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Game Thread: Twins vs White Sox 5/25/19 1:10 PM CDT

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 03:18 PM
No Altarations If You Please       Okay, I’m going to throw myself at the foot of the High Altar of Analytics and b...
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Souhan: Mauer is Twins 2019 Most Valuable Pensioner

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 03:18 PM
http://www.startribu...team/510360372/     Surprised to see this wasn't posted here yet.   I have to agree. Letting Mauer...
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Zack Littell recalled. Adams DFA’d

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 03:04 PM
I assume Littell will be in the pen.
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Article: When the Twins Go Buying ... Who Are They Selling?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 03:04 PM
As we approach the trade deadline - What? It’s only a little over two months away - there are a number of moves the Twins could and possi...
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Article: Twins Minor League Report (5/24): 2018 Top Draft...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 02:04 PM
We’re a little over a week away from the 2019 MLB Draft. On a night with very little offense across the system, 2018 top picks Trevor Lar...
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Week in Review: Battery Power

Pitchers and catchers led the way as Minnesota tackled a challenging slate with gusto, winning three of four from the Astros at home and even managing to take a game at Yankee Stadium.

Another winning week serves as further evidence the Twins are very much legit contenders in the American League. Let's dig into the details.
Image courtesy of Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/29 through Sun, 5/5

***

Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 20-12)

Run Differential Last Week: +0 (Overall: +25)

Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (2.0 GA)

Willians Watch: DNP last week :-(


Quick housekeeping: Adalberto Mejia was placed on IL with a calf injury following a brutal outing in Tuesday's loss. Replacing him (and newly added to the 40-man roster) is Mike Morin, who looked solid in his Twins debut at Yankee Stadium on Friday, allowing one run on a solo homer in two innings but striking out three. Meanwhile, our guy Willians Astudillo remains sidelined, but he's eligible to return this week!

HIGHLIGHTS

Last year, Twins catchers posted a collective .675 OPS, which sounds pretty bad but actually ranked right in the middle of the MLB pack, tied for 15th. One just can't expect much offensive production from the position. Right?

Don't tell that to Jason Castro and Mitch Garver, who've been lighting things up through the first month. The duo has helped vault Minnesota to the top of this year's AL ranks for catcher OPS, at an astonishing 1.084, and both were instrumental in the team's success this past week.

Castro played a big role in Thursday's series-clinching win against Houston, putting Minnesota on the board with a home run in his first at-bat amidst a four-RBI day. The previous week he'd also homered against his former team.

On Saturday in New York, it was Garver opening up the scoring with a two-run blast – his sixth of the season already. Last year when he was named Twins Daily's top rookie, mostly because of his impressive work with the bat, he hit seven home runs in 335 plate appearances. It's easy to get lost in the shuffle of so many strong offensive starts, but Garver's early improvements on both sides have been astounding.

Speaking of astounding improvements, the ones we're seeing from Martin Perez have potential to be transformative for the Twins rotation. Following three impressive performances out of the gate as a starter, the lefty took it to another level on Wednesday, firing eight shutout innings against an Astros offense that ranks among the league's best. He now has a 2.08 ERA through four turns in the rotation.

Perez's newfound superlativeness owes to several factors: better health, a pumped-up fastball buzzing in at 94 MPH on average, vastly superior control (he's throwing 67% strikes and averaging 1.7 BB/9 as a starter; last year those figures were at 62% and 3.8). But the biggest driver may be a cutter that's replaced his slider and become a HEAVILY utilized (35%) offering:



The Twins took a chance on a guy who posted a 6.22 ERA while yielding a 329/.389/.527 hitting line in Texas last year, and it's paying off bigtime. Especially when you keep in mind that he's only 28 and his contract includes a $7.5 million club option for 2019.

Perez isn't the only pitcher who has Minnesota's front office looking savvy. Jake Odorizzi turned in two stellar performances against top-tier offenses last week, holding the Astros and Yankees scoreless on six hits over 13 innings and improving his ERA to a team-leading 2.78 in the process. Odorizzi is averaging a strikeout per inning with a 13% whiff rate, and what's been most remarkable is the way he's completely flipped his greatest weakness upside-down.

