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Who is the Twins' Ace?

Things haven’t gone perfectly for the Twins starting staff during the 2020 campaign. At one point in this shortened season, Minnesota had three starting pitchers on the injured list and one pitcher suspended. This could put most team’s in a tough spot but pitching depth and a strong bullpen have made a difference. Jose Berrios started on Opening Day, but he might not be the team’s ace so far this year.
Image courtesy of © Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Jose Berrios
Berrios started the second game of the doubleheader over the weekend and his continued struggles have been well documented at this site. His velocity is up this season with his fastball averaging 94.5 mph in 2020 compared to 93.1 mph last year. But even with the increase in velocity, batters are posting a .414 BA and a .931 OPS when seeing his fastball. Over his last 71 1/3 innings dating back one year ago, Berrios has a 5.30 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP. This isn’t exactly what you want from a number one pitcher. He certainly has the make-up to be a top-tier starter, but the results haven’t been there.

Kenta Maeda
Since joining the Twins, Maeda has been a breath of fresh air for the starting staff. One of the biggest changes he has made is relying on his off-speed offerings more heavily. Last season, he used his fastball 33.7% of the time and this year he is only using it 19.3% of the time. Batters have only posted a .196 WOBA against him and that ranks in the top-10% in the league. He doesn’t overpower batters, but his off-speed offerings make it tough to make hard contact as his hard hit % ranks in the 81st percentile among MLB pitchers. Every time he pitches, he puts the Twins in position to win and that’s what you want at the top of a team’s rotation.

Randy Dobnak
Dobnak has been more than a feel-good story for the Twins over the last year and the results are getting hard to ignore. He doesn’t rank highly in any Statcast metric, but he goes out there and makes the other team get themselves in trouble.

His strategy is simple. Throw sinkers early in the count to get groundballs and his coaxed grounders in 2/3rds of his at-bats this season. Dobnak doesn’t have the characteristics of a typical ace. He doesn’t get strikeouts, he was never a top prospect, and he had to fight to make the team’s rotation. Now it’s hard to imagine where the Twins would be without him over the last two seasons.

Jake Odorizzi
Minnesota got off to a terrific start last season and Odorizzi’s performance went a long way in helping the team to their early success. He posted a 3.15 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 88 2/3 inning as he was selected for his first All-Star team. He’ll hit the free agent market at season’s end, so it will be imperative for him to show his value in his remaining starts. Following a year with little revenue, teams aren’t going to be throwing around large contracts. Odorizzi still has something to pitch for this season and maybe that’s enough to get an ace level performance from him.

Rich Hill
Hill came to Minnesota because he believes this team can win a World Series. Even as a 40-year old, Hill might be the team’s best starter and his playoff experience certainly helps to push that narrative forward. The Twins have a little over a month to keep Hill as healthy as possible so he can help the team for however long they are in the postseason. Like many of the names on this list, Hill doesn’t fit the traditional mold of an ace pitcher, but he still might be the arm the Twins turn to in Game 1 of the playoffs.

Who do you think is the Twins’ ace? Who would you have start Game 1 of the playoffs? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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35 Comments

I think we do not have one.We have Odo on a comeback and we hope he will keep getting better, we have Berrios who should be, but has trouble getting a full season of quality, we have Hill who is on a once a month rotation, we have Bailey who is AWOL, and we have Dobnak who has nothing that you want in an ace except the ability to win.

    • Oldgoat_MN, blindeke, Platoon and 3 others like this
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David Youngs
Aug 17 2020 08:35 PM

Great analysis- I absolutely agree the Berrios has the stuff and potential (that we've already seen in the past) to be the clear ace but clearly his numbers have not shown that. I also agree that Dobnak isn't anything like what the standard 21st century ace looks like. I'd like to see him face some better offense before saying anything else (even though the Royals do have the best team AVG in the Central..yikes). Although, they may not see that for a while..Hopefully Berrios can rebound against two of the five worst hitting teams in the League in Milwaukee and Cleveland. 

I think Berrios will come around.

With everyone healthy (Hill, Maeda, Odorizzi, Dobnak, Pineda, Bailey, Berrios), he could potentially fall out of the rotation if he doesn’t.

