The Minnesota Twins are atop of the American League Central to start 2020, but are the performances of their starting and relief pitching already a concern?
Major League Baseball has made it three weeks into its shortened 2020 season. Some teams have faced hiccups with the COVID-19 virus affecting their clubhouses. Thankfully, the Minnesota Twins have yet to come into contact with COVID-19 outbreak like their first week opponents, the St. Louis Cardinals. However, the Minnesota Twins pitching has already had some fans questioning if they’re as legit as predicted.
17 games into the season, and none of the Twins main three starters, Jose Berrios, Randy Dobnak, and Kenta Maeda, have gone more than six full innings in a start. There were a few starts where that would have not been a problem, for example, Dobnak’s hometown start in Pittsburgh against the Pirates, or Maeda’s second start against Cleveland.
Now, today’s game stresses a pitchers arms health above all else, but not seeing pitchers go at least seven innings when they are dominating opposing hitters with a low pitch count can be disappointing for fans to see.
With Twins manager Rocco Baldelli pulling out his starters early in most games, this has lead to a heavy usage of the bullpen earlier in the season. Aaron Gleeman, Twins beat writer for The Athletic, had asked Baldelli about the high usage of the Twins bullpen early in games.
All in all, Baldelli seems to want to put the high-leverage relievers such as Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers in games, even if it comes at the expense of a starter with a low pitch count through six innings.
Through their first 19 games, the Twins pitching staff has thrown 174.1 innings pitched. Of those 174.1 innings, the Twins bullpen have pitched in 82 innings . That’s a whopping 47.03 percent of innings pitched done by Twins relievers, which is in the middle ground compared to other first place teams in baseball.
The New York Yankees have a slightly higher bullpen usage at 47.83 percentage with their relievers pitching in 69 and two thirds innings of their first 18 games. (However it should be noted that the Yankees have played in two seven inning double headers this season against the Philadelphia Phillies on August 5 and Tampa Bay Rays on August 8).
The Oakland Athletics have a much higher bullpen use percentage at 49.81 percent with their relievers pitching in 86 and two thirds innings of their first 19 games.
Again, the Twins bullpen usage seems to be at a high use to many fans, but when compared to the other first place teams in the American League, the Twins seem to be at a median pace. The Twins pitching still sits at a team earned run average of 3.48, which is the forth best team ERA in MLB.
The Twins pitching certainly did rebound from a bad weekend in Kansas City with Monday night’s 4-2 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers, with five stellar innings pitched by Randy Dobnak and the bullpens four headed monster of May, Duffey, Romo, and Rogers.
Tuesday’s pitching plan of a bullpen game did not work as well as the Twins had hoped. Was it really best move to pull Dobnak after five innings Monday night, with Baldelli knowing full well most of his revilers would get work the next day? In the case of using May and Rogers back to back, nights, the bullpen game didn’t prove to work as the Twins hoped losing 6-4 to the Brew Crew.
Wednesday night however, proved that the Twins pitching may not be a need of concern quite yet. The addition of Kenta Maeda has shown that he is a reliable starter. One the Minnesota Twins have needed to go the distance, just like the days of Johan Santana and Brad Radke. The only downside was Baldelli not letting Maeda get the final out in the seventh inning.
So is the Minnesota Twins pitching something to be concerned at the one third mark of the season? No, not yet. The only thing they need more of, is innings from their starters.