Twins fans have been waiting for the club to add the impact starting pitching the front office mentioned at the beginning of the offseason. However, adding Homer Bailey and Rich Hill left fans feeling underwhelmed.
Hill will turn 40 in March and won’t be able to take the mound until June after elbow surgery. Can the Twins ride Hill into the playoffs and turn him into their own Mr. October?
Previous playoff experience
Hill is no stranger to the playoffs as he has pitched for the Dodgers in each of the last four postseasons. This includes multiple World Series starts even though Los Angeles ended up falling short in both appearances. This takes nothing away from what Hill has been able to do in October.
Hill has made 12 career postseason starts and 13 appearances overall. For his career, he has a 3.06 ERA with a 1.38 WHIP and a 65 to 32 strikeout to walk ratio. His 11.0 K/9 is higher than his career mark of 9.6 K/9 and he has given up fewer hits and home runs per nine innings in the playoffs.
His 53 playoff innings isn’t exactly a large sample size, but it is a lot of innings when compared to other pitchers currently on the Twins staff. His age could be a concern but using the first half of the season to rehab could keep him healthy and performing well into October.
Few pitchers find success into their age-40 season and the pitchers at the top of the WAR list are a who’s who of baseball’s best pitchers. According to FanGraphs, the top age-40 seasons for pitchers have been from Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Cy Young, John Smoltz, Dutch Leonard, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux. Hill isn’t in the same category as those players.
Those players also found minimal playoff success in their age-40 season. In fact, Clemens and Maddux were the only players in the group to make the playoffs. Maddux made one start in the 2006 NLDS against the Mets and allowed four earned runs in four innings. Clemens made four starts in the 2003 playoffs as the Yankees went all the way to the World Series. His best start in those playoffs came against the Twins as he allowed one earned run on five hits across seven innings.
Hill is a wild card in the Twins' ultimate plan to win back-to-back AL Central titles. When he has been healthy, he has been very good, but those opportunities have been few and far between. Hill could provide a boost to the club in the second half, but it seems unlikely for him to be the impact pitcher the Twins will need in October.
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