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One Twins Prospect to Watch at Each Minor League Level

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 01:02 AM
It’s been a long time since there has been real minor league action to follow and Twins fans might feel a little disconnected from the te...
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GAME THREAD: 5/7/21, Minnesota Twins @ Detroit Tigers, 6:...

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:38 PM
Roster Move: The Minnesota Twins placed Byron Buxton on the 10-day IL prior to the series opener with the Detroit Tigers with a grad...
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Effects of the shift

Other Baseball Yesterday, 10:00 PM
This was a discussion about the effects of defensive shifts in baseball, split from today's game thread. Feel free to join in below!...
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What Kind of Return Would You Need to Trade Byron Buxton?

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:00 PM
Let’s drink a cold dose of reality as an 11-17 ball club. Unless Falvey and Levine zag compared to past history, it doesn’t look like our...
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3 Rules the Twins' Offense Followed in 2020

The 2020 Twins played at a 97-win pace and won their second straight division title. Still, the offense was nothing short of a disappointment, driven by three rules all year.
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
1. Score early and don’t score again

In innings one through four, the Twins hit a strong .261/.329/.481 with a 118 wRC+, the second highest in the American League. The Twins also posted an A.L. leading .934 OPS with runners in scoring position over their first four innings. The team’s OPS dropped a staggering 252 points in innings five through nine with the fourth lowest wRC+ in the A.L. (85). The Twins scored nearly 45% of their runs in the first three innings during the 2020 campaign.

Part of this is the growing number of fire-breathing relievers in baseball. More guys than ever are throwing 100 with devastating sliders. Stringing hits together and creating rallies in the late innings has become nearly impossible. The Twins aren’t exempt from that reality. Still, compared to the rest of the league, the Twins were great early and terrible late.

Screen Shot 2020 11 18 At 1.18.13 PM

2. Refuse to hit left-handed pitching

After posting the highest single-season OPS against lefties since the 1998 Rangers, the Twins fell flat in 2020. Losing C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, two lefty mashers, certainly hurt. The Twins certainly expected better health from Josh Donaldson, who ranks fourth in OPS (.972) against LHP since 2013 (min. 1,000 PA). Mitch Garver still crushed the platoon despite his overall ineffectiveness. Miguel Sanó was inconsistent, Jorge Polanco is a much better left-handed hitter, and Max Kepler struggled mightily after mashing lefties in 2019. This all added up to a severe disadvantage.

Screen Shot 2020 11 18 At 2.15.54 PM

Nelson Cruz was an exception to just about every Twins offensive trend in 2020. He was consistently dominant and crushed lefties. Cruz slugged .907 with a 283 wRC+ against southpaws, ranking second to only Tim Anderson (300). Pretty scary to think about where the bats would’ve been if Cruz wasn’t a Twin, isn’t it?

3. Dial back the aggression that worked so well in 2019

There were a few keys to the Twins’ 2019 offensive breakout:
  • Hit the ball in the air
  • Be uber aggressive
  • Crush fastballs
The Twins swung at just under 71% of pitches in the zone in 2019, ranking fourth in baseball. In 2020, that number dropped to 67.6%, good for 16th in baseball. Even worse, they barely improved at chasing pitches. Ultimately they swung less at strikes and about the same at balls. They swung and missed at almost an identical rate but made soft contact much more. The team ranked 28th in soft contact rate in 2019 (15.7%) and fourth in 2020 (18%). They dropped from second to 20th in hard contact rate (-8.7%).

The team still hit the ball in the air at a high rate but saw less of them leave the park. They ranked 5th in home run-per-flyball in 2019 (17.7%) and tied for 9th in 2020 (16.6%). Perhaps most alarming, they stopped crushing fastballs. A Fangraphs metric that measures pitch value (wFB/C) says the Twins hit fastballs better than any team in 2019 (0.93). In 2020, 16 other teams hit fastballs better than the Twins (0.02).
These offensive trends all contributed to a sharp decline in production in 2020. Recognizing these is vital to figuring out how to bounce back in 2021.

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Nov 20 2020 02:51 AM

I wonder whether certain players exemplify this more than others, and how much a few key players altered the overall stats. Sano, Kepler, and Garver all had struggles, but they all looked a little different. Did they contribute the bulk of 1, 2, and 3, respectively?


    • Dantes929 likes this
Major League Ready
Nov 20 2020 08:06 AM

It would be interesting to see a comparison of fastball / breaking ball percentages thrown. It seemed to me opposing pitchers threw more breaking balls, especially when ahead in the count. IMO, the league adjusted to the Twins aggression.


There were 203 players with 150 or more ABs in 2020. We had six players with 150+ ABs. Here is how they ranked for swinging at pitches outside the zone.



Nice essay. What changed? I don't think a different hitting coach would have that drastic a difference. Was part of it the ball? Were they unable to adjust? If it was just facing relievers the rest of the league should have had the same result.
    • dbminn likes this
Guys retooled their swings for the juiced up baseball. Then they removed the ball from the game. Now we see more lazy fly ball outs. Hmmm. Kepler's swing is not the lovely swing we saw in his first couple of inspiring seasons. Who else? Rosie? Jorge? Guys paid a price for abandoning their swings.