To get caught up on what we're doing here, you can check out the first 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: 4/18/20
Team Record: 11-9
Leading OPS: Max Kepler (.972 in 40 AB)
Leading ERA (SP): Jake Odorizzi (2.73 in 26.1 IP)
Leading ERA (RP): Zack Littell (0.00 in 6.2 IP)
Gm 11 vs CLE: L 8-7 (Berrios 3.0 IP, 7 ER, L)
Gm 12 vs CLE: W 4-1 (Odorizzi 8.2 IP, 1 ER, 9 K, W)
Gm 13: vs CLE: W 8-5 (Sano 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI)
Gm 14: @ CWS: L 11-10 (Cruz and Garver 2 HR each)
Gm 15: @ CWS: W 7-2 (Sano 2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI)
Gm 16: @ CWS: W 13-4 (Rosario 3-for-5, HR, 5 RBI)
Gm 17: @ TOR: W 1-0 (Odorizzi 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 7 K, W)
Gm 18: @ TOR: W 6-3 (Avila 3-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI)
Gm 19: @ TOR: L 6-3 (Romo 0.1 IP, 2 HR allowed, L)
Gm 20: vs DET: W 8-7 (Polanco walk-off 2-R HR)
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
First, and foremost: we managed to slow down Cleveland a bit. When last we checked in, the Twins found themselves in a big early hole. Their 4-6 start was countered by a perfect 10-0 from the top division rivals, who were just arriving in town for a three-game set.
Cleveland's red-hot season-opening run extended to 11-0 with an 8-7 win in the first tilt at Target Field, which saw Jose Berrios labor through three innings (9 H, 4 BB, 7 ER) in his worst start of the young season. By now the Indians were halfway to matching their 22-game streak from 2017, right off the bat. Yeesh.
Luckily, the Twins were finally ready to get hot. They took the last two against Cleveland at home, a pair of three-run victories. Jake Odorizzi led the way in the first, flirting with a complete game but settling for 8 2/3 innings and a W. Then it was off to Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, where the offense flourished, pushing across 30 runs in three games to take the series.
In our last installment, readers were decisive in voting their preference to stick with starter Rich Hill despite his sluggish start. That decision paid dividends in his next turn; Hill put forth six innings of two-run ball against the White Sox, picking up his first win.
The Twins followed up by taking two of three from the Blue Jays in Toronto. Once again Odorizzi was spectacular here, tossing seven scoreless frames before giving way to Taylor Rogers for a two-inning save for a 1-0 victory in the series clincher. That was perhaps the team's most impressive effort of the season up until the final one we simulated in this batch.
Returning home to face the Tigers and looking to stay above .500, Hill was building upon his turnaround. He'd navigated four shutout innings before everything collapsed in the fifth, where he was charged with five earned runs, putting his club in 5-1 hole.
But our Twins weren't gonna go quietly. They rallied for three runs in the sixth and added two more in the seventh to take the lead. Detroit battled back with a run apiece against Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers in the eighth and ninth, putting Minnesota's back up against the wall, down 7-6 heading into the last half-inning. Luckily, Jorge Polanco was up for the challenge. His fourth hit of the day was a walk-off, two-run homer against Detroit closer Joe Jimenez.
The Twins sit at 11-9 after winning seven of 10 in this slate, and we've picked up 1.5 games on the Indians, who cooled down with a 5-5 showing.
Odorizzi looks right now much like he did during that untouchable stretch in the early portion of 2019. Across his two latest starts, he allowed one run over 15 2/3 innings, with a 16-to-4 K/BB ratio. Take out the clunker in his second outing of the season, at Seattle (3.2 IP, 6 ER), and his 2.73 overall ERA drops to 0.74.
In the bullpen, Zack Littell has yet to allow a run through 6 2/3 innings. Randy Dobnak is getting the job done in long relief, with a 1.59 ERA in 11 1/3 frames (conspicuously accompanied by a 3-to-5 K/BB ratio). Taylor Rogers has been leaned on heavily, appearing 11 times through 20 games, and he has come through with a 0.82 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and five saves.
