Minnesota Twins: Handing out Season Grades for the Rotation

Kenta Maeda of the Minnesota Twins celebrates during game one of the Wild Card Series between the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Kenta Maeda of the Minnesota Twins celebrates during game one of the Wild Card Series between the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

The 2020 Minnesota Twins season is now complete, so it’s time to pass out grades for a very much improved pitching staff.

Right after midseason, I passed out grades to the Minnesota Twins, starting with their rotation and going through every single position group. After another crushing playoff loss in the playoffs, it’s time to regrade those groups, starting once again with the rotation.

The Twins’ biggest strength all year was the rotation. Led by the first ace the Minnesota Twins have had since Johan Santana and a very good couple starters after him, the pitching staff had a great year. Here’s how each pitcher grades out after 2020, starting with King Kenta.

Minnesota Twins Starters Grades

Kenta Maeda

Midseason Grade: A+

Final 2020 Stats: 11 GS, 8 QS, 66.2 IP, 6-1, 2.70 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 0.750 WHIP, 80-10 K-BB, 1.6 WAR

Kenta Maeda would be a lock to win the Cy Young if Shane Bieber didn’t exist. Maeda was in the Top 10 in baseball in wins, ERA, win-loss percentage, H/9, BB/9, and led the league in WHIP. That’s a pretty incredible year.

Maeda was an elite pitcher for the team all year, and he deserved a better result after his five-inning, shutout performance in the playoffs. There is no reason to give Kenta any worse grade than he originally received. I can’t wait for year two. Grade A+.

Jose Berrios

Midseason Grade: C

Final 2020 Stats: 12 GS, 4 QS, 63 IP, 5-4, 4.00 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 1.317 WHIP, 68-26 K-BB, 0.7 WAR

No, Jose Berrios didn’t have a great 2020 season, but he had a very, very good second half and a pretty great playoff start (where he should have stayed in longer). Just compare his stats in his first five games vs. his last seven:

  • First 5: 1-3, 5.92 ERA, 24-13 K-BB
  • Last 7: 4-1, 2.79 ERA, 44-13 K-BB

That’s an insane difference. He was a completely different guy in that second half, and because of that, his grade goes up considerably. On top of that, that playoff performance gave me lots of hope for the future. This was an overall okay year for a very good No. 2 guy. Grade: B.

Randy Dobnak

Midseason Grade: A

Final 2020 Stats: 10 GS, 1 QS, 46.2 IP, 6-4, 4.05 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 1.350 WHIP, 27-13 K-BB, 0.4 WAR

When you can’t strike a lot of guys out, it’s tough to remain a starter. Of the Twins starters to start 2 games, Randy Dobnak‘s WHIP was the second worst behind Jake Odorizzi. After a good first half, Dobnak fell apart, sinking so quickly that he was removed from the rotation AND the roster.

Dobnak’s days as a starter for the team might be limited going forward, as he may move into a long relief/swingman starter role, one that will be really good for him, going forward. He still started off the season well, but that quick fall tanks his grade quite a bit. Grade: B-.

Rich Hill

Midseason Grade: C

Final 2020 Stats: 8 GS, 1 QS, 38.2 IP, 2-2, 3.03 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.164 WHIP, 31-17 K-BB, 0.8 WAR

What a turnaround for Rich Hill. The forty-year-old pitcher was injured early in the season, but bounced back in a big way to become the Twins’ fourth best pitcher heading into the playoffs with the second best ERA on the team.

He was an excellent change of pace from Maeda, Michael Pineda, and Berrios, and the Minnesota Twins got a steal of a deal from the former Dodger. After an injury-filled first half of the season, he was great in August and September and earns a significant bump in his grade. For a bargain bin signing, the Minnesota Twins got great value. Grade B+.

Michael Pineda

Midseason Grade: N/A

Final 2020 Stats: 5 GS, 2 QS, 26.2 IP, 2-0, 3.38 ERA, 2.22 FIP, 1.200 WHIP, 25-7 K-BB, 0.4 WAR

For a pitcher that missed the first half of the season due to suspension, Michael Pineda came on in a big way to end 2020. Big Mike looked dominant this season, carrying over from his stellar end to 2019 before the suspension.

Armed with the best FIP among starters on the team and a really good strikeout-to-walk ratio, Pineda was all set to be the team’s third starter in the playoffs before their series was cut short. A full season of Pineda next year will be a huge win for the Minnesota Twins in 2021. His grade reflects how good he was post suspension. Grade: A.

Jake Odorizzi

Midseason Grade: D-

Final 2020 Stats: 4 GS, 0 QS, 13.2 IP, 0-1, 6.69 ERA, 6.12 FIP, 1.390 WHIP, 12-3 K-BB, -0.2 WAR

It feels unfair to give Jake Odorizzi a really poor grade after just a consistent string of bad luck for a guy I personally really like. Several injuries cost him large chunks of the season, meaning he could never really get going in 2020 (thus the awful stat line).

He likely will have to sign a cheap prove-it deal in 2021 (possibly with the Twins), but if this is the end in Minnesota, it was a rough one. Again, it’s not really fair, but grading sometimes isn’t. His grade doesn’t change, despite him being someone I hope we resign. Grade: D-.

Homer Bailey

Midseason Grade: B-

Final 2020 Stats: 2 GS, 0 QS, 8 IP, 1-0, 3.38 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 1.125 WHIP, 7-3 K-BB, 0-2 WAR

The Minnesota Twins career of Homer Bailey lasted just eight innings over two games, but he pitched reasonably well over those two games. A 3.38 ERA, winning record, and a 7-3 K-BB ratio is okay.

That being said, he missed the majority of the season due to injury and will not be resigned by the Twins unless a miracle occurs. Because of that, it’s hard to give him a really good grade, even though he was okay for a bargain bin guy. Grade: B-.

Minnesota Twins Long Relievers

Lewis Thorpe

Midseason Grade: F

Final 2020 Stats: 7 G, 1 GS, 16.1 IP, 0-1, 6.16 ERA, 6.99 FIP, 2.082 WHIP, 7-3 K-BB, -0.2 WAR

This one is a pretty easy one, as Lewis Thorpe had just one more outing before his well-deserved demotion at the end of August. His stat line improved slightly after his last outing, but the top young lefty in the system still had an awful year.

He took a major step back in 2020, and though he has the potential to bounce back in 2021, the clock is now ticking on the almost 25-year-old. His awful season does not see any improvement in grade. Grade: F.

Devin Smeltzer

Midseason Grade: B-

Final 2020 Stats: 7 G, 1 GS, 16 IP, 2-0, 6.75 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 1.500 WHIP, 15-5 K-BB, -0.3 WAR

Devin Smeltzer also had a bad 2020 and was sent down in early September, but his bad 2020 wasn’t quite as bad as his team-worst ERA suggests. Smeltzer’s 4.07 FIP is very respectable, and his 15-5 K-BB numbers are pretty decent.

Again, that being said, my original B- grade at midseason needs to be brought down. He didn’t have an awful season, but you can’t say he had a good season with a 6.75 ERA. This earns him an average grade for a pretty average season. Grade: C.

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