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Good Cuts.

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Recent Baseball America Milb Organization Rankings

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Since I'm not giving everything away, assuming it's OK to just mention the Twins here. BA ranks the Twins 8th going in to the 2020 season...
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Athletic article on the 2019 postseason baseball

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Get to know each other

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I did this once about 2-3 years ago, but it was during the offseason and well, it's been a long time ago... Let's get to know each other...
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The Twins' Missing Piece

As we sit and wait until the first spring training games officially begin, it has become clear that the Kenta Maeda trade will be the cherry on top of the offseason for the Twins. Despite a somewhat slow start, the Twins ended up with a bevy of starting pitchers, Josh Donaldson, and the aforementioned Maeda among other acquisitions in their attempt to recreate the magic of the 2019 team. Yet, it feels like there is a piece still missing.
Image courtesy of © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Not long after the end of the World Series, GM Thad Levine made statements regarding the plans for the Twins for the offseason. The magic phrase “impact starting pitching” was uttered and every Twins fan became quite pleased when they heard this. It has been no secret that the starting rotation has been the Achilles heel for the team for a while so to have a front office member acknowledge this need felt refreshing.

While it was never specified, Twins fans understood that this “impact starting pitching” would have to be acquired within reason. Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg were fun pipe dreams but nothing more. Instead, focus was turned onto the likes of Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. All three pitchers fit inside the Twins’ implied pragmatic wheelhouse and it felt as if the Twins would actually end up with one of these players on the team.

As we know, this isn’t the case. All three signed elsewhere and the Twins were left with the fact that it was Josh Donaldson or bust. Fortunately, they did not end up busting here and they saved the offseason by signing the former MVP.
Yet, there remains a missing piece.

The goal for the Twins should have been to acquire a starting pitcher better than Jake Odorizzi. This isn’t a knock on Odorizzi but instead a reflection that a strong top end of a starting rotation can take a team deep into the playoffs. Having Odorizzi, an All-Star coming off a 4.3 fWAR season, be the third starting pitcher would have been the optimal way to legitimize the Twins as a threat to the AL as a whole.

But that didn’t happen.

Odorizzi will start the season as the number 2 starter with José Berríos likely being the Opening Day starter. This top two will certainly prove to be formidable but a team needs more than two starting pitchers to make a playoff run. The combo of Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda will likely be passable but passable doesn’t cut it if a team wants to make a deep playoff run. A team needs quality over quantity and the Twins don’t have that quality just yet.

Using 2019 fWAR, the top three starters for the Twins (Berríos, Odorizzi, and Pineda) combined for 11.3 fWAR. fWAR is used to calculate the value of a given player. Generally the guideline goes that a player worth 2 fWAR is an average MLB player, a 3-4 fWAR player is pretty good, a 5-6 fWAR player is an All-Star, and anything higher is an MVP candidate. Using Minnesota math, the value of the top three can be reached by adding each player's fWAR together. Now, let’s compare the Twins’ top three starters with the top three of every other playoff team in 2019:

Astros (Cole, Verlander, Greinke): 19.2
Nationals (Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin): 17
Dodgers (Buehler, Ryu, Kershaw): 13.2
Rays (Morton, Snell, Yarbrough): 11.5 (11.1 if you swap Yarbrough for Glasnow)
Cardinals (Flaherty, Mikolas, Wainwright): 9.4
Yankees (Paxton, Tanaka, Germán): 8.8
Braves (Soroka, Fried, Teheran): 8.6
Brewers (Woodruff, Houser, Davies): 6.5
Athletics (Bassitt, Anderson, Fiers): 5.8

There seems to be a positive correlation between the strength of a team’s top three starters and how far they made it in the playoffs. The Twins ended up more in the middle of the pack for playoff teams in this stat which might be more of a reflection of the quality of starting pitching across baseball. But if the Twins want to take the step into being a World Series contender, they will need that elusive great third starter.

They might have it in Rich Hill but expecting him to carry such a burden would be foolish considering his path recovering from injury. The good news is that the playoffs don’t start tomorrow and the Twins look to be set up well to carry themselves until the trade deadline at least. If everything plays out like it appears it should, the Twins should finally pull the trigger in acquiring the elite starting pitcher that would give them a starting rotation the rest of the teams will be envious of.

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24 Comments

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specialiststeve
Feb 20 2020 08:50 PM

The dead horse has been whipped enough...

    • wagwan, by jiminy, DocBauer and 5 others like this

Good article, it highlights what is the number one issue going forward for the Twins. Without a starting pitcher upgrade, this team is going to be great in the regular season followed by a quick elimination in the playoffs due to being outclassed in the rotation. Keeping the focus on the issue is going to be important since I suspect that regular season wins will make it easy to overlook the problem.

