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Twins fire Dougie Baseball

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 07:15 AM
http://m.startribune...?section=sports   Bummer. He sounds pretty pissed about it. Best of luck to him in the future.
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Article: NYY 5, MIN 2: Tough Night For Berrios, Twins

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 07:13 AM
The Twins led early but surrendered four unanswered runs and Jose Berrios lasted just 3.1 innings. Outside of Joe Mauer, this is an entir...
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Baseball is Good

Other Baseball Today, 06:27 AM
I've started a baseball-centric podcast. It touches on twins topics often, but otherwise it is more about the sport and life of baseball....
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It's Never Too Early for Magic Number

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 05:10 AM
Just a little Spreadsheet fun for those interested in knowing how many wins/losses the Twins need to clinch a playoff spot  ...
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Mauer 2000 hit countdown

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 05:10 AM
Three hits today brings him up to 1974, which was a very good year. How many of those 26 hits will he get in 2017? Can he get two hits...
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Five Takeaways From A Fun First Week

A good start to the season is only that. The Twins have played through only a tiny fraction of their schedule, and their strong play in the first week won't necessarily mean a whole lot in the grand scheme.

But it sure beats the hell out of the alternative, to which we've become all too accustomed.
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today
It's important not to blow small-sample trends and observations out of proportion at this time of year, even if there's a natural inclination to do so. Still, these five storylines loom large with two series victories in the books.

1. The outfield defense is an enormous difference-maker.

"Nothing falls but raindrops." Byron Buxton said that's the motto of Minnesota's athletic young outfield trio, and his unit has lived up to the billing. Buck has combined with Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler to take away several hits already in a handful of games, some of which would have surely yielded extra bases.

The commitment to outfield defense for Paul Molitor has been obvious in the way he's configured his lineups. Robbie Grossman appears to be more of a true DH and hasn't yet played an inning in the field. The advantage has been unmistakable.

A pivotal moment came early in Sunday's game when Yolmer Sanchez stepped in for the White Sox with two on and one out in the second. He launched one to deep left, inches short of the wall, but Rosario fought through the swirling wind and ranged back to catch it. Ervin Santana escaped the inning unscathed, en route to six scoreless. If Grossman is in left, that ball almost surely drops and it's a big inning. Those swings are monumental.

2. The rotation is bouncing back in a huge way.

Through six games, Twins starters have yet to allow more than three runs in an outing. Granted, they weren't always great, or in Adalberto Mejia's case even up to par. But the bottom line is that the starters have left every game winnable.

It's not worth reading into all that deeply, especially in light of the competition. In my Central Intelligence preview pieces on the Royals and White Sox, I explained why I expected both clubs to be down this year. It's a big reason we feel the Twins have an easy path to a bunch more wins in 2017.

Still, there weren't too many stretches of six consecutive games last year where a starter didn't put a game out of reach. In fact, the Twins have already – in the first week – doubled their starting pitcher win total from last April (2). We can look at this for what it is: a major statement from an embattled rotation that appears very capable of competing.

The bullpen has been nearly flawless thus far, deserving much praise in its own right, but I'll need to see that carry forward more before I buy in.

3. Byron Buxton is bewildered. Again.

There are many reasons that Buxton's immense struggles at the plate have been so conspicuous amidst an otherwise very successful start for the team. In part, it's the contrast of his approach, swinging wildly in quick at-bats while the rest of the lineup piles up walks and wears out opposing pitchers. There's also the fact that Molitor placed him in the spotlight by batting him third and sticking with it through four games.

But above all, Buxton draws attention because most fans recognize that he is vitally integral to this franchise taking the next step. It's nice things have shaken out favorably through one week, but ultimately, sustainable winning is largely contingent on the 23-year-old realizing some semblance of his potential at the plate.

The ugly numbers (2-for-26, 14 K, 1 BB) would not be so troubling if not for a history that includes a 35 percent strikeout rate in the majors and a perpetual need for Triple-A resets. Of course, Buxton has dominated that level, and every other one in the minors. He did the same last September with the Twins, and did enough this spring to convince Molitor he was ready for prime time.

Ability is not the issue here. It's evident the young outfielder is out of sorts – illustrated by the whiffs on hittable pitches in the zone as much as the chasing outside. What he probably (hopefully) needs is a continuing stream of steady at-bats, until he runs into a hot streak, gains confidence and takes off.

