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Charting A Twins Playoff Rotation

What once seemed unthinkable is now a crystallizing reality: The Twins are in all likelihood headed toward a one-game Wild Card showdown against the Yankees in New York on October 3rd.

And while they will be heavy underdogs in such a contest – especially after what we saw in the Bronx last week – in one game, anything can happen.

Let's start looking ahead.
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today
As long as the Twins avoid total collapse in the final week, they will be able to wrap up a pretty cool distinction as the first team ever to qualify for the postseason one year after losing 100-plus games.

But while it would technically count as a playoff appearance, the Twins won't really be in it unless they can win that Wild Card game against New York and make the ALDS.

It's been as evident in head-to-head match-ups as it is in the overall records: The Twins are not as good as the Yankees, nor any of the three other American League playoff teams. (Yet.) But as mentioned above, the one-game Wild Card format is ripe for upsets and even in the sample of a short playoff series, a lesser club can sometimes emerge.

All it takes is a few well-timed hits and some good pitching performances. We know the lineup is capable of producing the former, but they will be facing very tough assignments. So the emphasis will be on the arms, as it often is in October.

With this in mind, let's map out the Twins starters for the remaining six games of the regular season and into the playoffs. Based on La Velle's report that Paul Molitor has Bartolo Colon, Adalberto Mejia and Ervin Santana lined up to go in Cleveland this week, here's how I foresee the rotation playing out for the rest of the regular season, then in to a Wild Card game and hypothetical ALDS:

@CLE 9/26: Colon
@CLE 9/27: Mejia
@CLE 9/28: Santana

DET 9/29: Gibson
DET 9/30: Berrios
DET 10/1: Colon

AL WC 10/3: Santana

ALDS G1 10/5: Gibson
ALDS G2 10/6: Berrios
ALDS G3 10/8: Santana

You're welcome to share your thoughts on this layout in the comments below. Here are a few things that stick out to me:

Game 1 Gibby
We can talk about how ridiculous it seems, or how horribly overmatched he will be against Corey Kluber or Justin Verlander, but we should also acknowledge how incredible this is.

Kyle Gibson was one of the league's worst starting pitchers during the first half. He spent time in Triple-A in May, and produced only two quality starts in the first three months. His ERA was above 6 most of the summer, and as late as mid-August. But Gibby has been a different man in his last seven turns, guiding to the team to seven victories.

Granted, he has gotten plenty of offensive support during that span, but the righty has also just pitched really well. He has gone at least six innings every time out, posting a 2.56 ERA and holding opponents to a .236 average (they hit .308 against him in his first 21 starts).

Things are clearly clicking for the 29-year-old. I theorized at the end of August his wholesale mechanical adjustments might finally be gelling, and the theory remains plausible after five more convincing starts in September. With Ervin Santana being needed for the WC play-in, Gibson is a fairly easy choice for Game 1 in the event of an ALDS berth.

The more pressing question is whether Molitor would call on Gibson again for Game 4 on three days' rest. Which leads us to another matter:

No Bartolo?
Not so long ago, the idea of rounding out a four-man playoff rotation with Bartolo Colon (hold your jokes please) would have seemed reasonable enough. He had a 3.94 ERA through 10 starts with the Twins, and was pitching deep into almost every game. Plus, he's got more experience than anyone in the game, and the big stage is not unfamiliar to him – he's made 10 postseason starts and has generally been up to the task (3.49 ERA).

But lately Colon has appeared cooked, as though the magic that buoyed him through an initial resurgence with Minnesota has run dry. He has allowed 16 earned runs over 11 innings in his past three starts, delivering non-competitive efforts in Kansas City and New York.

I'm not sure you could really justify starting him against the high-octane Astros or Indians, even if you had a series lead and the alternative was Gibson on short rest. And if you can't start him, is there really a reason to have Colon on the postseason roster?

Wondering About Workloads
Santana went over 200 innings in his last start, and if he throws five against Cleveland on Thursday he'll finish at 211 for the campaign. That's his highest total since 2013, so it's worth pondering how his arm will hold up going into October. The Twins could ask him to pitch three if they win the Wild Card and push the ALDS to five games. Erv has looked as sharp as ever his last three times out – including a very impressive outing against the Yanks – so there's seemingly not much cause for concern.

