Twins Daily: The show must go on, checking in at the quarter point

No real baseball means video game simulations are the best anyone can do.
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With 40 games in the books, we're almost exactly one-fourth of the way through our interactive simulated 2020 Twins season. Let's zoom out to take a look at how everyone's performing, and where we can improve as we try to chase down the world-beating Cleveland Indians in the standings.

To get caught up on what we're doing here, you can check out the introductory post in the series for an explanation of the premise and setup. But the quick version is this: We're playing a progressive simulated Twins season on MLB The Show 20 on PS4, and y'all are helping guide the ship. In each installment I'll update you on what's happened since the last, and put at least one key decision up for vote.

Date In Game: 5/11/20
Team Record: 23-17
Leading OPS: Miguel Sano (1.023 in 127 AB)
Leading ERA (SP): Kenta Maeda (2.54 in 49.2 IP)
Leading ERA (RP): Taylor Rogers (1.47 in 18.1 IP)

LATEST RESULTS

Gm 31 @ LAD: W 6-2 (Donaldson HR, 3 RBI)
Gm 32 @ LAA: W 5-2 (Maeda 8 IP, 0 ER, W)
Gm 33 @ LAA: W 8-1 (Bailey 6.1 IP, 1 ER, W)
Gm 34 @ LAA: L 6-5 (Dobnak 2.2 IP, 4 ER)
Gm 35 vs SF: W 8-7 (Kepler 4-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI)
Gm 36 vs SF: W 2-1 (Odorizzi 8 IP, 1 ER)
Gm 37 vs SF: L 4-2 (Cruz 4-for-4, HR)
Gm 38 vs KC: L 15-2 (Bailey 2.2 IP, 6 ER)
Gm 39 vs KC: L 9-4 (Dobnak 4.2 IP, 8 R, 4 ER)
Gm 40 vs KC: W 4-3 (Berrios 7 IP, 2 ER, W)

AL CENTRAL STANDINGS

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THE RUNDOWN

Last time, commenters overwhelmingly voted for Randy Dobnak as the choice to replace Rich Hill as fifth starter, so we made it happen. Runner-up Devin Smeltzer was called up to fill Dobnak's long relief role in the bullpen.

To his credit, Hill took the news of being DFA'ed quite well. After passing through waivers, he in fact accepted an assignment to the minors. At 40, the man is keeping his dream alive and you've gotta respect it. Should he turn things around in Rochester, he could factor as a late-inning reinforcement for the rotation.

With about 25% of our season in the books, we're six games above .500 but still trailing the Indians by 5 1/2 in the Central. Cleveland's solid play since an 11-0 start to the season is keeping them well ahead of the pack with MLB's best record (30-13).

On our end, the most noteworthy storyline is our team's impeccable run of good health; we've not used the Injured List once through six weeks. Personally, I credit the manager's routine of steady rest and careful pitcher workload management. But that's just me.

At this milestone juncture of the season, it felt fitting to give everyone a big-picture view of how the roster's faring. Here the numbers so far for our starting lineup:

  • Max Kepler, RF: 161 PA, .317/.379/.510, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 32 R
  • Josh Donaldson, 3B: 181 PA, .294/.376/.550, 12 HR, 30 RBI, 27 R
  • Nelson Cruz, DH: 169 PA, .322/.391/.530, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 18 R
  • Eddie Rosario, LF: 157 PA, .290/.325/.510, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 22 R
  • Miguel Sano, 1B: 153 PA, .315/.425/.598, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 18 R
  • Jorge Polanco, SS: 156 PA, .274/.372/.407, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 19 R
  • Mitch Garver: C: 118 PA, .263/.398/.453, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 15 R
  • Luis Arraez, 2B: 133 PA, .307/.406/.500, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 22 R
  • Byron Buxton, CF: 134 PA, .193/.260/.235, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 11 R

And the bench...

  • Marwin Gonzalez, UTIL: 87 PA, .269/.345/.487, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 10 R
  • Alex Avila, C: 60 PA, .269/.367/.596, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R
  • Willians Astudillo, C: 47 PA, .256/.304/.279, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 5 R
  • Jimmy Kerrigan, OF: 25 PA, .130/.200/.217, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 R

Here are the numbers for our rotation, including the newly added Dobnak...

  • Jose Berrios: 52.2 IP, 4-3, 4.61 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 37-to-22 K/BB
  • Jake Odorizzi: 53.2 IP, 4-3, 2.68 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 54-to-15 K/BB
  • Kenta Maeda: 49.2 IP, 5-0, 2.54 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 48-to-29 K/BB
  • Homer Bailey: 40.0 IP, 4-1, 4.95 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 33-to-17 K/BB
  • Randy Dobnak: 23.2 IP, 1-1, 4.18 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 10-to-11 K/BB

And the bullpen, listed basically in order of the leverage hierarchy I've been using...

  • Taylor Rogers: 18.1 IP, 1.47 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 16-to-3 K/BB, 10/11 SV
  • Tyler Duffey: 17.0 IP, 2.12 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 20-to-9 K/BB
  • Trevor May: 16.1 IP, 3.31 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 20-to-8 K/BB
  • Tyler Clippard: 17.0 IP, 2.12 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 13-to-10 K/BB
  • Sergio Romo: 14.1 IP, 4.40 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 13-to-3 K/BB
  • Zack Littell: 14.0 IP, 2.57 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 9-to-4 K/BB
  • Jordan Balazovic: 19.1 IP, 8.84 ERA, 2.17 WHIP, 18-to-7 K/BB
  • Devin Smeltzer: 5.1 IP, 8.44 ERA, 2.81 WHIP, 1-to-5 K/BB

I'll share a few general notes and thoughts, then we'll dissect some decisions that lie ahead of us as we look to gear up for key stretches in the schedule.

