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Game Thread: Twins vs. Red Sox 12:10 am GMT 6/19/2018

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:13 PM
Welcome to tonight’s game thread where the three people that tune in to watch the game will be treated to what most certainly will be the...
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Article: Is Paul Molitor the Right Man to Lead the Twins?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:01 PM
Shortly after they hired Paul Molitor as manager in November of 2014, the Twins invited me to Target Field for a one-on-one interview wit...
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Article: 2018 GCL Twins Roster Preview

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 07:52 PM
On Monday, the GCL Twins began their 2018 season with a win against the GCL Orioles. After previewing the Elizabethton Twinsyesterday, to...
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Article: Lance Lynn Was Worth The Wait

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 07:38 PM
It has been an eventful last few months for Lance Lynn to say the least. It all started back in November, when he became a free agent for...
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Interesting article about Buxton

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:55 PM
I enjoyed the article linked below about Buxton. As you can see, the Twins and lots of other folks seem to think that he could be a hall...
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Recent Blogs


Can History Repeat? A Hopeful Look Back to 2006

The Twins are in bad shape right now. They've lost 11 of their last 12 games and their postseason odds have taken a nosedive. Given the various concerning issues cropping up, it might feel difficult to envision a turnaround that puts this team back on a contending track.

But doing so would hardly be unprecedented. If you're seeking a concrete basis upon which to stake your hopes, all you need to do is turn the clock back a dozen years.
This year's Twins finished April with a 9-15 record, which puts the team on pace for more than 100 losses. Of course, as you may recall, Minnesota also finished with a 9-15 April record in 2006. That team eventually kicked things into gear around midsummer, and wound up taking the division with 96 wins, most in modern Twins history.

Can this year's iteration orchestrate a similar reversal? Let's take a look at some of the ingredients that fed the 2006 club's rise from the ashes, and see where the current Twins might be able to strike a similar note.

An Ace Atop the Rotation

Then: Johan Santana picked up his second Cy Young award with a phenomenal season, winning 19 games with a 2.77 ERA while leading the league in strikeouts. He was in his absolute prime. The Twins went 22-12 in his starts, including 20-3 from June through September while mounting their charge.

Now: Jose Berrios is the team's best hope for anything resembling a Johan to lead the rotation. He certainly looked the part in his first few starts but has obviously taken a major downturn in the past couple. I remain confident that the talented young righty will settle in at a level that, while solidly below 2004 Santana, is still as good as than anything the Twins have featured since Santana left town.

Of course, there's another Santana set to join the current rotation within the next month. And while Erv is certainly no Johan, he does give the Twins another legit No. 1/2 type if he's throwing the way he has over the past two years.

Rookie Sensation Enters the Starting Fold

Then: After spending his first six weeks in the bullpen, Francisco Liriano joined the rotation in mid-May. From then until the end of July, he put together about as dominant a stretch as you'll see from a starting pitcher, going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 105-to-28 K/BB ratio over 93 innings in 14 starts.

We know how the rest of the story goes: he felt elbow discomfort in his first start of August, landed on the DL, came back for one try in September and went down with a torn UCL. But during that brilliant midsummer stretch Liriano was a fortune-altering force, with an infectious electricity that seemed to energize the team.

Now: Can Fernando Romero make a similar impact? It's certainly not unthinkable. The hard-throwing right-hander is set to make his Twins debut on Wednesday and could stick if he looks good.

I've heard from multiple longtime followers of the Twins system who've suggested Romero has the best stuff they've seen from a Twins prospect since Liriano. We ranked him as our No. 1 Twins prospect last year and No. 2 this year (only unseated to the arrival of teen phenom Royce Lewis). Rochester pitching coach Stan Cliburn calls Romero's a "golden arm." We'll see if it can give Minnesota's rotation the Midas touch.

High-Octane Bullpen

Then: Peak Joe Nathan as closer. Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain as quality setup men. Dennys Reyes as a supremely effective southpaw specialist. Pat Neshek as the critical midseason reinforcement. That was a hell of a unit – one that went 72-1 when taking a lead into the eighth inning.

