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  • Is a Healthy Tyler Mahle an Ace?


    Ted Schwerzler

    Needing help on the starting pitching front, the Minnesota Twins teamed up with the Cincinnati Reds at the 2022 trade deadline to acquire Tyler Mahle. He made just four starts for Minnesota before succumbing to a season-ending injury, but how good can he be with a clean bill of health?

     

    Image courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

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    There’s no denying that the Twins and Reds front office have found favor with one another. After dealing for Sonny Gray prior to the 2022 season, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine sent, Steve HajjarSpencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand to Cincinnati in exchange for Tyler Mahle. Heck, the two sides continued making moves this offseason when Casey Legumina was flipped for Kyle Farmer. It’s clear the two organizations see ways to help one another.

    Although Mahle was unable to provide much of a boost for Minnesota down the stretch as he dealt with a shoulder injury, the hope is that he enters Spring Training at 100% and ready to go. If that is the case, then there’s a lot of excitement to dream on should the Twins be able to unlock the talent.

    Over the previous three seasons coming into 2022, Mahle owned a 3.95 ERA with the Reds, and it was backed by a 3.84 FIP. His 10.2 K/9 was plenty exciting, and he was producing at that level despite allowing a 1.2 HR/9 playing in the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark. In over 400 innings with Cincinnati last season, his 4.40 ERA equated to a career best 3.60 FIP. Although the velocity dipped slightly to a 93 mph average, he maintained strong chase and whiff rates.

    Plenty of the excitement surrounding Mahle has long been tied to expected numbers. He has controlled hitters and found himself unlucky at times. That could be a byproduct of playing in a less-than-ideal stadium, or pitching in front of bad teams. Either way, there’s a path to unlocking more if the Twins can figure him out.

    In Mahle, Minnesota was looking for a pitcher under team control that they can work with and attempt to find another level. The former Reds starter isn’t a free agent until 2024, and this may be a decent time for the sides to hammer out an extension if they so choose. Although the shoulder issue popped up last season, Mahle threw 180 innings in 2021.

    Suggesting a pitcher can be an ace is tough. While each team has their best arm, there’s probably only 10 or so arms across the entirety of the game that earn the definition of true Ace. Even at his best, Mahle becoming peak Justin Verlander seems unlikely. He could, and maybe even should, outperform anyone on the Twins staff though and that then allows a more nuanced conversation to happen.

    We won’t see the best of Mahle until he’s healthy, but if the Twins spend the offseason making sure he is, then helping to unlock what the numbers say is there gets increasingly more exciting.

     

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    Not by my definition, but he's possibly the best pitcher on this team's staff.  A staff ace, if you will.  That's dependent on which Joe Ryan shows up though; Pre-covid or post-covid.  Getting a full season of pre-covid Ryan probably gives him that title.

    All that said, a healthy Mahle is a definite boost to the rotation.

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    Provided he can stay healthy and get back a little more zip on his fastball I can see Mahle. I remember Mahle pitching against STL about 6 weeks before we got him and was impressed with his overall stuff. When healthy he seems like someone we could lean on to pitch 7 innings every now and then.

    That said, I think it is very premature to talk about him becoming our ace. Front line starter maybe. But who knows. I'll keep my mind open

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    I’ll take 140 innings and a sub 4.00 ERA right now and be perfectly happy. There will be some days when he is superb and a few clunkers for sure. But that would be a great season from Mahle. Anything better than that is gravy; however, if pressed, I’d probably bet the under. Seriously, given the arm issues late last season, should we realistically expect any more than that through the course of an entire season?

    Hopefully that type of season will not qualify as the Twins 2023 “Ace” - Ryan, and both Gray and Maeda if healthy, should outperform that.

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    Ace is so subjective.  Does he have #2 starter potential?  Yes.  That is why the Twins gambled on him in the first place.

    Think big picture folks: 

    He regains his pre surgery form, the Twins extend him for a year or two at a reasonable cost.  He could be a mainstay in the rotation for a while.

    He dominates and the Twins have a young, pitcher in the fold they can try to keep or move for other capital.

