Marquee Matchup – Rockies vs. Twins

I know this inter-league series doesn’t seem like it belongs on a marquee. But, check out the standings – these two are leaders in their respective divisions. For both organizations and their fans, it’s a welcome change from the mediocrity that has been the norm for more than half a decade. More after the jump.

The change in fortunes for these clubs in the early going has been mainly attributable to their revamped pitching corps, with the Twins moving to a more veteran staff (only one starter under age 29) while the Rockies have gotten considerably younger, with rookies (Antonio SenzatelaKyle FreelandGerman Marquez) holding down three of their five rotation spots. On offense, the Rockies are the graybeards with four starters aged 30+ and only one (Trevor Story, currently on the DL) aged 25 or younger. For Minnesota, five regulars (Jorge PolancoMiguel SanoEddie RosarioByron BuxtonMax Kepler) are aged 25 of younger, all just one or two years removed from their rookie seasons.

Game 1 matched Kyle Freeland for the Rockies against Twins’ veteran Phil Hughes. Hughes’ 5.23 ERA this season is not a surprise; his 4.48 ERA since 2010 is the fourth highest among active pitchers (min. 1000 IP). But, he hangs onto his job by turning in quality starts close to half the time. This year, Hughes has yet to reach triple figures in pitches thrown, so the Twins are getting what they can from him before handing it to the bullpen. On this night the teams matched each other through 5 innings, each scoring a pair in the second and adding a solo home run in the fourth. Hughes was still on the mound to start the 6th, so when the first two Rockies that inning went double, single to plate the go-ahead run, Minnesota wisely went to the bullpen for Tyler Duffey, relegated to relief duties this season after a 6.43 ERA in 26 starts last year. Duffey had a nice 1.62 ERA over his first 10 appearances, but stumbled a bit in his next outing against the White Sox, and again this night, giving up a double and home run, after retiring the first two Rox he faced. That damage came at the hands of lefty batters Gerardo Parra and Charlie Blackmon, so it’s perhaps surprising that Twins manager Paul Molitor didn’t go to a lefty in that spot, already down a run and needing to avoid further damage. He certainly had options as veteran Craig Breslow (2.03 ERA) and second-year man Taylor Rogers (3.65) were rested and available (indeed, Molitor did go to Breslow later in the game).  With a comfortable four run lead, the Colorado bullpen finished out the game, shutting out the Twins over the last three innings. Final score: Rockies 7, Twins 3

Charlie Blackmon had a breakout season (.324/.381/.552, 29 HR, 82 RBI) for Colorado last year and has kept it going this season with 24 extra-base hits (.601 slugging) a quarter of the way into the season. Blackmon’s 4.4 WAR season last year was the best ever for a Rockie primary center fielder (min. 100 games); indeed, only Blackmon and Dexter Fowler have managed more than one 100 game season in center with even a modest 2 WAR total.

Rain on Wednesday forced a twin bill on Thursday with Game 2 of the series pitting Twins ace Ervin Santana against 22 year-old German Marquez for the Rockies. Colorado jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, on Nolan Arenado‘s first inning solo shot and some nice small ball in the fourth with three runs on two walks (both scoring) and three singles. Mark Reynolds delivered the key two RBI single to give him 35 for the season, on pace for a gaudy 140 total that would be easily the best mark of his career. Minnesota got one of those runs back the next inning, cashing an Eddie Rosario triple, but again could get nothing off the Colorado bullpen. As happened in game 1, closer Greg Holland was called on to retire the last Twin batter, chalking up two of the easiest saves he’ll have this year, both needing just one out and with the tying run no closer than the on deck circle. Final score: Rockies 5, Twins 1

After a 0.95 ERA over his first 6 starts, Santana has posted 4.95 over the next three. Main problem is the long ball, with 5 over those three games though the opposition isn’t getting much else off him, with only a .188 BA over that stretch. The 33 year-old Reynolds seems to have found himself in Colorado with a .292/.367/.493 clip (112 OPS+) this season and last after only .216/.303/.395 (92 OPS+) over the three prior years. The new Reynolds has cut down on the strikeouts (32.3% of PAs through 2013, 26.7% since), but his power is still there with a team-leading 12 home runs to start this campaign.

