Although the Minnesota Twins did not make it as far as fans hoped in the playoffs, some players turned in outstanding seasons. As Major League Baseball has wrapped up the Championship Series and look ahead to the World Series, Most Valuable Player awards were handed out. So why not do the same for the Twins?
Twinkie Town writers submitted their selection for the Twins’ 2020 MVP and their argument as to why that player is deserving of the award. Below are their decisions; their choice is in bold.
Kenta Maeda. Nelson Cruz and Byron Buxton could also be in this conversation, but I’m going with the player I believe was the most important to the Twins, traditional reluctance to give the award to a pitcher be damned. Maeda was supposed to be a mid-rotation starter for us, and a swingman for a pitcher-rich team like the Dodgers. Didn’t matter. He came in and threw like an ace. It was great to have a solid staff, and to for once have a guy that you knew could win any game he stepped on the mound. If the Twins had a decent offense in the playoffs, Maeda’s presence could also have been the difference maker there. Maeda also has a loose, playful personality, which means nothing and everything all at the same time. With the offense disappearing, the starting rotation really stepped up this year, and so I give the award to Maeda.
Kenta Maeda: Nelson Cruz was my first thought, but having our #1 starter actually pitch like a #1 was such a comforting (and strange!) feeling every 5 games that I think that peace of mind narrowly edges out Nelson Cruz’s robe. Watching Maeda pitch was as soothing as a hot bath while sipping hot cocoa during a peaceful winter’s night. Except with a lot more ball handling and grunting. Plus Maeda had 0.1 more fangraphs WAR than Cruz, which I checked specifically to make sure I wouldn’t make a dumb pick and have everyone in the comments laugh at me.
My vote for the Twins’ Most Vilesome Person is that one fan. I don’t know their name, or where they are, but they do. They’re the one person who decided, against their nagging conscience, to NOT wear their lucky Twins apparel for that one game, thinking “science and logic tell me it’s silly to think my hat-wearing has any effect on sports outcomes.” Upon which, the crucial bad thing that doomed the Twins in 2020 immediately happened. Oh, they regret it now, but it’s too late, and we all hate you forever, whatever-your-name-is.
Next year, you must wear all your lucky talismans AT ALL TIMES during games. This could cause some personal discomfort if, like many, most of your lucky apparel consists of jerseys/shirts. Hydrate properly if wearing more than three shirts at once, and consider it a daily sweat cleanse. When games go into extra innings, you may hallucinate. Some rich people pay big money for this, so you are fortunate.
If at any point the Twins lose while you are wearing these items, you have the order wrong. Rearrange it for the next game. Try some inside-out, backwards, change the washing schedule, etc., the possibilities are endless (if you consider washing any item of clothing or person worth the risk after a victory). But the blame for their losses is ON YOU.
Kenta Maeda. Nelson Cruz turned in a great year again, but with a starting rotation that didn’t really meet expectations and faced injury after injury, MaeKen gets the nod from me for MVP. Every time he started for the Twins, it gave me hope that he would win. His stellar stats, including a major-league-best 0.7500 WHIP, along with a near no-hitter in a game that Taylor Rogers took off the rails, Maeda was a bright spot in an otherwise stressful and disappointing season.
It would be hard for me to deny Kenta Maeda the honor of Twinkie Town MVP. The Twins brass instilled confidence in him this year, and he responded in kind by giving us someone to rely on every fifth day. With a major-league leading WHIP of 0.75, a K/BB ratio of 8.00, and an 8-3 team record in his starts, Maeda was fantastic in general — but most importantly, he was fantastic at a position of need for Minnesota. No, we didn’t get Gerrit Cole or Jacob deGrom in the offseason - we got Maeda, and I’m pretty happy that we did. While there’s plenty of kind words and cases to be made for Nelson Cruz and Byron Buxton, I would be surprised if Maeda didn’t walk away with the biggest share of the voting pot.
My vote is for Nelson Cruz, with Kenta Maeda a close second. He dominated consistently throughout the season in a truncated year where several Twins dropped of from their 2019 levels of bomba. Despite the overall drop in Minnesota’s offense, Cruz was consistently a pummeler.