Missing on the statcast list for Dobnak is launch angle and/or groundball percentage. Keeping the ball on the ground is huge.

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Channing1964
Aug 17 2020 10:05 PM
If there is one then I would have to say it's Maeda. I will never forget working at Chase Field when mis-informed Dodger fan bent my ear for upwards of 30 minutes on why Kenta suc--d so bad and was holding them back from much greater things. Yeah right. INMHO the Dodgers dont win because of their culture. Before everyone jumps on their keyboards and recites to me the regular season records and all the division championships in the last 5-7 years, lets look at their history in the playoffs. choke, Choke, and CHOKE even more. Dave Roberts can't manage his way out of a wet paper bag. What they did to Kenta Maeda was so wrong I can't even Believe it. Now that he is here in a great environment just watch what he can accomplish. That trade was the smoothest one ever made by the Falvines. Don't listen to me now, just thank me later.
    • MN_ExPat and Nine of twelve like this
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RochesterDave
Aug 18 2020 05:28 AM
At this point, I think the “guy” is Maeda due to his consistency. Everyone in Twins Land has been pulling for Berríos, but at this point he should just be considered a 2-3. Even Rocco lays down the red carpet for José, adjusting the rotation so he is on schedule and sometimes skipping others. Like everyone else, I am looking towards the playoffs and their 3-4 man rotation and there are a lot of ifs, ands and buts- however I deem Maeda, Hill , Dobnak and Pineda as far more consistent than Berríos. Of course, I believe with Jose there is a greater chance for an outstanding game OR a Clunker than the aforementioned 4 starters.
    • blindeke likes this

To me its clear our "ace" is Kenta Maeda.It's sure not Berrios. He looks more like a #4 in our rotation.

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Dave The Dastardly
Aug 18 2020 06:55 AM

Ah, the perennial TD search for an Ace... a term for which there is no mutually agreed upon definition. Personally, I'd rather draw four Deuces to an Ace. Throw in a wildcard and the pot is yours.

    • birdwatcher, h2oface, Danchat and 2 others like this

I'd have to be on board with Maeda as well, but I think the "Dobs" shares that honor right now.His "stuff" may not be flashy and exciting to our many Grognards, but his moxy and bulldog mentality is off the charts.He is exactly the type of guy every team needs (kind of reminds me of a stockier version of Radke).

 

Plus, thou shalt not disparage the "Fu" ;)

    • mikelink45 and Dave The Dastardly like this
If the playoffs started today I would trust Maeda as the game 1 starter. Berrios is still young enough to cling on to hope and potential, but he’s not there yet. He’s looking like Scott Baker more than what you’d consider an ace.

Dobnak’s been great for 50 MLB innings. I simply don’t trust sinker pitchers to last. We’ve seen it time and time again. For now I’ll keep quiet and see how long the Cinderella run lasts.
    • Oldgoat_MN, Dman and Platoon like this

The term "ace" is a loaded term, so I won't use that. But to me, right now, Maeda is our #1 starter. Ask yourself, if we had to win one game, who do you want on the mound? For me, it's Maeda. There's your #1, or if you want to insist on the term, your "ace".

    • Twins33, Oldgoat_MN and MN_ExPat like this
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Doctor Gast
Aug 18 2020 08:43 AM

 

I think we do not have one.We have Odo on a comeback and we hope he will keep getting better, we have Berrios who should be, but has trouble getting a full season of quality, we have Hill who is on a once a month rotation, we have Bailey who is AWOL, and we have Dobnak who has nothing that you want in an ace except the ability to win.

We don`t have an ace. Berrios is the closest but it seems he still has things to work out. If you`re asking who`s the Twins best SP right now? That would have to be Dobnak. Who will start the 1st PS game? Is an entirely different question, could be anyone`s guess.Our 2 top pitchers right now, may not even make the rotation for the PS. Maeda is able to have success w/ his revamp pitching selection much like Parker & Perez had in the beginning of 2019 until hitters were able to figure that out later on. His different delivery also throw batters timing off, hopefully that could get us thru the ALC but I have doubt it`ll help for the WS because the NL knows him, especially the Dodgers .

