Few things were nearly unanimous in the preseason predictions, but among them, which team perched atop the AL Central was selected by almost everyone to win the division. Properly black and white. Stated clearly. The consensus choice: the Chicago White Sox. The 2022 midterm proved baseball’s paradoxical axiom that despite all the metrics and systems designed to refine predictions, there are no truths in this wild and beautiful game.
We asked Tom Ciaccio, who writes series previews for our sister site, Brewer Fanatic, to give us a look at the two-game Brewers series. Meanwhile, John Bonnes has done the same on our partner site. If you want to see that, click here. Despite their differences, these fanbases have at least one thing in common: they don’t really like the respective Chicago-based teams.
The Minnesota Twins are the sole holders of the first place and the only winning record in the division. The team leading the other league’s Central Division, the Milwaukee Brewers, face off in a brief two-game series. Both teams have solidified themselves as tough clients built on atypical means. The Brewers’ strength is run prevention led by a multi-ace rotation, where the Twins are arguably more complete, anchored by elite players like Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa and complemented by revitalized talents like Sonny Gray and Chris Archer.
The two-game interleague game often evokes lower stakes and a slightly deflated feeling, but both of these teams are charismatic baseball enigmas holding their own at the top of their divisions. While attention normally turns to the titans on the coasts, they should be fixed on the flyovers for this intriguing series. Let’s see the matches.
tuesday july 12
Jason Alexander (2-1 4.75 ERA)
Josh Winder (4-2 3.12 ERA)
29 year old rookie Jason Alexander had an unorthodox path to the big guys and is now enduring a suitably wobbly start to his career. After a pretty decent job starting as a spare for a thumped Brewers rotation, he was sent back to the bullpen. Working in relief hasn’t been a strong point for Alexander in his brief sample, giving up three earned runs in 2.1 innings over two throws. With Adrian Houser out with an elbow injury, Alexander will have another chance to show what he can do on the mound.
One patchwork rookie starter deserves another, and remedying the same shortage of seasoned starting pitchers is Josh Winder . Unlike the Brewers, the Twins didn’t start the season at a particularly enviable level of depth. That Winder ends up in the rotation isn’t particularly surprising, but the measure of his success so far might be. In 40 innings pitched, he hit a 3.12 ERA, and even with his FIP almost a point higher (4.09 to be precise), it still can’t be said that Winder’s sample at this point is impressive. .
Wednesday July 13
Aaron Ashby (2-6 4.52 ERA)
Joe Ryan (6-3 3.09 ERA)
After a promising start to his 2022 campaign, Aaron Ashby enjoyed a long slide of average to poor performances before finally picking up another victory against the Pirates on Friday. Scoring a W against the lowly Pirates is a heavy accolade on its own, and the fact that Ashby still gave up two out of five IPs in that start doesn’t alleviate concerns surrounding his trajectory.
All that said, Ashby’s resume gives plenty of reason to believe. Capitalizing on a five-pitch repertoire, Ashby managed an astonishing 10.75 K/9. The problem is that when Ashby doesn’t cheat the hitters, he gets hit hard by them. If he is to succeed against a hard-hitting Twins team, he will need to be strategic, deliberate and thrifty.
A cliché in the baseball world repeated so enthusiastically it’s almost an axiom is that when the Rays make a trade, the Rays win that trade. It’s still early in his career, but 26-year-old right-hander Joe Ryan is looking to break that mould. Shipped to Minnesota with a prospect Drew Strotman for Nelson Cruz and Calvin Faucher, Ryan has put together a very strong rookie campaign. In just under a hundred PIs combined, Ryan is the author of an ERA of 3.35 with an FIP of 3.86, corroborating the potential for budding excellence.
Players to watch
Josh Hader : In the event that the Brewers have a late-game lead and their dreaded closest emerges from the bullpen, it may not spell certain doom for the Twinkies. In terms adjusted by Hader, the All-Star and arguably baseball’s best close has struggled. In his final appearance, Hader allowed two hits and a walk and incurred a deserved run against the Pirates in what would ultimately be a successful stoppage. In the series that preceded this one, Seiya Suzuki walked against Hader on an inside-the-park home run. Adding an extra level of mystique to Hader is that there are rumors Brewers are at the very least willing to hear offers for the now four-time All-Star.
Keston Hiura : After a promising rookie campaign in 2019, Hiura’s value as a player slipped the following year and then disintegrated into unsustainability. At the end of his 2021 season, Hiura had an abysmal 0.251 WOBA, and with a negative UZR, it was almost time to wonder if the once-promising rookie would ever be able to stay in the big leagues. Lately, the sudden utility product has found new value for brewers. Moving from second to left field, Hiura flashed some impressive leather. At plate, strikeouts are worse than they’ve ever been, but the OPS+ for 2022 is 127, notable as he’s 22 points above his career average. If Hiura can get his form back, he will be the difference for the Brewers this year and for years to come.
Luis Arraez : When the Twins extended Buxton and signed Correa, it probably wouldn’t be expected that midway through the 2022 season, Twins second baseman Arraez would lead the team in WAR. Not only that, but he leads the majors in batting average, adding to the pattern that the Twins are unpredictable and, just as importantly, hugely fun. Arraez’s crescendo to excellence doesn’t sound like a fluke, and while he’s no stranger to Twins fans, it’s worth appreciating the development of a potential superstar.
Evaluating the teams as a whole would make things much more competitive, but the fact that the Twins are hosting the Brewers just as the two biggest question marks in their rotation are about to kick off doesn’t bode well for the club. crew. I think the Twins have at least one win here, but a sweep in the brief series seems perfectly reasonable.