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  • 3 Promising Stats from the Twins Top 3 Returning Starters

    Nick Nelson

    For the first time in memory, the Minnesota Twins are heading into the offseason without a glaring need at the front of the rotation. With Kenta Maeda, José Berríos and Michael Pineda all set to return, the team already boasts a viable playoff stable.

    Here's one stat from each this season that reinforces my confidence heading into 2021.

    Image courtesy of David Berding and Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today

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    Kenta Maeda led the Twins in innings with 66 ⅔, but issued only 10 walks with zero hit-by-pitches and zero wild pitches.

    Maeda's control was fairly mediocre over the past two seasons in Los Angeles (3.0 BB/9), and worse as a starter than as a reliever, which might've been among reasons the Dodgers were open to moving on.

    The right-hander turned a corner in 2020, joining the league's elite with a 1.35 BB/9 rate that ranked fourth among all MLB starters. Maeda chopped his baseline BB percentage in half, going from 8.1% in 2018 and 8.2% in 2019 to 4.0% in his first year with the Twins. He walked one or zero batters in nine of his 11 regular-season starts, and held opponents to a ridiculous .202 on-base percentage overall.

    Over the course of his career he hasn't been especially prone to HBPs (one every 27 innings) or wild pitches (one every 39 innings) but we've seen neither from him in a Twins uniform. Maeda was executing on the hill from start to finish in 2020.

    Opponents batted .167 and slugged .231 against José Berríos' curveball.

    The curve has always been crucial to Berríos' arsenal, and now more than ever. This season was the first time he threw it more than any other pitch, and his results with it were better than ever.

    In 84 plate appearances ending in a curveball this year, Berríos allowed only two doubles and one home run. His curve produced the lowest wOBA (.205) and second-lowest average exit velocity (84.0 MPH) of any pitch during any season in his career. It also produced the highest putaway rate (26.9%), meaning he was able to complete a strikeout more than one out of every four times he threw the pitch with two strikes.

    In the past, Berríos' curveball has generally been quite effective but he's been susceptible to hanging it here and there. He gave up 10 home runs on curveballs in each of the past two years. The 2020 season saw him executing the offering better than ever before, and that's an excellent sign heading into his age 27 season.

    (The flip side is that Berríos' fastball was far worse than it's ever been – opponents batted .345 and slugged .709 against the righty's four-seamer. Fixing that will be a clear priority for him in 2021.)

    Michael Pineda allowed zero home runs in 26 ⅔ over five starts.

    Prior to joining the Minnesota Twins, Pineda was one of the most homer-prone starting pitchers in baseball. From 2015 through 2017, his 1.4 HR/9 rate ranked 12th-highest among qualified starters. He posted the same mark in his first year as a Twin, surrendering 23 long balls across 26 starts in 2019.

    However, it bears noting that 14 of those home runs came in his first 10 starts. During his final 16 turns last year, Pineda gave up only nine homers, and in his five starts in 2020, he didn't give up a single one.

    It appears that Pineda has managed to mitigate his biggest weakness. And when he's keeping the ball in the yard, he's a tremendously effective pitcher. In those past 21 starts where he has allowed only nine home runs, he has a 3.23 ERA and 9-2 record. The Twins have gone 16-5 in those games.

    With Pineda under contract for one more season at a highly reasonable $10 million, the Twins can feel confident taking the field behind him, as well as the other two members of this outstanding rotation-fronting trio.

    Whatever moves Minnesota makes to improve the starting pitching corps this winter, they'll be building upon a clear strength.


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    Like top 3 for next year, couple of questions; can they consistently pitch into 7th inning and will RB let them pitch into 7th, Would like to add proven starter, Odorizzi? and 1-2 other possible starters to compete with Dobnak and Duran, maybe Thorpe or Smeltzer can bounce back.

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    Consistency like this from the rotation is what I have felt all along is what is needed in order to have a good team capable of making a deep run.  For all those who were complaining about the Twins not acquiring either Cole to get that ace (and his team didn't go far either) or spending to get someone like Wheeler or Ryu - I think this proved that isn't needed.  Neither playoff loss to Houston can be attributed to the starting pitcher.  Agree with the point of this article - starting pitching is a strength of the team now. 

