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New Years Resolutions: Starting Pitching


In the final week of 2021, it’s time to turn the page. Derek Falvey fell short. Rocco Baldelli fell short. The Minnesota Twins fell short. To set for better outcomes in the year ahead, we can look internally at opportunities for improvement. There’s no better place to start than on the mound.

The Minnesota Twins pitching staff was 24th in baseball when combining all arms, and the starters alone were a spot lower at 25th. There’s no denying that the group needs to be much better, and right now, the group is made up of three arms. There’s more depth behind them, and there’s a man in charge that once led a strong rotation. That’s where much of this focus should come.
 
Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober
These two need to establish that they are solid major-league starters. They looked the part a year ago, and continuing that growth in 2022 is a must. Ryan made just a handful of starts but held his own, even looking dominant at times. Ober saw teams multiple times and was able to make adjustments. When looking at the farm last winter, both would have been unexpected contributors, and that’s the kind of breakouts any organization loves to have.
 
Dylan Bundy
Proving he’s not 2021 bad would be a great start. The former top prospect is not the 3.29 ERA he posted in 2020, but he’s also not the 6.06 ERA he had a season ago. For what Minnesota paid him, and where the Twins need him in the rotation, Bundy being a low 4.00 ERA guy is a must. The strikeouts need to move back up over one per inning and allowing two longballs per nine can’t continue to be a thing. There’s a solid pitcher here and maybe a very good one in terms of a mid-rotation arm. Find that.
 
Wes Johnson
Back to the overall numbers of this starting staff. Johnson coached his group last season to the fifth-worst finish in baseball. In 2020, the Twins staff was the third-best. In 2019, the rotation came in fourth. Johnson has shown an ability to work with pitchers and get the most out of them. Michael Pineda became arguably the best version of himself, Kenta Maeda took steps forward, and something was made out of nothing in a couple of situations. Johnson is seen as a velocity savant but can impact much more than that. Minnesota may have the least talented group they’ve had during his tenure when 2022 starts, but Wes getting more out of each of them remains a must.
 
Randy Dobnak
You don’t make it to the majors by mistake, and you certainly don’t start a Postseason game by luck. Dobnak’s 7.64 ERA last season was as much his ineffectiveness as it was Minnesota’s indecisiveness. Having worked entirely as a starter during 2020, Dobnak was used as one in less than half his appearances a year ago. The talk of velocity boosts and missed bats in Spring Training was never present, and I’d imagine his confidence was consistently shaken with no set role. Work him back as a starter, implore him to get the job done, and utilize him the same way that bore fruit previously.
 
Stay tuned for the next installment, where the bullpen comes under fire.

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I have no idea who you were talking about when you stated  "and there’s a man in charge that once led a strong rotation." We haven't a strong rotation since J. Santana & Liriano were pitching. We had a pretty good rotation in '19 which tore up the league in the 1st half but after the BP blew up, they had to depend too much on a sick Gibson and a newly converted BP Perez. We did well in 2020 not because we had a strong rotation but we had a weak rotation that succeeded because of a short season. In the last few years we haven't had a strong rotation but only one strong pitcher, Berrios.

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Summarizing, the Twins have a young dynamic pitching coach that we like, three #5 starting pitchers prospects that we like, and a new FA acquisition to fill in as needed.

The enthusiasm for our boys is understandable. The current lineup of starting pitchers rostered is the weakest in baseball, arguably. There is still time to build the team and that is where I would place my optimism.

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3 hours ago, Doctor Gast said:

I have no idea who you were talking about when you stated  "and there’s a man in charge that once led a strong rotation." We haven't a strong rotation since J. Santana & Liriano were pitching. We had a pretty good rotation in '19 which tore up the league in the 1st half but after the BP blew up, they had to depend too much on a sick Gibson and a newly converted BP Perez. We did well in 2020 not because we had a strong rotation but we had a weak rotation that succeeded because of a short season. In the last few years we haven't had a strong rotation but only one strong pitcher, Berrios.

Wes Johnson has been here 3 seasons. His staffs ranked 4th, 3rd, and 24th (according to the OP). 

What does "we had a weak rotation that succeeded because of a short season" even mean? They pitched better than all but 2 staffs, but it was only because they were given the bonus of pitching a short season unlike every other team? Your complaint seems to be they don't have big name, big money guys so they can't be good. But the stats show they've been good for more than they haven't since Wes arrived. And had been improving since the day Falvey took over until last year completely fell apart. 