    • Platoon likes this
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strumdatjaguar
Aug 18 2020 10:37 AM

Playoff rotation:
1. Maeda
2. Dobber
3. Berrios
4. Odo

If the Twins use a 5th spot or if any of those listed pitchers falters, it will be a battle between Hill, Pineda, Smeltzer and Thorpe (in that descending order). There were reports that Berrios was tipping off batters on his change-up. If he corrects that, I expect improvement.

Do the Twins have a true ACE, no. Who is their #1 starter, good question. Strong argument can be made for any one of five starters you talk about above. And that doesn't include Pineda who may prove by year's end to be the best of all. 

 

No true ACE, but five or six guys battling for the #1 spot. That could be a great situation going into the playoffs. 

    • h2oface likes this

Every team has a #1 starter, but not every team has an Ace. I would say the Twins don't have an Ace.

    • h2oface likes this

Maeda's the "Ace" because he's always been this good.

Dobnak is #2 because his stuff has always played this way, and there is no reason to think he'll get worse.

Berrios is #3 because he's the guy we keep hoping will become a consistent winner. 

Smeltzer is #4 because he gets guys out for at least a few innings.

Odo is #5 because he's coming off injury and we expect him to pitch better.

 

One thing we may see this season is domination from guys that can spin the ball for strikes on the edges. Seems like batters are whiffing a lot on good curves, sliders, sinkers, etc. They are definitely punishing pitches in the middle.

The term "Ace" seems to be really more of a fan and Sports Writer (or talking head on Sports Center) creation than anything else.A term used to soothe the feelings of uncertainty and angst that many feel due to the unknowns of baseball. 

 

I would argue that there is no such thing as a true "Ace".Rather there are Tiers of pitchers, and even within those Tiers there is some considerable variance based on factors such as health, experience, stamina, etc..

 

The term "True Ace" is a lot like unicorns and Bigfoot.Everybody talks about them, but they are rarely seen. ;)

 

    • h2oface and Dave The Dastardly like this

Take the poll... 

 

If the playoffs started today I would trust Maeda as the game 1 starter. Berrios is still young enough to cling on to hope and potential, but he’s not there yet. He’s looking like Scott Baker more than what you’d consider an ace.

Dobnak’s been great for 50 MLB innings. I simply don’t trust sinker pitchers to last. We’ve seen it time and time again. For now I’ll keep quiet and see how long the Cinderella run lasts.

It used to be sinker pitchers were the big thing.Then they went out of favor because everyone was trying to get them and hitters adjusted swings.Now that the league has changed approach some sinker pitchers may do well.The biggest issue will be if he can never get a strikeout pitch of some kind good hitters will just foul off so many pitches.

    • DocBauer likes this

Maeda is the ace right now.

 

Dobbers is a solid #2.

 

Jose and Jake I think were sadly very negatively affected by the delay and it did affect their mechanics.I think they'll get back on track.

    • DocBauer likes this

It used to be sinker pitchers were the big thing. Then they went out of favor because everyone was trying to get them and hitters adjusted swings. Now that the league has changed approach some sinker pitchers may do well. The biggest issue will be if he can never get a strikeout pitch of some kind good hitters will just foul off so many pitches.

It’s difficult to consistently keep their sinkers down in the zone. If that trickles up an inch or 2, that pitch is ending up in the 3rd deck. I still have nightmares about Carlos Silva. He was able to keep his sinker down during the 2005 season and had a career season. The very next season he couldn’t locate his sinker and his ERA ballooned to 5.94.

As you said, not having an out pitch is the big concern. Without that, Dobnak is walking a tight rope every time he pitches.
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birdwatcher
Aug 18 2020 04:02 PM

Personally, I think of what number one would assign to a starter whose performance idealized what you'd want on a championship team. With that in mind, I'd conclude that the Twins lack a 1-2 starter. I use this two-number thing because, even in most pitcher's most consistent stretches, there is performance volatility. And frankly, experience shows us that tons of pitchers can plummet from 1-2 performance to Advanced A performance in a heartbeat, and for long periods, usually because of an onset of physical problems.

