I’m going to order this as a traditional one-through-five rotation, starting with the “Twins Ace” at number one and working our way down to number five. Of course, the injuries and upcoming return of Michael Pineda make this exercise a bit tricky, but here it goes.
1) Kenta Maeda – 36.2 IP, 1.80 ERA/2.59 FIP, 0.71 WHIP, 29.4 K%/5.1 BB%, 23.6 HardHit%
Maeda is the obvious choice as staff ace as he has been dominant since joining the Twins. He’s ultimately been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, has taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers, and has looked good in all of his starts. He’s been the only pitcher on the staff to consistently go deep in his starts, pitching less than six innings just twice – in his first start when he wasn’t fully stretched out and in his most recent start which followed his 115 pitch near no-hitter (and he threw five really good innings in both of those starts!).
2) José Berríos – 30.1 IP, 4.75 ERA/4.18 FIP, 1.38 WHIP, 25.2 K%/10.7 BB%, 32.5 HardHit%
Having Berríos slated ahead of Randy Dobnak will surely annoy some, but it was his last start that gives me confidence in placing Berríos second. After struggling mightily with control in his first five starts and walking 13 batters, Berríos racked up nine strike outs in six innings in his latest start against Milwaukee with only one walk (and gave up just one hit). The unusual ramp up to the season may have thrown Berríos off, but he’s throwing harder than ever (his four-seamer is averaging 94.5 mph compared to 93.1 mph last year) and has enough of a history of past success (and cursed Augusts) to believe he’s turned the corner.
3) Randy Dobnak – 30.1 IP, 1.78 ERA/4.08 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, 13.5 K%/5.9 BB%, 36.5 HardHit%
The fact that I feel guilty for having Dobnak this low on a Twins rotation that also includes Odorizzi, Hill, Pineda, and Bailey, shows how good Dobnak has been. Injuries have given him an opportunity to continue the amazing run that began last year, and he’s more than made the most of it. Sure, Dobnak doesn’t miss many bats and gives up some hard contact, but his 62.4% ground ball rate more than makes up for that. What keeps him behind Berríos is a combination of not pitching deep into games (he’s only made it through six innings once) and having a profile that should regress. His FIP is in the same neighborhood as Berríos, despite the latter’s early struggles, and his Left-On-Base percentage is currently at an unsustainable 93.3%. His BABIP is also extremely low at .226. Even with some regression, Dobnak is a tremendous asset to the rotation and much more than just a great story.
4) Michael Pineda – Has yet to pitch in 2020.
One can quibble about the order of the top-three, but they pretty clearly belong at the top. It gets a little murkier from here on out. So much so, that our number four is a pitcher who has yet to throw a pitch in 2020. However, Michael Pineda will return at the end of the month, and the way he was pitching prior to his suspension at the end of last year merits a place ahead of either Hill or Odorizzi, who have both struggled. In his first season back since having both Tommy John-and-knee surgery, Pineda started a bit slowly, but really took off in the second-half. He pitched to a 3.04 ERA (3.55 FIP) and had a 20.2% K-BB% in 53.1 IP and looked like the Twins best starter before being suspended. Hopefully, he can continue his second-half form without too much rust when he rejoins the rotation next week.
5) Rich Hill – 7.2 IP, 4.70 ERA/5.63 FIP, 1.30 WHIP, 9.4 K%/12.5 BB%, 32.0 HardHit%
The number five spot could be labeled the “whoever’s healthy enough to pitch” slot (or alternately, the bullpen game). With Homer Bailey out for the foreseeable future and Jake Odorizzi on the IL for the second time with a chest contusion after taking a comebacker, it’s currently Rich Hill who fits the bill. Hill has had his own health problems with an IL stint for shoulder fatigue, but it’s his lack of control which might be the most frightening thing for the time being. Hill is coming off of modified Tommy John surgery and has missed very few bats while walking more than he’s struck out. Although he’s now 40-years-old, he was still pitching well last season, so hopefully he’s shaking off the rust and pitching a great game against Cleveland as these words are being published.
What do you think? How would you order your ideal rotation? Please leave your comments below!
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