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The Show Must Go On: Cruz Control

As we reach the halfway point in our interactive simulated 2020 season, the Minnesota Twins are neck-and-neck with the Cleveland Indians atop the AL Central. The latest stretch saw the resurgence and redemption of an embattled vet, along with some thrilling down-to-the-wire finishes.


Oh, and the Southern League All-Star Game has arrived! The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are sending five representatives.To get caught up on what we're doing here, you can check out the introductory post in the series for an explanation of the premise and setup. But the quick version is this: We're playing a progressive simulated Twins season on MLB The Show 20 on PS4, and y'all are helping guide the ship. In each installment I'll update you on what's happened since the last, and put at least one key decision up for vote.


Date In Game: 6/23

Team Record: 45-35

Leading OPS: Luis Arraez (.906 in 232 AB)

Leading ERA (SP): Jake Odorizzi (2.86 in 103.2 IP)

Leading ERA (RP): Tyler Duffey (1.69 in 37.1 IP)




Gm 71 @ KC: W 10-3 (Arraez 2-3, 3 RBI)

Gm 72 @ KC: L 5-1 (Maeda 3 IP, 5 R, 2 ER, L)

Gm 73 @ KC: W 11-1 (Rosario 3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI)

Gm 74 vs MIL: W 5-3 (Cruz 3-4, 3 HR, 5 RBI)

Gm 75 vs MIL: L 4-3 (Cruz 0-5, 4 K)

Gm 76 vs NYY: W 8-7 (Sano 1-3, HR, 3 RBI)

Gm 77 vs NYY: W 6-4 (Cruz 3-4, HR, 3 RBI)

Gm 78 vs NYY: W 9-8 (Garver PH walk-off single)

Gm 79 vs NYY: L 13-1 (Balazovic 4 IP, 5 ER, L)

Gm 80 @ HOU: W 7-0 (Berrios 7 IP, 0 R, W)






Download attachment: alcsstandings623.jpeg



If I were running an actual MLB team, I would adhere to the type of patient, big-picture approach I tend to advocate as a writer and fan. Baseball's season is a long haul, and overreacting to small-sample struggles (or successes) within it is a recipe for mismanagement and self-sabotage.


But when running a fictional team, as in our current ongoing exercise, I like to abandon any pretense of rationality or restraint. I'm all about shaking things up constantly. Bench people. Make trades. Stir the pot. Why not?!


So I'll admit, when I presented a decision here in our last installment – To bench or not to bench the scuffling Nelson Cruz? – I was kinda hoping the voters would feed into my chaotic appetite.


You didn't. Commenters showed a clear preference to stick with the veteran slugging DH. And here's what happened: Cruz went 12-for-31 (.375) over the next 10 games with five home runs and 10 RBIs. In a 5-3 win over Milwaukee, he hit three home runs and drove in ALL FIVE RUNS. Days later, his three-run homer against the Yankees proved decisive in a 6-4 win.


Cruz did have one ugly clunker mixed in – an 0-for-5 golden sombrero following the three-homer binge – but he has quickly re-emerged as an offensive force, raising his OPS by 60 points in the process.


So uh, yeah, good call on that one.


With Cruz leading the charge, our Twins went 7-3 over the past 10 to pull back within two games of Cleveland for first. With almost exactly one-half of the season (80 games) in the books, the Twins are on pace for 91 wins, but that likely won't be enough to edge a very good Cleveland squad, led by MVP contender Jose Ramirez.


The big highlight of our latest stretch, outside of Cruz's takeover, was of course winning three out of four against the Yankees. New York is actually kind of lying in the weeds, four games back in the AL East with a .500 record, and we took advantage with a trio of tight victories. The wildest of these came in the third game, in which Minnesota was down 8-1 entering the bottom of the seventh, and 8-4 entering the bottom of the ninth. Here's what went down at that point:

  • RHP Tommy Kahnle enters to pitch for NYY.
  • Jorge Polanco hits a leadoff HR. 8-5.
  • Josh Donaldson reaches on an infield single.
  • Miguel Sano walks, Donaldson to second.
  • LHP Aroldis Chapman replaces Kahnle for NYY. (Aaron Boone sweating.)
  • Max Kepler grounds to third, Gio Urshela throws to second to get Sano but Kepler beats the relay at first. Donaldson to third. Runners on the corners, one out.
  • Nelson Cruz walks. Kepler to second. Bases loaded.
  • Marwin Gonzalez strikes out swinging. Two outs.
  • Eddie Rosario singles to right. Donaldson scores and so does Kepler, beating Aaron Judge's throw to the plate. Cruz to third.
  • Byron Buxton reaches on an error by first baseman Luis Voit. Cruz scores, Rosario to second. Tie ballgame.
  • Mitch Garver pinch-hits for Willians Astudillo.
  • Garver singles to center. With no chance to get Rosario at home, Aaron Hicks tries nailing Buxton at third, but to no avail. Eddie scores and the Twins complete their stunning comeback, walking off against Chapman.
I know, it's just a fake simulation through a video game. But watching these events play out in rapid fashion, as I oversaw the action in Quick Manage mode, generated a genuine buzz of energy for me with its vibes of authenticity – Chapman battling with command, Rosario coming up clutch, Buxton beating the defense with his speed – and there's a certain joy in beating the damn Yankees no matter what the context or medium.


Baseball, I miss you so much.


One final note before we move on: As of today (in the game's calendar), the Southern League (AA) All-Star Game is upon us. I am pleased to share that five Twins prospects, playing for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, made the roster:

  • Ben Rortvedt is the starter at catcher, standing out with his solid offense (.243/.330/.373, 6 HR, 19 RBI) and excellent defense.
  • Shortstop Wander Javier (.311/.379/.429 in 49 games) and third baseman Jose Miranda (.286/.355/.411 in 53 games) both made it as bench players.
  • Right-hander Edwar Colina gets in as a starting pitcher. He's 8-2 with a 2.33 ERA and 72-to-25 K/BB ratio through 14 starts.
  • Lefty reliever Sam Clay rounds out the bullpen, somewhat oddly as he has only thrown 15 1/3 innings, although he does own a 2.93 ERA and 0.91 WHIP.


Cruz, obviously. Outside of the slugger, Luis Arraez continues to rake, and now leads the team in OPS, with his .315/.415/.491 slash line reflecting a real-life best case scenario for the scrappy second baseman. Arraez is seventh among AL hitters in average and fourth in the All-Star voting at second, behind Gleyber Torres, Jose Altuve and Cesar Hernandez. Meanwhile, Rosario keeps coming through with big knocks and has his RBI total up to 53, leading the team and tying him for seventh in the AL.


On the pitching side, Jose Berrios stayed hot with two more quality starts. In the most recent game we simmed, a series opener in Houston, Berrios had one of his finest efforts yet with seven innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits and two walks with six strikeouts as the Twins rolled 7-0. The trashcan-less Astros are 37-40 in our sim season.




Kenta Maeda was once 7-0, and the last starting pitcher in MLB to be tagged with a loss. He has since gone 1-4. The performance across his last two starts (8 IP, 5 ER, 11 H, 7 K, 5 BB) is reflective of Maeda's new norm, as his ERA has risen to 3.89.


Homer Bailey's latest sample epitomizes the up-and-down nature of his season. First, he spins 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball against Kansas City, allowing four hits. Then he lasts only three innings against the Yankees, allowing five earned runs and walking four.


With an 8-3 record, 4.96 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, Bailey is what he is: an adequate back-of-rotation piece that we should probably be looking to upgrade as the deadline gets closer.


On offense, Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sano are still in the dumps, but after the lessons learned from Cruz's ordeal, I'm not going to dwell on it one bit.


With that said, there are two rookies whose performances (and possibly miscast roles) compel action. Which brings us to this week's decision.




Several weeks back, we called up Brent Rooker, with hopes he could help boost the offense coming off a strong opening run at Triple-A. While he's had his moments since joining the team, Rooker has generally looked overmatched, slashing .241/.305/.315 with 17 strikeouts and four walks in 59 PA.


We could swap him out for Jake Cave, who leads the Rochester Red Wings in OPS (.808) and offers the ability to play center. Or... we could call up Alex Kirilloff, trailing Cave by just four points in OPS (.280/.359/.445) and riding a hot streak. But can we get him the playing time to justify it?


Alternatively, we could turn our attention to the rotation. Jordan Balazovic, who you may recall was a free agent for some reason at the start of the season, has shown some nice signs since being acquired and thrust into a big-league role, averaging a strikeout per inning, but he hasn't fared much better as a starter than he did as a reliever. Through 15 appearances (six starts) he has a 6.12 ERA and 1.73 WHIP.