Jose Berrios is another case. He's an intriguing piece in this equation because if he's on his game, he might give Minnesota the best chance of anyone for a dominating, shut-down performance. But Berrios has been rather inconsistent at this late stage of the season and it might owe to his career-high workload. Between Triple-A and the majors, he's currently at 179 innings, which is 10 more than last year's benchmark. The 23-year-old's velocity is holding up well into late September (he averaged 94.58 MPH with the heater in his last turn, per Brooks Baseball) but his command has gone amiss of late.

You could make a case for him in Game 1 but I think Molitor is wise to shield him a bit at this point.

What are your thoughts? Do you think a playoff rotation would, or should, shake out differently? And isn't it wild that we're talking about this? Sound off in the comments.

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78 Comments

Gibson's improvement/turnaround, IMO, is not an illusion. A former apologist who thought he would turn it around this season, I was ready to move on almost immediately at one point. I believe his turn around us due to a variety of factors: a change in regime and mechanics that took time to pay dividends, the move to the other side of the rubber, a different mix and reliability on his pitches (well documented here), Buxton noticing him opening his shoulder in a bullpen, and a different mental attitude that Gibson himself has spoken about.

I think we're seeing a late maturation of a pitcher that many, not just Twins personnel or fans, have speculated in the past should be better than he was simply due to size, length and overall stuff. I think he's finally learning to really pitch, to have a better feel for his stuff, and to trust it and his defense more. Further, I can absolutely see a difference in his attitude on the mound. Between his demotion and the rather public butt chewing he got on the mound from Molitor against Seattle when the Twins had a big lead a couple of months ago, he has looked much "stronger" on the mound. Witness his recent game where his 1st inning was awful, (rumor had it he was squeezed but the ump as well), but proceeded to throw another solid 5 or 6 innings and not wilt. And there have been a couple other games with similar moments where the "old" Gibson may have caved in but stepped up.

How good can be be the remainder of this season and next remains to be seen. But again, I don't think this is an illusion.

I would probably include both Mejia AND Colon on a true playoff roster should we win the WC game. Despite experience and the success he has had and brought to the Twins this season, I'd keep Colon with the idea of joining Gee as a middle/long man. If I decided I needed a 4th SP, I'd go with the young, talented and harder throwing Mejia for 4-5 innings and piece it together from there.
    • glunn, brvama, Blackjack and 3 others like this

Get rid of Colon. It sets up fine to just skip him. Forever I hope. And Please, if the Yankees fall in the Wild Card Game, leave Colon off the playoff roster. He can pitch batting practice. 

 

@CLE 9/26: Mejia
@CLE 9/27: Gibson
@CLE 9/28: Santana

 

DET 9/29: Berrios
DET 9/30: Bullpen game - with Gibson taking an inning or two depending

DET 10/1: Mejia

 

AL WC 10/3: Santana

 

ALDS G1 10/5: Berrios
ALDS G2 10/6: Gibson
ALDS G3 10/8: Santana

    • Jaykay likes this
Personally I think that it will be Mejia skipped Cleveland, not Gibson.

Cle: Colon, Gibson, Santana,
Det: Berrios, Mejia, Colon

The postseason requires 4 starters excepting the very unlikely event that a team sweeps every series. And even then someone would be starting on short rest twice. As h2oface points out, we don't have to consider who the 4th starter would be until game 4 of the ALDS but we still need to set our postseason roster to account for that. So who is more likely to pitch well on that night, Colon or Mejia? Or Santiago? Or Gee? It's an interesting question.

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yarnivek1972
Sep 24 2017 05:05 PM

The postseason requires 4 starters excepting the very unlikely event that a team sweeps every series. And even then someone would be starting on short rest twice. As h2oface points out, we don't have to consider who the 4th starter would be until game 4 of the ALDS but we still need to set our postseason roster to account for that. So who is more likely to pitch well on that night, Colon or Mejia? Or Santiago? Or Gee? It's an interesting question.

Santiago?

Seriously?

Has he even picked up a baseball in the last two weeks?
    • Thrylos, Danchat and bighat like this

 

Santiago?

Seriously?
 

No.

    • Oldgoat_MN and bighat like this

Mejia.  Not Colon. Mejia, Not Santiago.  I am fine with Mejia.  He would actually be the Les Straker of this team. No Viola, but right now I would say we have 3 guys throwing in the 87 Blyleven vicinity. How is Trevor May doing? I would put him before Colon or Santiago.  

    • Mike Frasier Law and bighat like this

Game 4, game 5?

"Santana went over 200 innings in his last start"  That is too many.  They should have limited him to 9.