    This is the type of lottery ticket a team like the Twins will always chase.

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    Is he an ACE?  Not by my definition, but there are only a half dozen or so who are.  Is he the Twins best pitcher, maybe?  Probably?  Doesn't mean he is my opening day starter.  That job goes to Sonny Gray.

    Why?  I want Gray matched up with the other team's top pitcher.  Then have Mahle going in the #2 slot where he should be as good or better than most team's #2.  Advantage Twins.  Give me the advantage in game 2 and game 3 and they will win a lot of series, even in the playoffs.  And they will do that without paying +$20M to some aging name we all recognize.

    As for an extension.  Let's see how he is pitching come spring training.  If all it good, you betcha.  Count me among those who believe last winter's lockout and shortened spring training had a major effect on the health of many players...Mahle may have been one of them.

     

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    39 minutes ago, Fire Dan Gladden said:

    Ace is so subjective.  Does he have #2 starter potential?  Yes.  That is why the Twins gambled on him in the first place.

    Think big picture folks: 

    He regains his pre surgery form, the Twins extend him for a year or two at a reasonable cost.  He could be a mainstay in the rotation for a while.

    He dominates and the Twins have a young, pitcher in the fold they can try to keep or move for other capital.

    This is the type of lottery ticket a team like the Twins will always chase.

    I agree and I think the trade was a good gamble. There are no guarantees in trades and what we gave up was never going to be enough to get someone without risk. To me, this is the kind of thing that mid-market teams do to try to improve. I supported the trade then and I still support it now. 

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    I agree that "ace" is too subjective. Some people define it as "Cy Young contender", others as "legit #1 starter", and others might define it as "guy you want starting game 1 of a playoff series".

    I look at Mahle and see a pitcher that reminds me a little of Brad Radke in terms of production. (they're different pitchers, of course; Mahle gets a lot more Ks, Radke walked way fewer, etc) But he fits that mold to me in terms of the results you might get. That's not a bad thing.

    Let's hope Mahle is healthy. If he is, I think he's going to have a very good season. I certainly wouldn't complain about him starting game 1 of a series, to be sure.

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    You are really underselling the impact of Reds Stadium in this piece. It is not just hitter friendly, it is the unanimous most homer-friendly stadium in MLB. 

    Every "Park Factors" algorithm out there has different results for 2-10 on the most homer-friendly stadiums in MLB, but #1 is always the Reds's stadium.

    Just like Target Field helped Sonny Gray put up the best "Per IP" season he's had since donning green and gold, it will do the same for Mahle, but likely even more so due to Mahle's higher fly ball rate. 

    Not an ace, but yet another solid #2. This is why the Twins would benefit most from acquiring a true #1 vs acquiring an elite player for any other role on the team, including SS. They simply have no pitcher in the org with elite potential. 

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    2 hours ago, Fire Dan Gladden said:

    Ace is so subjective.  Does he have #2 starter potential?  Yes.  That is why the Twins gambled on him in the first place.

    Think big picture folks: 

    He regains his pre surgery form, the Twins extend him for a year or two at a reasonable cost.  He could be a mainstay in the rotation for a while.

    He dominates and the Twins have a young, pitcher in the fold they can try to keep or move for other capital.

    This is the type of lottery ticket a team like the Twins will always chase.

    I do not recall him having surgery.  Everything I heard was that the Twins never really did identify what was causing his arm issues.  If I am mistaken, please correct me and send a link to an article on his surgery if you can.

    As for being an ace, I think he has the potential to be OUR ace but not a true ace in terms of baseball overall.  I rank him as a #2 if healthy (similar to Barrieos) and think we have a bunch of #2 & #3 pitchers now and I am happy with that.  Sometimes depth is better than say a clear ace and a bunch of #4 & #5 pitchers.

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    I think the term "ace" is used too much, and isn't something the Twins should be concerned about finding. I think they should concern themselves with finding 4 guys good enough to start playoff games. So to me the question is if Mahle (in this case) is good enough to start a playoff game if he's healthy. To me the answer is "yes." If the Twins were to run Mahle out there in a playoff game I'd go into that game feeling like they have a shot to win. And to me that's what matters.

