Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A Tale of Two Champions- Part Two

The 2019 Minnesota Twins are A.L. Central Division Champions! Their last Division Title came all the way back in 2010, the inaugural season at Target Field in Minneapolis.  Let's compare and contrast those teams, shall we?

Starting Pitchers:

Jose Berrios is the 2019 team's ace- despite some struggles in the second half, he surpassed 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career, and nearly matched that number in strikeouts with 195. Berrios was named to his 2nd straight All-Star team, and will be looking to add some post season heroics to his resume.

Jake Odorizzi has been the most consistent starter for the Twins, with highs not quite as high as Berrios, but lows not nearly as low either. Odo made his first career All-Star squad, thanks to the refinement of his high fastball that stymied the new uppercut style of swing developed for optimal launch angles. He struck out 178 batters in 159 innings, and led the Twins in ERA and victories.

Michael Pineda was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance that can be used to mask performance enhancing drugs. His story was that he was taking a diuretic to lose weight, and stopped taking it once he learned it contained a banned ingredient. Don't know if I buy that story. Either way, it was a disappointing end to pretty good comeback story. Pineda missed all of last year recovering from injury, and was slowly eased into the rotation. By his final start, he was consistently churning out quality starts, and seemed to be getting stronger and more effective with his slider as the year progressed. He finished with a 5/1 strikeout to walk ratio. What a bummer!

Martin Perez was not expected to have any success at all, coming off a disappointing season in Texas. Thad Levine was familiar with Perez from his time with the Rangers, and convinced Perez to work with Twins' pitching coach Wes Johnson to re-tool his delivery. Perez saw his fastball velocity spike to 94-95 with movement. He had several streaks of great starts, but as the year wore on, the league started to catch up to his new repertoire of 2-seamer / change-up. He led the Twins starters in some of the uglier stats like homers and runs allowed, but he also provided valuable innings throughout the season. He may be used as an additional lefty out of the pen in the post season.

Carl Pavano had been maligned by the New York media following a rough tenure in pinstripes, but turned in one of the best seasons of his career for the 2010 Twins. He had a 17-7 record, and led the AL in Complete Games (7) and Shutouts (2). He led the Twins staff in innings by a healthy margin, yet he only walked 35 batters in 221 frames. He was a prototypical pitch to contact pitcher- lots of hits, but lots of stranded runners as well to go with his excellent control. In a career defined by injury, his durability in 2010 was a key reason the team won the division.

Francisco Liriano was a few years removed from his transcendent 2006 campaign, in which served as a perfect clone of Cy Young winner Johan Santana. His 2010 season was easily his best in a Twins uniform since that debut. He topped 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career, and led the AL with a very stingy home run rate of .4 homers per 9 innings. He was the Game 1 starter against the Yankees in the ALDS, and despite 7 strikeouts in 5.2 innings, a win was not in the cards for the lefty.

Scott Baker earned the nickname "Big Spot Scott" for his ability to come up with his best starts in the clutch. In 2010, he had a 12-9 record and had a 4.49 ERA. As a third starter, that wasn't too bad. He would appear in relief in Game 3 of the ALDS (Ron Gardenhire tried starting two lefties in the series), giving up a solo homer to Nick Swisher in the 7th inning when the Twins were already down 5-0. He did pitch a pair of scoreless innings before that hit, the only hit he allowed in the series.

Kevin Slowey  had a reputation for being a brainy, cerebral pitcher. More importantly, he was good! Slowey went 13-6 with a respectable 4.45 ERA. He struck out 116 batters while walking just 29 (actually a career high).

Bullpen Aces:

Jon Rauch was a big, bad presence on the mound. He pitched in 59 games in 2010, notching 21 saves and striking out 46 batters in 58 innings. He was used first as a closer, then as a set up man in the pen.

Taylor Rodgers has followed in the same mold as lefty relievers like Andrew Miller, and Josh Hader. Whatever the role, Rodgers relished the big stage in 2019. He moved into the closer role part way through the season and locked up 30 saves for the Twins, striking out 90 batters in 69 innings.

Brian Duensing  was the Twins' Swiss Army knife. He not only excelled as a lefty option out of the pen, but he also was a spot starter, tossing the only shutout for the Twins not thrown by Carl Pavano. He was also the Game 3 starter for the ALDS, a game that was played more or less as a bullpen game, though Gardy was probably hoping for a little more from the Duenslinger, who would later transition to the bullpen full-time as a situational lefty.

Tyler Duffey also made the move from the rotation to the bullpen, and the results have been very impressive in 2019. Similar to Martin Perez, a small change to mechanics and his 2-Seam grip have unlocked higher velocity and movement. Duffey reeled off 26 consecutive scoreless appearances heading into the final game of 2019. He finished the year with a 2.52 ERA and struck out 82 batters in 57.2 innings.

Deadline deals:

Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson were added to the Twins' pen ahead of the July trade deadline, and the two were poised to solidify a group still trying to gel. Romo did his part, flipping his signature slider over for 27 Ks in 22 innings with a 3.18 ERA. Sam Dyson was bit hard by the injury bug and despite appearing in 12 games for the Twins, he never looked quite right. He had shoulder surgery and is expected to be out for 11-12 months.

Matt Capps was added at the July deadline as *proven closer to help propel the Twins to the post season. He would slide immediately to the back end of the bullpen and locked down 16 saves in 18 opportunities. He sported an even 2.00 ERA over his 27 appearances, striking out 21 batters. In game 1 of the ALDS, he allowed a run and two hits, making the score 6-4 in the 9th.

Brian Fuentes came to the Twins in August, and had a sparkling Twins career, allowing 0 runs and just 3 hits in his 9 appearances in the regular season. He made 2 more appearances in the ALDS, again allowing 0 runs over 2.2 innings pitched.

All hands on Deck:
Trevor May made his move to the bullpen a while back, and this year he has grown into the role, striking out 79 batters in his 64.1 innings pitched. He picked up a pair of saves as well, and has brought a powerful arm to blow past the competition.
Kyle Gibson was the team's #3 Starter for the majority of the season, however a battle with ulcerative colitis placed him on the IL towards the end of the year, and he's tried to make an impact coming out of the bullpen. It is still a work in progress. He does bring veteran leadership to the staff.
Lewis Thorpe may very well be a starter in the future, for now the Aussie has been serving as a lefty option out of the pen for first year manager Rocco Baldelli.

Matt Guerrier led the Twins in 2010 with 74 games, as Ron Gardenhire's first choice out of the pen. He had good control and rarely allowed homers, giving up just 7 homers over 71 innings. He had 2.1 scoreless innings of relief in the ALDS.
Jesse Crain was even better in 71 games, only surrendering 5 homers. Crain and Guerrier were solid pen options for the Twins, though Crain had a tough outing in the post season, giving up 3 hits and a pair of runs in Game 1, earning the Loss.
Jose Mijares was the go to lefty for the Twins in 2010, appearing in 47 games while pitching just 32.2 innings all season. Like the rest of the pen, he had good control and rarely allowed home runs.


  1. Let's go Minnesota! Pulling for your team big time against the Yankees.