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Where are they now? Ex-Twins in 2019

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Looking Ahead to the Twins Postseason Rotation

The Minnesota Twins decided not to add another starter at the trade deadline and given the current rotation there are a few possibilities to consider when configuring the postseason rotation. Jose Berrios is firmly implanted at the top of the rotation, but after Jose things get a bit murkier.
Image courtesy of © Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports
Which four starters should make up the postseason rotation? Should they send Martin Perez to the pen? Is their game-two starter the hot hand in Michael Pineda or All-Star Jake Odorizzi, who has had trouble going deep into ball games? Where does Kyle Gibson fit in? He seems to thrive against weaker opponents while coming up short against playoff caliber teams. Finally, could Devin Smeltzer force his way into the rotation with continued success?

One thing we do know for certain is that if the Twins do make the postseason, they will be facing teams with winning records. To get an idea of both who belongs in the rotation and a potential pecking-order, it may be worthwhile to check-in on how Minnesota’s starters have fared against some of the better teams in baseball. The following chart shows how Twin’s pitchers have performed against teams with an above .500 record.

Attached Image: Rotation1.png
As expected, Jose Berrios is the clear “ace” of this staff. His numbers hold up remarkably well against the better teams and he is able to go deep into ball games. In his most recent start he struggled against the Atlanta Braves (sending his ERA against winning teams from 2.37 to 3.45), but Berrios has generally been at his best while facing the best. His ability to pitch well against good teams bodes well for his chances of pitching successfully in the postseason.

After Berrios, Pineda looks like he should be the game-two starter. Not only has he been much better in the second half, his overall numbers against tough teams make Pineda appear to be the second best option. Pineda generally doesn’t go deep into his starts, but this is partially to limit the number of pitches he throws since he is coming off of Tommy John surgery. In the postseason it seems reasonable to give Pineda a little longer leash. Pineda is currently on the 10-day IL, but the Twins seem to simply be using this trip to the IL as a chance to get Pineda some extra rest as they did earlier in the season.

Odorizzi has pitched the most games against winning clubs this season and his overall numbers have been okay. His second half slide is concerning, but it seemed to coincide with a blister injury. He has improved in his last two starts (against Miami and Atlanta) so hopefully he is headed in the right direction. However, Odorizzi has a knack for accumulating high pitch counts even when he is pitching well, so he generally can’t be counted on for more than five or six innings. Still, he seems to be a step above Gibson or Perez.

Gibson and Perez round out the bottom of the Twins rotation. After joining the rotation early in the season Perez was lights out for the first couple of months but has been fairly disastrous since. Gibson has been up and down throughout the year and as can be seen from his numbers, he really struggles against better competition. Gibson continued to struggle in his most recent start against Cleveland, walking six and giving up five earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings. However, for the time being, it looks like Gibson should probably be the fourth starter with Perez moving to the pen for the postseason. Perez pitched out of the pen for Texas last season, having some success, and also started this season as a reliever.

Devin Smeltzer is a bit of a wildcard here. His sample size is small, but he has really turned it on against some good teams. He has already pitched against Milwaukee, Cleveland, Texas, and the Yankees with his only hiccup against Cleveland. In his last start he faced off against the Royals (spoiler alert: they won’t be playing October baseball) and pitched six shutout innings (he was facing Cleveland again on the day of this article). There are still a lot of regular season games to be played and it will be interesting whether Smeltzer can avoid regression, assuming he continues to get some big league starts.

Based on their ability to succeed against good teams, it looks like Minnesota’s rotation should be Berrios-Pineda-Odorizzi-Gibson, with Perez adding another lefty to the pen. If Smeltzer continues to succeed, he could also enter into the mix. Supposing that Perez’s struggles continue as Pineda comes off the IL, it may even be prudent for the Twins to keep Smeltzer in the rotation and get Perez in the bullpen sooner rather than later. This gives Minnesota a chance to get extra looks at Smeltzer as a starter and Perez as a reliever and gives Perez time to adjust to relieving again. The Twins would then have the luxury of adding Gibson to the pen (or having Smelter out of the pen if they stick with Gibson).

One last factor to consider when constructing the postseason rotation is the ideal amount of rest between starts for each pitcher. The Twins would obviously love to ride Berrios as much as possible and by looking at the numbers we may be able to see the most effective way to structure the rotation. Let’s take a look at how Minnesota’s rotation has performed on four, five, and six days of rest (through Aug. 4th).

