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Article: MLB All-Star Election Day: What You Need to Know

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:42 AM
It’s Election Day.No, we aren’t voting for new members of Congress, but fans will get to pick out the starters for MLB’s All-Star Game in...
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Article: Shoring Up Twins Bullpen Will Be a Mighty Challenge

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:42 AM
Are great relievers born? Made? Produced artificially in a laboratory somewhere deep in the Nevadan desert?We don't know the answer. If y...
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Article: MIN 9, TB 4: Twins Shell Blake Snell

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:34 AM
Coming off their first losing week of the season, and the lead in the division down to seven and a half games over the Cleveland Indians,...
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Twins Need Sellers

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:32 AM
It's June 23 and it's interesting across the MLB fruited plain.    Looking at the standings... There are only 7 clear sellers a...
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How the Twins Reshaped Their Identity in a Half-Decade

Looking back, the 2013 season was probably the low point of Minnesota's competitive lull. Not in terms of results – we all know nothing can top 2016 – but in terms of stagnating strategy and vision. That 2013 team epitomized the negative traits that torpedoed the Twins out of contention, and into a lengthy rebuild that continues now.

Five years later, it's interesting to take a step back and recognize just how much has changed – and how drastically the Twins have pivoted to adapt in the new era of baseball. Better late than never.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
The worst thing that happened to the Twins in 2013 was Joe Mauer's concussion. No question. That drastically altered the franchise's course, and couldn't have been avoided. But more broadly, there were a lot of things to hate about that season.

The five pitchers to receive the most starts for Minnesota were Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno and Pedro Hernandez. Opening Day starter Vance Worley posted a 7.21 ERA in 10 starts and was gone a year later. A punchless lineup produced only 614 runs, and nobody hit even 20 homers. Chris Parmelee, Pedro Florimon and Clete Thomas (!) all received 300+ PA.

It was a terribly built team that performed terribly, getting outscored by 174 runs. And as Twins fans rung in the new year of 2014, they had little concrete reason to hope for better days ahead. Ron Gardenhire had received a two-year extension in November, despite overseeing three straight seasons of 95+ losses. Terry Ryan remained firmly entrenched in the GM's chair.

Today, as we head into 2019, all has changed. The Twins have a new manager, new front-office leadership, new personnel everywhere, and a completely new set of guiding philosophies.

I think this is reflected best by the dramatic reshaping of the pitching staff.

In 2013, the Twins had zero starting pitchers with a swinging strike rate in the double digits. Rookies Kyle Gibson and Cole De Vries (who made two starts) tied for the team lead at 8.2%. The rotation collectively averaged 4.9 K/9.

In 2019, the Twins currently have four slotted starters. Here are the SwStr% and K/9 rates from their most recent seasons:

Jose Berrios (2018): 11.3%, 9.5
Kyle Gibson (2018): 11.5%, 8.1
Jake Odorizzi (2018): 10.2%, 8.9
Michael Pineda (2017): 12.1%, 8.6

We can throw in Fernando Romero as the fifth starter for now (10.6% swinging strikes, 7.3 K/9), and you've got a full rotation where the lowest whiff and strikeout rates are better than the highest in 2013. Sure, this is reflective of the game's general evolution to some extent (MLB's overall swinging strike rate was up from 9.4% in 2013 to 10.7% in 2018), but it also speaks to the front office's refreshing focus on stuff, velocity and missed bats. At almost every stop, they have sought and elevated pitchers with high-powered arms. Pitch to contact is dead.

The Twins now pack much more firepower on the offensive side, too. As mentioned, the 2013 team – a mixture of light-hitting profiles and fading former sluggers – had zero players reach 20 homers. The projected 2019 Twins lineup has six players projected to hit 20+ (per FanGraphs). If Miguel Sano gets healthy and rebounds, you've got two of baseball's hardest-hitting players potentially coming at you back-to-back:

Attached Image: hardhitleaders.png


Through the additions of Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron (not to mention Jake Cave, Tyler Austin, Logan Morrison and others) the Twins have clearly emphasized building a threatening lineup full of aggressive, ferocious swingers. If it means sacrificing some OBP and defense, so be it. It's a bold gambit, but at least it's an assertive one.

I don't know if the 2019 Twins will be successful. No one does. But I do know this much: They will be wildly different in terms of fundamental composition than those bland, lackluster teams that sucked the life out of Target Field in the earlier part of the decade.

For that, I'm very thankful. And excited. Suddenly, we're only five weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Ft. Myers.

