Getting to Starters Early Will Be Imperative for the Minnesota Twins
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson - USA TODAY SportsChicago’s Gio Gonzalez also went 3.2 innings, but his came following starter Reynaldo López who was knocked out after just two-thirds of an inning. Here’s another number for you – 26. That’s the number of earned runs those five pitchers gave up in their combined 15.1 innings facing Twins hitters.
Now, Minnesota’s offense didn’t fare as well against Dallas Keuchel (5.1 IP, 2 ER) and was completely stifled by Shane Bieber, but even an offense as potent as the Twins will have an off-day once in a while (and let’s be honest, a line-up full of Babe Ruths and Mike Trouts couldn’t touch Bieber right now). Getting to starters early should be a huge boon to Minnesota’s success this year.
With the exception of Bieber’s start, the Twins have done a really good job of working up starter’s pitch counts. This is beneficial in several ways, as hitters obviously get better pitches to hit by laying off the bad ones (even Eddie Rosario’s making an effort), and can reach base more often via the walk. Most importantly, this leads to runs being scored and big innings.
With opposing starters getting a quick-hook, the Twins are also able to get into team’s bullpens early. This saves Minnesota from having to face opponent’s best relievers as they are generally saved for close games or games in which the opposition is leading. It should also come in handy in wearing out other teams relievers. With 30-man rosters it’s not much of an issue for the time being, but as the rosters get trimmed down to 28, and eventually 26, getting to a team’s ‘pen early could really help out in a three-or-four game series.
Knocking starters out also means the Twins will get to bad pitchers more often, which should also lead to more run scoring and blow out games. Of course, getting ahead also gives Minnesota more freedom to stick with or pull their own starting pitcher and not overuse the best bullpen arms. At this point it looks like Rocco Baldelli might need to worry more about underuse as there have been rather limited opportunities to use this best relievers. Closer Taylor Rogers didn’t see any action until the seasons fifth game.
Thus far the Twins rotation has looked good, but having a fresh bullpen is a nice luxury for Minnesota to have, as starters like Jake Odorizzi and Kenta Maeda have historically struggled with the third time through the order. Plus, Rich Hill is 40-years-old and Minnesota will definitely want to keep him healthy for the postseason.
It’s only natural to look at the team’s performance against Bieber and wonder if they can get it done against the cream of the crop. Getting to Giolitto was nice, but that was just his first start of the season. Twins hitters looked lost against Bieber, who struck out 13 in eight scoreless innings. He was equally great in his first start against Kansas City, where he fanned 14 in six shutout innings. Minnesota is going to face great pitchers, especially in the postseason, so it’s an area in which they’ll need to excel, but it’s only one game against a pitcher who just tied the MLB record for Ks in his first two games.
The next test is already here in Mike Clevinger. Hopefully, the Bomba Squad passes with flying dingers.
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