Attached Image: BerriosSheet.png

Berrios has pitched very well on regular rest and a bit worse when getting an extra day off between starts. This may imply that Berrios doesn’t need as much rest and may be able to pitch with three days of rest if the Twins want to ride him. If not, the Twins can pitch him on the normal rest period of four days (allowing Berrios to stick to his regular routine as much as possible) and juggle the remainder of the rotation around Berrios.

Attached Image: PinedaSheet.png

Pineda has pitched much better when given more than four days of rest between starts. He has been most effective with five days between starts.

Attached Image: OdorizziSheet.png

Like Pineda, Odorizzi has pitched better with additional rest. He has been almost unhittable in his six starts with six or more days of rest. He recently pitched well against Atlanta on five days of rest.

Attached Image: GibsonSheet.png

Gibby’s results with four and more than six days of rest are both pretty ugly and he really struggled in his last start against Cleveland on four days of rest. The numbers are much better with 5 days between starts.

Attached Image: PerezSheet.png

Perez’s numbers are pretty bad no matter how much rest he gets. He was bad again against Atlanta and it is hard to imagine Perez making the playoff rotation at this point.

It is unclear how much stock can be put into these numbers as the sample size is admittedly small, but the extra days off in the postseason could play to Minnesota’s advantage. Berrios is the only pitcher who has thrived on the normal rest period, with Pineda, Odorizzi, and Gibson pitching remarkably better with extra rest. The Twins obviously want to ride Berrios as much as possible, so the Twins can keep Berrios pitching on four days rest (or possibly three) and slot the remaining three starters around Berrios starts, allowing them to generally get five or more days of rest between starts (because of all the days off and Berrios occasionally sliding up).
If the Twins are able to win the division, their starters should have plenty of rest. The season wraps up on September 29th with the wildcard games being played on the 1st and 2nd and the NLDS Game 1 on the 3rd. The Twins could potentially roll with the following rotation:

ALDS Game 1 (10/4) – Jose Berrios
ALDS Game 2 (10/5) – Michael Pineda
ALDS Game 3 (10/7) – Jake Odorrizi
Now the Twins have to decide whether to pitch Berrios on three days of rest or wait until the 10th for five days. For the purpose of this exercise let’s suppose the Twins play it safe and give Berrios five days off.
ALDS Game 4 (10/8) – Kyle Gibson / Devin Smeltzer
ALDS Game 5 (10/10) – Jose Berrios (5 days rest)

ALCS Game 1 (10/12) – Michael Pineda (6 days rest)
ALCS Game 2 (10/13) – Jake Odorrizi (5 days rest)
ALCS Game 3 (10/15) – Jose Berrios (4 days rest)
ALCS Game 4 (10/16) – Kyle Gibson / Devin Smeltzer (7 days rest)
ALCS Game 5 (10/17) – Michael Pineda (4 days rest)
ALCS Game 6 (10/19) – Jake Odorrizi (5 days rest)
ALCS Game 7 (10/20) – Jose Berrios (4 days rest)

The cart has undeniably been put ahead of the horse with this exercise and there are a lot of variables at play. It is unknown how many games each series will take, how far the Twins will go (or more importantly if they will win the division to avoid the wildcard game), or whether the starters will remain healthy.

Given the Twins historic offense, however, it’s good to know that theoretically our best pitcher is the one who thrives with the least amount of rest and the remainder of the rotation can be afforded the extra rest that furthers their chances of success. Minnesota’s rotation is unlikely to strike fear into their opponent’s hearts, but hopefully they can do enough (along with the bullpen) to afford the offense the opportunity to carry the team.

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29 Comments

Moderator's note: The article makes this assumption plain: "if the Twins do make the postseason." Let's give the author the courtesy of considering his actual points, as opposed to contradicting the premise. There are plenty of other threads for that.

    • DannySD likes this
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the_brute_squad
Aug 10 2019 07:16 AM

The Twins lost the lead as expected. I predicted the division lead would be gone by Aug. 1st. I was off by a week but still patting myself on the back. I still believe this squad will win the division so I'm buying into the assumption of this article.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Brusdar get the call up and earn some innings in relief soon. He very well could be a possibility in the rotation toward very latter part of the season. Since he hasn't faced any of the contenders he might be the rookie that makes it big in the playoffs. Every playoff series needs a story and he will be ours.