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51 Comments

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Brock Beauchamp
Jan 06 2019 09:12 PM

Maybe it's just me but one of the most disappointing things about this offseason has been the lack of extensions.

 

And, oddly enough, the first person I'd call is Kyle Gibson. If you can get him for 3/$40m, I do that all day long.

 

Next on the phone is probably Berrios.

    • Carole Keller, diehardtwinsfan, nicksaviking and 4 others like this
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jorgenswest
Jan 06 2019 09:44 PM
I wondered about extensions. I don’t know if I have seen many across baseball this winter. I know that Kershaw and Escobar signed extensions but both could have become free agents this off season. Are there many examples of a player like Gibson signing an extension?
    • nicksaviking and blindeke like this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 06 2019 11:05 PM

Extensions are usually signed/announced in spring training. So I wouldn't make too much out of that yet. But if the season starts and they don't have at least Berrios locked up long-term, I'll be really disappointed. 

    • Twins33, nicksaviking, beckmt and 4 others like this

 

Maybe it's just me but one of the most disappointing things about this offseason has been the lack of extensions.

 

And, oddly enough, the first person I'd call is Kyle Gibson. If you can get him for 3/$40m, I do that all day long.

 

Next on the phone is probably Berrios.

 

Berrios should be first. Not sure why it already isn't done.

 

I'm guessing Gibson's agent is looking for Kyle's one big FA shot at the monster payday. AFAIK, Kyle hasn't exactly shown much public enthusiasm about willingness in sticking around. (Hope I'm wrong, but I can envision Falvine having already made the decision to place Gibson on the Eduardo-Escobar-First-To-Deal list if things go South early on in 2019).

    • rghrbek likes this

Clete Thomas...yikes!I had blocked that name from my memory.

    • diehardtwinsfan, Danchat and Sconnie like this

I feel we should be locking up (if we can) both Berrios and Rosario, with the next name up Kepler if he breaks out a bit.Longer term Buxton and maybe Sano, but will have to see how 2018 goes as right now I'm sure both their agents feel like this would be selling low.

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tarheeltwinsfan
Jan 07 2019 07:41 AM

The Twins should take a chance with young, talented players and extend Buck and Sano after their bad individual seasons. They both had injuries to blame and they both still could be mega stars. Plus, I really believe that Cruz will teach both Sano and Buck some important lessons.

    • Thrylos likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Jan 07 2019 08:14 AM

 

The Twins should take a chance with young, talented players and extend Buck and Sano after their bad individual seasons. They both had injuries to blame and they both still could be mega stars. Plus, I really believe that Cruz will teach both Sano and Buck some important lessons.

both of these guys would be wise to say no... not saying I wouldn't ask, but they will so no. Now if they have their breakout seasons, that may be different.

    • nicksaviking, tarheeltwinsfan and Battle ur tail off like this
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MMMordabito
Jan 07 2019 08:38 AM

 

both of these guys would be wise to say no... not saying I wouldn't ask, but they will so no. Now if they have their breakout seasons, that may be different.

 

Buxton will probably say no anyway after Controlgate.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

All fine and well - I love me some optimism. Only thing is I recall we had the same thing going after 2013. We had the best minor league system in the majors, and the web sages told the fans we had to be patient another season or two.

 

I'll be more excited to read the post on how the Twins started winning regularly again.

    • birdwatcher, Blackjack, mikelink45 and 3 others like this
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Aerodeliria
Jan 07 2019 08:52 AM
A worthwhile read...the pitching comparison is quite an eye-opener.
    • birdwatcher likes this

Before I get excited by the twins pitching stats I am hung up on the league 10.7 swing and miss rate.I am glad we are moving towards the trend, but in perspective we are at and not over the trend which means an average staff unless Romero jumps in and pushes the rate up higher.  

 

The dig at Gardy and his win loss rate should also be tempered by the very fact in the article that he nothing to work with.who could win with those players.

    • jkcarew likes this

This article gives me PTSD, just reading the names of those pitchers... [shivers]

    • Nick Nelson, birdwatcher, TheLeviathan and 2 others like this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 07 2019 09:55 AM

 

The dig at Gardy and his win loss rate should also be tempered by the very fact in the article that he nothing to work with.who could win with those players.

I don't know that it was really a dig. This is a results-based business. It's noteworthy when a guy gets extended after three straight terrible seasons in terms of W/L. And he was fired a year later. 

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Nick Nelson
Jan 07 2019 10:03 AM

 

Buxton will probably say no anyway after Controlgate.

He and his agent would be silly to say no if the money is right. Buxton is 4 years away from free agency. Regardless of his feelings toward the team, he's here for a while. And given his history of injuries, financial security is important to him. 

