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The Twins Need Early Season Eddie

When it comes to the Opening Day outfield, Eddie Rosario is the last man standing.

Yes, the left-handed slugger had suffered through his share of injuries, missing time in June and July with a sprained ankle, but it was at a time when the roster was bubbling with health. We’ve got plenty of outfielders. Take your time. But now? Byron Buxton’s season is over. Marwin Gonzalez hasn’t been seen since the end of August. Max Kepler, another healthy warrior who avoided major injuries for most of the year, has tweaked stuff. Even the backups like Jake Cave have fallen.

It should be expected. After all, baseball is a war of attrition. Roster depth and flexibility are supremely valued. As manager Lou Brown said to the owner on Major League, “over 162 games and even tough guys get strains... Sore arms... Muscle pulls…” Baseball is a non-stop, death by paper-cuts thrill ride where you sometimes have to do it all over again less than 24 hours later. And, if your roster is sufficiently depleted, sometimes a player needs to power through the strains, sore arms and muscle pulls for the good of the team.

Which brings us back to Eddie Rosario.
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Over the last three years, Rosario has hit 23 home runs on pitches outside of the rulebook strike zone. The next closest is Trey Mancini with 15. His .403 slugging percentage over those three years is the best in the game. He maintains a .247 average outside of the zone -- fourth-best behind guys like Altuve and Benintendi.

Everyone wants to hold up Ted Williams’ magical multi-colored chart as a sacred tablet when it comes to hitting instruction but the truth is that for many hitters, their “happy zone”, as Williams called it, can also extend to areas out of the box. From 2015 through 2017, Minnesota Twins fans witnessed Brian Dozier slug 16 home runs on pitches out of the zone, mostly at his eye level. For Rosario, his extrazonal happy place was on pitches between him and the plate, where he could turn and burn, or above the zone, where his deep barrel turn assisted him in catching elevated fastballs.

So naturally, being able to make solid contact on those pitches is going to beget more out of zone swings. It’s a dubious skill set, to be sure. Like being really good at smoking an entire pack of cigarettes at once. Sure, it may look impressive in the moment but eventually you are going to pay for it. If you stick to your strength -- swinging at pitches in your happy zone wherever that may be — you will succeed. If that target drifts however...

And here is where Rosario has run afoul of late.

When Rosario started the season off hot in March, April and May, his 40% chase rate was the fifth highest in the league. He was just hitting a lot of those out of zone pitches well. He had six extra-base hits, including three home runs. The vast majority of those swings came on pitches just inside. Since the end of August, however, pitchers have gotten Rosario to extend his arms and chase after pitches off the other side of the plate.

Posted Image

In April, Rosario swung at just 27% of pitches that were outside. Over the last couple of weeks, Rosario’s swing rate at those pitches has increased to 51%.

Opponents have noted this trend and have adjusted accordingly, feeding him more pitches just off the plate and allowing him to generate weak contact, if any at all. At the beginning of the year, pitchers would challenge him and give more ripe pitches. Between his ability to drive those pitches and his inability to lay off the outside ones, teams are staying away.

Posted Image
This is a swing decision issue. There have been no mechanical changes that would result in a hole in the swing. Rosario could stand to quiet his pre-swing movements similar to Miguel Sano -- the big drawback of his hands undoubtedly lead to some timing issues -- but he has always had the big load process and has had previous success with it. And there hasn’t been a substantial drop in exit velocity on contact that would suggest an injury, as even the most minor nagging injuries can alter things at this point in the season. In fact, his exit velo is better now than back in April. That said, this has the signs of an issue upstairs.

As the “Eddie” chants grow increasingly louder at Target Field and the stakes have risen, Rosario has found himself without the lineup cushion that once surrounded him. Furthermore, his innate desire to play the role of the hero may be a catalyst for his audacious swing rate. He is forcing things to happen when he and the team would be better served if he exercised patience.

There is no question that the Twins need Eddie Rosario -- the early season version Eddie Rosario -- more than ever. That would require some restraint. Does Rosario have that kind of restraint? Does he have the ability to turn off the ego and quiet the voice in his head that tells him to swing and drive in that run no matter where the pitch is?

With the division lead shrinking and a postseason run at stake, the Twins need Rosario to wrangle it.

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23 Comments

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SoDakTwinsFan4
Sep 13 2019 02:39 AM
Great write up and information. I agree 100%.
    • birdwatcher, nicksaviking and LA VIkes Fan like this

Some really good info and charts there to show what I thought I'd been seeing from games.

