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4 Head Scratchers for Baldelli Against Astros

The Minnesota Twins came into their Wild Card series against the Houston Astros as the series favorite. Despite an early lead, they coughed up the game due to defensive miscues. With Rocco Baldelli’s job defined by positioning for optimal outcomes, he too should shoulder blame.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
A season ago Baldelli was named American League Manager of the Year. It was warranted. The former star player guided the Twins to a record setting home run total and one of the most successful seasons in Twins history. Often times the award is handed to a guy leading a surprising organization to new heights. In 2020 expectations were lifted, but Baldelli created plenty of confusion.

The vaunted lineup on paper failed to perform plenty of nights and drawing the infield in during early stretches of games became commonplace. In the biggest game of the season however, four decisions struck me as poor.

Kenta Maeda is lifted after 5 innings and 91 pitches

Minnesota had a 1-0 lead at the time, but the only thing going for the Twins in this contest was Maeda. Despite forcing Zack Greinke to work in the 1st inning, no runs were scored with the bases loaded and just one out. The Astros starter then settled in, and Framber Valdez dominated after a shaky first inning of relief. It seemed questionable to assume that one run would be enough to win this one and hoping the bullpen could lock things down for nearly half the game was a big ask.

After getting both Matt Wisler and Trevor May warm previously, it’d have been nice to see Maeda return for the 6th and at least go one batter at a time. He could’ve been lifted at any point then. Instead the horses of the pen have no all been used while Houston didn’t trot out a single reliever.

Mitch Garver pinch hits for Ryan Jeffers to start the 7th inning

It was maybe an aggressive move to start rookie Ryan Jeffers in game one despite just 26 games of action. His .791 OPS and they way he worked behind the plate had earned it, however. Combine that with Garver slumping massively since his IL return and there was nothing about the decision that needed defending. In response to a lefty being on the mound though, Baldelli became convinced that 2019 Garver was who he was calling off the bench. Instead four straight curveballs, each one looked at, was all it too to get Minnesota’s pinch hitter.

Letting Jeffers hit in that spot was the right move. You started him because of what he’d shown thus far, and he put up exit velocities of 105 and 109 mph earlier in this one. It was a second guessing that was unfounded and made no sense. From here, we get two more problems.

Alex Avila replaces Mitch Garver defensively in the 8th inning

Immediately following a poor at bat, Garver is lifted prior to taking the field. Despite being arguably a better receiver than Avila, Baldelli decided the veteran backstop was the play. Of course, there was still another catcher on the roster thanks to the Twins rostering four in this series, but it never was going to make sense for the position to become a revolving door.

Garver could’ve caught the 8th inning and been more likely to steal strikes. Avila remains on the bench and represents your last true catcher behind the plate.

Willians Astudillo pinch hits for Alex Avila in the 9th inning

Now we get to the third cascading effect of the original choice to lift Jeffers. Trailing by three runs in a momentum setting first game, the Twins responded with Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco singling to right field. The batter would represent the tying run with a single out and runners on first and second. The right-handed bats left were Ehire Adrianza and Astudillo. Neither ideal, and the latter had just 16 big league at bats this season. On the very first pitch Astudillo lunged at a bender and hit a routine ground ball to third for the double play.

The entirety of this move was necessitated because of Rocco’s initial mistake to lift Jeffers. It was in this at bat though that highlighting Astudillo’s negative impact is so simple. He’s not Luis Arraez, and his ability to make contact is quite literally a negative. His chase rate is not good, and neither is the hard-hit percentage. By putting the ball in play, which is his sole intention, you’re more likely to experience a negative result.

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52 Comments

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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 29 2020 07:08 PM

I'm sorry to say this, but I have to agree with your points.

    • peterb18, mikelink45 and Greglw3 like this

I mostly agree also. Bottom line though is the pitching gave up one earned run. Should have just been one run period.I guess I also like Buxton bunting with two on and two on late in a game but know I am alone in the wilderness on that one.They played better defense than we did. It made all the difference. Their defense saved runs that could have scored. Ours gave away runs. All four of them, really.