    • Doctor Gast likes this
Why not have a starter who can throw 5 innings then pass the ball off to a deep bullpen be just as effective as an ace? We have the deepest overall line up.
    • SQUIRREL, JoshDungan1, railmarshalljon and 2 others like this
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Doctor Gast
Feb 21 2020 06:45 AM

I agree we need to keep our focus on what is importantto advance & be determined to achieve that. Last year we had the most prolific offense in baseball & where did that get us. If qualifying for the PS is our goal we`ll meet that. If we become delusional on what we need to do to advance the result will be the same. My hope is that they finally pull the trigger when the deadline comes along

Brandon, I agree there is more than one way to skin that cat. Kansas City showed that a World Series Championship is possible with a deep bullpen. The problem I see with that approach is the Twins would need the equivalent of 3 closers for that to be an effective solution. I don't see 3 closers in the pen. I do trust this regime to try and find the answers though.
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FritzDahmus
Feb 21 2020 08:54 AM

Again....the disaster called the "playoff series with the Yankees".......was the fault of our thin bullpen and Pineda being suspended. Not our "top" 3 starters.

 

Berrios handed the ball off in relatively decent condition in game 1. A Rookie then began the disaster. 

 

Odorizzi started a game when the series was basically over. He should have been the starter for game #2 in Yankee Stadium [a place he has pitched many times]. And the disaster was on.

I guess I look at that list and come to the opposite conclusion. I see only one other AL team with a better top 3. Or two, depending on which Rays trio you use, but give Pineda a full season and we'd be ahead of them either way. If only one or two other teams in your league have a better top 3 than you, I'm not so sure that's the "weakness" you need to focus on improving. In fact, I'd say if you have the second best top 3 in your league, you have pretty good odds of making the World Series.

    • DocBauer and UPDude like this
And I want an SI Swimsuit model to be my next wife or mistress!
    • rdehring likes this
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GetToKnowEm
Feb 21 2020 09:46 AM
Do you think we’re a little over-sensitive to ‘impact starting pitching’ because it worked so well for the Astros and Nationals last year?

Personally I’m really happy with how this team is built and can’t wait to see what happens this year. The 2020 Twins may lack a true ace, but they’re better positioned than any other Twins team in recent memory.
    • gagu, rdehring and Lasorda_This_Out like this

This article actually makes me think we don't have a missing piece. And every time there's a comparison to not signing an "impact" pitcher, it's mentioned in a way the Twins "settled" for Donaldson. After seeing these numbers of our top three pitchers compared to the rest of the A.L., I'm ecstatic we instead "settled" for an "impact everyday" player rather than one who only plays every five.

    • DocBauer and rdehring like this

I think the next logical question is "who could that missing piece be?" A list of 2021 free agents starters with ages in parenthesis - as ranked by MLB.com. Not exactly the "A" list I was hoping for:

Trevor Bauer (30) - conflicting to be sure

Marcus Stroman (29) - gritty but pitches to contact (sigh)

Robbie Ray (29) - maybe? nice to have a lefty

Masahiro Tanaka (32) - not happenin'

Jose' Quintana (32) - need to see first half results

James Paxton (32) - when did he age?

Anthony DeScalfani (31) - maybe?

Garrett Richards (31) - just throwing in a wildcard coming of TJ surgery

 

I think the next logical question is "who could that missing piece be?" A list of 2021 free agents starters with ages in parenthesis - as ranked by MLB.com. Not exactly the "A" list I was hoping for:

Trevor Bauer (30) - conflicting to be sure

Marcus Stroman (29) - gritty but pitches to contact (sigh)

Robbie Ray (29) - maybe? nice to have a lefty

Masahiro Tanaka (32) - not happenin'

Jose' Quintana (32) - need to see first half results

James Paxton (32) - when did he age?

Anthony DeScalfani (31) - maybe?

Garrett Richards (31) - just throwing in a wildcard coming of TJ surgery

After an off-season of Twins fans wallowing in self-pity as to why the top FA SP's wouldn't pick Minnesota, we finally have an "in" with one of these 2021 FA's!

 

James Paxton makes his off-season home in Eau Claire (90 minutes from Target Field) to be closer to his wife's family. And he's a big fishing fan.

 

https://www.mlb.com/...xton-c303341582

    • Paulypoo and Doctor Gast like this

Again....the disaster called the "playoff series with the Yankees".......was the fault of our thin bullpen and Pineda being suspended. Not our "top" 3 starters.

Berrios handed the ball off in relatively decent condition in game 1. A Rookie then began the disaster.

Odorizzi started a game when the series was basically over. He should have been the starter for game #2 in Yankee Stadium [a place he has pitched many times]. And the disaster was on.


You are forgetting the offense, who didn't score enough runs to win the series regardless of our pitching.

There is plenty of blame to go around in that series.

 

The dead horse has been whipped enough...

Like martinis shaken, not stirred, dead horses should be beaten, not whipped.

    • cmoss84 likes this

I'm getting kind of tired of this particular dead horse too.I'm content at this point to let the season play out and see what happens. What happened in the playoffs last year, or any other year, is in the past. A lot of things could happen in the next seven months, and I think the people running the Twins have proven they deserve a little trust.

    • DocBauer and rdehring like this

Agree with all the dead horse comments.