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    Because of many things can you count on these 3? Last year you were harping on Homer Bailey after he had a good month. Then Odorizzi and Rich Hill.


    Maeda was traded by the team who has had the best pitching staff since integration, the Dodgers. Berrios needs to dominate first division teams. Pineda well caught with PEDs.


    The last team that could count on 3 pitchers and the pitching coach went to Baltimore and failed was the Atlanta Braves. My team since 2000 has had 4 different starters with less than 5 Cardinals starts from the prior 3 years with the team. Averaged almost 20 games above .500 from 2000-2019.




    Maeda fails after the All Star break which ever team knows.

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    Let's hope the performance continues.  We do not know and since so many are discounting the hitters performance because it was 60 games aren't we in the same position with the pitchers?  I like the top three and I hope that Duran and Balazovic can move up and into the rotation.  Dobnak is number seven if we are really improving.  His great story burst the last half of this season and Smeltzer and Thorpe give me no hope.    Then there is the BP!


    Like so many I wish Rocco did not get locked into 5 innings for starters.  All that does is wear out your BP.  Give me 6/7 innings and a two inning RP and suddenly the BP is rested and we can move to the next one in line for the subsequent game and still have enough so that we can bail out the 4/5 starters with additional arms. 

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    In today's analytics driven baseball.....you are not allowed to get out of "your comfort zone"...or in this case - go beyond it. So theoretically, you will never be given the chance to improve...or at least show your resilience.


    So it doesn't matter that the Twins have 3 starters you like......because half of the playoff innings will be pitched by relievers....one inning at a time.


    2 of the Twin's best relievers did not get to pitch in the playoffs [as well as your 3rd fav starter...Pineda]. Clippard and Wisler....nowhere to be found.


    Not sure what was more frustrating...the Twins hitting or Rocco's emotionless by-the-numbers managing.


    Did Rocco think Romo got better somehow?? Did Rocco not see Rogers having a bad year??


    Don't break this team up. Make them stay with each other and learn how to be clutch in the playoffs.

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    Some days I wanna erase this entire season. But the kids are knocking on the door. It wasn't our pitching that hurt us down the stretch. We had holes in our swings. Holes in our bats. Holes in the line up. I am ready for Someone else to play 1b. More contact please.

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    With this shortened year did not get to see many young pitchers. In 2019, 9 pitchers made their MLB debut with the Twins, 2020 only one, for 1/3 of an inning. Should be some young pitchers get their opportunity in 2021. By the way, of the 9 pitchers who made their debut in 2019, 4 are no longer with the Twins and I think only two were on playoff roster this year-Dobnak and Stashek. Hoping for better results the next couple of years.

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    Now, let's get Berrios extended this winter, along with Buxton.


    Want to comment on everyone writing Dobnak off for the future. From what I saw, his problems late weren't that anyone was hitting him especially hard. Rather, his ball which normally moves a lot was moving way more than normal. Saw so many pitches move a lot and way out of the strike zone. Result was that he was constantly 2-0 or 3-0 in those last couple games.


    Not a clue what could have caused this, but certainly seems like something that can be fixed. Would be much more concerned if hitters were teeing off on him. Might also help a groundball pitcher if the Twins didn't shift as much or bring the infield in early in the game with a runner on third. 

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    My $.02 for a nice article, good and bad. Just trying to keep it real.


    1] Maeda: Pitched like a #1, maybe even an ACE. But I'm not going to call him that. I'm not even expecting that over a 162G season. Some will say he faded in LA and got bumped to the pen. I would argue he wasn't afforded the chance to pitch a full season due to the depth of their rotation options, AND, it's also been well reported that part of the reason be was moved to the pen late in the season was because the Dodgers needed pen help and he was OUTSTANDING in that role.


    The Twins changed his approach and sequencing and be had the best season of his career. Different team, different pitching coach, different sequencing, what's not to like?


    Negative? It's been a while since he topped 180 IP. His arm was rubber in a short 2020. He seems to be VERY capable of 6-7IP per start. Skip a start or 2, manage his IP, just set him up in 2021 for 180+ IP without a tired arm at the end.


