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There might be another explanation for the Twins playoff curse

Rumors are swirling about the Yankees being filthy rotten cheaters

Divisional Series - Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

What if I told you that the Twins pitchers melting down against the Yankees in the playoffs isn’t because they’re bad pitchers, or not mentally tough?

Logan Morrison (remember him) made some interesting statements on his Instagram the other day. Long story short, he’s basically accusing the Yankees of stealing signs, in a manner similar to what the Astros and Red Sox are currently embroiled in scandal over.

Meanwhile, during the crazy tweet-storm happening yesterday, another accusation was leveled against the Yankees, by twitter user S0_blessed1. This unverified account purports the be Carlos Beltran’s niece, but theories about as to their actual identity. In other words, take their accusation with a huge grain of salt for now. However, they are suggesting part of the Yankees potential method for cheating, as well as calling out a player by name.

With a couple accusations of signs being stolen floating around, one has to wonder if it did impact the Twins two most recent playoff appearances, in which their hurlers were blown up by the Yankees.

The first of the two appearances was the 2017 Wild Card game. In that game, the Yankees hung four runs on the normally-reliable Ervin Santana in the first two innings. They followed that by putting up another three runs in three innings against Jose Berrios, and a final run against Trevor Hildenberger. Santana had won sixteen games that season, five of them complete games, and earned a 3.28 ERA. Yankee Stadium was a rather unpleasant place for him to play that season in general, with batters hitting .304/.320/.435 against him in the Bronx Bandbox.

In 2019 the Bomba Squad drew the Yanks again in the playoffs, although this time as division winners, which guaranteed at least three games. In game one, Berrios held his own, allowing the Yanks to only score one earned run (but three total) in the first four innings. After he departed, however, untested Twins pitchers Zack Littell and Cody Stashak each gave up two runs and Kyle Gibson gave up three. Game two was even worse, as Randy Dobnak was rocked for four runs in two innings, and Tyler Duffey gave up another in four in two-thirds of an inning. The series ended in three games, with the Twins coming closest to victory in the final, home match. Jake Odorizzi kept the Yanks to two runs in five innings, and Taylor Rogers gave up another one before Sergio Romo surrendered the final two.

Almost every one of these pitching performances (besides maybe Gibson) was vastly different than what we had come to expect from the Twins during the second half of 2019. Berrios had held batters to .248/.300/.419 during September and October, in 130 plate appearances. Odorizzi was even better over the last month of the season, at .228/.259/.316, although against fewer opponents. Dobnak had been a revelation since an August call-up, with a 1.59 ERA in nine total appearances. For all three of those pitchers, two of whom had significant experience, to simply melt under the pressure of a playoff race feels like it should be absurd. It feels like something else was at play.

The Twins bullpen had been even better than their starters. Littell pitched 23.2 innings in the second half, and only gave up three runs. His ERA was 1.14, and batters hit .217/.253/.386 against him in the second half of 2019. Stashak had a 3.24 ERA in 25 innings. Rogers had become elite, with a 2.61 ERA for the year, and had been dominating hitters in September and October—to the tune of .189/.231/.405. Duffey had also been one of the most reliable relievers around, in 29.1 second-half innings, his ERA was 1.53, and batters hadn’t been able to hit higher than .200 against him since June. Romo had been acquired at the deadline to be a stabilizing influence in the pen, and has World Series experience with the Giants. In the second half, Romo’s ERA was 2.60 and batters hit .202/.246/.346 against him. Again, I find it hard to believe that every single one of these guys picked the exact same terrible time to forget how to pitch. It seems more likely that there were other factors at play.

Its been suggested that sign-stealing of the Astros magnitude is worth about five extra wins over the course of a season. If the 2019 Yankees benefited to the tune of five wins, that would have entirely changed the playoff picture. The Twins would have ended up the two seed, hosting the Yankees. There’s even a chance that the Twins would have finished with more wins than the Astros, and in the one seed. Who knows what might have happened if the Twins had two games at Target Field against the Yankees, or perhaps even the Rays?

While the MLB seems recalcitrant to investigate more deeply than they already have, I would not at all be shocked to find out there is a kernel of truth at base of the rumors floating around. Perhaps all of the Twins pitchers conveniently forgot how to pitch all at once, or perhaps the Yankees knew what pitch was about to come. Maybe the infamous playoff curse is the result of cheating. What do you think?