A reader earlier this week sent an email with a simple subject line: "Mistake?"
Concerned that perhaps something I had written or said contained an error, the missive was quickly opened. To my relief, it was instead a dissection of whether the Twins would be correct to start Pablo López in Game 1 of the Wild Card series next week — as they are lined up to do — or if Sonny Gray was a better option.
Ben, the emailer, provided some good evidence making his case for Gray — including the veteran's 2.95 ERA in four career playoff starts. At the end, he also made a case that Kenta Maeda should start Game 3 over Joe Ryan.
These are worthy and fun debates, and I weighed in on my preferences during Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast.
But in getting caught up in the margins of the debate, we might be overlooking two more interesting broader points:
*The Twins have good candidates to pitch throughout a three-game series — and a five- or seven-gamer as well, a rarity during their 18-game playoff losing streak.
*And the seeming top four rotation candidates were all acquired in trades in four consecutive seasons, with López (this year) and Gray (last year) being the two most recent. Before that it was Ryan (midyear 2021) and Maeda (2020).
Some of those trades were either unpopular, risky or both at the time. The Twins had to give up fireballer Brusdar Graterol to get Maeda, dealt the popular Nelson Cruz to get Ryan, traded first-round pitching prospect Chase Petty to get Gray and parted with 2022 AL batting champion Luis Arraez to get López.
But if recent playoff outcomes have told us anything, it's this: high-end pitching and home runs tend to mean the most in October.
The high-end pitching acquired by Derek Falvey has given them a chance this year. Or, as colleague Howard Sinker quipped, "I don't think a rotation of Arraez, Cruz and Petty would have gotten the Twins to the postseason."
Arraez would have helped the lineup, but his departure opened up a role for Edouard Julien (.821 OPS to Arraez's .860 this year). Petty, still just 20, had an impressive year primarily at Class A. Cruz finally looks his age at the plate.
Pending free agents Gray and Maeda could very well be gone next year, though I don't think any Twins fans want to imagine a rotation without Gray.
For now, the starters have been the Twins' most consistent strength all season. And those four trades just might help the Twins not only snap their playoff losing streak but keep playing deeper into October.
Here are four more things to know today:
*Chris Paddack, another starting pitcher acquired via trade by Falvey, made his long-awaited return Tuesday 16 months after Tommy John surgery. He could be a factor in the postseason, and is under contract through 2025.
*Seattle beat Houston last night. Texas and Toronto also lost. The Twins truly might not know their playoff opponent until after Sunday is over. But know this: FanGraphs gives them just a 0.8% chance of being the No. 2 seed and getting a bye, so that dream is almost dead.
*The Gophers men's basketball team won just nine games — and only two in the Big Ten — last season. Improvement this season might be part wins and losses and part eye test, but it's definitely a big season for Ben Johnson. Star Tribune beat writer Marcus Fuller and I talked about that on today's podcast.
*Travis Kelce talked about Taylor Swift being at Sunday's game to see him. Local Swifties might want to note that Kelce's Chiefs will play the Vikings in 11 days at U.S. Bank Stadium.