    • peterb18, jun, Aerodeliria and 1 other like this

It almost feels like Baldelli intentionally managed to lose this game.

    • peterb18, bighat, VivaBomboRivera! and 1 other like this

I know the runs were unearned, but they were still runs and Romo is responsible.My there were a lot of things to not like today.Can we please stop the losing streak tomorrow.As a fan I feel embarrassed even though I can't do a damn thing about it. 

    • adjacent and LanceJS like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 29 2020 07:38 PM

 

I mostly agree also. Bottom line though is the pitching gave up one earned run. Should have just been one run period.I guess I also like Buxton bunting with two on and two on late in a game but know I am alone in the wilderness on that one.They played better defense than we did. It made all the difference. Their defense saved runs that could have scored. Ours gave away runs. All four of them, really.

I would have like to have seen Buck bunt in that situation also.

    • mikelink45 and umterp23 like this
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Twins_Fan_For_Life
Sep 29 2020 07:41 PM
Twins had a grand total of two hits going into the ninth inning. Got behind and ... well you know the rest
    • spanman2 likes this

By taking Jeffers out, Baldelli was rewarded with a 4-pitch strikeout (looking at all 4 pitches, I don't think Garver was even ready), a double play (first pitch swinging) and a poor framing catcher to play the defense.

    • peterb18, adjacent, mikelink45 and 1 other like this

Baldelli has a tendency to make brainless moves. He just made too many of them in this important game. Let Baldelli manage the long season and then promote anyone else to manage the post season.

    • peterb18 likes this
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stringer bell
Sep 29 2020 08:19 PM

I agree with the last three queries. Sending Maeda out for the sixth to face the lineup for the third time was questionable, but I suppose Rocco thought he would pull Maeda if someone got on base and with Maeda either at or over 100 pitches, and that he didn't want to bring in a reliever (May) with runners on in the middle of an inning.

 

I disliked the catcher moves, why bat for Jeffers, why not save a player by keeping Garver behind the plate, and why send up Astudillo? 

    • DocBauer and wsnydes like this

Way over the top analytical managing vs sometimes you go with you gut.  Jeffers has earned the right to not come out the game and Rocco has chosen to lift him in growing up moments.  Jeffers in both at bats worked the count and got to pitches he liked and could put a good swing on them.  Now results weren't in our favor but bat on ball and hit them hard.  Garver, took 4 pitches with his bat on the shoulder.  Some will question the strike zone, but in that at bat, after 2 pitches he should know anything close you swing and foul it off if you have to, to stay alive.  Did nothing.  Avila getting lifted for so called fan favorite 'Tuga is beyond belief.  He has shown the tendency to swing at first pitches almost everytime.  The announcers said curve ball will make you pull it into the ground and guess what, 1st pitch swinging wonder did just that. PLATE DISCIPLINE!... Jeffers is the only one who has it at catcher position.  Garver is lost.  Avila playing at all shouldn't happen.  Austidillo wanting to play hero ball and feel like a Bomba killer is a reason he only had 18 at bats in regular season.

    • mikelink45 and SoDakTwinsFan4 like this
Good write up. Twins gifted this win to Houston. This team depends way too much on hitting homeruns to score. Idk if that's the best plan for the post season
    • Greglw3 likes this

Actually we would have been lucky if were only 4 head scratchers....unfortunately there were more than that

    • weinshie, jun and Greglw3 like this
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stringer bell
Sep 29 2020 09:23 PM

Turtle has been scouted. Yes, he doesn't strike out, but he swings at everything. There is no need to throw him a strike, make a pitcher's pitch and he should be out in a pitch or two. 

    • weinshie and Dman like this
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stringer bell
Sep 29 2020 09:25 PM

It is almost like Rocco was trying to justify having four catchers.

    • jun and wsnydes like this
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tony&rodney
Sep 29 2020 10:07 PM

The decision to have four catchers on the roster is pretty much indefensible. 