Looking for the series sweep in the nightcap, Colorado started veteran Tyler Chatwood against second year man Jose Berrios for the Twins. Just 23, Berrios was called up to take Kyle Gibson‘s rotation spot, after Gibson went on the DL. As a rookie last season, Berrios was overmatched, posting an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts, with that ERA and his ERA+, BB/9 and WHIP all ranking second worst among 184 pitchers with 10 or more starts. On this night, though, Berrios brought his “A” game, shutting out the Rox on two hits through 7.2 IP and getting the win, his second in as many games since his call-up. Berrios is the youngest of six Twin starters to begin a season with back-to-back games of 7 IP and no more than one run and one walk allowed; one more like that (a tall order, to be sure) will tie him with Bill Krueger, who started 1992 with 3 such games and added a fourth with 8 IP, 1 R and 2 BB (alas, he ended the season with a 4.53 ERA). Final score: Twins 2, Rockies 0.

The Colorado bullpen pitched 11 innings in this series and did not allow a run. The Rox used an under-25 starter in 21 of their first 40 games, one game less than the franchise  record set by the 2015 team.

Six runs is the Twins’ lowest run production at home this season in a 3-game series; they had only two such home series last year. Minnesota’s team shutout in the series finale was their third so far this season, matching their total for all of last year. Third-year man Miguel Sano  recorded 28 RBI in the Twins’ first 30 games, tying Harmon Killebrew (1959) for the franchise record for third basemen.

Leave a Reply

22 Comments on "Marquee Matchup – Rockies vs. Twins"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
e pluribus munu
Guest
The match-up may not have had the marquee value of some, Doug, but for just that reason I learned more from this post than the initial ones in your series. When there were sixteen teams and i spent my income on baseball cards instead of long-term care insurance, I tracked every player on every team, and, of course, the old gridwork standings that papers printed daily let me memorize the team-by-team series match-ups as they played out. Now there are all sorts of corners of the game I fail to explore, and a post like this is a lot of… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

e p m,
if you go on retrosheet back to the good old days you see 8 games played with an occasional doubleheader – that’s it. Now we have 15 games with an average of 7 pitchers used per game. 12 pitchers on a roster…..ughh

Doug
Guest

That 184 pitchers having 10 starts last year kind of says it all. Wouldn’t want to have a GM’s job today – would be a major accomplishment to just to maintain a reliable assessment of the other major league talent, never mind all the contractual details.

e pluribus munu
Guest
Well, I didn’t mean to suggest that the old days were better – although, of course, they were for me. Today’s kids can keep track through endless broadcast games and sports review shows, online videos, MLB.com Gameday, and so forth – not to mention B-R and all the post-Macmillan tools that let you go deep into the game’s history and track current players against one another and against players of the past. And lots of very young fans know how to use Excel and other programs to crunch their own numbers and keep their own charts. I’m sure that beats… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

I just want to see:
1) 24 ML teams (might be more like the old 16-team days, population ratio wise)
2) larger ballparks
3) 7+ inning starters
4) a hit and run on occasion
5) a HBP after prior batter admires his HR

How’s that for good old days?

Richard Chester
Guest

There is one thing that we really need from the old days and that is shorter games, many of today’s games are torture to sit through. One improvement that I like is padded walls, many of today’s great outfield catches would not even be attempted with bare walls. Not to mention it has mostly eliminated Pete Reiser type injuries.