Can we please stop with these false narratives of the Twins having been carried by homeruns and the offense while the pitching staff was awful? The pitching staff has more than held their own until last year. Definitely rag on the FO and coaching and pitchers for 2021. They deserve it. Utter failure of a season. But everybody needs to quit changing history to fit their narratives. The Twins had the 2nd most pitching WAR in all of baseball in 2019 and 2020 combined. If that doesn't earn them the title of "strong rotation" I don't know what will. Have to be first or the rotation isn't strong? Weird logic there.

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Would love to see Twins target Glasnow in a trade - Tampa won't be happy about paying him while he's rehabbing, and he has the talent to be an ace for anyone. Perfect buy-kinda-low opportunity, although he'll still be spendy. Love to beat Yanks/Dodgers/Boston to him. We could also take Kiermeier as our Buxton backup to give TB more salary relief. Love to get Taylor Walls added to maybe plug our hole at SS - a big package. We could start with Larnach/Lewis/Duran to get their attention. There has been much talk about us lining up well with Miami as a trade partner. But I wouldn't forget about the other Florida team, Tampa. They have some interesting pieces.

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We were forced to start Dobnak in the ALDS in 2019! The other choices were Martín Pérez or Devin Smeltzer. Gibson, who was pitching through colitis for most of the season had a terrible last half and was moved to the pen, and had pitched in game 1 and gave up 3 runs in the 7th. Pineda was serving his PED suspension with no playoff games part of the penalty. Berrios and Odorizzi got game 1 and 2. The FO made no moves to get a stellar starting arm for the playoff run, just Dyson for the pen, and we all know how good that turned out. Seriously, Dobnak was certainly  lucky (for himself) to get that start, and the Twins and fans were very unlucky, in my opinion. But it wasn't luck that got us there, it was decisions to not have at least one ringer acquired for the Postseason games. Dobnak had 3 games that he started at the end of September where he pitched well against a fading Cleveland, KC and Detroit, and even though he had only pitched 28 inning in the show, he was the best and seemingly hottest arm we had. I would say that was pretty lucky, but that is just opinion. 

Pitching that can win a lot of regular season games against a lot of poor teams aren't necessarily the ones you would want against the leagues' best in the playoffs.

Take a look at 2019 pitching............ just for yuks. Ranks 4th, eh? https://www.mlb.com/twins/stats/pitching/2019

The only pitcher I put my money on in the OP list is Ryan, and mostly because I watched the Olympics in the wee hours of the morning, and I feel it. Stats be damned. Getting the umpire to fist bump him.... he has the moxie to be a star.

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4 hours ago, h2oface said:

Take a look at 2019 pitching............ just for yuks. Ranks 4th, eh? https://www.mlb.com/twins/stats/pitching/2019

Looks like they road hot starts from Perez, 7-2  3.71 ERA on June First 1st,  Odo 10-2 2.24 ERA on June 16th, Berrios 8-2 3.14 ERA on June 7th, Gibson 6-2 3.75 ERA on June 2nd. Pineda struggled a bit at the beginning and then had a decent run until, well.....

If you look at their ERA's in June and what they finished with something was different after June, well except for Berrios his ERA stayed about the same.

They road Duffey, May, Littell, Harper and Rogers in the pen.

 

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10 minutes ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

IMO, the best thing that could happen for the Twins is another short season, either Covid or lockout. Run a few young pitches out there that get hot and don't have to sustain it over more than 8 - 10 starts. Make the Wild card win a game or tow and look like geniuses.

That's seems like an extreme long-shot and we would still be trying to establish a rotation in 2023.  We would also not get the Abs needed to establish Miranda / Martin or the OF candidates.  I would much prefer a full season to audition as many players as possible and go into 2023 with some new talent with some ML experience and a good understanding of what needs to be done in the off-season to be a legit contender.  

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13 hours ago, chpettit19 said:

Wes Johnson has been here 3 seasons. His staffs ranked 4th, 3rd, and 24th (according to the OP). 

What does "we had a weak rotation that succeeded because of a short season" even mean? They pitched better than all but 2 staffs, but it was only because they were given the bonus of pitching a short season unlike every other team? Your complaint seems to be they don't have big name, big money guys so they can't be good. But the stats show they've been good for more than they haven't since Wes arrived. And had been improving since the day Falvey took over until last year completely fell apart. 

