Yesterday, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association agreed on some added changes to the 2020 playoffs. If you recall, Minnesota Twins reliever Taylor Rogers, the team’s representative, expressed some frustrations about the process, including the timing of when this was brought to the players - essentially two to three weeks before the playoffs are to start. But now the two sides have come to terms:
- Wild Card series will be played at the home stadium of the higher seed.
- Division and Championship Series will be played in “bubbles”, or designated sites. The American League teams will use Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, and Dodger Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the Championship Series being played in San Diego. (Note that due to the fires along the West Coast, if the air quality is poor and does not allow for any play, it’s possible that the games will take place in Phoenix.) National League teams will play in the new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers, as well as Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. The NLCS will be played in Houston.
- The World Series will be played in Globe Life Field.
- Families can quarantine with players during the seven days leading to the playoffs.
- All players on the 40-man and Injured List (that are eligible to come off) will travel with the team. There is no exchanging players with the alternate site.
Now with that out of the way, the major part of the announcement is the scheduling of the series. With the exception of the World Series, there will be no off days during the Wild Card Series, the Division Series, nor the Championship Series. Typically there are one to two off days for travel, but as there’s no travel, there’s no need for travel days.
So how does this affect our favorite team? When they make the Division and Championship Series (knock on wood), the Twins will need to put together a starting rotation of at least four starting pitchers. This yields the question: Who are possible candidates to get the nod to start a playoff game?
Acquired during the off-season, Kenta Maeda has arguably been the top-performing starter of the rotation this season. His 2.43 ERA and 2.88 FIP checks in at fourth-best in the American League at the time of this writing. Along with that, MaeKen’s 0.737 WHIP is tops in the majors. The righty is striking out batters at a 10.2 K/9 clip - second-highest out of his five years in MLB and his K/BB ratio (6.30) is the highest it’s been during his tenure in the majors. Maeda is on fire in this crazy year, and he’s needed for the playoffs.
Playoff rotation candidate? Duh.
The Puerto Rican started off the season on the wrong foot, but with some adjustments, José Berríos has turned a corner. From his start on August 20 against the Milwaukee Brewers to today, La MaKina posted a 2.60 ERA/3.06 FIP and has held batters to a .204/.287/.282 slash line in 27.2 innings of work.
Playoff rotation candidate? Yes.
After rejoining the Twins from his suspension, Michael Pineda has been a well-needed constant for this year’s rotation. He’s posted a 3.57 ERA/1.62 FIP in his three starts, allowing no homers and issuing four walks against 20 strikeouts. With the exception of his last start, Big Mike has carried the load and logged two quality starts.
Playoff rotation candidate? Yes.
Everyone’s favorite Uber driver started off the season where he left off in 2019. Randy Dobnak had a 1.42 ERA and 3.84 FIP in 25.1 innings of work during his first five starts while allowing only two homers. In his last four starts, he’s posted a 6.88 ERA/4.32 FIP in 17 innings. Dobstache also allowed only one homer, but has seen a drop in strikeouts. These last few starts came against teams like the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and St Louis Cardinals, while the first five starts came against the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Spiders, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, and the Royals.
Playoff rotation candidate? A hesitant yes.
Also acquired this off-season, Rich Hill may have given some fans a collective headache with his outings. However, it could be argued that he hasn’t been provided the run support. In the six games that the southpaw has started this season, the Twins have lost four of them with the following scores: 9-3 (Hill allowed four earned runs), 4-2 (allowed one ER), 8-5 (allowed 2 ER), and 10-8 (allowed 2 ER). He combined for a total of two earned runs in the other two outings, and those came in his last start against the Spiders.
Something else to note is that Dick Mountain has not pitched past the fifth inning. Could Hill work as an opener for a few innings or out of the bullpen? It’s certainly a possibility for the 40-year-old.
Playoff rotation candidate? Still giving it some thought.
After taking a qualifying offer to re-join the team this season, Jake Odorizzi has made only three starts for the Twins in 2020. Starting the season on the Injured List and currently being on the I.L. doesn’t help his cause, but there is rumor that he is set to start as soon as today. Odo’s three starts saw him leave after the third inning once, during the fourth inning one time, and during the fifth inning the other time. Unfortunately for Odorizzi, it seems like he may be relegated to the bullpen unless he hits the ground running when he comes off the I.L.
Playoff rotation candidate? Probably not, but to be determined.
The makeup of the roster will be different from past years in which teams, including the Twins, will need to dedicate an additional roster spot (or two) to starting pitchers. Who would make your Twins playoff starting rotation?