By the end of his tenure in Tampa, Odorizzi was obscenely homer-prone – part of the reason the Rays traded him for minimal return. In 2017 he surrendered 30 bombs in 143 innings, and that carried over last year to Minnesota where he coughed up 14 through 63 innings in April and May. At that very point in time, a switch just flipped. He allowed no home runs in June, and only six total the rest of the way. This year, he has given up two long balls in seven starts, despite facing the Phillies, the Astros (twice) and the Yankees.

I mean, look at this ridiculous split:

Odorizzi, start of 2017 through May 2018: 40 GS, 206 IP, 44 HR (1.9 HR/9)
Odorizzi, June 2018 through present: 27 GS, 136 IP, 8 HR (0.5 HR/9)

It seems unfathomable he could continue to avoid home runs at an elite rate as a fly ball pitcher who throws so many high fastballs, but he just keeps on doing it. In case you were wondering about the prospect they traded to Tampa for him, Jermaine Palacios is slashing .160/.236/.200 at Class-AA Montgomery after posting a .575 OPS between Single-A and Double-A last year.

Like I said, the front office is lookin' pretty good these days.

LOWLIGHTS

From red-hot to ice-cold: Eddie Rosario has been slumping badly of late, with a hitless stretch extending to 28 plate appearances before he finally snapped it on Saturday. So it goes for the streaky slugger, who had registered an OPS north of 1.200 in 15 games prior to the outage.

As I shared in one of the first Week in Review columns this year when discussing Rosario's mini-slump to open the season: "I've come to learn that any drought in production for Eddie is usually the precedent for a scorching hot streak." He followed by hitting eight home runs in his next 10 games. Take that as you will.

While Perez and Odorizzi have emerged alongside Jose Berrios atop the Twins rotation, Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda have had a harder time distinguishing themselves.

Gibson took the L in New York on Friday, although poor defense played a big part. Three of the five runs he allowed in five innings were unearned. But the fact remains: Gibby has yet to deliver a quality start against a non-Baltimore opponent.

At least Gibson feels headed in the right direction. The struggles of Pineda are more troubling. Since opening the season with a trio of strong efforts, the big right-hander has been totally ineffective, with an 8.53 ERA over 19 innings in four starts. He hasn't completed six innings in any of those outings, with his control eroding and gopherballs piling up.

On the bright side, Pineda did notch eight strikeouts and 18 swinging strikes against the Yankees on Sunday – both season highs. The quality of his stuff, along with the circumstance of re-acclimating to the major-league mound after 17 months away from it, makes me inclined to show continued patience.

In the bullpen, Trevor Hildenberger had a really rough week. He made two appearances and allowed two runs on three hits in each, though thankfully the Twins had large leads in both cases. Rocco Baldelli has noticeably eased up on Hildy's usage, with only three appearances in the last 12 days after calling upon him a dozen times through Minnesota's first 21 games.

TRENDING STORYLINE

Miguel Sano's comeback is officially in motion. He got his rehab stint underway on Tuesday in Fort Myers, though he didn't stay there long; after going 4-for-4 with a home run in his second game for the Miracle, he was quickly moved up to Double-A. Sano wasted no time getting acclimated in Pensacola, where he launched a prodigious three-run bomb in his first at-bat on Sunday:



Obviously, it's foolish to draw any substantive conclusions about a tiny sample from a 25-year-old in the minors. Sano has played only four games. But in those games, he has already blasted two home runs, which matches his total from a 23-game, 94-PA, five-week stretch in Fort Myers and Rochester last summer. He slugged .410 over the course of that midseason demotion. His lack of dominance against younger, less experienced minor-league pitchers was another clear sign that Sano just was not right, and so it was unsurprising he continued to look underwhelming upon being recalled.

This year, no one could describe his early showing as a "lack of dominance." Very encouraging to see. Bringing his bat into the mix for a club that already leads baseball in slugging feels like an almost ridiculous proposition. Sano figures to replace Marwin Gonzalez, who is the only Twins regular slugging below .433.

DOWN ON THE FARM

Even beyond Sano, it was a week of big returns in the minors. On Thursday, Twins Daily's #2 prospect Alex Kirilloff finally joined the Pensacola lineup after missing the first month with a wrist injury. He's 4-for-13 through his first four games. On the same day, #11 prospect Nick Gordon made his season debut for Rochester, collecting three hits and then adding three doubles in his next two games. If the mission is to quickly put that nightmarish 2018 campaign behind him, so far so good.