Much like last year, offensive dominance has come in a holistic fashion. Everyone in the lineup (save Buxton) has been very good, and the team ranks second in the majors in runs scored (213), but no individual player's been out-of-this world. As such, the Twins aren't leading All-Star voting at any position position. (Miguel Sano and Max Kepler have the third-most votes at first base and right field.)

May Day? More like Maeda Day. On May 1st, I ran into my most controversial decision of the season. Kenta Maeda was through eight innings against the Angels with zero hits allowed. He had, however, issued six walks and run up a fairly high pitch count, with this stamina teetering on the brink of depletion. Rather than strain our best starter in pursuit of the no-hitter, I turned to the bullpen with a 5-0 lead. Zack Littell gave up a couple runs before Taylor Rogers came in for a cheapy one-out save. Maeda's been a steady force atop the rotation with his 5-0 record and 2.54 ERA. (If you're curious, Brusdar Graterol has a 7.33 ERA in the rotation for the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate.)

My favorite game of this set: Maeda's no-no flirtation was a fun one, of course, but four days later we came out on top of an 11-inning thriller against the Giants with a Target Field walk-off. A game log snapshot of the ending is below, and I'm presenting it mainly just to pat myself on the back for a great pinch-running decision. (Kepler was on the bench due to a planned rest day.)

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Dobnak's transition to the rotation has been rocky. His first start came in Anaheim against the Angels, and things didn't go well. A first-inning homer by Mike Trout set the tone in a tough outing that lasted only 2 2/3 frames, with the Halos scoring four times on six hits and a walk. Zero strikeouts. Dobnak's next turn at home against the Royals didn't go swimmingly either (4.2 IP, 8 R, 4 ER), although a costly Marwin Gonzalez error hurt him, as evidenced by half of the runs charged against him being unearned. Dobnak has allowed eight earned runs in 7 1/3 innings as a starter after allowing three in 16 1/3 innings as a long reliever.

Incredible performances in the American League. It won't likely come as a surprise that the league-pacing Indians have two familiar contenders in the MVP race – Jose Ramirez has a 1.168 OPS and Francisco Lindor is scantly behind him at 1.055. But the talk of the league through early May, without question, is Boston's J.D. Martinez, who is unconscionably slashing .363/.414/.819 with 19 home runs and 46 RBIs through 39 games. Those totals put him on pace to finish with 77 homers and 186 RBIs. Martinez is either gonna cool down at some point or re-write the modern record books.

The two Martinezes and Lindor have their teams (Cleveland and Boston) in first place, with the two best records in the AL. How can our Twins get to this level? Time for some tweaking.

DECISION TIME: HOW CAN WE GET BETTER?

We've been playing pretty well, but need to keep pushing hard in order to close the gap against Cleveland. While there are no glaring needs necessarily demanding our immediate attention, I see a few different opportunities to proactively shake things up and address some trouble spots.

I'm gonna let you guys choose where we take action. Here are three ideas.

Option #1: Move Jordan Balazovic into the starting rotation

This probably seems counterintuitive and perhaps even moronic on the surface. Balazovic is struggling as a long reliever in the bullpen, with a ghastly 8.84 ERA and 2.17 WHIP in 19 1/3 innings. However, I will submit he's pitched than the numbers show. He has a higher overall rating (74) than Dobnak (73) or Homer Bailey (73). And here's the thing, that rating could theoretically be a lot higher.

MLB The Show 20's Franchise Mode has a player morale system, which actually has a meaningful impact on outcomes. The idea is that if a player is unhappy, he'll play worse. Balazovic has the lowest morale on the team, and it's dragging down his overall rating by a whopping five points, from 79 to 74. This is partially because he's getting crushed, and partially because he's not in his desired role.

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What if we give him a shot in the rotation and see if it gets things moving in the right direction? Production could hardly be worse than we've received from Hill or Dobnak in that spot, and Balazovic offers more achievable upside than anyone else in this mix. I'll admit, though, it's a hasty plug-pull on Dobnak.

Option #2: Call up Brent Rooker to replace Jimmy Kerrigan

Kerrigan's a reasonably functional bench piece, but he hasn't been any kind of difference-maker in a month seeing being called up. If we want to swap him out, we could aim a little higher. In 25 games at Rochester, Rooker is hitting .282/.384/.565 with a team-leading six home runs for the Red Wings.

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My thinking is that we can rotate Rooker through left field semi-frequently, with Rosario going to right and Kepler to center. Buxton still hasn't been able to get anything going at the plate, so a reduction in playing time is as warranted as the opportunity for Rooker.

Option #3: Call up Fernando Romero for the bullpen

Remember him? He's pitching well through 12 appearances (one start) at Triple-A, with a 3.45 ERA and 29-to-8 K/BB ratio through 28 2/3 innings. His high stamina rating (75) would make him a nice fit as replacement for Devin Smeltzer, who's been a complete mess since joining the big-league bullpen (5 BB, 1 K in 5.1 IP).

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Decisions loom large, with a series in Cleveland coming up on the next road trip and no off days in the next two weeks. What should we do? Sound off in the comments to voice your preference. Feel free to vote multiple times on this one if you're so inclined, since they're non-exclusive.

COMING UP

5/11: @ DET
5/12: @ DET
5/13: @ DET
5/14: @ DET
5/15: @ CLE
5/16: @ CLE
5/17: @ CLE
5/18: vs BAL
5/19: vs BAL
5/20: vs BAL

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS

Part 1: We Can Build This Thing Together (0-0)
Part 2: 10 Games In, 6 Games Back (4-6)
Part 3: Roaring Back (11-9)
Part 4: Over the Hill (17-13)

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY

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This story first appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared through a collaboration with Bring Me The News

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