How do Twins stack up in possible playoff pitching matchups?

Let's debunk one of the worst cliches in baseball.
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Jose Berrios

Everyone's aware at this point that the Twins' lineup is legit. They can hang with the best teams in baseball and its proved it can even come back from multi-run deficits.

But how does Minnesota's pitching staff stack up? Will both the starting rotation and bullpen be enough to shut down the Astros, Yankees or even the Rays?

Let me start by saying, anytime you hear, "well how does this pitching staff stack up against this team's pitching staff?" That's a pretty inaccurate way to view baseball.

I don't mean to be condescending here, but Jose Berrios is not facing Justin Verlander in the box. Berrios' job is to get Verlander's teammates out, and not him individually.

The same cliche drives me nuts in football when commentators or media outlets use Aaron Rodgers versus Tom Brady. It's not "Rodgers vs. Brady," it's Rodgers against the Patriots and Brady taking on the Packers. Those two individuals will never be on the field at the same time. I guess the other way sounds sexier but it's not accurate at all.

Now on paper, do the Astros have a better starting rotation than the Twins? Of course they do, but the good news is that Houston's pitching staff – or any team's pitching staff – will have to face a Twins lineup that's on pace to be the most prolific home run-hitting team of all time.

Meanwhile, it's the pitcher's jobs to not put their offense in such a hole, or a lead in a postseason game. Things are magnified in the playoffs, and one bad outing can spoil a fan's perception of a player's regular season success. 

Just see Juan Rincon's stats in the 2004 ALDS, where he blew Game 4 against the Yankees despite being one the team's best relievers (2.63 ERA) all season.

So let's take a look at where the Astros, Yankees and Rays offenses rank in the American League compared to the Twins.

Twins: 

  • .274 BA (1st)
  • .340 OBP (2nd)
  • .516 SLG (1st)
  • 127 Home runs (1st) 
  • 20.1 K% (3rd)
  • 8.1 BB % (10th)

Astros:

  • .268 BA (2nd)
  • .340 OBP (1st)
  • .475 SLG (2nd)
  • 110 Home runs (3rd) 
  • 17.6 K% (2nd)
  • 9.6 BB% (5th)

Yankees:

  • .258 BA (6th)
  • .333 OBP (7th)
  • .450 SLG (5th)
  • 106 Home runs (4th) 
  • 22.7 K% (6th)
  • 9.5 BB% (6th)

Rays:

  • .260 BA (3rd)
  • .336 OBP (5th)
  • .440 SLG (6th)
  • 89 Home runs (9th) 
  • 24.4 K% (10th)
  • 9.0 BB% (9th)

As the numbers suggest, the Astros are right there with the Twins in just about every major offensive statistic. The Yankees and Rays have above-average offenses but lag behind Minnesota and Houston's output.

Now, let's take a look at how Twins pitching stacks up against the same teams.

Twins:

  • 3.99 ERA (5th) 
  • .245 OBA (7th) 
  • 23.3 K% (6th) 
  • 7.5 BB% (1st)
  • 1.27 HR/9 (4th)

Astros:

  • 3.53 ERA (2nd) 
  • .208 OBA (1st) 
  • 27.2 K% (1st)
  •  7.5 BB% (2nd) 
  • 1.40 HR/9 (8th)

Yankees:

  • 3.99 ERA (3rd) .
  • 234 OBA (3rd) 
  • 24.8 K% (5th) 
  • 8.1 BB% (5th) 
  • 1.47 HR/9 (10th)

Rays:

  • 2.95 ERA (1st) 
  • .215 (2nd) 
  • 26.2 K% (2nd) 
  • 7.9 BB% (4th) 
  • 0.81 HR/9 (1st)

The Twins might not pick up as many strikeouts or be as stingy at keeping men off base, but the good news is they do a good job of keeping the ball in the park and not issuing free passes.

Houston and New York might have electric arms that rack up strikeouts, but both are surrendering home runs at a higher rate – especially Houston – than they should, which is good news for the Twins. Also, Minnesota did win four out of seven games against the Astros already this season.

Tampa obviously has the best pitching staff in the league, it's their bread and butter. However last month, we saw the Twins travel to Tropicana Field and win three out of four while outscoring the Rays 20-12 in the three wins.

The Twins don't have the same pitching staff as the other juggernauts in the American League, but has it really mattered considering the Twins have won the majority of their games against them?

I think it's a forgone conclusion that the Twins have to address their pitching staff, whether it's in the rotation and more than likely the bullpen too.

If they indeed add a pitcher, whether it's Marcus Stroman, Brad Hand or even Trevor Bauer, who Ken Rosenthal talked about in a piece at The Athletic on Wednesday, they'll only solidify their postseason chances.

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