Now that a full week has passed since the Twins’ ALDS carnage, I’m better able to reflect back on the “why” of it all. Don’t get me wrong—it still stings. I honestly haven’t watched more than a few minutes of any playoff game since last Monday. But the passage of time always allows for a more objective view.
So, looking back, I’ve identified three areas that really hampered the Twins in their quest for a playoff victory…
Back at the halfway point of the season, I wrote about how Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz were the key factors to the Twins making a deep postseason run. While the team was able to manage Cruz’s nagging wrist injury, the same could not be said about Buck. Above and beyond the actual numbers, Buxton’s sheer presence seems to make this team better. Not only does he play super-human defense (part of the problem, in many cases), but he’s quite literally the only base-path threat the Twins have. His unique combination of speed and power with the bat was also rounding into form this year before injuries ultimately shut him down.
Imagine removing Juan Soto from the Nationals, Alex Bregman from the Astros, Aaron Judge from the Yankees, or Christian Yelich from the Brewers (we actually saw how that played out for them). In a short playoff series against the top teams, winning without the galvanizing force is tough. The Twins seemed to lack a certain spark against the Yankees, and maybe Buxton would have provided that.
Based on the ALDS pitching roster alone, it is easy to criticize the team for not bolstering that part of the squad. While there may be a legitimate case that more could/should have been done, the Twins did experience some extraordinarily back luck. Consider…
- Sam Dyson was having a shutdown year out of the pen for the Giants when the Twins traded for him. Eleven horrible frames later, he decides it is time for shoulder surgery so serious that it may keep him out for most of 2020. Sure, Sergio Romo was a great acquisition, but it was Dyson this team was counting on to become a lockdown, high-leverage situation guy. Obviously that did not transpire, through little fault of the organization (unless you want to blame them for medical negligence, which is a different conversation I suppose).
- For one reason (not wanting to spend the money) or another (players not wanting to come here), the Twins did not add a starting pitcher of any consequence to bolster their playoff chances. Berrios and Odorizzi were locked in, but that third slot was always troublesome. For awhile, the master plan of nursing Michael Pineda back to health was working splendidly. From July-early September, Big Mike was this team’s most reliable starter. So of course, he’s handed a 60-game substance abuse suspension. Again, unless the Twins organization knew this was imminent, it was a blow from out of left field.
A lot of the major offensive contributors were nursing injuries of some sort coming into the postseason:
- Mitch Garver had a hip problem
- Luis Arraez had the freak ankle injury
- Max Kepler was just coming back from a long absence and clearly needed more time to get locked in
- C.J. Cron was battling a bad thumb since about May
- Marwin Gonzalez never looked comfortable due to his oblique issue
- As much as the torn tendon in Cruz’s wrist seemed to allow him to hit, it couldn’t have been 100% normal
I actually blame the Indians for some of this. Even after Sano’s grand slam in Believeland essentially ended the race, they went on one of their patented hot streaks and forced the Twins to grind until nearly the end of the regular season to put the Central in the bag. This would have been a great year to clinch super-early and let guys rest, but that opportunity didn’t present itself. Thanks, Spiders.
What played the biggest role in the ALDS loss?
This poll is closed
Missing Byron Buxton
No third starter behind Berrios & Odorizzi
Nagging injuries to a bunch of guys all adding up
Other (comment below)