Joe Ryan Should Be Twins’ 3rd Playoff Starter

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Texas Rangers
Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping two games in a row and failing to bury the floundering Cleveland Guardians last week, the Minnesota Twins turned to starting pitcher, Joe Ryan, to stem the tide on Friday night vs the Texas Rangers.

The mission: Someway, somehow the Twins needed their promising 27-year-old to step up and help grab a big momentum turning win vs one of the best and most accomplished pitchers in baseball, Max Scherzer.

Joe Ryan vs Max Scherzer

It was a tough ask, for a 2nd-year starter in only his 2nd appearance back, after a month-long stay on the injured list (groin). In response, Ryan produced one of the best outings in his young career, given the circumstances. He went 6 innings, allowing just 3 hits and 1 earned run. He struck out 7 along the way and didn’t walk a soul. When he and Scherzer were both removed, after the 6th inning, the Twins trailed just 1-0.

Joe Ryan631107174690.179
Max Scherzer610027088750.369

Immediately following Scherzer’s departure, after he held Minnesota to just one hit through six innings, Joe Ryan’s offense thanked their starting pitcher for a great performance by hitting two homers in the 7th inning that put the Twins up 3-1, a lead they wouldn’t give back.

Ryan Should Be Playoff Starter No. 3

As of now, the Minnesota Twins have two surefire playoff starters in their rotation, Pablo Lopez (164 IP, 3.72 ERA) and Sonny Gray (157 IP, 2.92 ERA). Prior to Friday night, Ryan (137 IP, 4.20 ERA), Kenta Maeda (78 IP, 4.69 ERA), Dallas Keuchel (18 IP, 3.50 ERA) and even Bailey Ober (122 IP, 3.67 ERA) — who was sent down to St. Paul last week — were all being considered as possible candidates for the final (3rd) postseason starter role.

But in Ryan’s two starts since returning from the IL, the picture has become more clear. Joe has thrown 11 innings, allowing 2 earned runs (both solo homers), on 8 hits, 14 strikeouts and 2 walks. Both appearances were against the Texas Rangers, a playoff contender.

Of course, Rocco Baldelli isn’t going to hand Joe Ryan a a spot on the playoff rotation because of two solid starts in a row. But that’s why we have to take a step back and look at Joe’s entire season. See, outside of one bad month, the Twins’ bicycle enthusiast and Grateful Dead fanboy has been arguably their best starter in 2023.

Healthy Joe Ryan vs Injured Joe Ryan

When Ryan went on the IL, following his 7th consecutive brutal start on August 2, we found out he had been hiding a groin injury from the team since June 27. It happened during a 3-inning start that day, vs Atlanta, and he played through the uncomfort for his next 6 starts.

In those 7 injured appearances, Joe posted an 8.63 ERA, 8.08 FIP and 1.137 OPS against. He also surrendered an astonishing 17 home runs. He struggled to finish and locate his offspeed pitches, so he threw mostly fastballs and MLB hitters love sitting on fastballs.

It’s his numbers outside of those 7 starts, however, that make a healthy Joe Ryan the obvious choice to be Minnesota’s 3rd playoff starter, come October. If you pull those appearances out of his 2023 resume, Joe has a 2.84 ERA, 2.90 FIP and .562 OPS against, in 104.2 innings, and he’s only surrendered 10 total home runs.

The side-by-side ‘healthy Joe vs injured Joe’ comparison is jaw dropping.

Injured6/27 – 8/2732.1311052178.638.08.336.389.7481.137.413

If Joe Ryan is healthy, not only has he proven to be a shoe-in as the Minnesota Twins 3rd playoff starter, but he’s shown he’s just as good as Lopez and/or Gray, too, creating one of the best 1-2-3 punches of all MLB postseason contenders.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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