    • USAFChief, TheLeviathan, kenbuddha and 3 others like this

He and his agent would be silly to say no if the money is right. Buxton is 4 years away from free agency. Regardless of his feelings toward the team, he's here for a while. And given his history of injuries, financial security is important to him.


He has lifetime security already. Now he's playing for MONEY. He'd be foolish to give up any free agent years right now.

I can't remember, did that starting rotation look as bad five years ago as it does today?Questionable if most of those guys could start for Rochester this summer.

 

Aren't most extensions done around the time both sides are going to their arbitration hearing?If Gibson is going to be extended, I hope he is, I expect that is when it will happen. 

 

Expect the others, Rosario and Berrios, could come shortly before spring training starts.Lots of other things to do right now, like get at least one late inning reliever.

 

He has lifetime security already. Now he's playing for MONEY. He'd be foolish to give up any free agent years right now.

I guess I'm skeptical of lifetime security. 

    • Carole Keller, TheLeviathan and Bill Tanner like this

I guess I'm skeptical of lifetime security.


If he can't live on three million, give or take, plus what he earns over the next ten years, something is very wrong with him.
    • Blackjack and mikelink45 like this

 

All fine and well - I love me some optimism. Only thing is I recall we had the same thing going after 2013. We had the best minor league system in the majors, and the web sages told the fans we had to be patient another season or two.

 

I'll be more excited to read the post on how the Twins started winning regularly again.

 

It is interesting to look at that prospect list, though! 7 out of the top 10 are currently on the twins 40-man with at least 6 of them expected to be on the 25 man (with Kohl Stewart a possibility for the 5th spot on the rotation). the next 5 has another guy on the 25-man (May), and a prospect who could break through this season (Thorpe). 

    • birdwatcher and howieramone2 like this
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birdwatcher
Jan 07 2019 11:14 AM

 

All fine and well - I love me some optimism. Only thing is I recall we had the same thing going after 2013. We had the best minor league system in the majors, and the web sages told the fans we had to be patient another season or two.

 

I'll be more excited to read the post on how the Twins started winning regularly again.

 

 

 

 

Your point is well-taken, but it's interesting (to me) to see that that "best system" assessment wasn't as far off-base as one might suspect. My opinion.

 

It was greatly predicated on the two prospects with incredible and rare physical talents, and both have been delayed by injury and other factors and still aren't to be written off.

 

There really weren't that many complete flops. The Alex Meyer injuries set them back. So did Oswaldo Arcia turning into a colossal headcase.

 

The stunted production from Mauer and Morneau needs to be considered as well when people draw oversimplified conclusions in the "gee, we had this over-hyped farm system, and look how wrong and incompetent they were." catagory.

 

We're still in the early stages of seeing the (optimism here) fruition of that assessment. We haven't perhaps seen the best from Berrios, Rosario, May, Kepler, and Polanco, for example, and we still may get a boost from Thorpe, and even Kohl Stewart for that matter.

 

I don't discount the points Nick is making, but personally, I see two factors as more critical drivers of this re-shaping. One is the talent of this group of players, and others like Taylor Rogers from that period. The other is all the behind-the-scenes stuff, most of which is tied to improvements in managing and developing player assets.

    • howieramone2 likes this
You had me at, "Five weeks until pitchers and catchers report".
    • diehardtwinsfan, Twins33 and Oldgoat_MN like this

 

 Only thing is I recall we had the same thing going after 2013. We had the best minor league system in the majors

 

That was part of the problem then.Too much minor league system in the majors ;) 

    • birdwatcher likes this
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puckstopper1
Jan 07 2019 12:16 PM

 

Before I get excited by the twins pitching stats I am hung up on the league 10.7 swing and miss rate.I am glad we are moving towards the trend, but in perspective we are at and not over the trend which means an average staff unless Romero jumps in and pushes the rate up higher.  

 

The dig at Gardy and his win loss rate should also be tempered by the very fact in the article that he nothing to work with.who could win with those players.

Mike:

 

I was thinking something similar.Yes - the pitching is certainly better than 2013, but how much of the increased K/9 and swing/miss rates can be contributed to the hitters approach in general across the league.Yes - the Twins pitchers are striking out more batters, etc., but so are most other pitchers.  

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diehardtwinsfan
Jan 07 2019 12:26 PM

 

Buxton will probably say no anyway after Controlgate.

 

Possibly... but given his injury history, that may not necessarily be the wisest choice. 

    • Original Whizzinator likes this