Fortunately, with the tremendous value he's providing on the other side (see item No. 1), it's pretty easy to live with him scuffling at the bottom of the order.

4. Jason Castro was just what this team needed.

No, he's not going to continue to walk in a third of his plate appearances or get on base at a .500 clip. But Castro is showing exactly the skills and strengths the Twins paid for. The steady vet is taking professional at-bats and has been a noticeable presence behind the plate.

The numbers will tell you that he's already getting his pitchers extra strikes, and at times it has been visibly apparent he's providing an edge. Plus, with the fast start, an optimist's mind cannot help but see a possible parallel with Castro's predecessor.

Kurt Suzuki was a solid hitter early in his career but went through several years of unexceptional production at the plate. He experienced an offensive reawakening in Minnesota, with two of his better seasons by OPS+.

Castro has a similar history, but tantalizes with greater upside. The former 10th overall pick and highly regarded prospect was a .269/.344/.454 hitter in 2012 and 2013 with Houston. The three years since have seen his performance tail off, but there's a very capable batsman in there.

5. The lineup should cause headaches all summer long.

Castro is just one Twin who is thriving in the batter's box early on, contributing to a deep lineup that has been able to apply pressure from top to bottom. They've faced some erratic hurlers early on, true, but Minnesota hitters are taking advantage with exceptional patience. This has enabled them to put up crooked numbers even without bats making much noise, and it certainly bodes well for a time when guys like Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer start connecting with more authority.

What has caught your eye most in the opening week of action?

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75 Comments

5 and 1.

 

The team is beating beatable teams, whereas last year beatable teams were beating the Twins.

    • glunn, jimbo92107, bluechipper and 4 others like this
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Rhino and Compass
Apr 09 2017 08:01 PM

Byron Buxton is at the same time one of the most vital reasons the Twins are successful, and one of the biggest areas of concern. Interesting. At this point, you can't possibly bench him or send him down, so what do you do to straighten out his bat? 

 

 I don't know. I can live with it so long a he doesn't take it to the field. 

    • glunn and bluechipper like this
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Deduno Abides
Apr 09 2017 08:02 PM
Sano: 5 XBH's in 6 games. Good coaching, good atmosphere; he's going to take the leap this year.
    • glunn, Han Joelo, Ryan Atkins and 7 others like this

For me...

 

#1 - That outfield defense... Always said Robbie Grossman's best defensive position was DH, and he's done fine in that role... But love seeing Rosario, Buxton and Kepler in the lineup.

 

#2 - Buxton's at bats... What happened to the leg kick? His timing is so off and it shows in the leg kick. Sometimes there's a tap. Sometimes a little lift. Rarely is there the big leg kick we saw in September and in spring training. And, like Nick wrote, the 91-92 mph fastballs that look right down the middle that are being missed if befuddling. I have 0 concern long-term yet, but it's just hard to explain that level.

 

#3 - Miguel Sano's approach. He seems to have his batter's eye back, and because of it, he's getting some better counts, and because of that, he's crushing the ball a lot. 

 

#4 - I love watching Ervin Santana pitch almost as much as I enjoy interviewing him or listening to him during interviews. He's fun to watch.

 

#5 - The Molitor Lineups - I like that he's not afraid to try new things, to have different lineups for platoon advantages. I like that he's generally going with Kepler and Rosario against lefties, allowing them to work on that part of their game in game action (Because they're too young to strictly platoon in my opinion), but putting them down in the order. Geez, can you imagine having Kepler and Buxton batting 8 and 9 ahead of Dozier?

 

#6 - Last one, but Polanco had a terrific first week with the bat. I don't expect him to be that good every week ,but I'm confident in his ability to hit. But I thought he did just fine at shortstop in the first week. Maybe one play he could have made that wasn't made, but for the most part, nothing he did at the position cost the Twins, and it that's the case... he'll be just fine there, very valuable. 

 

HM: The bullpen... the bullpen usage... 

 

 

    • glunn, Mike Frasier Law, HitInAPinch and 4 others like this
1-An under discussed point so far has been Sano and Polanco getting it done in the infield.

2-I love the Castro storyline.

3-The Rotation?!?!

4- The Bullpen?!?!

5- Buxton, what is going on at he plate? It's like he actively doesn't want to hit the ball.

