Twins Daily 2020 Awards: Best Pitcher
Image courtesy of David Berding, USA TodayVoting for pitcher of the year can be difficult. How do you compare a starting pitcher who may work 160-200 innings to a top relief pitcher who might throw 60 innings, but most of them are very high leverage?
That distinction becomes even more difficult in 2020 when the top starting pitchers threw 63-67 innings and the top relievers threw just 20-25 innings due to the COVID-shortened, 60-game season.
Yes, voting for Best Pitcher can be quite difficult, at times. This year, the choice was really quite easy as all 23 Twins Daily voters gave their first-place vote to Kenta Maeda. He was the easy choice for Twins Pitcher of the Year, and more important, everything the Twins needed.
When Maeda came to the Twins before spring training from the Dodgers in exchange for Brusdar Graterol, it was met with mixed feelings. The Twins gave up a top pitching prospect, though one who most assumed would fit in a bullpen. In return, they received Maeda who had put up five quality seasons in Los Angeles. His numbers were fairly equitable to those Jose Berrios had put up in recent years.
Maeda found himself in the bullpen late in his seasons with the Dodgers, and he remained in the bullpen in the playoffs. Was it for contractpurposes, or was it because he was best serving his team by pitching, very well, in the playoffs?
Coming to the Twins, he was excited about his role with the Twins, and he pitched so well that there was never any consideration of moving him to the bullpen.
Maeda led the Twins with 66 2/3 innings in 11 starts. His six wins tied Randy Dobnak for most on the team. His 2.70 ERA was two-thirds of a run better than his previous career-low and was 61% better than league average. His 0.75 WHIP was best on the team, 0.04 lower than Tyler Duffey in over 42 more innings. His previous career-low was 1.07. His 1.4 BB/9 tied Tyler Clippard for the best on the team. His 10.8 K/9 was best among Twins starters.
He never worked less than five innings in any of his 11 starts. He never gave up more than three runs in an outing. On August 18th against the Brewers, he had a no-hitter into the ninth inning. At one point in that same game, he struck out an organization-high eight consecutive batters.
His previous career high in fWAR was 2.9. He recorded 2.1 fWAR in 60 games in 2020 and was on pace for a 5.7 fWAR in a full season.
By almost every pitching measure, Kenta Maeda put together the best season of his MLB career and easily the best season by a Twins pitcher.
With the Twins, Maeda made some adjustments to his pitch mix. In 2019, he threw 37% fastballs. In 2020, he threw just 26% fastballs. He increased his slider percentage from 31% to 40% In addition, he increased his changeup usage from 24% to 29% He spoke about working with the Twins and knowing that his changeup was good enough to use versus left-handers as well as right-handers.
By throwing more sliders against right-handed hitters, and more changeups versus left-handed hitters, he was able to get more swinging strikes inside and outside the strike zone. Along with that, batters had a career low exit velocity and Hard Hit % against him.
The numbers speak for themselves. Maeda pitched better than anyone else in 2020. Just as important, Maeda provided the Twins with a top-of-the-rotation starter that they have not had in recent years. He provided the team with consistency and reliability that it needed.
Tyler Duffey was the top bullpen arm for most of the season. He was used in the highest leverage situations and came through most times out.
Matt Wisler, our choice for Most Improved Twins player in 2020, provided quality pitching regardless of what role he was used in this season. He was an Opener, a Closer and pretty much everything in between. Tyler Clippard doesn’t overpower anyone, but he had a fantastic season pitching in a variety of roles
Randy Dobnak tied Maeda for the team lead in wins. He was a strong candidate for AL Rookie of the Year for the first month of the season before a late-season fade pushed him down to St. Paul. Jose Berrios struggled for the first month, but he finished really strong. Rich Hill quietly put together a strong September.
Others who deservingly received votes: Michael Pineda, Jorge Alcala, Sergio Romo.
Here’s a look at the ballots from our 23 voters.
But first... how would your ballot look?
Here are the results from the Twins Daily Twitter poll:
Seth Stohs: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Matt Wisler
Nick Nelson: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Rich Hill
John Bonnes: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Sergio Romo
Tom Froemming: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Matt Wisler
Andrew Gebo: 1) Kenta Maeda, Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Randy Dobnak
AJ Condon: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Clippard, 4) Tyler Duffey
Cody Christie: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Matt Wisler
Cody Pirkl: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Michael Pineda, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Randy Dobnak
Cooper Carlson: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Matt Wisler
Jeremy Nygaard: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Clippard
Lucas Seehafer: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Matt Wisler, 4) Jose Berrios
Matt Braun: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Clippard, 4) Tyler Duffey
Matt Lenz: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Tyler Clippard
Matthew Taylor: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Matt Wisler, 4) Jose Berrios
Matthew Trueblood:1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Matt Wisler, 4) Randy Dobnak
Nash Walker: 1) Kenta Maeda, Tyler Duffey, 3) Randy Dobnak, 4) Matt Wisler
Nate Palmer: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Clippard, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Michael Pineda
Patrick Wozniak: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Matt Wisler
Derek Wetmore: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Clippard
Steve Lein: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Tyler Clippard, 4) Randy Dobnak
Renabanena: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Randy Dobnak, 4) Tyler Duffey
Ted Schwerzler: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Michael Pineda, 3) Randy Dobnak, 4) Matt Wisler
Thiéres Rabelo: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Jorge Alcala
Kenta Maeda: 92
Tyler Duffey: 56
Matt Wisler: 25
Jose Berrios: 25
Tyler Clippard: 12
Michael Pineda: 9
Randy Dobnak: 8
Rich Hill: 1
Jorge Alcala: 1
Sergio Romo: 1
Leave a comment and make your case.
PREVIOUS PITCHER OF THE YEAR WINNERS
2015: Kyle Gibson
2016: Ervin Santana
2017: Ervin Santana
2018: Jose Berrios
2019: Taylor Rogers
OTHER 2019 AWARD WINNERS
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Jeffers
Most Improved: Matt Wisler
Pitcher of the Year: Kenta Maeda
Most Valuable Player: Coming tomorrow
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