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Know Thy Enemy: Q&A with Twinkie Town

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Getting intel from a Twins writer

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

As part of the preview for the Astros’ upcoming Wild Card Series with the Minnesota Twins, I exchanged questions and answers with the Twins’ SBNation site, Twinkie Town. Here’s Twinkie Town’s managing editor, TJ Gorsegner:


1) The Twins’ offense was elite last year, now it appears to have been more middle-of-the-pack this year. What do you think has been the biggest regression, regarding the lineup as a whole?

TJ: Injury is the big difference maker. In 2019, the Twins were largely healthy. This season, most of their regulars have been out at some point or another. Mitch Garver regressed harder than anyone at the plate, and we’re pretty sure he just never found his timing—he also missed a huge chunk of the year, and rookie Ryan Jeffers filled in admirably. Luis Arraez still made great contact, but also missed time, and came down to earth a bit. Max Kepler has struggled to hit lefties, so watch that matchup as well.

Overall, the Twins still hit home runs, although nowhere near last season’s historic rate. Still, the pitching staff has buoyed the team through, and as long as they get a little run support, the Twins are dangerous—they don’t have to score 5 or 6 runs per game to win.

2) Which position player or pitcher has been the most surprising — for good or bad reasons — this season?

TJ: Why don’t I give you one of each? On the position player side, I already mentioned Jeffers. He’d never played above double-A, and barely even there this season, yet has been our best offensive catcher, and done a good job with the staff from everything I’ve seen. Certainly, there haven’t been public complaints. Byron Buxton is a strong runner-up here, as he is playing at his full potential, but we had seen it in spurts in the past. On the negative, Garver has hit like crap this season.

For pitchers. Kenta Maeda has been fantastic. The Twins are paying him next-to-nothing (the Dodgers are paying part of his salary) and had to give up a high-potential bullpen arm in Brusdar Graterol to get him, but he’s looking like a steal so far. He’ll get some Cy Young votes, and deserves at least a few. You’ll see him for game one. A disappointing pitcher is absolutely Taylor Rogers. He appears to be having trouble locating his breaking ball, which is normally filthy, and has had an uncharacteristically bad season, with Sergio Romo being used over him in high-leverage situations by the end of the season.

3) Is there a unit of the Twins (lineup, rotation, bullpen) that you feel good about heading into the postseason? How about one that you’re concerned about, if any?

TJ: Wow, it feels strange to say this, but I am really confident in our rotation. Its not 2016 Cleveland good, but it’s solid, especially for a top three. Maeda we’ve discussed, and Jose Berrios is a solid #2. Twins fans have been wanting him to become a true ace for years, and he shows the potential at times, but right now, a solid #2 is exactly what he is. Michael Pineda is perhaps the best pitcher on this staff, and lines up as #3. He’s been hurt and suspended throughout his career, but when he stays on the mound, he’s nasty. Behind those guys, the Twins still have Rich Hill, who has come on strong lately. Jake Odorizzi has had a wasted season, but was great last year. Randy Dobnak, who pitched so well in the first half, fell off enough to be sent to the alternate site.

Most of the bullpen is also strong, and underrated. Tyler Duffey might be the best reliever in baseball that we aren’t talking about. Trevor May has also been good. Tyler Clippard and Sergio Romo are both solid pitchers with a stack of playoff experience. Even Matt Wisler has been a great weapon when used in the right spots. Caleb Theilbar has also been very good this season, after half a decade out of the majors.

4) Do you see the Twins having a significant advantage or disadvantage against the Astros? If so, what is it?

TJ: The biggest advantage, as of right now, is probably home field. The Twins have been very, very good at Target Field, and pedestrian on the road. The Astros appear to be in the same boat. On the field, I think our top three starters will outmatch most of your hitters. There are a few guys who are still scary, but this isn’t an offense that puts fear into anyone. Maeda, especially, has been tough on right-handed hitters, which it looks like the Astros roster is heavy with. Pineda also has a strong split, in his favor against righties, while lefties have hit him well.

5) Is there one player in particular who must perform well in order for the Twins to make a deep playoff run?

TJ: The Twins strength on offense is that they don’t rely on one-or-two players for the most part. Luis Arraez is a contact hitter, but has doubles-power, and literally everyone else can hit a home run in any at bat. Nelson Cruz has continued to impress people, on the wrong side of age-40. Miguel Sano is an all-or-nothing three-true-outcomes type. Of course, we need the pitching staff to do well, but the one player the Twins sort of live-or-die with is Byron Buxton. Over the last couple seasons, his presence in the lineup has been a great predictor of the Twins will do. This year they are 26-13 with him roaming center field. In 2019, the Twins were 62-25 with Buxton playing. He has to stay healthy, but he is a real difference maker if/when he does. He’s also been one of the stronger hitters for the Twins this season.

6) What are your predictions for the series?

TJ: The Twins win in three. Maeda keeps the Astros bats quiet in game one and takes a win as the Twins take advantage of a couple mistakes from Greinke. Game two is going to be mostly more-of-same, but Berrios gives up a couple home runs and the Astros take it. Game three ends up as a Twins victory, but is the highest scoring of the bunch, and is a back-and-forth affair.


I’d like to thank TJ for doing this and giving us his perspective. As for my answers to his questions, here is the link. I’d like to apologize in advance for my answer to his 5th question. It’s just my honest feeling.