What does the Twins Playoff Rotation Look Like?
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsTypically in the postseason you see teams operate with a three to four-man rotation, but that won’t be the case in 2020 as MLB adds an extra six teams while still starting the World Series in mid-October. In the entire postseason, the only planned off days for teams in the midst of a series are between games 2/3 and 5/6 in the World Series. Other than that, teams only off days will be between series, which likely requires the use of a five man rotation throughout the postseason.
The news comes kind of late in the season as I’d think teams would have made some additional moves at the trade deadline to strengthen their bullpen and/or the back end of their rotation had they known that the postseason schedule provided little time for rest. Specifically the Twins, who haven’t had their rotation at 100% for the entire season, really find themselves in a pickle with Odorizzi going back on the IL and Dobnak struggling in three of his last four starts leading to being optioned off the active roster. Now we’re 10 days away from playoff baseball and we need to figure things out pretty quickly, so lets look at what their five-man rotation will look like.
#1 Kenta Maeda
Maeda is the obvious game one starter for the Wild Card match up. He’s not only been the Twins best pitcher this season, but he’s legitimately in the Cy Young conversation. No matter the opponent, you should have the confidence that Maeda can end the 16-game postseason losing streak.
#2 Michael Pineda
Michael Pineda has been lights out for the Twins dating back to last season. Say what you want about his suspension, and what that did to the team in 2020, he is the Twins second best pitcher. Prior to missing the 2018 season, you’d see Pineda sitting 93-95 with his fastball and, after his return, it took him until late May to really regain that velo. From his start on May 21st, 2019 to now Pineda has struck out more than a batter per inning while allowing just over one base runner per inning and boasting an ERA/FIP of 3.32/2.95.
#3 José Berríos
I know ranking him behind Pineda will rub some the wrong way. I know that he has a K/9 of 10.7 and ERA/FIP of 2.60/3.05 in his last five starts including facing the White Sox twice. But for me it takes more than five starts to erase what happened over the calendar prior to these five starts. From August 20th, 2019 to August 19th, 2020 Berrios had an ERA/FIP of 5.24/4.15 while having a poor walk rate of 3.5 BB/9. He’s shown flashes of ace level production throughout his career while also showing flashes of being a middle of the rotation guy. He might have better “stuff” than anyone on the staff but he’s far too inconsistent for my liking.
#4 Rich Hill
I considered Hill over Berrios but I figured I was suffering from recency bias after watching Rich Hill cruise through 7 innings against the Cubs. Though I did think about it again after I looked at his postseason resume, which features 12 starts including three in the World Series, where he’s allowed just 15 baserunners and three earned runs while striking out 19 over 15 innings pitched. In all, his postseason ERA/FIP is 3.06/3.97 and K/9 is 11.04 and experience matters in the postseason. I think I talked myself into Hill over Berrios but I don’t really want to receive hate mail so I’ll keep him at the number four slot.
#5 Jake Odorizzi / Randy Dobnak / Bullpen Game(s) / Homer Bailey
With so much unknown it’s really hard to know who the fifth guy should be, let alone who it’s going to be. The order that I listed them is the order in which I would trust them with a considerable gap between Odorizzi and the rest of the group. I noted my concerns with Dobnak earlier this year and I don’t know how we can trust Homer Bailey who has only pitched five innings in 2020...if he's even going to be an option. I wouldn’t rule out a some sort of combo game with Odorizzi and Dobnak or a short start from one of those two combined with a mini bullpen game. Depending on the situation, Rocco might need to get creative here.
It’s all about perspective and roles when you talk about starting pitchers, and although the Twins don’t have the big names (I know Maeda is currently making a name for himself), they arguably have the best one through four in all of baseball.
What do you think about Hill and Berrios? Am I going crazy or would you consider flip flopping them too? What about that number five spot? No matter who it is, they come with question marks. Which option would you trust most in that group?
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