We've tried bringing along our top young pitching talent through aggressive means. Maybe it's time to take a step back and send him to Triple-A for recalibration. Several pitchers in Rochester have intriguing cases to take his job:

  • Rich Hill, who accepted a demotion after we DFA'ed him and he went unclaimed, is 6-1 with a 2.68 ERA in nine starts.
  • Devin Smeltzer has a 2.52 ERA and 1.17 WHIP through 11 starts, although he did struggle during a brief long-relief stint with the Twins earlier this year.
  • Michael Pineda has a 70-to-15 K/BB ratio, 3.45 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 13 starts.
  • And a fictional 19-year-old left-hander named Reid McMahon, who opened the season in Single-A but has risen on the strength of his performance, now has a 1.70 ERA in his nine starts since joining the Red Wings. He also has a 5.9 K/9 rate, but the pitch-to-contact technique is working for him.
We're either going to make a move in the fifth starter spot or at the end of our bench. I will leave the decision up to you. Make your preference known in the comments section below.




Part 1: We Can Build This Thing Together (0-0)

Part 2: 10 Games In, 6 Games Back (4-6)

Part 3: Roaring Back (11-9)

Part 4: Over the Hill (17-13)

Part 5: Checking In at the Quarter Point (23-17)

Part 6: Rising Power (30-20)

Part 7: First Place! (Barely) (34-26)

Part 8: Drafting and Dropping (38-32)




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Option 1: Press "Like This" on this comment (or voice your support below) if you want us to send down Brent Rooker and let him regain his confidence, while promoting Jake Cave or Alex Kirilloff to take his place on the bench. (Feel free to specify your preference, otherwise I'll likely to go with Cave.)

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Option 2: Press "Like This" on this comment (or voice your support below) if you want us to send down Jordan Balazovic to find his groove in Triple-A, while promoting one of the several worthy performers in Triple-A – Rich Hill, Devin Smeltzer, Michael Pineda or Reid McMahon – to take over the fifth spot in the rotation. (Feel free to specify your preference, otherwise I'll likely to go with Smeltzer since he's on the 40-man.)

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Wait, Hill and Pineda aren't on the 40 man???


I know this isn't real, but no the McMahon kid. Let's keep it as real as we can.


Why do we have to make a single choice here? I vote to send down Rooker and Balazovic both and bring up Cave and Hill/Pineda. Not only does it make sense, but I'm betting the simulation will support both moves.


Sidenote: If those 5 Pensacola players were producing in real life as the simulation, I'd be ecstatic. Especially in the case of Javier. Guessing Jeffers is at Rochester? Shouldn't Clay also be there?

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BTW, there is something wrong (or unfair) with the system when Arraez, no matter how good, leads this lineup in OPS. Just saying.

Chances are, if Arraez leads the team in OPS at that point, disastrous things have happened.


Good player, but very limited in the power department. A .900 OPS would require a batting avg. that is off the charts (.400 neighborhood).


With so many big time hitters in this lineup (Cruz, Donaldson, Garver, Sano, Kepler), the OPS bar is set near league MVP level.

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I agree that it was wise to consider Pineda`s suspension into the game. I`d keep Hill at minimal action in BP until late in the season to guard against any injury, also Trevor Rogers could possibly use the help from Hill as closer in some cases. Even though Cruz is hot I`d give him rest against the pitchers he has the most trouble with.

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I have only attended one minor league game, and that was the 2018 Chatanooga Lookouts (Twins), vs ironically the Pensecola Blue Wahoos (Twins the next year). Anyways, Just as I was settling into my $10 seat right behind home plate, this guy named Brent Rooker juiced a ball over the center field wall. But, if votes are for demoting him, I would vote for Cave. Save Kirilloff for the Big Push in September, or whenever we need some added juice to get our lineup going. I would vote for Smeltzer or Pineda. Again, save Rich Hill for a late season clutch callup. 


Interesting side note, given the talk of expanded rosters, etc this season, we may well see the major league debut of some of our pitching prospects after all! Also, and possibly even more interesting, is the fact that if MLB went with the 3 hub plan, we would have to face the Yankees exactly 0 times until the postseason! Now THAT Twins fans is a proper Midwest glass half full look on life!

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