed by three games at home against the White Sox. Then, it's an off day, followed by a three-game series in Cleveland. I don't wanna say the division is on the line here, because there are still 15 games left after that second Indians series ... but this stretch is HUGE.
And with the date in our sim being August 31st, it's time to expand the roster and bring in some reinforcements. We'll get there shortly. First, to recognize the standouts and stragglers.
I mentioned Alex Wood's work in the section above but let's just recap: Two starts over this latest stretch, 15 innings, one run, 11 hits, nine strikeouts, one walk. Blake Snell also got on track against Milwaukee as I mentioned, and he is set to kick off our upcoming three-gamer against Cleveland, followed by Berrios and Maeda.
The offense is also stepping up its impact, as indicated by the consistent scoring over these past nine games – we tallied five or more runs in all but one. Arraez has his average up to .344, but he's struggling to keep pace in the batting race with Mike Trout (hitting .350 with a cool 1.134 OPS for the 88-49 Angels). Sano is fifth in the AL in home runs, with his 34 trailing only Eloy Jimenez (44), J.D. Martinez (44), Gleyber Torres (39) and Giancarlo Stanton (35). Sano is also eighth in RBIs at 92, followed closely by Donaldson (91, ninth).
Our offense hasn't been clicking as consistently as it did in 2019, but it's still been an impressive unit all-around, and lately has been rounding into form. Hopefully we can maintain that momentum for the last month and into the playoffs.
There have been some suspect performances in the bullpen. Cody Stashak gave up a couple more runs this week and his ERA stands at 9.72 in 8 1/3 innings since being called up. Trevor May also took some lumps and his ERA is up to 3.88; he has the bullpen's highest strikeout rate (12.0 K/9) but also its highest walk rate (6.4 BB/9). Sergio Romo sits with a 4.15 ERA after putting up the following line in three appearances: 4 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 3 K.
DECISION TIME: SEPTEMBER CALL-UPS
With September upon us and rosters set to expand, we have one finally opportunity to infuse more talent for the final sprint to October. However, this isn't like September roster scenarios of the past.
A rule change that was supposed to go into effect in MLB this year called for roster sizes increasing by only two spots (from 26 to 28) after August 31st, as opposed to the unrestricted additions that teams previously enjoyed. That rule is implemented in MLB The Show 20, meaning we'll need to be very thoughtful about whom we select.
Here are the viable options, as I see them. After we go over them, I'll present a few two-player packages of varying sorts.
Players who are in bold are already on the 40-man. Players who are not would need to be added.
Randy Dobnak, RHP (AAA): 65 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
Devin Smeltzer, LHP (AAA): 138.2 IP, 3.05 ERA, 7.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9
Rich Hill, LHP (AAA): 128.2 IP, 2.58 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
Matt Wisler, RHP (AAA): 58.2 IP, 1.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
Zack Littell, RHP (AAA): 7 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.43 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 1.3 BB/9
Lewis Thorpe, LHP (AA): 65.2 IP, 5.62 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 5.0 BB/9
Jhoan Duran, RHP (AA): 141.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9
Ehire Adrianza, UTIL (AAA): 96 G, .270/.348/.391, 11 HR, 49 RBI
Alex Kirilloff, OF (AAA): 104 G, .273/.350/.470, 19 HR, 63 RBI
Trevor Larnach, OF (AAA): 97 G, .245/.319/.396, 13 HR, 49 RBI
Royce Lewis, SS (AA): 90 G, .234/.299/.365, 9 HR, 40 RBI
Now, there are a few different strategic approaches we can take here. Should the call-ups be designed to directly impact our team and address areas of need (i.e., the bullpen)? Should they be more geared toward adding depth, so we can better rest up our regulars after five months of grinding? Or should we be aiming to bring top prospects into the fold, giving them a taste of big-league action?
Most likely it'll be some combination of these things, but again, having only two roster openings leaves us somewhat limited in the choices we can make. Here are a few of my thoughts:
- The bullpen could use some help, so calling up at least one pitcher is basically a given. Wisler has been tremendous all year and he's on the 40-man. Littell was pitching decently for the Twins before we swapped him with Stashak a couple weeks ago; I'm more inclined to just reverse that decision than use a call-up spot on Littell.
- Rich Hill is of course super interesting. Those who've been following may recall that he struggled a ton early on in the Twins rotation, and we DFA'ed him, but he accepted a demotion to Triple-A. He's been flat-out dominant there. Should he be chosem as the pitcher we call up in September – a veteran lefty bullpen weapon (complementing Taylor Rogers) with the potential to step in and start? We would need to re-add him to the 40-man roster, but making room shouldn't be too hard; for example, we have Jhoulys Chacin occupying a spot and pitching in Double-A.
- I'd love to bring one of our top prospects into the fold. Lewis might be fun with his speed and upside but he hasn't looked great overall in Triple-A (he did bat .308 with 21 RBIs in August). Kirilloff has been playing well for Rochester all year. He was the organization's lone Triple-A All-Star, and he ranks third among International League hitters with 19 homers (trailing Daniel Palka and Matt Adams). Kirilloff could see a lot of playing time in September, joining the Rosario-less left field mix (which currently includes Jake Cave, Brent Rooker, and Marwin Gonzalez). He'd also be auditioning for a potential Opening Day spot in 2021. These things are true of Larnach too, but he simply hasn't performed as well.
With all these thoughts in mind, here are the options I propose. You can vote or share your vision for a different combo in the comments.
- The Low-Friction Practicality Play: Matt Wisler (RP) and Ehire Adrianza (UTIL)
- The Lightning-in-a-Bottle Cocktail: Royce Lewis (SS) and Jhoan Duran (SP)
- The High-Impact Infusion: Rich Hill (SP) and Alex Kirilloff (OF)
8/31 vs CLE
9/1 vs CLE
9/2 vs CLE
9/3 vs CLE
9/4 vs CWS
9/5 vs CWS
9/6 vs CWS
9/8 @ CLE
9/9 @ CLE
9/10 @ CLE
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)
Part 10: Pulling Ahead (52-38)
Part 11: Bashing into the All-Star Break (58-40)
Part 12: Deadline Decisions (62-46)
Part 13: Inauspicious Debuts (66-52)
Part 14: Treading Water as the Clock Ticks (71-57)
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