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Berrios, Odorizzi, Maeda: Best Minnesota Twins Starting Pitching Trio Since … ?

The Minnesota Twins have set out this offseason to assemble a rotation that can compete for a World Series championship in 2020. Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, and Kenta Maeda look to form a great top-three for the starting rotation. Who was the last great trio of Twins pitchers?
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The last time the Minnesota Twins won a World Series. the year was 1991 and they had a pretty good trio of starting pitchers in Kevin Tapani, Scott Erickson, and Jack Morris. With the World Series in their sights for 2020, the Twins have assembled what looks to be another pretty good trio of pitchers in Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, and Kenta Maeda.

In his coverage of spring training for The Athletic, Aaron Gleeman in addressing the Twins excellent depth, correctly calls this season’s trio potentially the best the Twins have had in some time. What seems to be the next logical question to that assessment is, just when was the last time the Twins had a trio of starting pitchers this good?

That 1991 group is a natural place to look first. Tapani (6.8 WAR), Erickson (4.4 WAR), and Morris (4.3) combined for a total 15.5 WAR. Tapani pitched his way to a 2.99 ERA, 143 ERA+, and finished seventh in Cy-Young voting. Erickson upped Tapani by finishing second in Cy Young voting with a 3.18 ERA and a 135 ERA+. Morris came in 4th for Cy Young voting a 3.43 ERA and 125 ERA+.

The pure depth of that 1991 group is impressive. Although that group pitched almost three decades ago. The most recent trio that likely rivals the hopeful output of the 2020 version has to be one of the staffs led by Twins great Johan Santana.

In 2004, Santana put together a season which according to WAR is only topped by Bert Blyleven’s 1973 performance in Twins history. Santana (8.7 WAR), was joined by Brad Radke (5.9 WAR), and Carlos Silva (2.6 WAR) which totals 17.2 WAR and made that trio worth more than the ‘91 trio.

That season Santana won the Cy Young (but wasn’t an All-Star), had a 2.61 ERA, and 182 ERA+. Radke added a 3.48 ERA and 136 ERA+ over 219.2 innings pitched. Then Silva also topped 200 innings (203.0 IP), had a 4.21 ERA, and a 112 ERA+. It is those Johan Santana led and specifically 2004 rotation that Berrios, Odorizzi, and Maeda will be trying to make us forget.

In order for the 2020 trio to in actuality place themselves among the performance level of the ‘04 and ‘91 group they will need to up their career best performances. If we pull each pitcher’s best season according to WAR it only totals up to 10.4 WAR. The easiest way to for this group to improve would be to see Berrios take the step to become the leader of this rotation closer to the level Johan was.

Of course one of the X-factors of this rotation is they have a fourth starting pitcher in Michael Pineda and possible fifth in Rich Hill which makes the rotation have incredible depth as the season winds on. Both of those guys could also realistically challenge to be in that top trio as well.

Can Berrios, Odorizzi, and Maeda challenge 2004 Johan, Radke, and Silva as a great Twins trio of starting pitchers? Is there a different more recent group I should have named in this “greatest since” conversation?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.

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11 Comments

The best Twins starting pitcher trio has to be the 2006 group of Santana/Liriano/Radke. Before Liriano got injured both he and Santana were legitimate Cy Young contenders.

    • SQUIRREL, James, Twins33 and 14 others like this

I think you are rating them on best side potential which I hope is the way it develops but way premature.I am thinking more like 2010 Pavano, Liriano and Baker. They were pretty good which is where I rate these three. Depth is better with this squad but the subject is trio.2007 Santana, Garza and Silva were pretty good. My top trio if we are going back as far as the 80's would be the 2006 staff. Santana was Cy Young, before he got hurt Liriano was in the process of overtaking Santana for the Cy Young so very good chance of having the top two starters in the league but for injury with Twins HOFer Brad Radke filling out the trio.

