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Series Preview: Battle for worst record in the AL

Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics
This guy wasn’t very good with the Twins.
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

The Minnesota Twins come to visit Tropicana Field in a match-up of teams with the worst records in the American League. Both teams enter the series winners of six of their last eight games. The Rays are currently 1.5 games “behind” the Twins for top draft pick among American League teams.

Match-ups:

Friday: Ervin Santana vs Blake Snell

Saturday: Jose Berrios vs Chris Archer

Sunday: Kyle Gibson vs Matt Andriese

Twins starters own the highest ERA in the majors.

Twins starters bring a league worst 5.24 ERA into the series, but they are only seventh worst with a 4.62 FIP. Twins starters have the second lowest strikeouts per nine innings at 6.58. Their 14.3% homer run per fly ball rate is tied for the sixth highest in baseball.

Ervin Santana has been far and away the Twins best starter. Santana owns a 3.66 ERA and 3.89 FIP. His 86 ERA- is well above average; he is the only Twins starter who has been this effective. Like most of the other starters he has a below average strikeout rate (17.2%) and allows fewer than average walks (6.3%). Right handed batters have had more success as they have hit .278/.316/.461 and .328 wOBA against Santana. This would be the first year he’s shown significant reverse splits, so I wouldn’t stack right handed bats.

Jose Berrios is a top 50 pitching prospect who has struggled in his first taste of MLB action this year. He appeared on the Baseball America Mid-Season Top 100 ranked number 20. Berrios has only managed 21.0 innings in five starts and allowed a 8.57 ERA and 5.84 FIP. Walks were a big problem his first time up as he walked 12 batters in 15 innings. His last start was his first since being recalled and he was much more successful, throwing the first quality start of his career: six innings, three runs, five strike outs and no walks.

Kyle Gibson has thrown 82.0 innings of 4.94 ERA and 4.46 baseball. Gibson is your typical Twins starter: He won’t strike you out (16.5% K rate) or walk you (7.3% BB rate). Gibson was roughed up his last start against the Indians. They put up six runs over 4.2 innings on ten hits with two being homers. Left handed batters have mashed Gibson to a .318/.362/.480 line and .360 wOBA.

Twins bullpen is a mess that is now missing Abad.

At the trade deadline the Twins shipped Fernando Abad to the Red Sox for Pat Light. Kevin Jepsen looks like a new guy in the Rays bullpen after putting up bad results before being DFA’d by the Twins.

Brandon Kintzler doesn’t fit the profile of your standard closer, but he’s been effective in the role. He’s converted eight of nine save opportunities and put up a 2.08 ERA over 34.0 innings. He doesn’t strike many out at 16.2%, but he also very rarely walks anybody as he’s only walked 2.2% of batters faced.

Trevor May has put up the most impressive peripherals, but has allowed a 4.79 ERA against a 3.37 FIP. He’s struck out 32.8% of batters and walked 7.9% of batters. He’s had trouble stranding runners as he’s only allowed a 66.5% left on base rate.

Twins offense put 10+ runs in three straight games against the Indians.

The Twins only managed two runs yesterday, but in the first three games of the series against the Indians they put up 12, 10, and 13 runs. Those three games were started by Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer.

The Twins offense has been roughly league average as they put up a .256/.322/.427 line and 99 wRC+. The Twins have been marginally more successful against left handed pitchers as they have hit .258/.326/.444 and put up a 105 wRC+.

Max Kepler has been scorching and the best hitter of Twins regulars. On Monday he had a three homer game. He is hitting .263/.346/.554 and 135 wRC+. He’s hit 15 homers in 244 major league plate appearances after hitting only one in 128 AAA plate appearances this season.

Brian Dozier is putting up the best season of his career as he’s batting .263/.341/.506 and 124 wRC+ and leads the team with 22 homers.

Who will come out of the three game series with the inside track on the best draft position of AL teams?

The Rays would have to be swept to fall behind the Twins. The Rays pitchers have been throwing the ball extremely well as they lead the league with a MLB leading 2.42 ERA and fourth best 3.26 FIP.

The Rays are currently 5-2 in their first seven games of the ten game home stand. The Rays bats should have plenty of opportunities to try to put up their first winning home stand of the season.