I know what you are probably thinking: “Whoa whoa whoa, hold on, if there is one thing that is set about the Minnesota Twins starting rotation, it’s Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi are their clear cut one and two starters.” This is a sentiment that I completely agree with and is why I think starting Randy Dobnak in game two of the ALDS would be a good idea for the Twins. So, before you go off on why you think this is a terrible idea, just hear me out for a second.
With the suspension of Michael Pineda, and the poor performance from Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez, it is becoming more apparent that the games, outside of the ones Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi start, will need to be pseudo “bullpen” games to get those valuable 27 outs.
While conventional wisdom would be to have Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi start the first two games of the series, and then piece together games three and four with the bullpen, the Twins might actually be better off by splitting the Berrios and Odorizzi starts.
By having Jose Berrios go game one, and Jake Odorizzi go in game three, the Twins can focus games two and four (if necessary) around getting all 27 outs from the bullpen. By having them do it in games two and four, everyone who pitches those nights will get a guaranteed off day the next day, as the teams will have a travel day as they change venues. So, if Rocco needs to burn through almost every arm in the bullpen, he can do so, and they should be back and ready to go for the next game.
However, if the Twins were to wait until game three to first implement this strategy, or if they were to start someone like Kyle Gibson or Martin Perez, who could get pulled earlier than expected, it puts the Twins in a real tough situation for game four, as everyone that would pitch in game three wouldn’t get a night off before they might be called on again.
Another benefit of using this strategy is that the Twins can essentially stock their bullpen with 10 or 11 arms, depending if the Twins carry 12 or 13 pitchers on their postseason roster. This will give Rocco Baldelli the ability to have a short leash with some of his pitchers and avoid letting one guy completely ruin any chance of winning that ballgame. It also protects the bullpen, if Jose Berrios or Jake Odorizzi was to have a short start, from needing to burn through the most valuable bullpen arms to get through that game.
So, this brings up the still lingering question: Why is Randy Dobnak the guy I think the Twins should turn to in game two of the ALDS, as opposed to guys like Kyle Gibson, Martin Perez, Lewis Thorpe or Devin Smeltzer? The answer is simply this, I believe he has the best chance to give the Twins three or four effective innings before Rocco needs to turn the chains loose on the rest of the bullpen. Kyle Gibson’s struggles of late have been more than apparent, so to trust him to get through a few innings without surrendering a bunch of runs to either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees roster might be a fool’s errand.
Additionally, with both the Astros and Yankees lineups being loaded with a ton of right-handed hitting sluggers, Dobnak is the only pitcher on this list (other than Gibson) that would give the Twins a platoon advantage.
While Randy Dobnak isn’t a pitcher who will strike fear into the hearts either the Astros or Yankees lineups, he does have the ability to be effective in a turn or two through either one of those lineups. Dobnak has been a professional pitcher since 2017, and in that time, he has posted a career 2.57 ERA in the minor leagues, and a 2.01 ERA in 22 1/3 innings pitched at the major league level. His performance this year led him to being named the Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Another thing that Dobnak does well is suppress fly balls. In his brief time with the Twins in 2019, Dobnak’s has a flyball rate of 18.1 percent, which is the seventh lowest of the 525 MLB pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings this season. For the season as a whole, Dobnak has allowed a fly ball rate of just 22.7 percent in his 157 2/3 combined innings between the minor and major leagues. This ability of Dobnak’s to prevent opposing hitters from hitting fly balls could be of upmost importance, especially if game two of the ALDS takes place in Yankees Stadium.
At the end of the day, the Twins playoff hopes could very well rest on the shoulders of Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. Unfortunately, those two can’t start every game for the Twins, so they will need to get creative to find the best way to get outs effectively in the games where they are not on the mound. By splitting up these games, it will give the Twins a lot more flexibility for utilizing their bullpen, as they can take full advantage of two built-in off days throughout the course of a series.
This story originally appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared as part of a collaboration between Twins Daily and Bring Me The News.