 

Berrios, to me, is a 1-2 guy going through a dismal stretch. He's the best talent. One could argue about whether the 2 or the 3 gets bold type for Maeda, Odorizzi, Hill, Pineda, and now even Dobnak. I'm inclined to think I'd want them as my third starter or lower on a championship team, in no small part because of endurance and injury traits, so I'd label every one of them as 2-3's, which means every one of them can get hot and give you a good run of #2 performance.

 

There are maybe a dozen 1-2's in all of baseball. I believe we need one of those if we want to be anything more than a long shot in the postseason. And we need a 1-too. Berrios, are you that guy?

    • DocBauer likes this

The Twins dont' have an ace. Just because a guy has a modest string of great starts, it doesn't make them an ace. One can assign the pitcher who has had the best 3-4 starts to start the year numbers, but it really is ridiculous in my opinion. Just be thankful this team that has no ace has some pitchers who are pitching well right now, and hope that they can pitch like that in October. Berrios? If he would have been improving instead of pitching like he is, coupled with last year...... but he isn't. So is last year the outlier? The Twins chose not to go get an ace. No need to try to fool yourself that there is one on the roster. 

    • birdwatcher likes this
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Nine of twelve
Aug 18 2020 05:08 PM

 

 Personally, I'd rather draw four Deuces to an Ace. Throw in a wildcard and the pot is yours.

Compare four deuces to a full house of two aces and three treys. Four deuces is better for the regular season but the full house is better for the postseason.

    • birdwatcher and h2oface like this

Maeda is the ace right now.

Dobbers is a solid #2.

Jose and Jake I think were sadly very negatively affected by the delay and it did affect their mechanics. I think they'll get back on track.


bighat beat me to it! Agreed it should be "right now".

On that premise, today, it would be Maeda. Honestly, he's looked as good or better than I hoped. And that's saying something because he pitched well for LA and was coming off his best season against LH hitters. And like everyone else, he not only went through an abbreviated ramp up, but switched teams as well.

Dobnak is still a rookie. Can we all remember that for a second? He is most probably never going to uncover some hidden velocity or magic SO pitch to become/stay dominant. But he has the build to be a mainstay for GS and IP. He has low in the zone stuff to maintain ground balls, pop ups and weak to semi-weak contact. Still being a ROOKIE he needs to refine his stuff and approach to end certain AB that drag on at times. But early indications, IMO, are that he can be a mainstay, and a successful one at that, if he continues learn, grow and adapt. Again...ROOKIE.

I am so frustrated by Berrios right now I could cuss. I love the kid and believe in him. I'm just frustrated. We all are. But to dismiss him in any way is short sighted if not ridiculous. His stuff and results are good to very good each of the last 2 seasons when he earned an All Star invite. His problem has been maintaining that for a full season and not 3/4 of a season. We all know this. And for the umpteenth time, he made some adjustments last season that allowed him to rebound after a rough stretch.

AGAIN, he was making additional changes in his routine for 2020 to continue a season long endurance. Based on stuff and previous first half to 3/4 season results he SHOULD be dominating right now. Hence frustration. But it's also been pointed out in various smart articles here on TD that he's working on a few tweaks to his game. Can we just accept that not everyone ramped up with a short Summer Training ready to dominate?

We are not yet at the half way point. I will take Berrios any day of the week as a safe bet to figure a few things out over his next couple of starts and be the guy we want and expect to close out the year.

Does anyone really doubt Oddo will also continue to get better now that he's feeling good and actually pitching? He missed a lot of time folks.

IMO, there is no doom and gloom here. Is there a little frustration because we want everyone healthy and ready to go and dominate from day 1? You bet. But that is the same for every team in MLB right now. Right now, today, we have one of the best teams in the league and NOBODY out for the season. But like everyone, we have guys not in sync yet and underperforming.

We only need Hill for half a season. Reports are he's looking and feeling good and ready to go. Guys will get better over the next couple of weeks. Pineda will be back at some point.

Let's re-examine come September 1st who is #1 and how the staff looks then.
    • bighat and MN_ExPat like this

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