    • Dantes929, Oldgoat_MN, ChrisKnutson and 1 other like this

For the Twins to go far in the playoffs, their starting pitching really needs to improve. They just are not good enough at the present time. Either they need to pitch like they did earlier in the year, which is unlikely, or they need another pitcher to give them another very much needed shot in the arm. The only pitcher I see at the present time that can do this is Brusdar Graterol. I know he is inexperienced, but he has the chance to be dominant. Why not give him a shot. Call him up and see what he can do. If he shows enough, he is another option for being a starting pitcher in the playoffs! 

Does Smeltzer’s data include last night? It doesn’t appear to.

I think FIP and XFIP are relevant to the discussion to help isolate a bit to the pitchers performance relative to ERA. Unsure of the OP’s method, I used Fangraphs Splits, filtered to the10 most likely post season opponents, Cleveland, Houston, NYY, Oakland, Tampa, Atlanta, ChC, LaD, Milwaukee, St Louis.

FIP / XFIP
Berrios 4.20 / 4.92
Smelter 5.48 / 4.67
Pineda 4.03 / 4.47
Odorizzi 4.65 / 4.78
Gibson 4.76 / 4.61
Perez 4.88 / 4.59

WPA isn’t in the splits tool, but also seems relevant to the discussion.

WPA 2019 / Career
Berrios 1.85 / 1.95
Smelter .51 / .51
Pineda .27 / 1.17
Odorizzi 1.64 / 3.56
Gibson -.62 / -2.28
Perez -.49 / -3.08

The first three on my list are pretty easy
Berrios
Odorizzi
Pineda
I know Odo has a bad FIP/XFIP against the contenders, but really strong WPA.
I just don’t trust anyone after those 3.

Maybe Graterol will come up and light up the big leagues?

Would you dare go into the post season with three starters?

This was fun! Thanks!
    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
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strumdatjaguar
Aug 10 2019 07:55 AM

Four man rotation:Berrios Pineda Odo Gibby -Just hope the Good Gibby shows up.  However, there may be teams that fare poorly against lefties, so keep Smeltzer and Perez as options to spot start in those situations. 

    • Dantes929 likes this
I'm far from convinced Smeltzer deserves a spot on a playoff roster.
    • birdwatcher, Dantes929 and Lunger like this
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Battle ur tail off
Aug 10 2019 08:28 AM

I would go with 3. Bring your 4th guy along in case any of the three don't handle it well and you need someone to take innings. We simply can't afford to send anyone out there in a playoff game that walks a ton of guys. 

 

I also want that Graterol kid up here. Even if he only gives you an inning here and there, he is about the only chance of a real upgrade we have. If he can throw strikes, get him up here and get his feet wet so we can see if he is ready to pitch out of the bullpen in the playoffs. 

 

 

    • Strato Guy likes this

Nice article, I like these stats you've brought up. I don't see Berrios-Pineda-Odorizzi holding up very well in a playoff series, but hey, that's what we got at this point. 

    • Oldgoat_MN, tarheeltwinsfan, lukeduke1980 and 1 other like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Aug 10 2019 09:06 AM

Good article. Very relevant. I would like to request you write a second similar article near the end of September.However I don;t think the Twins will be playing many teams with winning records the rest of the year, Still the Twins need to rest the starters and at the same time win the division. The last 6 weeks of regular season play will be interesting to watch.

Berrios, Gibson, Odorizzi are locks. If the Twins need a 4th or 5th, and depending on the ultimate makeup of the pen, they could go with the "opener" route for any number of games, be it with their main thre, or Pineda. I would keep Perez in the pen along with Smeltzer...use the lefty as an opener for 1-2 innings and destroy the lineup plans for the other team.

 

The Twins will have the luxury of a bigger bullpen, too, with Gonzalez, Adrianza or Arraez able to play multiple positions.

 

Just hope Buxton AND Cruz are back for the post-season.

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LA VIkes Fan
Aug 10 2019 09:38 AM
Very enlightening. I was particularly interested in the stats regarding Gibson. I guess my fandom had gotten in the way because I did not realize how poorly he's thrown against the good teams. It's hard to get behind the idea of putting him out to start a playoff game based on that performance if indeed the Twins are in the playoffs. It also explains the FO's seeming reluctance to engage with him a long-term contract after this year.