    • SQUIRREL, Nate Palmer, Sam Morley and 3 others like this
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Nate Palmer
Feb 24 2020 09:28 PM

 

The best Twins starting pitcher trio has to be the 2006 group of Santana/Liriano/Radke. Before Liriano got injured both he and Santana were legitimate Cy Young contenders.

 

I so badly wanted to put this group in the conversation. The memories of how dominant it felt the team could be with the one-two punch of Johan and Liriano are pretty cool. I just couldn't when the WAR was lower at every level of the trio for the whole of the season. I sure gave it a long look though! 

    • Mike Frasier Law, Dantes929, Sconnie and 2 others like this
This trio will at best pitch 550 innings. They will be good but they don't have to be great to win. An above average rotation plus the best bullpen equals a top pitching staff. That will be good enough with our offensive offense.
    • Sconnie and MN_ExPat like this
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Doctor Gast
Feb 25 2020 07:43 AM

There is no way the current trio could make me forget any trio w/ Johan Santana

    • Nate Palmer and Sam Morley like this
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woolywoolhouse
Feb 25 2020 08:54 AM

I love the article, and the comparisons to top trios of the Twins' recent past, and I get that in the post-season a team is only going to be using their top 3-4 pitchers, but 162 games is a marathon, and you've got to rely on at least two other pitchers to get you through the majority of your games. Looking at the pitching staffs listed above, the pitching staffs were rounded out thusly:

 

1991 - After Morris, Erickson, and Tapani, you had: Allan Anderson (22 starts; WAR -0.2); David West (15 starts; WAR 0.6.)

 

2004 - After Santana, Radke, and Silva, you had: Kyle Loshe (34 starts; WAR 0.4); and Terry Mulholland (15 starts; WAR 0.5.)

 

2006 - After Santana, Liriano, and Radke, you had: Silva (31 starts; WAR -1); Boof Bonser (18 starts; WAR 1.3); and Scott Baker (16 starts; -0.7 WAR.) 

 

I think it is a safe bet (by no means a sure-bet, but a safe one) that - after Berrios, Odorizzi, and Maeda - some combination of Pineda, Bailey, Hill, and Chacin will round out the starting pitching staff and make it overall one of the best the Twins have had in a long time (if not of all time.)

    • flatlanddad, DocBauer, KidBro and 3 others like this
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AlbertRosas
Feb 25 2020 09:17 AM

thank you for the topic

I would not look at total war for the best trio, although it is a way to measure.However, when you look at Santana led teams he was so high that even the low Silva still made it look better, but I would take the overall 91 team over the 2004 because the third guy was vastly different.Sure the number 1 was better, but I would take slightly less valuable number 1 and higher number 3.That is just me. 

    • Nate Palmer, woolywoolhouse, gagu and 1 other like this
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Nate Palmer
Feb 25 2020 01:19 PM

 

I would not look at total war for the best trio, although it is a way to measure.However, when you look at Santana led teams he was so high that even the low Silva still made it look better, but I would take the overall 91 team over the 2004 because the third guy was vastly different.Sure the number 1 was better, but I would take slightly less valuable number 1 and higher number 3.That is just me. 

 

Part of the reason why I wanted to unpack the numbers of that '91 group is what you are pointing out. The Cy-Young finishes are also quite incredible regardless of how flawed award voting can be. I did personally like how good Johan was in addition to Radke being at that higher level as the #2. Thanks for the good thoughts! 

    • Sconnie, gagu, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this

My sense without looking at numbers is that every time the Twins have experienced a multi-season stretch of being good, they've had a trio as good or better than this trio. Maybe I'll feel differently if Maeda surprises.

Just for comparison's sake

 

1967 

Dean Chance 20-14, 

Jim Kaat 16-13

Jim Merritt 13-7

Dave Boswell 14-12

 

1969

Jim Perry 20-6

Dave Boswell 20-12

Jim Kaat 14-13

 

1970

Jim Perry24-12

Jim Kaat 14-10

Some teenager named Bert 10-9

 

 

    • Nate Palmer likes this