Can we please stop with these false narratives of the Twins having been carried by homeruns and the offense while the pitching staff was awful? The pitching staff has more than held their own until last year. Definitely rag on the FO and coaching and pitchers for 2021. They deserve it. Utter failure of a season. But everybody needs to quit changing history to fit their narratives. The Twins had the 2nd most pitching WAR in all of baseball in 2019 and 2020 combined. If that doesn't earn them the title of "strong rotation" I don't know what will. Have to be first or the rotation isn't strong? Weird logic there.

I was asking Ted what he meant by "and there’s a man in charge that once led a strong rotation". You are saying that man is Wes Johnson, how do you know that's what Ted meant? If he indeed meant Wes Johnson, I have all confidence in him to get the most out of his pitchers.

My definition of a strong rotation is majority of SPs that are able to go at least 5 innings on a regular basis and give us an opportunity to win the game, throughout a full season. A strong rotation isn't so greatly dependent on the BP to bail them out.  I thought I conveyed that in my text. It has nothing to do with $. There are pitchers out there making a lot of $ which I don't consider strong pitchers. I don't care about big names either that why I'm not in favor of signing big name FA pitchers.

I liked the '19 rotation very much and they could've led us well into the post season, had the BP not blew up midway. The rotation was totally spent because it wasn't that strong. 2020 was short season so for me I don't really count that year as indicator of a success pitcher as a strong pitcher. Those pitchers would have to prove to me in a full 2021 if in fact they are strong pitchers. To me a successful pitcher doesn't mean a strong pitcher.

I don't like you accusing me of spreading "false narratives" just because my definition of a strong rotation is different than yours. I have no agenda to push

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6 hours ago, h2oface said:

We were forced to start Dobnak in the ALDS in 2019! The other choices were Martín Pérez or Devin Smeltzer. Gibson, who was pitching through colitis for most of the season had a terrible last half and was moved to the pen, and had pitched in game 1 and gave up 3 runs in the 7th. Pineda was serving his PED suspension with no playoff games part of the penalty. Berrios and Odorizzi got game 1 and 2. The FO made no moves to get a stellar starting arm for the playoff run, just Dyson for the pen, and we all know how good that turned out. Seriously, Dobnak was certainly  lucky (for himself) to get that start, and the Twins and fans were very unlucky, in my opinion. But it wasn't luck that got us there, it was decisions to not have at least one ringer acquired for the Postseason games. Dobnak had 3 games that he started at the end of September where he pitched well against a fading Cleveland, KC and Detroit, and even though he had only pitched 28 inning in the show, he was the best and seemingly hottest arm we had. I would say that was pretty lucky, but that is just opinion. 

Pitching that can win a lot of regular season games against a lot of poor teams aren't necessarily the ones you would want against the leagues' best in the playoffs.

Take a look at 2019 pitching............ just for yuks. Ranks 4th, eh? https://www.mlb.com/twins/stats/pitching/2019

The only pitcher I put my money on in the OP list is Ryan, and mostly because I watched the Olympics in the wee hours of the morning, and I feel it. Stats be damned. Getting the umpire to fist bump him.... he has the moxie to be a star.

Some luck may have played a role to get Dobnak the playoff start once he was on the roster, but luck did not get him on the roster, and luck did not keep him on the roster.  He made his way up the ladder to earn his spot at the MLB level.  There was a number of other pitchers in our organization.  It is not like every other pitcher in the organization had not chance.  To say it was all luck that Dobnak made it to the majors and that he started the playoff game takes away from him working his way up the organization. 

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54 minutes ago, Whitey333 said:

Twins had an awful pitching staff in 2021 finishing near the bottom in most categories.  As of now all they have done is to add a pitcher that had an era of over 6.  We better hope a couple of those pitching prospects pan out.  If not it will be a very long losing season again.

Every year every team hopes their pitchers pan out for the year.  You go into the year expecting health and performance even for vets.  Lets say we go out and sign the top FA left on the board, or even go back and sign the top that was out there.  We still have to hope they stay healthy and pitch to the level they have in the past. There are many times the vet you are counting on does not perform and you go to someone else.  

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As it sits right now, a lot more guys than Ober and Ryan need to establish themselves.  While I think Dobnak is much more suited for a starting role and expect him to be worked back into the rotation, I'm not sure that he can be relied on at this point.  Even if you do decide to rely on him, that still leaves one open spot in the rotation.  And that assumes that Bundy is less of what he was last season and more of what he was earlier in his career.

This season's flow will go with the rollercoaster that is likely to be the rotation.  Lots of highs and just as many lows.  