The offense has also been very good, as hoped. Eight of the nine regulars currently have an OPS above .800, with Max Kepler's .962 (.333/.398/.564) from the leadoff spot pacing the lineup. Josh Donaldson's seven home runs tie him with Randal Grichuk for sixth in the AL. The hottest hitter during this latest stretch, though, was Miguel Sano, who went 15-for-32 with two homers, two doubles, and seven RBIs in his eight starts. Sano's 17 RBIs lead the team and rank seventh in the AL.
Byron Buxton is the lone laggard in a lineup that's otherwise been incredibly productive. He's been unable to find his rhythm and is slashing just .172/.250/.250 with 18 strikeouts and six walks in 64 at-bats. He does have five steals. I'm thinking we'll just keep playing him at the bottom of the order, and hope he and hitting coach Edgar Varela can conjure a breakthrough.
After rebounding from his lackluster early performance with a win against the White Sox, Hill once again looked terrible at home versus Detroit, allowing five runs (two earned) on three hits and six walks in 4 2/3 innings. His ERA sits at 7.91 through four starts and he's handed out 13 free passes (with 23 K) through 19 1/3 innings. Not great, but the voting results on last week's Hill decision were emphatic enough that we'll keep the leash extended for now. That said, I'll be keeping a close eye on him.
Same goes for Homer Bailey, who unsurprisingly hurdled back to Earth after leading the rotation in ERA through 10 games. His last two starts saw him cough up eight earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, raising his ERA to 4.43... which I guess is about what we expected.
No rotation changes are on the table at this moment, but I'll note that Devin Smeltzer (1.50 ERA) and Jhoulys Chacin (1.64) are making their cases early on at Rochester.
DECISION TIME: HOW CAN WE ADD MORE SPEED TO THE BENCH?
While pulling the strings during these simulated games, the one thing I really find myself wishing for is some speed off the bench. On a typical day, we've got Alex Avila (Speed Rating: 10 out of 100), Ehire Adrianza (39), Marwin Gonzalez (29), and Willians Astudillo (6) available to pinch-run. In particular, Adrianza feels like a bit of an unnecessary piece; he's functionally redundant with the superior Gonzalez, and has mustered a team-low 20 ABs as a result, slashing .150/.227/.150.
I'm thinking we swap out Adrianza for someone who can offer more speed. Here are the most suitable internal options at Triple-A:
- Jimmy Kerrigan, OF (Speed Rating: 79 out of 100)
- Drew Maggi, OF (68)
- Zander Wiel, OF (67)
- LaMonte Wade, Jr., OF (65)
- Nick Gordon, SS (64)
- Jake Cave, OF (58)
Worth noting: Kerrigan is pegged as a center fielder, so he could potentially slot in for Buxton on occasion and provide him some extra breaks. Cave, whose speed seems to be underrated a bit in the game, is slashing .444/.500/.556 through seven contests at Rochester.
There's also free agency, if we want to go that route. The top speedsters on the open market:
- Rajai Davis, OF (Speed Rating: 83 out of 100)
- Peter Bourjous, OF (78)
- Pablo Varela, SS (75)
- Jacob Barone, 2B (68)
- Yasiel Puig, OF (66)
- Addison Russell, SS (58)
Mixed in with a couple of fictional players (Varela and Barone, who are 22 and 23) are a couple of real names that raise some intrigue. In particular, I'm looking at Rajai Davis, who's 39 years old with a 66 overall rating. His speed is the highest of anyone we've looked at, and his base-stealing ability rates at a maximum 99. Signing another free agent will force us to do some roster juggling, but Davis – at his requested one-year, $530K contract – could be a great veteran pickup to round out the bench.
So the choice I need help with before moving forward: Should we tap free agency or our own internal pipeline to address this need? You can vote in the comments section below.
4/18: vs DET
4/19 vs DET
4/20 vs SEA
4/21 vs SEA
4/22 vs SEA
4/23 vs SEA
4/24 vs BOS
4/25 vs BOS
4/26 vs BOS
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