6- Maybe were closer to contention than we thought. If we're in striking distance at the break do we buy or sell hoping to continue to push towards the future?
    • Blake, bluechipper, HitInAPinch and 1 other like this
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TheLeviathan
Apr 09 2017 08:30 PM

As good as the outfield defense has looked, the infield defense has been pretty good too.  We just need them to be competent and they've more than done that so far.

    • glunn, bluechipper, nytwinsfan and 6 others like this
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tbonecostanza
Apr 09 2017 08:41 PM
Not just the framing Castro does he's also been calling a better game for the pitching staff
    • glunn, wavedog, bluechipper and 7 others like this
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Pardon My Dinger
Apr 09 2017 08:48 PM
I don't think we'll be as impressed with the rotation (Erv excluded) once we start playing teams that are actually...good. But, I think that the Castro effect and the team Defense could be durable, and that would be a humongous step for this team.
    • glunn, Blake, Dantes929 and 5 others like this
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Pardon My Dinger
Apr 09 2017 08:50 PM
Also - not sure if the discipline will continue (not sure I trust these guys yet), but that is another encouraging trend.
    • glunn, Blake, hybridbear and 1 other like this
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bluechipper
Apr 09 2017 08:52 PM

Besides the great pitching, Jorge Polanco looking really good both in the field and at the plate has been great to see, and Sano looks more like the 2015 version.

    • glunn, TheLeviathan, Vanimal46 and 2 others like this
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tbonecostanza
Apr 09 2017 09:16 PM
Im always optimistic before each season it's who I am as a fan. New year new stats new record new schedule. I say enjoy this solid start. Great fans makes for players enjoying the win that much more
    • glunn and bluechipper like this
Buxton is too valuable to send down, it's hard to even give him a day off with the defense he is playing. Sano is much more patient at the plate and he is getting his pitches to hit. The bullpen has been outstanding, but we won't have to keep 13 pitchers if the starters keep pitching this way, like to see how Hughes does in Detroit. Polanco has been pretty serviceable at SS to my novice eyes, plus we know he will hit. So we had Buxton, Kepler and Rosario at the bottoms of the order, that's a pretty good lineup. Another big week, we miss Verlander, so looking for a 4-2 week.
    • glunn, Loosey, Broker and 1 other like this

 

Not just the framing Castro does he's also been calling a better game for the pitching staff

 

We can quantify the pitch framing... but I don't know that we know he's calling a better game. It's also possible the pitchers are executing the game plan better once through the rotation. I don't know how to compare Suzuki's game-calling to Castro's game-calling at all analytically.

    • glunn and HitInAPinch like this
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KirbyDome89
Apr 09 2017 09:36 PM

 

.#2 - Buxton's at bats... What happened to the leg kick? His timing is so off and it shows in the leg kick. Sometimes there's a tap. Sometimes a little lift. Rarely is there the big leg kick we saw in September and in spring training. 

I had the same question watching him so far this season. I was vocal about the Twins trying to mess with his leg action last season. I get that his K rate didn't really improve but his Sept. ABs looked much more comfortable. IMO you can learn to control the strike zone, Idk if you can ever "learn," to be comfortable. Hopefully this isn't a case of the team trying to push him back towards the toe tap. Whatever the reason for the poor PAs hopefully it turns around soon, I can be patient but its disheartening watching Buxton still struggle hitting.  

    • Loosey, Vanimal46, BuxtonBandwagon and 1 other like this
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Halsey Hall
Apr 09 2017 09:48 PM

Polanco's arm is much better than it was at the start of spring training.

 

Bert made the comment 2 games ago Sano was pulling everything in spring training. I don't know what Bert saw, but he didn't see much. Sano worked all spring on going the other way and up the middle. It's paying off for him. He's looking at pitches differently and not swinging at some he did last year. It's been a nice start for the entire team.

    • glunn, Oldgoat_MN, PseudoSABR and 4 others like this

1. Jason Castro. Replacing long-past his prime Kurt Suzuki with a healthy, talented young backstop has been huge. Castro frames better, calls good games, defends better, and hits better than a aged Suzuki. 

 

2. A healthy starting five. Cross fingers, but it's been a while since the Twins started a season with five guys that weren't coming off injuries or breaking down. 

 

3. Much better bullpen. Now we have a pen fairly well stocked with guys that could be and have been starters. Most of them can go multiple innings if needed, and they will most likely be needed. 

 

4. Another year for the future stars. Sano, Kepler, Buxton, Rosario, Polanco - Each of them scuffled at some point last season, and now they're back with more experience, a little less rookie nerves. The outfield now looks great, and the infield is surprisingly solid...so far...