Now: This area of comparison feels like a major stretch based on what we've seen. Fernando Rodney has already blown more saves in April (3) than Nathan did in all of 2006 (2), and plenty of others are struggling.

BUT...

Rodney was also really bad in April last year, before turning it on with a – dare I say? – Nathanesque performance in the final five months. Granted, he's now 41 and the past does not predict the future. But on the whole, you can make a case this bullpen has the ability to stack up against that '06 corps if more guys start playing to their ability. Especially if they can get a Neshek-like infusion sometime this summer. Maybe Luke Bard or Tyler Jay?

This current unit is averaging 9.3 K/9. It's the first time since 2006 (when Twins relievers led the league in K/9 rate) that Minnesota has legitimately boasted a power pen.

MVP-Caliber Slugger

Then: On the offensive side, Justin Morneau was a driving force in the emergence of the 2006 Twins. He slashed .352/.403/.598 with 24 home runs and 94 RBI over the final four months to power the lineup and earning himself an MVP award.

Now: Miguel Sano is capable of being a similarly fearsome force at the heart of the order, and we've seen it in flashes, but he has yet to put it all together the way Morneau did in '06. Maybe it's still coming? The contextual similarities are hard to ignore.

Morneau entered that campaign coming off a disappointing season, facing questions about whether he'd ever reach his lofty potential. He hit .208/.274/.416 in April before starting to get it going in May (when he turned 25) and fully exploding from June onward.

This year, Sano hit .213/.289/.450 in April. He's currently sidelined by a hamstring injury but should be back next week. He turns 25 this month.

Excellence Up the Middle

Then: Morneau was a big factor as a top-tier slugging first baseman, but that team's strength up the middle – Joe Mauer at catcher, Luis Castillo at second, Jason Bartlett (eventually) at short, and Torii Hunter in center – was also instrumental. That quartet combined for 13.4 WAR, helping to make up for some weaknesses elsewhere.

Now: This current group is capable of approximating that kind of impact. Rather than Mauer and Hunter as the stars, with Castillo and Bartlett as quality role players, it's Brian Dozier and Byron Buxton as the stars with Eduardo Escobar/Jorge Polanco and Jason Castro/Mitch Garver lending solid support.

Last year Dozier, Buxton, Escobar and Castro combined for 11.7 WAR. Not too far off.

SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS...

I've got to admit, I found this exercise reassuring. These parallels are fairly compelling to me. Yes, this year's Twins have their troubles, but man, so did that '06 squad in the early going.

Remember the Rondell White free agent bust? Remember being subjected to almost half-a-season of Tony Batista? Remember Carlos Silva, Scott Baker, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza combining to make 64 starts despite all being some level of disastrous? Oh and by the way, that 2006 AL Central featured three 90-game winners, whereas this year's will probably have three 90-game losers.

If there's one takeaway that sticks out more than any when looking back at '06, it is this: the baseball season is long. Those Twins were not only 9-15 in April, but 25-33 and 11.5 games out of first place as late as June 7th. They still ended up winning almost 100 games.

Of course, it's not often that even a superb team is going to play .660 baseball over four months. But hopefully this year's Twins won't put themselves in such a corner. Despite the miserable stretch over the past couple weeks, they're still not there yet.

They soon will be if they can't get healthy and out of this funk in a relative hurry.

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14 Comments

Silver linings articles on May 2nd. It's going to be a long summer, isn't it?
    • USAFChief, Jerr, Mike Sixel and 4 others like this

Yes the season is long and yes there is still time in this very weak division. However, I don't think we are better than Cleveland and I don't think we can get to the Wild Card since we probably aren't better than the Angels, Mariners, Yankees or Red Sox- 2 of which will probably make it. Maybe our best hope is to catch the Indians once all our injured players get back to health. Crossing my fingers that this ends this weekend vs the White Sox. I don't think we will beat Stroman today even though he has not been very good.

No, no it can't.

Well written. So you're saying there's a chance?
    • adorduan and DocBauer like this

    • Jerr, KirbyDome89 and wsnydes like this

Nice take, but I can't get excited about this team and see the "silver linings"at this time.

 

They have no "fire in their belly" and seem to not care, hopefully it will change. As for now, I'll listen to them and follow, but I have no desire to go and see them.

