Houston Astros vs. Minnesota Twins
Tuesday, September 29, 2020 – 2:00 PM EDT at Target Field
- Astros: Greinke (3-3 4.03 ERA)
- Twins: Maeda (6-1 2.70 ERA)
The 2020 MLB Playoffs are here and the American League Wild Card game between the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins derived into Sunday’s results and the matchup came to most as a surprise. The Minnesota Twins come into today’s game with a 16-game playoff losing streak. The Houston Astros have not been as impressive as the past years, however, they are in a familiar scenario here in the 2020 Postseason, and will look for experience as an advantage as they have been in the American League Championship Series for the past three seasons.
2019-2020 Pitcher Breakdown
|Skill-Interactive ERA||Batted Average in Balls Play||Expected Fielding Independent Pitching||Walks per 9 innings||Home Runs per 9 innings||Strikeout Rate|
|Greinke||SIERA 3.90||BABIP 0.284||XFIP 3.68||BB/9 1.27||HR/9 0.88||K/9 8.29|
|Maeda||SIERA 3.81||BABIP 0.237||XFIP 3.67||BB/9 2.52||HR/9 1.24||K/9 10.03|
Zack Greinke had five starts in the 2019 Post Season at 0-2 with a 4.68 ERA. Through the 2019-2020 season, he has maintained a low BB% (Walk Rate) though dealing a higher XFIP among the starting postseason pitchers today.
Kenta Maeda is coming into this series with an MLB leading 0.75 WHIP (Walks & Hits per Inning Pitched) and making his first playoff appearance since 2016. Once you reach a level below 1 WHIP you are categorized as one of the elite all-time pitchers in the MLB and Maeda has shown this control through the 2020 season and represents a high 28% K rate.
The Minnesota Twins bullpen is 3rd in the MLB with 3.3 wins above replacement and has been a tremendous yet quiet strength of this team.
2020 Team Offense Breakdown
|Weighted On-Base Average||Isolated Power|
|Astros||wOBA .311||iSO .168|
|Twins||wOBA .320||iSO .187|
The Houston Astros have clearly regressed on offense in 2020 post their cheating scandal. Whether that is the cause or not, we have seen their overall performance offensive production decrease vs the past seasons.
Today’s matchup is tricky for Houston Astros batters as Kenta Maeda may rely on Sliders (up to 50%) and this may create potential for Ks up and down the Astros lineup. Astros strikeout below average with a 19.8% K rate and Maeda may be able to exploit this as the team wOBA & iSO are not above levels we would fear.
All but one of the Astros lineup produces HH% (Hard Hit) at elite levels 34%-43%, however, Maeda limits HC% (Hard Contact) to a low 29.1%. Most of the Astros batters hold attractive wOBA & iSO levels from 2019 except Reddick & Maldonado.
The entire Minnesota Twins lineup has power with HH% 34% up to 50.7% while Zach Greinke gives up a controllable 35.4% HC. A benefit the Twins have is the return of Byron Buxton with 1.022 OPS (On Base) and 8 Home Runs after returning in September. Josh Donaldson returned September 2nd with a .925 OPS, 5 Home Runs, 2 Doubles, and 14 walks.
The Houston Astros of 2020 are not the same team we have watched the past years upon their cheating scandal. With or without scandals, the offensive production has decreased and we have seen this through the year with a 29-31 record after appearing in the 2019 World Series. This Wild Card matchup will not be easy for the Astros facing a commanding strikeout throwing Kenta Maeda as the Astros season is filled with a lack of offense.
The Minnesota Twins walk up to every plate appearance stoking fear into the opposing pitcher with their presence and power. Zack Greinke is not the same pitcher we once feared and respected in the postseason and I expect him to lose command by walking a batter or two and succumb to the power of the Minnesota bats and from an MLB betting odds perspective I personally feel the Money Line should be much higher.
Therefore, my MLB pick favors the Minnesota Twins to win game 1 of the American League Wild Card.