 

5. New management. The Pohlads finally shucked the old school guys and brought in modern management. I respected them, but it was time for a fresh approach. I suspect this new attitude has reverberated throughout the organization. 

    • glunn, tarheeltwinsfan, IndyTwinsFan and 1 other like this
The most encouraging thing to me has been the pitching and infield defense. I complain about Mauer a lot, but he has turned himself into a really good 1st baseman, and Polanco has looked pretty good.
    • ChiTownTwinsFan, glunn, Blake and 11 others like this
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TonyInOmaha
Apr 09 2017 10:03 PM
One thing I was curious about going into the season was how the team would respond when they're not playing their best baseball after a season of long losing streaks. That's not something that can be answered in the first week especially with the hot start, but it was nice to see them win to take the series after losing Saturday.
    • USAFChief, glunn and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this
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Dozier's Glorious Hair
Apr 09 2017 10:29 PM

In his last 20 starts, Ervin Santana has a 2.23 ERA. If he keeps it up until the trade deadline, I wonder what a contender would be willing to give up to have him.

    • glunn, TKGuy, hybridbear and 2 others like this

When the team once again committed to defense, surprise they are 5-1.I've been asking for this for a couple years.Outside of Sano, I have little worry about the defense. 

    • glunn, Blake, markos and 2 others like this
If Ervin has the 2.23 era at the deadline, we are probably in the race and not trading him. Why trade him if we can make the playoffs with him?
    • USAFChief, glunn, Blake and 7 others like this

 

If Ervin has the 2.23 era at the deadline, we are probably in the race and not trading him. Why trade him if we can make the playoffs with him?

I love your optimism and hope that your dream comes true.

    • Blake, Siehbiscuit, Don't Feed the Greed Guy and 2 others like this
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mickeymental
Apr 09 2017 11:57 PM

on one hand, it's only six games of a looonnnggg season. on the other, by this time last year the season already felt lost.

    • USAFChief, glunn, Han Joelo and 4 others like this
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HitInAPinch
Apr 10 2017 01:44 AM

 

Sano: 5 XBH's in 6 games. Good coaching, good atmosphere; he's going to take the leap this year.

And a concerted off season plan to get in better shape AND work on better AB's.We've already seen a couple opposite field hits this year. 

    • bluechipper and Original Whizzinator like this
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HitInAPinch
Apr 10 2017 01:50 AM

 

For me...

 

#1 - That outfield defense... Always said Robbie Grossman's best defensive position was DH, and he's done fine in that role... But love seeing Rosario, Buxton and Kepler in the lineup.

 

#2 - Buxton's at bats... What happened to the leg kick? His timing is so off and it shows in the leg kick. Sometimes there's a tap. Sometimes a little lift. Rarely is there the big leg kick we saw in September and in spring training. And, like Nick wrote, the 91-92 mph fastballs that look right down the middle that are being missed if befuddling. I have 0 concern long-term yet, but it's just hard to explain that level.

 

#3 - Miguel Sano's approach. He seems to have his batter's eye back, and because of it, he's getting some better counts, and because of that, he's crushing the ball a lot. 

 

#4 - I love watching Ervin Santana pitch almost as much as I enjoy interviewing him or listening to him during interviews. He's fun to watch.

 

#5 - The Molitor Lineups - I like that he's not afraid to try new things, to have different lineups for platoon advantages. I like that he's generally going with Kepler and Rosario against lefties, allowing them to work on that part of their game in game action (Because they're too young to strictly platoon in my opinion), but putting them down in the order. Geez, can you imagine having Kepler and Buxton batting 8 and 9 ahead of Dozier?

 

#6 - Last one, but Polanco had a terrific first week with the bat. I don't expect him to be that good every week ,but I'm confident in his ability to hit. But I thought he did just fine at shortstop in the first week. Maybe one play he could have made that wasn't made, but for the most part, nothing he did at the position cost the Twins, and it that's the case... he'll be just fine there, very valuable. 

 

HM: The bullpen... the bullpen usage... 

Buxton:I was kinda hoping the end of last season was showing us the Buxton finally got it.Well, whatever the "it" was seems to have disappeared.We've seen this before.Time to roll with it like Boston did with Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. and see where Buxton goes.His defense is far too good to give up on. 

    • Han Joelo, Oldgoat_MN and Broker like this

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