    • birdwatcher likes this
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theBOMisthebomb
Sep 13 2019 08:01 AM
Sadly, I just don't know if Eddie has the maturity to pull off that type of transformation in September and October. His lack of hustle and lackluster play on defense being my first exhibit.
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TwinkieTownKiller
Sep 13 2019 08:20 AM

I don't know that there's any difference between Eddie now and Eddie in the beginning of the season. Like you mentioned, it's just the adjustment the pitching has made. Maybe he can adjust his approach enough to improve a bit, but even if he can, it probably won't happen anytime this year when we need it.

I'd guess early season Rosario is the outlier here.... He's now hitting worse than league average for the year....
    • Twins33 likes this

I think Rosario is still playing because the Twins outfield situation is dire. He looks like he's playing hurt.

    • LA VIkes Fan and DocBauer like this

I think Rosario is still playing because the Twins outfield situation is dire. He looks like he's playing hurt.


I think this is also true.
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Parker Hageman
Sep 13 2019 08:55 AM

 

I think Rosario is still playing because the Twins outfield situation is dire. He looks like he's playing hurt.

 

I think he's playing hurt too but that really doesn't involve the swing decision process. If he were swinging through a bunch of in-zone pitches or had a steep drop off in fly ball distance, I'd be more inclined to think injuries are effecting his offensive performance. Furthermore, if injuries are a source for his offensive issues (I can see a scenario where his ankle injury *could be* forcing him to start his swing earlier or pushier thus messing with pitch recognition), dialing back and reducing his reach would be beneficial. 

    • USAFChief and Blake like this
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LimestoneBaggy
Sep 13 2019 09:36 AM

I purely focused on one sentence in this article

 

"It’s a dubious skill set, to be sure. Like being really good at smoking an entire pack of cigarettes at once."

 

This was gold.

 

Also, I'm very scared that if we gave Rosario this article, he would have the same take away....I hope that's giving him wayyyyyyyy too little credit.

Rosario's monthy OPS has declined every single month this season. From .886 in Mar/April, to the current .459 in Sep/Oct.

 

It's been a steady decline all year.

    • Twins33, Oldgoat_MN and bighat like this
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LA VIkes Fan
Sep 13 2019 09:53 AM

 

I think he's playing hurt too but that really doesn't involve the swing decision process. If he were swinging through a bunch of in-zone pitches or had a steep drop off in fly ball distance, I'd be more inclined to think injuries are effecting his offensive performance. Furthermore, if injuries are a source for his offensive issues (I can see a scenario where his ankle injury *could be* forcing him to start his swing earlier or pushier thus messing with pitch recognition), dialing back and reducing his reach would be beneficial. 

I agree. I think the injury effects him more on defense and base running, and helps explain why his defense has been so poor in the second half. I hope that Rocco now realizes that the switch to RF probably doesn't work for him and puts him back In LF where he is more comfortable. Arreaz can play RF with Kepler in CF. Schoop has been playing well of late and he can be the 2B so he gets into the lineup instead of Cave. It looks like Gonzalez may still be awhile. 

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Parker Hageman
Sep 13 2019 09:55 AM

 

Rosario's monthy OPS has declined every single month this season. From .886 in Mar/April, to the current .459 in Sep/Oct.

 

It's been a steady decline all year.

 

Right. Of course it wasn't a steep of a decline like that. He was still at a 742 OPS in August. The main difference between the Mar/Apr and late Aug/Sept numbers is the pitches he chooses to swing at. The sense of what he can and cannot handle eroded. 

 

He's a streaky hitter over his career, for sure, and that comes with the territory of being one that expands the zone. I also have no doubt that his ankle injury likely hindered his performance since returning. 

 

His sprint speed is down. One thing that is notable too is that his doubles total, for the first time in his career, is lower (21) than his home run total (28). Also, and this is random, but holy cow he had 15 triples in his rookie season?! 

    • Oldgoat_MN, Danchat and SoDakTwinsFan4 like this
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LA VIkes Fan
Sep 13 2019 09:59 AM

Also, I'd like to see a lineup switch. Arraez has looked good in the leadoff spot. I'd like to see this lineup for the 3 games in Cleveland:

 

Arraez RF

Polanco SS

Cruz DH

Kepler CF

Garver C

Rosario LF

Sano 3B

Cron/Gonzalez/Astudillo 1B

Schoop 2B

 

 

I could see going Cruz, Garver, Kepler, Sano, Rosario too for the 3-7 spots if you want to break up the 3 straight RH batters at the end into 2 twos. The key for me is to lead off Arraez, get Kepler and Garver in the middle of the order rather than leading off, and drop Rosario down a couple of spots until he starts hitting again. Also, play Garver all 3 games. No Castro unless we're in a blow out. Castro can catch more of the last 13 to rest Garver if we need him to do that. 