 

    • Mike Sixel likes this

 

Rookie Sensation Enters the Starting Fold

Then: After spending his first six weeks in the bullpen, Francisco Liriano joined the rotation in mid-May. From then until the end of July, he put together about as dominant a stretch as you'll see from a starting pitcher, going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 105-to-28 K/BB ratio over 93 innings in 14 starts.

We know how the rest of the story goes: he felt elbow discomfort in his first start of August, landed on the DL, came back for one try in September and went down with a torn UCL. But during that brilliant midsummer stretch Liriano was a fortune-altering force, with an infectious electricity that seemed to energize the team.

Now: Can Fernando Romero make a similar impact? It's certainly not unthinkable.

I think it's pretty close to unthinkable to expect a similar impact from ANY pitcher. Especially one like Romero making his MLB debut after only 4 good but not dominant games at AAA. (Keep in mind, Liriano had 14 incredible starts at AAA in 2005, plus a 6 game September callup to MLB to get his feet wet, plus his early season bullpen work in 2006.)

 

This current unit is averaging 9.3 K/9. It's the first time since 2006 (when Twins relievers led the league in K/9 rate) that Minnesota has legitimately boasted a power pen.

I don't think that's necessarily a "power pen" in the context of 2018. That bullpen K/9 rate is only 14th in MLB this year, and it's artificially inflated by the number of hits we've allowed. Our bullpen K% is only 22nd in MLB.

    • Mike Sixel likes this
Photo
KirbyDome89
May 02 2018 10:05 AM

I'll settle for them just going back to the pinstriped uniforms from 06'

    • DocBauer and Vanimal46 like this

 

MVP-Caliber Slugger

Then: On the offensive side, Justin Morneau was a driving force in the emergence of the 2006 Twins. He slashed .352/.403/.598 with 24 home runs and 94 RBI over the final four months to power the lineup and earning himself an MVP award.

Now: Miguel Sano is capable of being a similarly fearsome force at the heart of the order, and we've seen it in flashes, but he has yet to put it all together the way Morneau did in '06. Maybe it's still coming? The contextual similarities are hard to ignore.

Morneau entered that campaign coming off a disappointing season, facing questions about whether he'd ever reach his lofty potential. He hit .208/.274/.416 in April before starting to get it going in May (when he turned 25) and fully exploding from June onward.

This year, Sano hit .213/.289/.450 in April. He's currently sidelined by a hamstring injury but should be back next week. He turns 25 this month.

Nice write-up, Nick.Wish I were as optimistic.  

 

If people wonder why I rag on Sano all the time, this is a prime example.Given his ability, we should be talking about an MVP-caliber ballplayer.Instead, we are trying to conceptualize his penchant for not staying healthy enough to remain in the lineup, regardless of the reasons behind that.Maybe I'm guilty of my own double-standard of having probably more tolerance than most for brain injuries, but not giving injuries to other body parts the same benefit of the doubt. 

 

But as Souhan wrote today, Sano hasn't seen 500 PAs since 2013 in the minors.At what point comes the paradigm shift from envisioning Sano as a potential MVP candidate to one of, if not the, biggest waste of talent / potential in Twins franchise history? 

Nice write-up, Nick. Wish I were as optimistic.

If people wonder why I rag on Sano all the time, this is a prime example. Given his ability, we should be talking about an MVP-caliber ballplayer. Instead, we are trying to conceptualize his penchant for not staying healthy enough to remain in the lineup, regardless of the reasons behind that. Maybe I'm guilty of my own double-standard of having probably more tolerance than most for brain injuries, but not giving injuries to other body parts the same benefit of the doubt.

But as Souhan wrote today, Sano hasn't seen 500 PAs since 2013 in the minors. At what point comes the paradigm shift from envisioning Sano as a potential MVP candidate to one of, if not the, biggest waste of talent / potential in Twins franchise history?


As someone who's blindly defended Sano over the last 3 years, I'm slowly moving to your side...

We're all pretty sharp baseball minds here. I envision Sano being a force at cleanup ~.275, .900 OPS with 35+ HRs. Unfortunately it doesn't appear he's willing to change his batting approach.