Getting back these two heralded prospects will hopefully provide a jolt for a position-player group in the system that's been surprisingly quiet thus far. Here's what the hitters among Twins Daily's preseason Top 10, other than Kirilloff, have been able to accomplish through one month:
  • Royce Lewis (#1): Hitting .227/.323/.273 with zero home runs at Fort Myers after hitting 14 last year
  • Trevor Larnach (#4): HItting .279/.325/.369 with zero home runs 28 games at Fort Myers, belying his power profile
  • Wander Javier (#5): Still in extended spring training
  • Brent Rooker (#6): Hitting .210/.269/.484 with five home runs in Rochester, but striking out in 45% (!) of PAs
  • Akil Baddoo (#1): Hitting .208/.292/.416 at Fort Myers
On the flipside, we continue to see plenty of positive developments on the pitching prospect front. Brusdar Graterol has a 2.23 ERA and .177 opponents' batting average at Pensacola. Devin Smeltzer, who'd been dominating alongside him in the Blue Wahoos rotation, moved up to Rochester last week and hurled seven shutout innings in his Red Wings debut on Friday. Jordan Balazovic, himself freshly promoted from Low-A to High-A, spun seven perfect innings with 10 strikeouts in his Miracle debut on Sunday.

LOOKING AHEAD

As a testament to their consistent play this year, the Twins have lost only four series so far this season. And only one of those can you definitively say they *should have* won. It was their four-gamer against Toronto at home back in mid-April. Now they'll have a chance to go on the road and avenge it, in another ballpark where they haven't fared particularly well. Then, the Twins return home for a weekend series against the Tigers, including a makeup doubleheader on Saturday.

MONDAY, 5/6: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Marcus Stroman
TUESDAY, 5/7: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Aaron Sanchez
WEDNESDAY, 5/8: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Trent Thornton
FRIDAY, 5/10: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Spencer Turnbull v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
SATURDAY, 5/11 (1): TIGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Michael Pineda
SATURDAY, 5/11 (2): TIGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP Martin Perez
SUNDAY, 5/12: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Daniel Norris v. RHP Jose Berrios

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13 Comments

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Original Whizzinator
May 06 2019 06:52 AM
I like these reviews plenty! They put a nice perspective on things and can be reassuring after a disappointing end of week loss.
    • birdwatcher, brvama, blindeke and 1 other like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
May 06 2019 06:55 AM

I enjoyed reading your weekly summation so much, that I read it twice. Thanks.

    • Seth Stohs, birdwatcher, diehardtwinsfan and 3 others like this

This was a very good week for the Twins in the AL Central:

 

At the outset, the Twins were only expected to win 2.97 games, based off of FiveThirtyEight's game projections. The Indians were expected to win 3.14 games.

Note: Win projections are based on adding together the probability of winning each individual game.

 

The Twins won 4/7 games, the Indians won 3/5 games. Also, while I hate to see injuries, the Tribe could be without Corey Kluber for a while, as he was injured on Wednesday Night in Miami.

 

Big week for the Twins against some formidable opponents. Now gotta keep battling against Toronto and Detroit this week! The Indians will host the White Sox for 4 then go to Oakland for 3 this weekend.

    • caninatl04 likes this

Woof, those top Twins prospects (Rooker, Larnach, Lewis!!) are off to some really bad starts. It's nice to know that Gordon and Kiriloff are at least swinging the bat well early. And Sano...nice. Let's keep it up big guy. I'd like to see him in the middle of this lineup in a couple weeks. Should be fun.

 

Really disappointed in the NYY series. In the end, we lost the series and shouldn't be impressed that the Twins managed to play one good game at Yankee Stadium. The two games that bookended the series were two of the worst games to watch all season, anywhere in the majors.

 

Toronto gave the Twins major problems at Target Field. Hope we can return the favor starting tonight.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

The Twins performed on the good end of what I was expecting.I said this time last week, that anything between two and four wins would be what we could expect from four with Houston and three in New York.Getting four wins in the last week against quality opponents was good for the team. 

