Thursday, September 13, 2018

Contemplating Jake Odorizzi

Jake Odorizzi came five outs shy of a no-hitter Wednesday night, and we can expect Dick Bremer to make a big deal in coming days about the fact that this performance came against the Yankees.

Setting aside the mystery of why the Yankees have so dominated the Twins for so long, let's get this straight: The Yankees hit a lot of home runs (they lead the American League in that department), they draw a lot of walks (they lead in that department) and they score a lot of runs (they're second in that department, to the Red Sox). They aren't a great team at hitting for average, and that makes them somewhat vulnerable to being no-hit.

They didn't get no-hit, of course. They got one hit, a double that not only broke up the no-hitter but plated a run and drove Odorizzi from the game with a season-high (and career-high matching) 120 pitches.

Bert Blyleven wasn't doing this game, but I'm sure his reaction to Odorizzi throwing 120 pitches is a sarcastic: And his arm didn't fall off. But the last time (only) time Odorizzi threw 120 pitches -- June 3, 2016 for Tampa Bay against the Twins -- he followed that performance with a month in which his ERA rose by a run. I expect he will have rough outings the rest of the way.

Odorizzi made it clear after the game that, had his no-hitter remained intact, he expected to be allowed to pursue it. And given that the Twins aren't going to be in the playoffs and have plenty of starting options for what remains of the season, I'm fine with giving him the chance to make a little history.

2018 has been the worst, at least at a quick reading of his stat lines, of Odorizzi's five seasons in a major league rotation -- highest ERA, worst winning percentage, second-worst walk rate, second worst walk/strikeout ratio. He started on Opening Day, but that was a fluky miscast born of Ervin Santana's injury and the desire to set up Jose Berrios to pitch in the Puerto Rico series. Odorizzi has, in truth, been basically what we should have expected: A middle-to-back-of-the-rotation arm who has made 30 starts. Those don't grow on trees.

Odorizzi has another year left on his contract. A month ago I figured that the Twins might do well to clear him out to make room in the rotation for a younger arm with more upside. After watching Kohl Stewart and Stephen Gonsalves splutter, I'm less inclined to argue for pushing him aside.

The Twins figure to go into the offseason with a rotation foundation of Berrios, Kyle Gibson (also with one more year of control) and Odorizzi. That leaves two slots to fill, either internally or from the outside. They might improve the team by trading Odorizzi, but that would be because of what they get in return, not through the process of addition by subtraction.

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