The Minnesota Twins locked up the No. 3 seed in the American League, so we see how they compare against their round one opponent: the Houston Astros.
The Minnesota Twins may have lost today, but they are still 2020 American League Central Division Champions and earned the No. 3 seed in the AL after the Chicago White Sox couldn’t complete the comeback against the Chicago Cubs. Here’s how the AL Wild Card Round will look:
- No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays vs. No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays
- No. 2 Oakland Athletics vs. No. 7 Chicago White Sox
- No. 3 Minnesota Twins vs. No. 6 Houston Astros
- No. 4 Cleveland Indians vs. No. 5 New York Yankees
Here’s the NL Wild Card Bracket:
- No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Brewers
- No. 2 Atlanta Braves vs. No. 7 Cincinnati Reds
- No. 3 Chicago Cubs vs. No. 6 Miami Marlins
- No. 4 San Diego Padres vs. No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals
It’s going to be quite the postseason, but now we know who we face in the Wild Card round: The Houston Astros. Over the past five years, the Astros have won three AL West Titles, two AL Pennants, and the 2017 World Series, all before a cheating scandal broke last year, tainting it all.
This Astros team is very different, managed by Dusty Baker rather than A.J. Hinch (a significant downgrade), and is beaten down by injuries. With that being said, they aren’t an easy out in a three game series. We compare the Twins and Astros to see who has the edge going into round one, starting with the rotations.
Minnesota Twins Rotation vs. Houston Astros Rotation
The Houston Astros’ biggest strength (and arguably their only strength) is their rotation. The once mighty group for the Astros faces off against the upstart rotation of the Twins. Here are the projected playoff starters:
Projected Rotation for the Three Game Series
- Game 1: Kenta Maeda vs. Zack Greinke
- Game 2: Jose Berrios vs. Framber Valdez
- Game 3 (if needed): Michael Pineda vs. Lance McCullers Jr.
This is the closest area between the two teams. The Minnesota Twins have the best starter in this series in Kenta Maeda, as none of the other five pitchers have been as good as Maeda. If Justin Verlander wasn’t out due to Tommy John surgery, it would be different, but he is.
Greinke and McCullers have lots of playoff experience in the playoffs, and Valdez has been stellar in his first full season as a starter. Their FIP numbers are a lot better than their ERA numbers and they do a good job of strikeouts.
All that being said, the Twins’ starting pitcher is extremely hot right now. Despite Berrios’ last start, the three Twins pitchers have been much better than the ones for the Astros recently. We’ll grade this one out as even. Edge: Even.
Minnesota Twins Bullpen vs. Houston Astros Bullpen
The injury bug also gives the Twins some help in the bullpen too. While the Astros still have a very good closer in former Twin Ryan Pressly, Pressly was only supposed to be the set-up man. Roberto Osuna‘s injury cost the team their best reliever, so this is a very shallow group.
The Twins on the other hand, field one of the deepest bullpens in the league. They have eight key relievers with sub-4.00 ERA numbers, and that doesn’t even take into account Sergio Romo and his 4.05 ERA (he’s got lots of playoff experience and is still very good).
The only thing the Minnesota Twins don’t have that the Astros do have is a lock-down closer. Taylor Rogers has been good in 2020, but he hasn’t been the dominant shutdown guy that Twins fans have been hoping for. If he’s on full rest, he’ll be fine, and the Twins can go to a different option otherwise. Advantage: Twins.
Minnesota Twins Lineup vs. Houston Astros Lineup
Spoiler alert: the Houston Astros are so much worse at hitting in 2020. Here’s the comparison slash lines for their key players:
- Jose Altuve in 2020: .219/.286/.344 vs. Altuve in 2019: .298/.350/.550
- Alex Bregman in 2020: .242/.350/.481 vs. Bregman in 2019: .296/.423/.592
- George Springer in 2020: .265/.359/.540 vs. Springer in 2019: .292/.383/.591
Granted, hitting is down across baseball, with teams across the MLB experiencing major batting woes. With that being said, the Astros are 10th in the AL in batting average, 11th in on-base percentage, and 9th in slugging percentage. This same unit ranked first in all three categories last year. That’s not an MLB-wide failure.
It seems pretty clear the Astros are struggling without Hinch and the cheating scandal may have hurt their lineup. Kyle Tucker and Michael Brantley have been decent, but this is not a good lineup, and it lacks punch.
For the Minnesota Twins, they are finally recovering and putting numbers on the board. Led by Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, and Nelson Cruz, this is a powerful lineup when it’s on, even if it isn’t the same group that finished in the top four of almost every offensive category last year.
On top of all this, over the last two weeks of the season, the Astros averaged 3.83 runs per game, while the Twins played much tougher competition over that same span (11 out of 14 games came against playoff teams for the Twins, just one game against a playoff team for the Astros) and averaged 4.43 runs per game. Advantage: Twins.
Minnesota Twins Bench vs. Houston Astros Bench
This is quite possibly the biggest advantage the Twins have on the Astros. The Twins’ bench is usable, with former Astro Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave, and Ryan Jeffers standing out as usable bench guys. The issue the Astros have is they don’t have that depth.
Aledmys Diaz is a former All-Star, and has been okay in 2020, but the rest of the bench players are almost unusable in the playoffs. The Astros are essentially sticking with their nine, while the Twins have maneuverability. Advantage: Twins.
Minnesota Twins Intangibles vs. Houston Astros Intangibles
This is another one that screams advantage for the Twins. For starters, the Twins are a lot hotter, as they went 9-6 over the last 15 games of the season against those playoff teams while the Astros went 7-8 against teams like the Rangers, Mariners, and Diamondbacks. There’s a reason the Astros have the second worst record of any team to make the playoffs.
In addition, the Minnesota Twins are managed by Rocco Baldelli, who is still relatively fresh, while the Astros are managed by Dusty Baker, one of the historically worse playoff managers in the MLB. Baldelli has looked great over the last two years, while Baker was only hired as a late in the offseason replacement for Hinch. Yikes.
Lastly, the Minnesota Twins are an MLB-best 24-7 at home and get to play this entire series at home. The Astros are a league-worst 9-23 away from Minute Maid Park. This all adds up to look really bad for the Astros, and really good for the Twins. Advantage: Twins.
Minnesota Twins vs. Houston Astros Series Prediction
This one seems to pretty open and shut for the Twins. They come into the playoffs fresh off their second consecutive American League Central Division crown to face off against a reeling opponent that would have finished six games out of the playoffs in a normal year.
The Twins have a better ace, a better manager, a better lineup, a better bullpen, a better bench, and home field advantage for the entire series when the team played like one of the best home teams of all-time. If the Twins don’t take this series, I don’t know when this playoff losing streak. Prediction: Twins win series 2-0.