Kenta Maeda. The Twins front office took a big swing with their trade of prized prospect Brusdar Graterol, and it paid off wonderfully. Maeda turned in a Cy Young-type season, the likes of which the Twins have not featured since Johan Santana.
Kenta Maeda. Ordinarily, I would typically argue vociferously against the idea of a starting pitcher winning any sort of an MVP award — you know, because of the whole only-playing-once-in-every-five-game thing. But Maeda is my pick nonetheless.
The Twins’ offense struggled all year. Nelson Cruz was easily the Twins’ best offensive player. Byron Buxton was the Twins’ best all-around position player, and it wasn’t particularly close. Cruz’s scuffles towards the end of the year and the fact that he’s a designated hitter ding him a bit, while Buxton played in less than two-thirds of the team’s games.
Maeda, on the other hand, was the best player on the wins’ best unit: the starting rotation. Jose Berrios started slow and finished hot, Randy Dobnak started hot and finished slow, Jake Odorizzi started just three games, Michael Pineda started five, and Rich Hill was largely mediocre. Maeda, for his part, was truly dominant and a top-five candidate for the AL Cy Young award, and that earns him my vote as Twins’ MVP.
Kenta Maeda. The Bomba Squad did not return for the 2020 season. This meant that the Twins had to rely on their pitching more than in recent seasons. Jose Berrios didn’t make the jump to legitimate ace. Jake Odorizzi had about as lost of a season as a starting pitcher can have. Homer Bailey never left the launch pad. Rich Hill showed his age. Randy Dobnak couldn’t overcome the curse of small sample size. Michael Pineda didn’t have much of a chance to make an impact.
Besides a bullpen that was more “up” than “down”, for the most part, this left Maeda as the rock of the pitching staff, and he took that title and ran with it: 6-1, 2.70 ERA, 161 ERA+, 0.75 WHIP. In his playoff-opening start? Five innings of shutout ball. I shudder to think of what the Twins’ starting rotation would have looked like without him taking the ball every 5-6 days. They certainly wouldn’t be hoisting a second consecutive AL Central title banner without him.
So, with respect to the elder statesmanship of Nelson Cruz, Kenta Maeda gets my ballot (delivered by mail, of course) for 2020 Twins MVP.
My Twins MVP is Byron Buxton by a narrow margin over Nelson Cruz. Byron’s overall impact, both on offense and defense, was very evident in the fact that the Twins were 26-13 when Buxton was in the lineup. He was also second on the team in oWAR, and first in dWAR.
My vote for the 2020 Twins MVP is Kenta Maeda. Not only did he emerge as the team’s ace, but he showed beautiful restraint by not murdering Taylor Rogers after blowing a 3-run lead after his near no-hitter in August. Runner up: Byron Buxton. A healthy Buxton is a dangerous Buxton. He showed us this season what the hype has been about all of these years. His speed is just SO fun to watch, like when he hit inside the park homers in back to back games this season. (Yes, only one of those counted as an actual home run, but the one that was taken back as a double was a terrible call and I refuse to accept it.)
For me, the Twins have two players that really shined above all others in 2020: Kenta Maeda and Nelson Cruz. First, just think of where the Twins would be without Maeda. He started 11 games in 2020 (which is a bit less than 1/5 of our games overall), and he gave us a very realistic chance of winning in each and every one of them. When was the last time that the Twins had someone like that, where we have seen enough to expect an ace-level start out of them every game? To be honest, I can’t really think of anyone. Now, I don’t know if even Maeda won us as many games as Nelson Cruz. 16 bombas in 60 games?!? .303 batting average, as a DH?!? If you get that type of production out of a player consistently, you’re almost guaranteed to win at least a couple more games than you normally would. Also, both of them played much better than the rest of the Twins did in those two playoff games. Between those two it is hard to say, but I think I’ll go with Nelson Cruz, just because he played just about every game, whereas Maeda pitched every fifth game. That’s really my only reason for choosing Cruz though, they were both great.
