As we did last offseason, Twinkie Town writers are grading player who appeared in a game for the 2020 Minnesota Twins. (Last year’s grades can be found here, this year’s here.) Players will be graded individually on an A-F scale based on their hitting, fielding, and whatever else the author wants to consider. This time, we have a pitcher the Twins took a flyer on.
Left-handed starting pitcher Rich Hill was a low-risk signing, joining the Twins at 39 years old after a terrific three and a half year tenure in a Dodgers uniform.
In 2015 it appeared likely Hill’s career in affiliated baseball was over. After being released by the Nationals, he joined the indy ball ranks with the Long Island Ducks, but was quickly plucked by the Red Sox to finish that season.
After signing with Oakland, his renaissance took off in 2016 when he went 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 14 starts before being dealt to the Dodgers at the deadline. When healthy, Hill was of vital importance to Los Angeles’ starting rotation, recording back-to-back double-digit win campaigns in 2017 and 2018 and also delivering multiple sterling performances in the postseason.
Hill became a free agent following the conclusion of the 2019 campaign and signed with Minnesota on New Year’s Eve. He turned 40 on March 11, the day the sporting world was turned upside down by Rudy Gobert’s positive test and the subsequent suspension of the NBA season. If this worked out for the Twins, fantastic, if not, no big deal, the man is at the end of a career he will have stories to tell about for a lifetime.
It sure did work out.
The work stoppage was of no issue to Hill, who has dealt with much adversity in life and his professional career, so this was a minor bump in the road for him. The southpaw kept himself in game shape and ready to go for whenever the go-ahead was given to finally begin the season.
Despite a small left shoulder setback a week into the campaign, Hill was mostly excellent when he was able to take the ball. He finished 2-2 with a 3.08 ERA in eight games, very much on par with his success in Oakland and Los Angeles the last four years.
In six of his eight starts, Hill pitched five innings or more while allowing two runs or less, including a three-hit, one-run gem over seven frames at Wrigley Field on Sept. 18. Overall, he held the league to a .204 batting average against.
The only reason Hill was left off the Wild Card Series roster is because he started the final game of the regular season and was not going to come back on one or two days of rest. Had the Twins been able to get past the Astros in the first round, he would have likely started early in the division series. But it didn’t happen, and now we wait and see if Hill has anything left in the tank.
If there is room for improvement in any area for Hill, it would be his control. He walked 17 batters in just 38.2 innings, something that got him into trouble in his only two “rough” outings of the year, against the Brewers and White Sox. Hill’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was just 2:1, something he will attempt to refine if he is back next year.
What grade would you give Rich Hill’s 2020 season?
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