    2] Berrios: He suffers from 2 things. One is that expectation from desperate fans for a dominate arm like Gooden or King Felix hasn't happened...yet. The second, here we go yet again, is his late fade. The kid has produced so well that be has made 2 All Star games with outstanding numbers...not that that award is a be all...but never quite finished what he started. Yet AGAIN, both be and the Twins recognised he was wearing himself out with his routine. He made adjustments at the end of '19 and responded well. He probably would have benefited in '20 were it a normal season. Didn't he finish fine?


    Everyone wants a 22-24 ACE on their team leading their staff. I think if you did enough research you would find most of the best SP, with any sustained success, didn't hit their best runs until about the 26-27yo seasons plus. It's not just velocity, it's about knowing how to pitch. Berrios is just getting to the point where he is maturing enough as a pitcher to tame determination, stuff, experience, and knowledge about his routine and repertoire to being the best he can be.


    If be were a FA this off-season, we would be clamoring to sign him based on production and potential! But sometimes we are too close to see the big picture.


    Negative? Still needs to follow through with his new season long conditioning program to maintain endurance. Needs to continue to develop that curveball and not forget/ignore a change that looks really good at times. Despite his velocity increase this year, is he more effective dialing it back a couple mph for better control and movement? Or is it just a mechanical tweak?


    Second negative: Will he sign a nice extension that benefits both sides, especially considering the unknown market for both sides? Or will be gamble on himself and an unknown future? I'm worried we are going to end up losing a pretty dominate arm a year or two from now.


    3] Pineda: Talk about history if you will. Smart signing! Outstanding in 2019 before his suspension. (I'm willing still to give credence to his explanation). He pretty much picked up right where he left off last season. He doesn't throw as nasty as he did a few years ago. But he is learned, has no doubt learned a few things from Johnson, and has adapted/transformed in to a slightly different pitcher than he was previously.


    Negative? While I seemed to somehow miss watching the games he appeared in, reports were that he was in at least "decent" shape. Results seemed to indicate his head and arm were definitely in shape. But will he STAY IN SHAPE for 2021 and a potential full season? Despite his experience/knowledge/stuff, can he go AT LEAST 160 IP to maybe 180?


    I am SO ENCOURAGED by this 1-3. Give me back a healthy Odorizzi or someone similar to share the 3/4 role/load, and I'm feeling damn good.

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    I think the most encouraging thing from all three of these guys is they are under contract for next year and there's little reason to believe they won't be competent starters. They're all guys that have a track record of success, & Maeda & Berrios would slot into the top half of the rotation on most teams. It's really nice not have to be thinking about how the hell we're going to get a decent rotation put together.


    Maybe they won't be able to repeat exactly this performance, but there's a lot of good in all three of these guys.

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    It is nice to start with three proven starters and only have to add two to the back half of the rotation with several in-house candidates available. Draft choices and trade acquisitions by Falvey/Levine can and should fill the bottom of the rotation starting in 2021. 


    Personally, I'm not in favor of retaining Odorizzi, because of his inability to go deep into games. I certainly hope that the starters, with a normal season including spring training, will average closer to six innings per start and take some heat off the bullpen. 

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    It is nice to start with three proven starters and only have to add two to the back half of the rotation with several in-house candidates available. Draft choices and trade acquisitions by Falvey/Levine can and should fill the bottom of the rotation starting in 2021. 


    Personally, I'm not in favor of retaining Odorizzi, because of his inability to go deep into games. I certainly hope that the starters, with a normal season including spring training, will average closer to six innings per start and take some heat off the bullpen. 

    The ability to go 4 strong innings could be the next "market inefficiency", at least if you pair up such pitchers in an effective way plus you have other starters who do give you 6+ on their good days. Of course you can't pay such a guy $17M.


    I'm more concerned about Odo being able to give you 30+ starts in a season anymore. Roster spots (active roster, or 40-man) are precious. Someone who may need to beg off at the last moment but not bad enough to put on the IL could end up not worth the trouble. Got a bad feeling about Jake in that regard. And I don't mean he's not a gamer, in fact I think he is.

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