 

If missing that traditional ACE, well, if Berrios pitches like he can for an entire season, check that box.If missing better than average #2 starters to fill both the 2nd and 3rd spots in the rotation...Odorizzi and Pineda are both capable of being that.The question is, will they?Looking for a #4 starter that is league average or better?Sure could be/should be Maeda.Add a healthy Chacin and/or Bailey and either could push their way all the way up to #2.Then there are the three kids who got a look last fall.Who's to say that Thorpe doesn't get more consistent and push himself up to that above average #3 starter?  

 

So what's missing, several of the Twins starters being the best they can be.And isn't that what sports/baseball is all about, players playing up to their abilities taking their teams on a run to a championship?

 

So rather than moping around because they couldn't sign one of the two real ACES this year, the Twins front office went about their business to create what could be the deepest starting rotation in baseball.Expect there are several good teams facing injuries right now who would love to have the Twins staff.

    • DocBauer, gagu and Lasorda_This_Out like this
If an Ace is deemed essential at the trade deadline, we should be in a good position to make it happen. From our depth.

Easier said than done...

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Old Twins Cap
Feb 21 2020 12:37 PM

At the end of the day, you end against the Yankees.

 

They throw Cole, Paxton, Tanaka. We throw Berrios, Odorizzi, Maeda/Pineda.

 

Twins have to find a way to win 2 of those three games. Part of it is starting pitching, part is relief pitching, part is defense and a big part is -- can you get a big hit with men on base?

 

Last year, they didn't pitch well, field well or hit well, and they lost in three, and deservedly so.

 

But, these are baseball games not statistically representative board games in which each team comes out exactly where you would expect them on paper.

 

You play the games, your players have to make plays and hit the ball. The team that does that, wins.

 

No matter who they play or who they acquire, Twins have to play well, and it's not something they have done in the playoffs in a long, long time.

    • davidc3915, BrianTrottier, rdehring and 1 other like this

 

I think the next logical question is "who could that missing piece be?" A list of 2021 free agents starters with ages in parenthesis - as ranked by MLB.com. Not exactly the "A" list I was hoping for:

Trevor Bauer (30) - conflicting to be sure

Marcus Stroman (29) - gritty but pitches to contact (sigh)

Robbie Ray (29) - maybe? nice to have a lefty

Masahiro Tanaka (32) - not happenin'

Jose' Quintana (32) - need to see first half results

James Paxton (32) - when did he age?

Anthony DeScalfani (31) - maybe?

Garrett Richards (31) - just throwing in a wildcard coming of TJ surgery

 

My prediction, and I've actually thought this for a while now, is that Bauer signs with Minnesota next offseason.The Falvey connection from their time together in Cleveland will help bring him here in addition to our forward looking approach to analytics, etc.Also, I'm pretty sure that Falvey was intimately involved in helping Bauer take the next step after he was acquired from Arizona so their is certainly a relationship there already.

 

Just a hunch and connecting dots.

 

I think the next logical question is "who could that missing piece be?" A list of 2021 free agents starters with ages in parenthesis - as ranked by MLB.com. Not exactly the "A" list I was hoping for:

Trevor Bauer (30) - conflicting to be sure

Marcus Stroman (29) - gritty but pitches to contact (sigh)

Robbie Ray (29) - maybe? nice to have a lefty

Masahiro Tanaka (32) - not happenin'

Jose' Quintana (32) - need to see first half results

James Paxton (32) - when did he age?

Anthony DeScalfani (31) - maybe?

Garrett Richards (31) - just throwing in a wildcard coming of TJ surgery

 

As far as acquiring a front of the rotation starter, a trade seems more likely than signing a free agent. My guess would be the Twins going after guys like Syndegaard or Gray if they become available at the trade deadline.

    • Doctor Gast likes this

 

Why not have a starter who can throw 5 innings then pass the ball off to a deep bullpen be just as effective as an ace? We have the deepest overall line up.

Because it leaves you zero margin for error...even with the 13-man pitching staffs.

 

Last year, the bullpen averaged 3.5 innings pitched per game...and still there were periods when they were taxed, and/or the top arms weren't available. A 'plan' that calls for them to go 4 innings per game isn't viable. Maybe in the future when things (rosters) evolve even further...but for now, your best pitcher still needs to get people out at a decent rate, AND eat innings. And if you have two guys that can eat innings that's twice as good as having one. Right now, the Twins have one.

    • adorduan likes this

 

Berrios handed the ball off in relatively decent condition in game 1. A Rookie then began the disaster. 

I've seen this sentiment pop up a few times during our off-season "impact pitching" saga.

 

Berrios got through 4 innings, having given up 8 base-runners (one on an error)...and he took 88 pitches to do it. His WPA was -.126.

 

If that's how your best pitcher is going to fare in his first start in a 5-game series, your chances of winning that series take a material hit.

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Doctor Gast
Feb 22 2020 12:44 PM

Has anyone heard the truth " a chain is only as strong as it`s weakest link"? That`s what this article is all about. It doesn`t matter how much you strengthen the strongest link. Even so I like very much Donaldson & can`t wait to see the effect he`ll have on the Twins but the chain will still break in the same place