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My thoughts on Dobnak are that.... his ship has sailed. He's not the type of pitcher that can over-power hitters and I think hitters have figured him out already. Watching him pitch, it is easy to see the difference in which pitch he is throwing. Lay off the off-speed stuff and clobber the fastball. Unfortunately we will all get to see how bad the FO has mis-judged him in 2022. 

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19 minutes ago, rv78 said:

My thoughts on Dobnak are that.... his ship has sailed. He's not the type of pitcher that can over-power hitters and I think hitters have figured him out already. Watching him pitch, it is easy to see the difference in which pitch he is throwing. Lay off the off-speed stuff and clobber the fastball. Unfortunately we will all get to see how bad the FO has mis-judged him in 2022. 

He was by far our best starter in spring training last year. He should have been in the rotation to start 2021. Hindsight says he was mismanaged. He deserves a spot in this rotation. He will have a good spring in my opinion. I am a Dobber fan, and still believe - as does the front office. He'll get every opportunity to begin the year in the rotation. 

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Recency bias in the Dobnak vs Ober attitude is stunning for Twins Daily readers. I expect a less hot-take crowd here. 

I would not be surprised at all if Dobnak had a better season than Ryan or Ober, contingent on health for all. I don't expect it, but I would not be surprised. Dobnak was better than either Ryan or Ober thru their first X MLB starts and Dobnak's success was spread across two seasons where hitters had an offseason to make the adjustment and he adjusted right back.

I do expect Dobnak to be better than Bundy, given the same amount of starts.

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So many young arms in our pipeline that have yet to get a chance. I would really love to see Ober/Ryan and Bundy if he can get back to form and then go bullpen games twice a week with our top starting pitcher prospects going 4 innings each with a closer in the 9th.  

 

 

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Speaking of FACTS: It is very RARE that ANY team has ever gone deep in the playoffs without an ACE or a #2. Falvey now says he might go with the 3 Inning concept for each Pitcher.  Good Luck with that!! Just admit we can't afford good pitching and that winning the division is not our goal and that just being profitable is!!

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2 hours ago, MGM4706 said:

Speaking of FACTS: It is very RARE that ANY team has ever gone deep in the playoffs without an ACE or a #2. Falvey now says he might go with the 3 Inning concept for each Pitcher.  Good Luck with that!! Just admit we can't afford good pitching and that winning the division is not our goal and that just being profitable is!!

I would disagree with this comment.  You do have subjective terms like very rare, but I could point to many teams that have gone deep with out an "Ace" and many teams that had several "Aces" and failed to get past first round.  Lets just look at Twins, for years we had one of best pitchers in baseball in Santana, but did we win a playoff round, even when he gets 2 starts.  However, when we faced the A's in the money ball season they had 3 very good starters and we had Radke, only 1 year of his career did he get a cy young vote, not really ace level.  We had Rick Reed, Eric Milton, and Joe Mays.  Not an Ace in the group.  

Look at Braves this year, Max Fried would be only guy going into year you would call an Ace and he is not top of list, the others were jouryman and two unproven rookies.  Look at Dodgers for years losing with Kershaw.  Yes, there are years the "Ace" carries a team through playoffs, but not always, and recently some teams have won the bullpen games in the playoffs to.  

Point is, having an ace does no mean wins in playoffs, just as not having one means losses. 

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On 12/27/2021 at 12:50 PM, Ted Schwerzler said:

You don’t make it to the majors by mistake, and you certainly don’t start a Postseason game by luck.

 

6 hours ago, Trov said:

Some luck may have played a role to get Dobnak the playoff start once he was on the roster, but luck did not get him on the roster, and luck did not keep him on the roster.  He made his way up the ladder to earn his spot at the MLB level.  There was a number of other pitchers in our organization.  It is not like every other pitcher in the organization had not chance.  To say it was all luck that Dobnak made it to the majors and that he started the playoff game takes away from him working his way up the organization. 

I agree Dobnak earned his call to the show. I thought it was clear I was discussing, and responding to, the playoff start. 

If Dobnak's future is so tenuous that he can only shine if 'handled' specially, I wish him a lot of luck. We need good pitching, and 2021 still counts.

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6 hours ago, In My La Z boy said:

He was by far our best starter in spring training last year. He should have been in the rotation to start 2021. Hindsight says he was mismanaged. He deserves a spot in this rotation. He will have a good spring in my opinion. I am a Dobber fan, and still believe - as does the front office. He'll get every opportunity to begin the year in the rotation. 

Spring Training? Are we talking Spring Training!?! 

I have seen some great Spring Training runs never translate to games that actually count. They are nice to see.... but it is still Spring Training. 

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