While many might argue with selecting a pitcher as MVP, for me the 2020 Twins MVP was clearly Kenta Maeda. He was solid during the regular season as he was in his post-season start. Cruz comes in second. Even though the Twins finished with a 34-26 record, nobody else exceeded or even met our preseason expectations. I wish it were a more difficult choice, for if it were, the Twins likely wouldn’t have had such a quick exit.
For me, the race for Twins team MVP is primarily between Nelson Cruz (2.0 fWAR) and Kenta Maeda (2.1 fWAR). On a per game basis, there is probably a third, less common argument to be made for Byron Buxton (1.2 fWAR) because of the team’s record when he was in the lineup. Cruz and Maeda make for an interesting pairing because of the long-standing arguments against Designated Hitters and Pitchers for Most Valuable Player. For Cruz, that argument against is his complete lack of value provided in the field and for Maeda it’s the fact that he can only impact roughly a fifth of the team’s games. Nonetheless, they are clear top two choices in my view.
Comparing the value provided by a pitcher and a hitter isn’t straight forward, primarily because of the differences in playing time, and it’s even more difficult in a short season that makes the error bars around their stats wider. Cruz had another astounding season given his age. Maeda was everything (and more) the team could have hoped for when he was acquired from Los Angeles. Per Fangraphs, Maeda led the team in WAR (among batters and pitchers), innings pitched (66.2 IP), strikeouts (80), and was incredibly stingy allowing baserunners (.168 batting average allowed, 4% walk rate). Cruz led the way in most offensive categories, including home runs (16), on-base percentage (.397), slugging percentage (.595), and runs scored (33). Ultimately, Maeda (248 Total Batters Faced) had slightly more opportunities to impact games than Cruz (214 Plate Appearances).
In the end I have to go with Kenta Maeda as the Twins MVP. His consistent dominance all season was a major piece of a pitching staff that finished 2020 as the 2nd most effective and valuable in all of baseball (3.79 FIP; 9.9 pitching fWAR, both 2nd MLB), despite a myriad of injuries to expected key starters. I won’t fault others for arguing for Cruz and his shouldering of the burden of a middle of the pack offensive attack that saw many of his peers deliver below expectations. Maeda’s steady Ace-level performance throughout the full 60 games tips the scales relative to Cruz’s position limitations and late season slump.
My pick is Kenta Maeda. Going into the offseason, I thought the most needed move was for the team to acquire a starting pitcher better than Jake Odorizzi. Brusdar Graterol was a steep price, and I wasn’t sure Maeda fit the bill. What ended up happening was that Maeda became the staff ace, altering his pitch mix a bit and doing for the Twins what James Harden did for the Rockets after coming over in 2012- becoming a superstar after being a great sixth man for several years. This took a little pressure off of Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda and Rich Hill, who all pitched great down the stretch and set up perhaps the best three man rotation the Twins have put up in a playoff series since 1991. None of that could have happened without Maeda’s dominance- a 161 ERA+ and 10.8 K/9 while leading the majors with the lowest average exit velocity at 85.3 MPH.
I’ll go with Kenta Maeda for this one. As a pitcher who was a question mark when he was acquired due to his injury history, he took the ball and ran with it seemingly each time he started. When the offense couldn’t do anything, Kenta was there to save the day. His near no hitter on Aug. 18 will go down as one of the best pitching performances in Twins history.
My vote for MVP would be Kenta Maeda. It should probably be Nelson Cruz, but I just liked what Maeda did for us all year. He set the team consecutive strikeout record, had the best ERA and WHIP for starters, and was the first time I saw a Twins pitcher really dominate consistently. Cruz did great yet again, but it was just so fun to see a pitcher do so well for us.
It’s said and done: With 13 votes, Kenta Maeda is the majority choice among the writers for the Twins MVP award this season! Nelson Cruz came in second with two votes while Byron Buxton and that one fan share third place with one vote apiece.
Now it’s your turn: Who gets your decision for the Minnesota Twins MVP award this season? Do you agree that Maeda is a clear choice? Or do you think Cruz or Buxton is more deserving? Maybe there’s a player that wasn’t mentioned that you think is more deserving? Vote in the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Which player gets your vote for the Twins’ MVP award?
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