I do think the first two spots are obvious, Berrios and Pineda. I am not a big fan of Odorizzi after watching these last two seasons. He has talent but no put away pitch so he winds up throwing a hundred pitches to get through five innings and burns out the bullpen. Unfortunately, I don't think there's much choice but to have him as the number three with Gibson the number four behind him.

The only other possibility would be someone coming up from the minors and showing he could be that #3 starter. I frankly still like Thorpe and wonder if it might make sense to bring him back up, send Smeltzer or Dobnak back down, put Perez in the bullpen and give Thorpe a run of 3 to 5 starts to see how he performs.
    • DocBauer likes this
Berrios, Pineda for sure

Then, I'm not sure between Odorizzi and Gibson.

I'd go three man, and lots of piggybacking..... So game four is a bullpen game. I'd be ready for all of them to be bullpen. I doubt Perez would even be on my roster in October.
    • birdwatcher, Sconnie and lukeduke1980 like this

This is a great article and it's an important article... Yet somewhat of a premature article because of a very important wild card that hasn't come out of the deck yet.

 

INJURIES 

 

The rotation has been extremely healthy through August,10th in comparison to what typical teams have to endure during a typical year in at least recent history, if not history. 

 

Most teams have gotten longer looks at their 6th, 7th and 8th options in a rotation because of injuries. Because of our health, we haven't. We honestly don't know if we have 6th, 7th or 8th options at this point. 

 

We absolutely need to find out. Smeltzer? Dobnak? Stewart? Thorpe? Graterol? More data is needed... meaning more innings at the major league level. 

 

Once the front office decided that the price for Stroman was too high. I don't blame them for making that decision... heavy is the head that wears the crown, they have considerations to consider... However, the very second that they didn't trade for a quality starter, they locked themselves into not only finding but needing a quality starter out of Smeltzer, Dobnak, Stewart, Thrope or Graterol. This is where having a healthy rotation has hurt us. 

 

If everyone remains healthy. As of today... Berrios, Odorizzi, Pineda and Gibson is the playoff rotation in my mind. I just doubt that everyone will be healthy come playoff time based on history. 

 

Then What? 

 

Meanwhile, our bullpen still has question marks. Move Perez into the pen immediately to see if that helps the pen and then work on finding someone who can improve the Berrios, Odorizzi, Pineda and Gibson foursome. 

 

Not trading for a controllable starter was a huge risk for this year and next year with potentially 4 rotation spots to fill in the off-season.

 

The front office has placed a lot on the shoulders of our farm arms. 

 

This is a great article... it's an important article but a premature article.:)

 

    • Mike Sixel, Sconnie and DocBauer like this

Berrios, Gibson, Odorizzi are locks. If the Twins need a 4th or 5th, and depending on the ultimate makeup of the pen, they could go with the "opener" route for any number of games, be it with their main thre, or Pineda. I would keep Perez in the pen along with Smeltzer...use the lefty as an opener for 1-2 innings and destroy the lineup plans for the other team.

The Twins will have the luxury of a bigger bullpen, too, with Gonzalez, Adrianza or Arraez able to play multiple positions.

Just hope Buxton AND Cruz are back for the post-season.


I think Pineda is the 2nd lock, before Odorizzi and Gibson.
    • Sconnie and DannySD like this

Berrios, Odorizzi and Pineda. None are aces but all have had stretches where they pitch like one. Almost every playoffs has unheralded guys coming up big and stars folding.  Maybe this is the year the Twins set the all time record for runs scored.Maybe it goes the other way. Odorizzi was certainly up to the challenge of Verlander in their first meeting. Sometimes it is happenstance. A guy gets a great nights rest and throws a shutout but if it were the next day he doesn't make it through the 2nd inning. SSS. Berrios throws a shutout and we win game one. Odorrizzi gives up a run the 2nd night and we win by one. Pineda gives up 3 runs but we score 7.  You don't throw out stats but games aren't played on paper. If we go by stats the Indians and Twins have identical records and so are even but Cleveland has been playing a lot better. Doesn't mean they will be in October.. Of course it is tougher against tougher teams.Doesn't make it impossible.   

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mickeymental
Aug 10 2019 11:25 AM

is les straker still on the 40-man roster?

