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Where's the Weakness?

Most of Twins Territory is riding high with the Twins remarkable start to the season. Minnesota’s offense looks like it is one of the best in the league. The starting staff is outperforming most expectations and the bullpen has been able to hold its own. With the best record in the AL, the Twins are making it tough to be negative.

However, there are some weaknesses with this team. Which weakness could hurt the team in the long run?
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The Offense
Minnesota’s offense has ranked as one of the best in the league. There are few weaknesses from top to bottom in the line-up. The Twins rank second in the AL in batting average, SLG, OPS, home runs, and hits. They have also scored the most runs and hit the most doubles.

Of regular starters, Marwin Gonzalez has the lowest OPS on the team (.722) and he got off to a slow start. He ended the first month of the season hitting .167/.244/.256 with three extra-base hits. Since the calendar turned to May, he is hitting .358/.427/.552 with seven extra-base hits. Minnesota’s biggest offensive weakness this season has turned it around.

Yesterday, I wrote about the team’s trend of barreling up the ball. Minnesota’s catching core has been unreal at putting the barrel on the ball. As one would expect, Nelson Cruz ranks near the top of the league. Other players like CJ Cron and Byron Buxton have also made some stark improvements.

Minnesota’s offense was expected to improve but this has to be beyond the wildest dreams of most fans.

The Starting Staff
Even with a strong offense, a poor starting staff can destroy a season. Twins starting pitchers have outperformed many of the expectations entering the season. Coming off an All-Star season, most people knew what to expect from Jose Berrios. The rest of the staff has also gone above and beyond.

Jake Odorizzi’s 1.6 WAR ranks him fourth in the AL among pitchers. He has the second-best ERA, the fourth best hits per 9 IP, and the seventh best WHIP. His ERA is almost 1.5 runs lower than his career mark. Earlier this month, he won the AL Player of the Week and he has continued to perform well.

Martin Perez has also been a breath of fresh air. Since joining the rotation, he has a 2.01 ERA and a 41 to 13 strikeout to walk ratio in seven starts. This spring with the help of Odorizzi and Johan Santana, he was able to start developing a cutter. He uses this more than his other pitches and teams are having a tough time figuring it out.

Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda have seen some ups and downs. Pineda is in his first season back from Tommy John, so some struggles were expected. Even with the struggles, Pineda has produced quality starts in his last three starts.
Depth at the back end of the rotation could be a weakness. If one of the top three starters were to be hurt or start underperforming, the rest of the rotation could struggle. Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe, and Zack Littell are waiting in Rochester. Could they be trusted taking over a spot in the rotation?

The Bullpen
At this point in the season, the casual fan might consider the bullpen to be the team’s greatest weakness. Most of this thought process comes from the team having a non-traditional bullpen. There is no designated closer and four different players have earned saves this season.

Blake Parker, Ryne Harper, Matt Magill and Taylor Rogers all have ERA’s of 1.80 or less. Trevor May has made the most appearances out of the bullpen. Even though he has allowed eight earned runs in 18 IP, he has 17 strikeouts. Manager Rocco Baldelli has been able to turn to most of these pitchers with confidence in any situation.

Trevor Hildenberger, a key component of the 2017 team, struggled through the beginning of the season. In 14 innings, he allowed 13 earned runs and it seemed like his breaking pitch wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do. He is down in Rochester trying to work through some of his struggles. Adalberto Mejia was another player that struggled (11 earned runs in 11.1 IP), but he is now on the injury list.

Fernando Romero has been transitioning to a bullpen role between the MLB and Triple-A levels. Lots of other relief pitchers have been struggling in Rochester. Maybe the switch to using the MLB baseball has impacted their numbers. Perhaps, top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol could be used in a bullpen role later in the season.

What do you see as the team’s biggest weakness? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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40 Comments

Our most glaring weakness is the fans' inability to accept that this team is going to sweep the Dodgers in 4 games and win their 3rd World Series title in October.

 

Aside from that, probably the bullpen.

    • Brock Beauchamp, SQUIRREL, ashbury and 27 others like this

Biggest weaknesses:

  • bullpen: need one more guy we can count on for the late inning work. Rogers is great, and Parker has the experience to not worry about him too much. It's fair to be concerned about May and whether or not guys are going to start figuring out Harper/Magill
  • 5th starter. I'm not convinced on Pineda, and at some point we have to stop writing off every poor performance as "well, he's still coming back after Tommy John". I swear, we've changed his name to Michael He's Coming Back From Tommy John Pineda. Dude is 22 months removed from the surgery.
  • OBP in the lineup. We are slugging the hell out of the ball, but we could use a few more baserunners (picking nits at this point, I think, but Rosario's OBP is under .300, Schoop's is only .310, and we could use 1-2 more guys who push that OBP over .350. But if there's a weakness in this lineup, that's probably it.)
    • LA VIkes Fan, Dman, ChrisKnutson and 5 others like this

