Even if the season ended today, Aug. 22, the Twins would be in the playoffs. But cracks in Minnesota's armor have been hard to ignore.
Despite the additions of Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson to provide more depth in the bullpen, the decision not to add another arm to the starting rotation is glaring.
Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez have all been pummeled by opposing teams, with Michael Pineda being the lone bright spot.
The "staff ace" of the Twins had a nice start to the season but once again, he's starting to break down as the season wears on. Since debuting in 2016, Berrios owns a career ERA of 5.92 in the month of August, which is by far his highest of any month in his career.
- April/March: 3.69 ERA
- May: 4.03 ERA
- June: 2.85 ERA
- July: 3.83 ERA
- August: 5.92 ERA
- September/October: 4.77 ERA
In three starts this month, Berrios has allowed 19 runs (15 earned) with opponents teeing off to a slash line of .314/.385/.586.
He's still 25 years old and the Twins have won 15 of his 25 starts, but they need him to pitch like an ace because there's a good chance he'll still start Game 1 of a playoff series and his recent performances aren't going to cut it in the postseason.
Remember when Odorizzi was flirting with the ERA title in June? Boy, those were the days. Following his start June 9 he had a 1.92 ERA, but in 12 starts since he's posted an ugly 5.98 ERA.
Yes, it was unrealistic for him to put up a sub-two ERA in a full season, but it's also concerning that even with his stretch of brilliance he's continued to tax the bullpen by failing to go deep into games.
He's only completed six innings in eight of 25 starts, while logging seven innings in just two starts. Now going deep into games is becoming harder to do in today's era of baseball but Odorizzi always seems to run into pitch count issues that prevent from going a longer distance.
Odorizzi has a career ERA of 3.90 in eight big league seasons and that's what the Twins need him to be at this point. He'll also be a free agent this winter, so the Twins have to decide whether he's worth keeping around or not.
After a career season in 2018 where he set career bests in ERA (3.62) and K/9 (8.1), Gibson is looking more like the inconsistent pitcher he's mostly been in his career.
His 4.40 ERA is near his career line (4.46) and as the season has carried on, his strikeout rate is falling. Here's how many batters he's struck out per nine innings in each month this season.
- April/March: 7.8 K/9 in five starts
- May: 10.9 K/9 in five starts
- June: 8.3 K/9 in five starts
- July: 9.4 K/9 in six starts
- August: 6.0 K/9 in four starts
In four starts this month, Gibson has allowed 15 earned runs in 22.2 innings (5.96 ERA). With the way he's pitching lately, it seems the only way he'd start a playoff game is out of necessity, with someone likely piggybacking behind him.
Just like Odorizzi, Gibson is also a free agent at season's end.
After not realizing his potential as a top pitching prospect with the Texas Rangers, it looked like the Twins had struck gold with the addition of Perez to the rotation.
He added a cutter to his arsenal, and Perez looked like he finally had it all figured it all out. However, things turned sideways in a hurry.
Through his first 11 games (eight starts), Perez had a 2.95 ERA with opponents hitting .236 and slugging just .356 against him. Since then, he's made 14 starts to an ERA of 5.88 while giving up 13 home runs.
For the season, his 4.60 ERA is nearly identical to his career line of 4.63. It's likely he'll be used out of the bullpen in postseason play, if he's used at all.
The only consistent arm in the rotation is Pineda. After missing all of 2018 while rehabbing Tommy John surgery, Pineda is 9-5 with an ERA of 4.26 on the season and has gotten stronger as year has gone on.
In his last 11 starts, Pineda owns a 3.18 ERA with the Twins winning eight of those appearances.
However, even though he's pitched better of late, I'd assume most Twins fans (and opponents for that matter) don't view him as a stopper in a rotation. There also might be an innings limit on him since he hasn't pitched more than 170 innings since 2016.
How the Twins compare
Since July 1, The Twins starting rotation has a combined ERA of 4.62, which is still fifth best in the American League but the teams above them have looked far batter and are all potential postseason opponents for the Twins. Here's how those staffs have performed since July 1.
- Indians: 3.19 ERA, 9.39 K/9, 2.48 BB/9
- Astros: 3.56 ERA, 10.35 K/9, 2.55 BB/9
- Athletics: 3.90 ERA, 6.67 K/9, 2.16 BB/9
- Rays: 4.21 ERA, 11.0 K/9 ,2.03 BB/9
- Twins: 4.62 ERA, 7.88 K/9 3.46 BB/9
- AL League average: 4.91 ERA, 8.51 K/9, 2.84 BB/9
It's clear what Minnesota's weakness is: pitching, both starters and relievers. Maybe their offense can bail them out once or twice, but strong pitching consistently wins championships, and right now the Twins' pitching is just slightly above average and it will likely be the culprit that stops them from making a deep playoff run.