 

    • Oldgoat_MN, DocBauer and SoDakTwinsFan4 like this

 

I think he's playing hurt too but that really doesn't involve the swing decision process. If he were swinging through a bunch of in-zone pitches or had a steep drop off in fly ball distance, I'd be more inclined to think injuries are effecting his offensive performance. Furthermore, if injuries are a source for his offensive issues (I can see a scenario where his ankle injury *could be* forcing him to start his swing earlier or pushier thus messing with pitch recognition), dialing back and reducing his reach would be beneficial. 

It was just an observation on my part. Eyeball test, as it were. I admit I'm not a batting kinesiology expert like the people who run TD. (no, not snark, I cannot break down the mechanics of a swing like most of the people who write here)

 

I was just offering what I think may be playing into the problems Eddie is experiencing.

 

As of right now, the whole team has crashed due to a slew of injuries, of which Rosario also appears to be a casualty. 

 

I know people are down on the Twins, but the injury situation is almost unparalleled and singling out Eddie seems a bit like piling on.

    • LA VIkes Fan likes this

I have regularly defended Eddie for the last 3 years while people have been calling for him to be traded. I felt vindicated early this year when it was clear that Eddie was one of the strongest hitters in baseball.

 

Alas, his second half has been very poor. MLB average AVG/OBP/SLG (OPS) is:

.253/.323/.436 (.760)

Eddie's numbers for the second half are:

.260/.273/.418 (.692)

 

These are inadequate numbers from a corner outfielder.

 

Injuries? Lack of discipline? I don't know.

But the performance we are seeing now is far less than what we need.

If Eddie returns to the Eddie from the months of April and May it would make a huge difference to this offense. Without that, we are better served by putting Cave, Arraez, Gonzales Astudillo or Adrianza out there.

I agree. We badly need Eddie back to early season form.

 

Right. Of course it wasn't a steep of a decline like that. He was still at a 742 OPS in August. The main difference between the Mar/Apr and late Aug/Sept numbers is the pitches he chooses to swing at. The sense of what he can and cannot handle eroded. 

 

He's a streaky hitter over his career, for sure, and that comes with the territory of being one that expands the zone. I also have no doubt that his ankle injury likely hindered his performance since returning. 

 

His sprint speed is down. One thing that is notable too is that his doubles total, for the first time in his career, is lower (21) than his home run total (28). Also, and this is random, but holy cow he had 15 triples in his rookie season?! 

I would suggest that cause and affect might be confused here. I think others have stated it...

Eddie doesn't "choose" to swing. He swings. Pitchers have adjusted to throw fewer pitches in the strike zone to him...because he and the new ball were exacting a heavy price for that...and because they've learned (or been reminded) that he'll swing at any pitch. If you (or anyone with the numbers) told me that Eddie was seeing/taking materially more pitches per PA early in the season than he is now...I'd feel more encouraged that he could make a quick adjustment to get back to that.

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Parker Hageman
Sep 13 2019 11:16 AM
Eddie doesn't "choose" to swing. He swings.

 

 

Right but he wasn't swinging at a certain area off the plate and now he is. Pitchers did attack that zone at the beginning of the year, Rosario just laid off. 

 

Rosario's monthy OPS has declined every single month this season. From .886 in Mar/April, to the current .459 in Sep/Oct.

 

It's been a steady decline all year.

 

And this is par for the course for Rosario. I remember last season starting hot - in both 2018 and '19 he was one of the final candidates for All-Star recognition. His second half numbers tend to be very pedestrian.

 

That said, he can still do damage if he gets a hold of one. Sure would be nice to see the guy launch a few into the stands in Cleveland this weekend.

    • Twins33 likes this
Great write up Parker!

Agreed he is hurting, but also agree his ding is probably affecting him more in the field and on the base paths. Of course, perhaps it is robbing him of "drive" to power up on balls he hits solidly. That I don't know.

He wants so badly to do well and be good that I'd like to think his ego would step aside in order for him to be at least a little more discerning. But, I'd also like to think the Twins have seen the same things as presented here. Has it simply not "clicked" in his head yet?

Very reminiscent of Sano a couple months ago. And we see how that turned out. Come on Eddie! Bomba!
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the_brute_squad
Sep 13 2019 10:52 PM

Eddie needs to relax. He looks more serious than Jorge Polanco.

    • ashbury likes this

Eddie needs to relax. He looks more serious than Jorge Polanco.

"Liked" if only because I'm a big fan of Jorge's demeanor.

This is just how he is. He starts out with a good eye then he’ll swing at a few bad pitches and get hits off of those pitches. Once that happens his brain thinks he can hit everything..which he clearly can’t.
I think Eddie is a great outfielder and when the stakes will be high for the Playoffs, old Bomba Eddie will reappear! He needs to work with that hitting coach, because when you quit learning in life, you will go nowhere fast!

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