 

 

Biggest weaknesses:

  • bullpen: need one more guy we can count on for the late inning work. Rogers is great, and Parker has the experience to not worry about him too much. It's fair to be concerned about May and whether or not guys are going to start figuring out Harper/Magill
  • 5th starter. I'm not convinced on Pineda, and at some point we have to stop writing off every poor performance as "well, he's still coming back after Tommy John". I swear, we've changed his name to Michael He's Coming Back From Tommy John Pineda. Dude is 22 months removed from the surgery.
  • OBP in the lineup. We are slugging the hell out of the ball, but we could use a few more baserunners (picking nits at this point, I think, but Rosario's OBP is under .300, Schoop's is only .310, and we could use 1-2 more guys who push that OBP over .350. But if there's a weakness in this lineup, that's probably it.)

 

Pretty much agree -- the current bullpen is probably good enough to win the division.I doubt if it is good enough to get them past the first round of the playoffs.And yes, another veteran starter is needed in case Gibson and/or Pineda falter.

    • LA VIkes Fan likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
May 23 2019 09:08 AM

You guys are absolutely right. OBP at top of the order and back end pitching are the present weaknesses.

 

The other BIG weakness is the potential that high performing players will regress to their mean. I would be surprised if Perez has a sub 3.50 ERA at years end, same for Odorizzi. The lineup has a couple of guys who are playing above their history in Polanco and Buxton (and Garver), and even Kepler is hitting better than in the past.Some of it might be development; some of it might be just luck. Yet there really isn't anyone except maybe Rosario who is playing below expectations (Hildenberger is the same guy he was the second half last year, improvement should have been a hope not an expectation).Basically the biggest potential issue is what happens if guys regress to their previous mean. Not bad if that's your biggest issue. 

 

 

Biggest weaknesses:

  • bullpen: need one more guy we can count on for the late inning work. Rogers is great, and Parker has the experience to not worry about him too much. It's fair to be concerned about May and whether or not guys are going to start figuring out Harper/Magill
  • 5th starter. I'm not convinced on Pineda, and at some point we have to stop writing off every poor performance as "well, he's still coming back after Tommy John". I swear, we've changed his name to Michael He's Coming Back From Tommy John Pineda. Dude is 22 months removed from the surgery.
  • OBP in the lineup. We are slugging the hell out of the ball, but we could use a few more baserunners (picking nits at this point, I think, but Rosario's OBP is under .300, Schoop's is only .310, and we could use 1-2 more guys who push that OBP over .350. But if there's a weakness in this lineup, that's probably it.)

 

He has 4 quality starts out of 10. The average overall for all starting pitchers is around 50%.If his first three starts fell in that category I might tend to agree with you but it is his last three starts that have been quality. In that time I haven't once said "Well, he is coming off Tommy John surgery" but in fact 22 months is a long time for recovery but it is also a very long time to be away from pitching competitively at the highest level.He is easily outperforming our #4 - 10 starters from 1987.Of the current winning teams he has been as good or better than at least the #5 starters on the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, Braves, Cards, Brewers and Pirates and he is trending up. I agree that the pen is thin but they have contributed to an awful lot of wins and really only blown a couple early in the year.Bullpen weakness is likely to be exposedat some point and the rotation and the offense is likely to revert back to the mean but they play 65 games against the Central and if they can go 60-54 in their remaining games it would put them at 92 wins. Hopefully Graterol can help the pen at some point and maybe another guy in trade or who steps up from the minors.Personally I wouldn't mind if they just brought up Stewart for long relief for now.

    • DiscGolfer, gagu, Minny505 and 1 other like this

One of the things that has made the season so fun so far, is also one of the fundamental 'weaknesses' (of sorts). The schedule. The Twins have played 16 games...tied for least in MLB...against teams with winning records. Not the Twins fault, and they're 8-8 so far. But with the way the league is now, you really don't know where you stand at any point in the season until you can play a series or two against one of the few teams that is both trying to compete, and decent at trying. IMO, we'll need to continue to look at the intermittent series against the Yankees, Boston (they'll be there), Tampa, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Cleveland (I guess)...to determine where the Twins are on their path to making noise in the post-season.

    • DiscGolfer and the_brute_squad like this

 

Our most glaring weakness is the fans' inability to accept that this team is going to sweep the Dodgers in 4 games and win their 3rd World Series title in October.

If they keep playing like they have been, that should fix itself by mid-September at the latest. 