Rocco has some talent to work with, he makes some glaring errors, but does a fair job and knows more baseball than any of us. However, it is humorous to remember those who criticized Molitor, the most respected and knowledgable player of his era. 

We can hope the team comes out hitting line drives tomorrow. Ten runs cures all.

For the record, Avila is a better defensive catcher than Garver.

But that wouldn't be an issue if Rocco just leaves Jeffers in the game. Why start Jeffers, if not because he's currently the better option?.
    • wavedog, Dantes929, weinshie and 8 others like this
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SoDakTwinsFan4
Sep 29 2020 10:47 PM
Agree with your points and would just like to add that it also just simply comes down to execution. The Astros got the big hits with men on when they needed to and made the defensive plays. We did not.
    • weinshie and Dman like this
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SoDakTwinsFan4
Sep 29 2020 10:53 PM

 

"..PLATE DISCIPLINE!... Jeffers is the only one who has it at catcher position.  Garver is lost.  Avila playing at all shouldn't happen.  Austidillo wanting to play hero ball and feel like a Bomba killer is a reason he only had 18 at bats in regular season."

100% agree. Why not give Jeffers the opportunity to shine in a big moment? I trust him more than any of the others.

    • weinshie, jun and umterp23 like this
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VivaBomboRivera!
Sep 29 2020 10:56 PM

It almost feels like Baldelli intentionally managed to lose this game.

I remember hearing this before somewhere.

    • Dantes929 likes this
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VivaBomboRivera!
Sep 29 2020 10:59 PM

... he didn't want to bring in a reliever (May) with runners on in the middle of an inning.

But this is what relievers do, they provide relief, right? 

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VivaBomboRivera!
Sep 29 2020 11:00 PM

And the net of this article is:

 

Ya dance with them that brung ya.

Have to agree with all the negative points. Romo just can't get it done now. Be nice to see Polanco get a hit one of these days.
    • heresthething and LanceJS like this
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Aerodeliria
Sep 30 2020 03:53 AM

Like so many other big games, failures on defense cost the Twins the game. There is something about Polanco in tight games and errors. That was an easy throw to make. Maybe he should come out in tight games in the late innings.

 

The other interesting thing is patience at the plate. Obviously, Baldelli emphasized that the Twins be patient at the plate...it lasted one inning. Only Kepler and Arraez were swinging at strikes after the first inning. (I'd really like to know the number of balls hitters chased in this game--on second thought, forget it--I don't want to know.)

In total agreement with all your points, Ted.

 

Was scratching my head when Garver pinch hit, then again when Avila came on to catch. Stopped scratching when Astudillo pinch hit as I knew the Manager believed he needed to get all four catchers into the game.

 

I have to believe that Garver will be better in 2021. Maybe not 2019 good, but certainly better than this year. That puts Garver and Jeffers splitting starts about 50-50. Expect Astudillo will either be gone or in Rochester, assuming the World has returned to some degree of normal. That will help the Twins cut payroll for 2021, which I expect will be down from projected 2020 by at least a quarter or more.

 

Notice how I have already turned the page to next year.

Very good article. The one thing that wasn't mentioned when Jeffers was lifted for Garver that shows Baldelli's brain freeze is that Garver hits fastballs not curveballs. Valdez throws curveballs. Why then put Garver into that situation in the first place? He would be one of your worst options. 

Also would have liked to see Buxton bunt when they had guys on 1st and 2nd no outs. The announcers said later that you don't ask a player to do something they can't do. Buxton used to bunt. Don't think he tried it at all this year. Don't understand why they don't make that part of his game and why he doesn't WANT it to be part of his game. I've never understood why major league hitters can't bunt. High schoolers know how to bunt. With the shifts being deployed on almost every hitter nowadays there are base hit bunts available on almost every at bat. Evidently 2 hits in the first 8 innings, swinging for the fences, is acceptable. To me it's poor baseball.

    • jun, Dman, rdehring and 1 other like this

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