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    1 hour ago, jmlease1 said:

    I agree that "ace" is too subjective. Some people define it as "Cy Young contender", others as "legit #1 starter", and others might define it as "guy you want starting game 1 of a playoff series".

    I look at Mahle and see a pitcher that reminds me a little of Brad Radke in terms of production. (they're different pitchers, of course; Mahle gets a lot more Ks, Radke walked way fewer, etc) But he fits that mold to me in terms of the results you might get. That's not a bad thing.

    Let's hope Mahle is healthy. If he is, I think he's going to have a very good season. I certainly wouldn't complain about him starting game 1 of a series, to be sure.

    I was just going to say Mahle is a Terry Ryan style of pitcher as is Gray, Ryan, and Maeda.  #2-3 starters who can throw innings.  Well innings by todays standards.  Except Maeda.  He just throws quality innings for 2/3 of a season in the rotation and the rest from the pen.

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    As posted by many he is not an ace  , an above average pitcher maybe ...

    He was 3-12 in 2019 , he was 13-6 in 2021 with 180 innings pitched , his most in any season , a 500 record to date and a career Era of over 4 ... 

    It's a shame the goal of 20 wins a season by a pitcher is not attainable by most pitchers ...

    A bulldog ,  stud or consistent ace he is not ...

    A good pitcher when healthy  , can't wait to see the big red machine become winners again with the trades from twins and Seattle  ...

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    ACE...no. Possibly the #1 and best starter on the Twins staff? Very possibly.

    Per everything I've heard and from Mahle himself, no injury, and nothing found in 2 separate MRI's. Mahle believes he threw too much after the lockout and short ST and just tried to do too much. His arm just as strong as normal and got worn out. Not so sure that didn't happen to more than a fee guys across baseball last year. Thankfully, we finally appear to have a normal offseason and ST.

    His ERA outside Cincinnati is a good half run less, and I believe most of his peripherals are better as well. (Been a while since I last looked at them all). I like that he's under 30yo. Healthy and ready to go, he's ar the perfect age where stuff and experience come together. 

    I like Gray and Ryan a lot. I would love to see 26-30 GS from Ober because I  think he would really surprise. And I just can't bring myself to doubt Maeda. But I think Mahle is going to be our best SP in 2023.

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    The best part about Mahle, with his 4.00ish ERA, is that now that he is on the Twins and doesn't pitch to/at us, he can't break Buxton's hand anymore with one of his out of control pitches. Expected numbers are never as attractive as actual performance.

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    The Reds really pitched Mahle at a blistering pace, to showcase him. Twins bought into it. It was unrealistic for the Twins to expect Mahle to continue that pace especially coming down with shouder problems.

    Hopefully Mahle will be 100% & the Twins will manage him properly. If so he can pitch close to 200 innings & have at least a 3.50 ERA. That's good enough to be our #1. A full ST will also help.

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    4 hours ago, Bigfork Twins Guy said:

    I do not recall him having surgery.  Everything I heard was that the Twins never really did identify what was causing his arm issues.  If I am mistaken, please correct me and send a link to an article on his surgery if you can.

    You are correct, I misspoke.  Thanks for the correction.

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    9 hours ago, Karbo said:

    I think Padack will be the "ace" of the staff if/when he returns.

    I realize you're kidding here. I've been a Paddack fan for a while now. After his rookie season there was talk of him possibly being one. Him Being healthy for 2024 I wouldn't discount. He was good to really good before the last two seasons on elbow trouble. He could surprise all the Rogers trade haters...

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    A 3.95 ERA doesn't remotely suggest Ace.

    That said we do.seem to.have a solid bunch of #2-3 starters (if healthy) that should keep us in games. What we need to Insure is a top notch bullpen that can close out innings 7-9. 6-9 with Baldelli that is.

    Can Lewis be back to start the season at SS?  That us a bigger question, along with a power hitting (more than 1 tool please) OF and a 1B if Kiriloff continues to be out.

    SP, 1B, bullpen & SS are.the gaping holes, I. That order. 

     

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