    • Dantes929 and Minny505 like this

 

The other BIG weakness is the potential that high performing players will regress to their mean. I would be surprised if Perez has a sub 3.50 ERA at years end, same for Odorizzi. The lineup has a couple of guys who are playing above their history in Polanco and Buxton (and Garver), and even Kepler is hitting better than in the past.Some of it might be development; some of it might be just luck. Yet there really isn't anyone except maybe Rosario who is playing below expectations (Hildenberger is the same guy he was the second half last year, improvement should have been a hope not an expectation).Basically the biggest potential issue is what happens if guys regress to their previous mean. Not bad if that's your biggest issue. 

Perez seems to have made changes that look like actual improvement, not smoke and mirrors. A sub-3.50 ERA is not an unreasonable forecast. 

 

I'm not sure what Odorizzi changed, but he seems like a better regression candidate.

 

Polanco is likely to regress some, just because he's playing at an MVP level right now and I don't think he's quite that good. (He's young enough and has had flashes in that past that indicate there is at least a possibility he is actually that good.)

 

Buxton is about halfway between what he has been and what I hoped he would be eventually.I'll call it a good compromise and hope he stays healthy.

 

Kepler is marginally better at an age where marginal improvements are the norm.

 

I never trusted Hidenberger's stuff.The bullpen and pitching health are my two biggest concerns. 

    • gagu, Minny505 and caninatl04 like this

The biggest strength to this team is their ability to come back from any negative event.Whether that is falling behind and immediately scoring, or coming back from an ugly loss, their ability to recover is amazing.So if we are looking for weaknesses, I fear what will happen should they lose this ability to recover from a bad game/inning.

 

Like many, I am anxious every time Pineda steps on the mound.But this isn't a major concern as they won't need a 5th starter in the playoffs.My bigger concern regarding starters is in 2020 and beyond.Considering none of the prospects at Rochester have stepped up and shown us they are ready to be more than a AAAA starter (I understand one or more may step up over the summer), they really need to get one of Odorizzi or Gibson extended by this summer.

 

And like most, I see the most important move in July finding one very good late inning reliever who is under control for more than this year.I would think they have plenty of ammunition in the minors to make one smart move.

    • Channing1964 likes this

Probably worth describing the 'weakness' in context of regular season vs playoffs. For instance, it looks like the starting rotation will probably be a strength overall in the quest to win enough games to take the central division. Yet in the playoffs, where the top 3 start all games (practically), it would be very easy to argue that Berrios would likely be the worse number one among AL participants.

    • Dman and Jham like this

At this point in the season, you can start comparing our stats to other teams as many of them have played the same teams.Although sometimes it isn't so much who you play as much as when you play them.As much as I love this team, Houston is still the best team in baseball at this point in the season based on stats, but we are in the mix and we all know that the season is long and injuries happen.We need to pad our lead in the Central, let other teams sell off, pick up another bullpen guy or starter if someone goes down, and then finish strong.Playoffs are playoffs...anything can happen.

    • bighat likes this

My opinion?Lack of pitching depth at AAA.

 

They have twelve, yes TWELVE pitchers with ERAs over 6, including the team leader in saves (6.63!).

    • Dantes929 and 70charger like this

I'm probably concerned more with Berrios than Pineda at this exact moment.Pineda is trending the right direction, seems to start slow in games and then get better.I wish he was in better shape, but round is a shape and it may be affecting his ability to get loose more than pitch deep in games.Pineda has experience and I think he will be a plus in playoff baseball.Berrios seems to have lost some control.He was having a pretty good outing last time out until the offense wouldn't let him get back on the mound.Would still like my ace to be able to go out and get 6 complete in that situation.Doesn't matter if he gives up some runs in that scenario, just get through the innings.His pitch count didn't allow him to do that.

The bullpen seems to be good as long as starters are going deep.Next level analysis, I know.But, this makes me believe they will be ok in playoffs with all the off days.

    • gagu likes this
Weakness? the weather

While the bullpen has been solid so far, I still believe it is a significant weakness. I think a big part of the bullpen success is due to having a large number of non-competitive games. I looked back over the last 30 games and in 17 of those a Twins pitcher never took the mound in the 7th-9th innings with the game being within 3 runs (one team had at least a 4 run lead). Basically the bullpen has had a large number of low leverage innings. I fear the bullpen could be exposed if the Twins start having more frequent close games. 

    • Danchat, Dman, caninatl04 and 2 others like this

The bullpen needs an upgrade.

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Buddy Holly
May 23 2019 12:01 PM

Biggest weakness: NY Yankee's eat them for lunch!Figure out how to focus and beat good teams from the East. You can win the division, and then get swept by NY and it was all for nothing. Keep building a team for October baseball. They have a lot of work to do.