It's going to be a damn shame if he continues to be a ~.240 batter that strikes out 40% of the time.
    • spycake likes this

IMO the biggest difference/weakness and there are more than one is the bullpen....that 72-1 figure WOW I forgot them being that lights out.I don't envision this team going on a '06 type of run.What has to happen is guys getting healthy and then giving the ole look in the mirror and asking themselves what do I need to do to help this club win games?It is May 2nd...but everyday you say it is only such and such a date is another game on the schedule you are losing to that mind set.We need to start winning series and like now!We hear the old cliché all the time of this being a business and we are all professionals etc...well it is time to start playing like it.Everyone gets paid to play and has a job to do.Our club has been very poor thus far in '18.

I remember 06 pretty well since it was one of my favorite regular seasons of all time. People say it can't be done now but they were definitely saying the same thing then. At one point I remember Mike and Mike both agreeing that you can stick a fork in the Twins because they are done. This was sometime in June when they were a dozen or so games back. I guess on the bright side is that these Twins don't necessarily have to win 96 games which means that from this point they can be 7 to 10 games worse than that 06 team and still have a shot at the playoffs.People say this or that is an absolute must and it is easy to say that we need Buxton, Sano and Santana to come back and play well but really, everyone needs to step up their game.The good news is they appear to have the talent to be able to do so.Capable? yes. Will they?That's why we watch because who knows.

    • Nick Nelson likes this
Nice article and an interesting perspective considering what the season has brought thus far
Not going to comment on final record or playoff chances, mostly because some things are simply unpredictable and out of the Twins hands. BUT...to comment on the primary points:

ROTATION:
No Johan. But a return of the current Santana, approximating who he has been the past few seasons, is a big boost. Berrios is talented I just don't worry about a few hiccups in the long term. Odorizzi is solid. Bang him if you will, but NOTHING in Lynn's resume says he's this bad. And let's be honest, going back to about mid season '17, this is the best Gibson has ever pitched. We may be beyond SSS at this point. The depth here is better than 2006.

TOP ROOKIE PERFORMER:
Maybe. Maybe Romero. Maybe Gonsalves. Maybe both to carrying degrees as each begins to establish themselves in 2018 to help and build for the future.

HIGH-OCTANE BULLPEN:
Reed is good! Pressly has shown flashes, and may have finally found himself. Rodney? Ugh! But at the same time, he did this last year in April too, as you mentioned, but his past 4 seasons may be the best of his career. The wheels will come off one day, doesn't mean now. Duke has been awful, but also nasty. He's looked much better as of late. Hildenberger, IMO, is a key. Better the past couple of appearances. Rogers in a rut, but he's shown before. And established or not, there are arms bouncing between the Twins and Rochester that have life.

MVP-OFFENSE-DEFENSE IN GENERAL:

Guys out, bad weather, weird start to the season, some tough luck and weird bounces. Fine. But no more excuses defensively! Just get your sh** together and play the defense you showd las year!

Sano has all the makings of a stud hitter, whether at 3B, 1B, DH, etc. He's still young, no matter what arguement you want to make. Don't tell me his scandal and rehab haven't had an effect. To give up on him at this point is a fools errand. As to the rest of the offense, there is just so much damn talent here in Rosario, Buxton, Kepler, Dozier, Escobar, Mauer and even Morrison you can't just fold tents due to frustration.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Come on people! I'm frustrated beyond belief with the rest of you! I'm pretty much P.O. at what I've been seeing the past 2 weeks. But it's 2018, not 2016. From top to bottom, this roster is better than '16 and even better than '17, taken as a whole. Rotation and bullpen wise, there are some really interesting arms to audition as well, even if they aren't lights out in first appearance. (I do object somewhat to 2 games played and shipped out again on the shuttle).

The Indians sucked for a time on '17 before cranking it up. Remember when the '17 Dodgers couldn't buy a win with their millions for a time?

Hate to sound like the proverbial roses and sunshine guy when I've seen and smelled a lot of urine the past couple of weeks, but really look at the roster, overall, and some of the weird crap that has marked the first 1/5 of the season.

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