 

Now, it is time to feast on some less than quality opponents for the next week and a half.According to FiveThirtyEight, the Twins are slight underdogs tonight (they may be underrating Perez a little bit) but should be favored in every game until the Seattle series next weekend. 

    • caninatl04 likes this

Tough watching Pineda on the hill yesterday, almost like going to the dentist to have a tooth pulled.I know he is coming off a long stint of not pitching.But, he is the one spot in the rotation that worries me.

 

Great seeing Lewis have five multi-hit games of his last eight.Hopefully, he keeps it up and begins adding more doubles.Great seeing Kirilloff, back, hitting and playing first base.See him as a rotational piece at first base while also serving as the team's fourth outfielder.He and Astudillo would give the Twins tons of flexibility with their roster.

    • caninatl04 and Original Whizzinator like this

I said in the offseason that Castro would probably hit well this year because if he didn't it would be his last year in the majors. He started the year ice cold and convinced me he was done ... but he has stepped it up recently.

 

Streaks are streaks, but if he can average out his peaks and valleys into the positive we will have some interesting games. The competition at C is going to be interesting in 2019. The Twins are blessed in this regard.

This is already Rosario's second cold patch in 2019. I think he will be streaky this year and overall down from last year. He simply was not good after the all star break last year and I expected that to carry into this year.

 

This doesn't mean he won't have some big hits, nor does it mean he's not going to be valuable. He will still finish the year above league average in OPS and will smack some good hits at good times. He will even have some very hot streaks to go along with the cold ones -- and he will probably still be more valuable than Kepler.

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Nick Nelson
May 06 2019 01:54 PM

 

This is already Rosario's second cold patch in 2019. I think he will be streaky this year and overall down from last year. He simply was not good after the all star break last year and I expected that to carry into this year.

 

This doesn't mean he won't have some big hits, nor does it mean he's not going to be valuable. He will still finish the year above league average in OPS and will smack some good hits at good times. He will even have some very hot streaks to go along with the cold ones -- and he will probably still be more valuable than Kepler.

I dunno. When you still have an 800+ OPS coming off an 0-for-28 stretch it says a lot about how hot you were beforehand. And his cold streak hasn't been very "convincing" to me, as it's included a 3-to-2 K/BB ratio and plenty of bad-luck hard-hit balls. 

 

Personally I think Rosario's overall production by the end of the year will vastly overshadow any previous benchmarks. 

    • Danchat and Doomtints like this

Great summary!

 

I'm hoping Larnach and Rooker heat up, but I wasn't expecting big-league contribution from them this year.

 

How long is Pineda's leash?And who at AAA (or even AA) might be available to fill his rotation spot?

 

I dunno. When you still have an 800+ OPS coming off an 0-for-28 stretch it says a lot about how hot you were beforehand. And his cold streak hasn't been very "convincing" to me, as it's included a 3-to-2 K/BB ratio and plenty of bad-luck hard-hit balls. 

 

Personally I think Rosario's overall production by the end of the year will vastly overshadow any previous benchmarks. 

 

He finished 2018 with very strong numbers too. Look at the splits, it's all based on his performance in the first half.

 

I expect similar in 2019, just not as impressive in the end as 2018. He will be hot, he will be cold, and the bottom line will be decent.

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Nick Nelson
May 07 2019 09:12 AM

 

He finished 2018 with very strong numbers too. Look at the splits, it's all based on his performance in the first half.

He got hurt in the second half.

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Aerodeliria
May 07 2019 10:14 AM
Actually, the beauty of Cruz, Nelson (see how I did that), is that he represents a consistent big bat in the middle of the lineup that helps the Twins weather those cold spells by Rosario. Last year, when Rosario went cold, it was tough to get instant offense from other players.

I am really looking forward to seeing Sano too. I believe Sano will take note of the way Cruz approaches RBI opportunities. It should have a positive effect on Sano. (I think it's already had a positive influence on Buxton. He's driven th the ball through the right side of the infield a few times in the past couple of weeks.)

Thanks for this review. It was fun to read. I agree with everything you mentioned except the part about the series that we should have won. I think we should have swept the Yankees. I'm not trying to sound pendantic, but the way we played in the key moments of those games was quite poor.

Let's sweep the Jays so we can forget NY for now. (Of course, if we do make the playoffs, I suppose we'll be running into NY again.)

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