According to basically all of the beat writers, Rocco Baldelli announced that Jose Berrios will be the Twins opening day starter. Seriously, take your pick of the tweets, here is just a small sample.
Twins tab Jose Berrios as Opening Day starter and other notes: https://t.co/3ngg2Aj81e— Betsy Helfand (@betsyhelfand) March 5, 2019
Twins starter J.O. Berríos will get the nod on opening day, Rocco Baldelli said. #MNTwins— Derek Wetmore (@DerekWetmore) March 4, 2019
Probably a season too late, Berrios will be throwing the first pitch that counts for the Twins in 2019. Should he have been the opening day starter last year? Well sure, sure he should have, except for two factors.
The first, and more important is the Puerto Rico factor. Lining Berrios up as the third starter set him on track to pitch on his home island. If you have any doubt how important that was to him, and to the fans, well, go read this. The second factor was that Berrios, in 2018, was still an up-and-coming prospect, and there was no shame in the Twins deferring to a veteran starter they had just acquired, Jake Odorizzi.
Odorizzi had a down season last year, and is best viewed as a third or fourth starter, so it seemed unlikely he would repeat as the opening day starter. Neither Michael Pineda now Martin Perez makes much sense for the honor, which usually goes to your ace, or at least a long-tenured veteran. That left Berrios and Kyle Gibson, and while I love Gibson, and despite the fact that Gibson did lead the Twins in bWAR in 2018, Berrios is clearly the best chance for a future ace on this team. I can’t exactly argue that Rocco Baldelli made a bad decision, per se.
All of that being said, I still think that Gibson would have been the better choice here. As mentioned, he was the Twins’ best player in 2018. He’s been with the team since 2013, and pitched nearly 200 innings last season — an absolute workhorse number in this era of baseball, with an ERA of 3.62. While he may have taken some time to put things together, Gibson should be mentioned in the same sentence as some of the best pitchers in baseball.
If the Twins had signed Dallas Keuchel during the offseason, It would almost go without saying he would have taken the number one slot in the rotation, and throw on opening day. Well, Tom Froemming dug up some interesting stats—over the last season-and-a-half, Gibson has been essentially the same pitcher as Keuchel, if not a bit better.
Interesting observation:— Tom Froemming (@TFTwins) March 4, 2019
Aug. 1, 2017 to present
260 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
21.9 K%, 8.6 BB%
271.1 IP, 3.81 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
17.8 K%, 7.3 BB%
.255/.312/.388 against https://t.co/DKuNlW1N4y
With those numbers in mind, why would you make Keuchel your number one, and relegate Gibson to a number three? I know that we, as Twins fans, are holding Gibson’s up-and-down past against him, as the “Good Gibby/Bad Gibby” dichotomy keeps coming up. The simple fact is, however, we haven’t seen “Bad Gibby” in the last year-and-a-half at any higher rate than any good pitcher has a bad day.
The primary reason that you use your best starter for the first game is to theoretically line them up for an extra outing or two over the course of a 162 game season. While Berrios has more potential, and may be our best pitcher by September, right now Gibson is the better pitcher. The other reason you give a guy the opening day role is to recognize his talent and/or service to the organization. Gibson is in his sixth, and possibly last, season with the Twins, so why not give him the honor?
Who should have been the Opening Day starter?
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