    • birdwatcher, spycake and D.C Twins like this

This is a great article and it's an important article... Yet somewhat of a premature article because of a very important wild card that hasn't come out of the deck yet.

INJURIES

The rotation has been extremely healthy through August,10th in comparison to what typical teams have to endure during a typical year in at least recent history, if not history.

Most teams have gotten longer looks at their 6th, 7th and 8th options in a rotation because of injuries. Because of our health, we haven't. We honestly don't know if we have 6th, 7th or 8th options at this point.

We absolutely need to find out. Smeltzer? Dobnak? Stewart? Thorpe? Graterol? More data is needed... meaning more innings at the major league level.

Once the front office decided that the price for Stroman was too high. I don't blame them for making that decision... heavy is the head that wears the crown, they have considerations to consider... However, the very second that they didn't trade for a quality starter, they locked themselves into not only finding but needing a quality starter out of Smeltzer, Dobnak, Stewart, Thrope or Graterol. This is where having a healthy rotation has hurt us.

If everyone remains healthy. As of today... Berrios, Odorizzi, Pineda and Gibson is the playoff rotation in my mind. I just doubt that everyone will be healthy come playoff time based on history.

Then What?

Meanwhile, our bullpen still has question marks. Move Perez into the pen immediately to see if that helps the pen and then work on finding someone who can improve the Berrios, Odorizzi, Pineda and Gibson foursome.

Not trading for a controllable starter was a huge risk for this year and next year with potentially 4 rotation spots to fill in the off-season.

The front office has placed a lot on the shoulders of our farm arms.

This is a great article... it's an important article but a premature article. :)

At what point do you yank Perez regardless of health?

 

At what point do you yank Perez regardless of health?

 

now.

    • birdwatcher, Sconnie and D.C Twins like this

now.

IKR! Health be damned, give Thorpe 2 or 3 starts, then if Thorpe takes hold of that spot, I’d be real tempted to give the hook to Gibson next for Graterol.

Great article....good info

 

The take home is that we have just haven't been pitching Perez on 3 days rest all season right :)

 

 

 

At what point do you yank Perez regardless of health?

 

Honestly... I have no idea what the result would be... but I want him in the bullpen now. Let's see if he can hang some zeroes in shorter stints. 

 

We have the starting rotation concerns that I expressed, that is at the top of my list of concerns but the bullpen isn't complete either and we need a solution for that as well.

 

Moving Perez into the pen may seem desperate but these are the tools we have to work with.  

 

Let's see what Perez can do in the pen and let's see what someone else can do in the rotation at the same time. 

 

If Perez fails in the pen... give him a little rope but the clock is ticking. Then you yank. 

 

I'd imagine that Wes is working on things with him and they want to see if they can restore him back to what he was in April and May but the clock is ticking. Make the move to the pen... right now. 

    • Sconnie and D.C Twins like this

Gibson seems like he could make a really good swing reliever, so I'd have him there in the ALDS, and it sets up an interesting staff where we can put whoever is pitching best on the postseason roster and have a bunch of different guys who can pitch anywhere in the game, something like:

Berrios

Pineda

Odorizzi

Smeltzer

 

Gibson

Rogers

Romo

Dyson

Harper
Graterol
Duffey
May/Thorpe/etc

 

I can picture that bullpen being very successful. 

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birdwatcher
Aug 11 2019 09:41 AM

Does anyone else see a discomforting similarity between the calls for Graterol this year and the calls for Romero last year?

    • USAFChief likes this

 

Does anyone else see a discomforting similarity between the calls for Graterol this year and the calls for Romero last year?

 

I do

 

I also notice the similarity between the call for Graterol, Romero and the call to city officials to fix a pothole.:)

    • ashbury, birdwatcher and SD Buhr like this
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birdwatcher
Aug 11 2019 09:49 AM

Unless the light bulb goes back on for Martin Perez and we see improved pitch quality and some semblance of command again, I don't quite understand why we'd assume he'd be a liability in the rotation but an asset in the pen.

 

Wouldn't it be likely that Thorpe and Smeltzer are better lefty options? Maybe even Gonsalves?

 

I'd probably also take a bet that Hildenberger is a more effective postseason option than Graterol. In fact, it wouldn't shock me if he came back and was one of 4-5 effective postseason performers out of the pen.


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