    • USAFChief, Mike Frasier Law, by jiminy and 16 others like this
I'd keep Colon as the 4th starter. I think he is also a calming influence on the bench for the team, im usually not a rah rah type guy, but it's not like mejia is much better. Colon seems to be loved on the bench though.

Colon as a 4th starter with a very short leash.

In fact, I would prob have Mejia replace Duffey as well.
    • Dakota Diver likes this

I think it will be Gibson in ALDS Game 4 on Monday Oct 9 vs Kluber, both with 3 days rest, and Berrios in Game 5 on Wednesday Oct 11.

 

I think Colon will be on the roster. He can hold runners on first with a quick move and has lots of experience at it, and can cover first on the grounders much better than Mejia. Even in his bad outings, he has been mostly good the first couple innings. I assume he is willing to join the bullpen crew. If the Twins have a 2-1 lead going into Game 4, and Gibson has pitched poorly in Game 1, you could start Mejia and hope to get into the 7th inning between him and Colon.

Colon over Mejia? I don't get it. For the season Mejia is almost a full run better. Colon has one good month all year which was August and a 4-1 record.  September he was 0-4 with a 9.47 ERA so not only has his season been bad he is trending even worse. I never believed in him but appreciate the good month that we got.  We needed it but it was an illusion.

    • adorduan likes this
Mejia can't get out of the 5th.

At least Colon can eat innings. (No pun)

Also as mentioned he seems to be loved on the bench, I think he helps calm the team. They seem to have a lot more comeback wins then they did previously

Mejia could be a good long guy out of the pen in the playoffs IMO.
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Connor Gould
Sep 24 2017 06:45 PM
Maybe they can skip Berrios in his next start and start Slegers so that Berrios can get some rest and then he can start game 1 fresh and Gibson has an extra day of rest to start game 2. We can get away with this because our magic number is 2 so we might not need Berrios the rest of the regular season to clinch and we would get to see more of Slegers.
    • h2oface, Tibs, Hosken Bombo Disco and 2 others like this
Yeah give me Berrios over Gibby

If we needed a 4th starter, I would start Mejia and around the 4th inning I would get Gee in and have him face the whole lineup once. Colon is out of gas and he's been horrible as of late, I would only utilize him as a reliever for an inning or two.

    • DocBauer likes this

 

He can hold runners on first with a quick move and has lots of experience at it, and can cover first on the grounders much better than Mejia. 

 

I feel like when the arguments are that you're good at covering first and you can hold on the runners you put on, that's a bad thing.

 

No Gibson on three days rest. Get Mejia to do a short start with Gee behind him. Gibson isn't good enough to be on short rest.

    • h2oface and CUtomorrownight like this

I would put Colon in a game 4 situation. If it goes south at all, bring in Mejia. A quick righty-lefty flip could save a game. 

    • drjim likes this
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ToddlerHarmon
Sep 24 2017 08:10 PM
I have often heard that sinker ballers like Gibson can be more effective on short rest. Anyone buy that?

I do wish Molitor would use tomorow to skip Colon, but at least they are not skipping Mejia so we can see how well he stretches out the next two starts.
Read on MLB.com that Twins toying with idea of Gibson following Santana, so Nick, you are correct showing Santana on 10/3, Gibson 10/5
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Old Twins Cap
Sep 24 2017 09:18 PM

Hey guys, these are the playoffs, meaning:these are playoff teams.

 

Colon will get racked in the first three innings, if not sooner, by these teams.

 

Keep him on the squad, maybe he's a mop-up guy in blow-outs, but for no possible reason can you start him in a game that means something.

    • Dantes929 likes this

A part of me wants to see the Twins stay the course and pitch Colon in place of Mejia and have Berrios and Santana ready out of the gate against whomever with Gibson pitching game 163. No need to over rest any of the starters,. or pitch any early before the end of the season.

 

I would figure out a way to tryout Mejia and Gee and Slegers in long relief roles, just in case.

 

Torn between the needs of the bullpen: Belisle, Rogers, Hildenberger, Busenitz and two of the three above. Not sure who I want as the extra guy in the pen. Probably Pressly although I don't know what went wrong with him this season.

I'll feel less like we're tempting fate by discussing the DS rotation if we can steal two wins in Cleveland
Unthinkable indeed. Per MLB.com, the post season probability for the Twins was 4% on August 4.
    • bluechipper likes this
We play the Yankees in the WC. We dont have to worry about a rotation.
    • Hosken Bombo Disco likes this

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