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diehardtwinsfan
May 23 2019 12:15 PM

Pen needs an upgrade. Rotation is fine for the regular season, but if they could go for it and get an ace, I'd be happy about that. 

    • USAFChief likes this
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segagenesisgenius
May 23 2019 12:26 PM

 

One of the things that has made the season so fun so far, is also one of the fundamental 'weaknesses' (of sorts). The schedule. The Twins have played 16 games...tied for least in MLB...against teams with winning records. Not the Twins fault, and they're 8-8 so far. But with the way the league is now, you really don't know where you stand at any point in the season until you can play a series or two against one of the few teams that is both trying to compete, and decent at trying. IMO, we'll need to continue to look at the intermittent series against the Yankees, Boston (they'll be there), Tampa, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Cleveland (I guess)...to determine where the Twins are on their path to making noise in the post-season.

 

I don't disagree, but it is also worth noting that that is the same amount of games that the Yankees and Cleveland has played, and further that only one team in the AL (Astros) has a winning record against >.500 teams so far.

 

It is also potentially worth mentioning that only 1 day ago the twins were tied for 4th for the least amount of >.500 teams, and the A's *just* getting to .500 managed to vault Cleveland, Boston, and the Angels past us.It is not unreasonable that similar things might happen to us with the Angels getting to .500, once they are done playing us. 

 

    • gagu, MN_ExPat and DannySD like this
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the_brute_squad
May 23 2019 12:36 PM

I still need to be convinced that Berrios is the #1 horse. The last two starts were less than impressive. I know he's young and has room for improvement but I still don't have the feeling that I had when Santana or Viola hit the mound in their prime. I'll be more convinced when he faces the above .500 teams and comes out with 7 quality innings and a W.

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segagenesisgenius
May 23 2019 12:37 PM

 

My opinion?Lack of pitching depth at AAA.

 

They have twelve, yes TWELVE pitchers with ERAs over 6, including the team leader in saves (6.63!).

 

While true, I would rephrase this to "poor performance of pitching at AAA" rather than "lack of pitching depth at AAA"Perhaps a small difference, but I would argue that there is a massive chasm between legit prospects who are struggling (such as Romero or Zack Littel) and have terrible or even middling prospects that are doing fine.Obviously neither is great, and I would prefer that our prospects were thriving, but the most accurate way of putting it is that our very good players that are in AAA are currently mainly slumping, such that they do not appear to be of much use to us at the moment. 

If Santa is asking, I'll have a healthy Hildy and a right-handed Taylor Rogers. Then I'm fine. If not, then bring up Romero again. Gotta find one more reliable two-inning guy. 

    • Jham likes this

I imagine this team will be unable to hit the ball as well against a true ace or a top tier bullpen. This is why the Twins need some better pitching so they can still win some games when they only manage to plate a couple of runs.

 

If the Twins ever get this -- either a very good bullpen or continued performance by the starters -- I will start to believe they can beat the Yankees in the playoffs.

 

I still need to be convinced that Berrios is the #1 horse. The last two starts were less than impressive. I know he's young and has room for improvement but I still don't have the feeling that I had when Santana or Viola hit the mound in their prime. I'll be more convinced when he faces the above .500 teams and comes out with 7 quality innings and a W.

 

I have pulled the data. "Aces" are typically good 60% of the time. That's it.

 

Conversely, the junky pitchers who manage to stick around a while are good 40-45% of the time. Most pitchers are good about half the time.

 

The point is, aces will lay quite a few eggs during the season. We all have to realize this. Runs are scored in nearly every baseball game and all pitchers allow them. "Aces" have fewer bad games, but they still have them.

    • Twins33, Circus Boy, gagu and 1 other like this

At this point it is hard to say much is a "weakness" but to me it is more what is biggest question of success moving forward.Offense I am not too worried about, they have shown this is not just a hot start and different guys had picked it up through out the season.It is possible adjustments to their aggressive approach will be made and they could struggle, but not too worried.

 

Starting staff there are huge questions going forward this season, as there were coming into season.It is great what Perez and Odo have been doing, but compared to rest of career it is was off line.Does this happen for some pitchers to have break out years, in particular when learn a new pitch like Perez, yes, but will it sustain?That is big question. 

 

Bullpen, is very similar to starting staff question.Back end of Parker and Rodgers their success is not all that surprising, nor May.The rest though that have performed well so far is surprising and they could start falling off at any time and then the real question is what will team do?Will they bring in other guys, put more innings on top end guys, or just hope the guys work through it? 

 

I think the Starters are biggest question, because two guys are working much better than expected and above career marks, over several seasons of career.I think if they start to falter it was have domino effect on bullpen and no matter how strong offense is, it is always hard for offense to carry a team over full season and in playoffs. 


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