Doug
Guest
Hard to know how to speed up the games. Putting pitchers on the clock with nobody on base might help a little, but what really slows the game down, from my observation, is all the strikeouts and foul balls that result in high pitch counts. Many pitchers used to try to pitch to contact, to locate the ball in a place where the batter would hit the ball weakly. Now, pitchers are mostly trying to throw the ball past the batter with the result that you get swings and misses or foul balls. Balls in play seem to result mostly… Read more »
David P
Guest
Actually there was an interesting article on Fangraphs earlier this year re game length. The basic idea is that players are a lot faster and stronger than they used to be, which requires more patience from both batters and pitchers. The whole article is worth a read but here’s an interesting data point: “There were 102 players who had 300 PAs and fewer than five homers in 1976. Last year, there were 31. There were 86 players listed at 175 pounds or less who had 300 PA in ’76. Last year, there were 12.” Pitchers have to be a lot… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Yes, larger ballparks are the answer. You know, average player 185#’s in 1968; today 205? How about ~ 10% greater area in fair territory for these improved athletes to chase batted balls? I dunno….

Doug
Guest

Good points, David.

As you say, probably good reasons for pitchers wanting to avoid contact as much as possible.

e pluribus munu
Guest
I agree with Richard. I virtually never watch games in real time anymore. I live too far from an MLB city to go to games (anyway, the hyped up blasts of music that pervade the few games i’ve been able to go to don’t enhance the park experience for me), and on TV the combination of slow play and announcers who seem to be off their meds just makes me dream about summer nights when I used to hop in the car and drive aimlessly along country roads just so I could listen in the warm wind to Ernie Harwell’s… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

There’s a line in last 15 minutes of the film “No Country for Old Men” where Tommy Lee Jones says to Barry Corbin, “I guess it would be pretty narcissistic of me to think things were gonna go back to the way they were; the way I want them to be.”

By the same token we all have memories of a great game that’s changed a wee bit and not always for the better. So, maybe Rob Manfred reads this blog and these changes we suggest are imminent.

Scary Tuna
Guest
I was at the opening game of the series last Tuesday. After storms passed through all day, it cleared for a few hours and turned out to be a beautiful night for a game – about the only time it stopped raining this past week. My takeaways from watching the Rockies? First, their rookie pitchers have been unflappable, augmenting a strong staff that has been the reason this team has fared better than previous Colorado squads. Second, they have a goodlineup top to bottom that really hits the ball hard. Finally, Nolan Arenado might be the most underrated player in… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Thanks for the in person account, Scary!

Scary Tuna
Guest

I don’t get to many games, so after attending this one it was neat to see your recap of the series. Thank you for writing these Marquee Matchup posts, Doug. They are a lot of fun to read, and I look forward to each new one.

Scary Tuna
Guest
Santana threw another shutout tonight, two-hitting the Orioles at Camden Yards in (what else?) “a persistent rain shower that wasn’t quite fierce enough to cause umpires to stop play.” Santana is now 4-0 with a 0.31 ERA in his four road starts. The Twins have been mediocre at home (11-13), but a surprising 13-5 away from Target Field. Tonight they became the first team to win a series in Baltimore (previously 7-0) this season. Solid pitching was a welcome change after Minnesota’s offense had to carry them in the opener, when Kyle Gibson spotted the Orioles a 5-0 lead in… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Santana tonight tied Juan Marichal (1966) for the live ball era record of 8 starts of 6+ IP allowing one run or less within his team’s first 42 games. Walter Johnson also had 8 in 1914, and 9 in 1913.

When you add in allowing 4 hits or less in each of those starts, Santana stands alone, two games clear of Vida Blue in his dream season in 1971.

Ken
Guest

The Cardinals tied last night’s game in the 9th when a runner scored from second on a wild pitch by Kershaw. I wonder how unusual it is to have a 2-base advance on a wild pitch. BB Ref doesn’t have wild pitches in their Event Finder.

Richard Chester
Guest
You can do this. Go to the pitching event finder and set it for strikeouts with a runner(s) on first, on second and on first and second. Then sort the Play Description column by clicking twice. All strikeouts with a wild pitch will rise to the top of the list and look for an advance of 2 bases by 1 (or both) baserunners. You cannot make the run for too many years at once and you find advancing runners on strikeouts only. But there will be an awful lot of searching. You could also do a similar search with walks… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

I should that you should also do the PI run for runners on first and third, second and third and bases loaded. In other words all base runner conditions except runner on third.

wpDiscuz