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So....Time to make a call to Kimbrel?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:45 PM
I know it’s being discussed in the game thread but figured why not give it one of its own. Prety sure there haven’t been any prior thread...
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Article: Falvey: I Will Spoil Avengers Ending If You Ask...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:18 PM
The long-simmering debate over the Twins bullpen came to a head on Thursday, as a defiant Derek Falvey threatened to reveal the ending of...
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Article: The Early Returns From Michael Pineda

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:51 PM
As the Twins get ready to finish up the four game series against the Blue Jays, Michael Pineda will take the mound for what will be his f...
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Game Thread: Twins @ Baltimore 4:05 PM PT (6:05 PM CT) 4/...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:19 PM
Today, the Twins are in Baltimore, playing a team that, in years past, has been an antidote to losing. Unfortunately, this years version...
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Where are they now? Ex-Twins in 2019

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:19 PM
I had fun with the "Ex-Twins in the Box Scores" post last year. I know, it's too early for any games at this point in the year, but I hav...
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A Twins Mainstay Dying Before Our Eyes?

Ask any long-standing Minnesota Twins fan and one of the most repeated mantras they’ll have heard about the goals of the big league team is pitching to contact. We’ve seen an adjustment in that department with minor leaguers pushing triple-digit heat, and a pitching coach known as a velocity guru. Another oft-repeated principle is slapping the ball the other way, and that may be dying before our eyes.
Image courtesy of © Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Across major league baseball, the shift is now commonplace in an attempt to get batters out. Every team does it, and in fact, Minnesota is an organization that employs it at one of the highest clips. With the shift on, your goal is to downplay the strengths of an opposing batter. It’s less about worrying whether a bunt gets dropped down, or the hitter can change their approach and simply “go the other way” on some smoke, than it is taking away the highest percentage of batted balls. Truly beating the shift isn’t about going around it, but rather, going over it.

The launch angle revolution is something that’s caught on across the big leagues, and while keyboard managers everywhere debate its viability the principles are sound. Hitting the ball in the air, harder, is going to produce positive results far more often than anything on the ground. Although often this is mentally categorized simply as fly balls, both home runs and rocket line drives fall into this optimal category as well.

David Ortiz, arguably the largest stain on Terry Ryan’s career, getting away was in part because of an inability for the organization to work within a player’s abilities. Rather than get left behind in the current game, it seems Minnesota is maybe leading the charge in some respects.

Back in 2017 Minnesota owned the third-lowest ground ball to fly ball ratio. They improved upon that factor a season ago, finishing with the second lowest tally in the big leagues. While the sample size is tiny, Rocco Baldelli’s club currently owns a 0.86 GB/FB ratio, trailing only the Seattle Mariners (0.83). So, what can we deduce from this information?

The reality is launch angle isn’t useful on its own, as is the case with many advanced metrics. Pairing launch angle with exit velocity however gives you a formula for some quantifiable positive. That is to say, hit the ball higher, harder, and watch what happens. Seems like common sense right?

Here’s what the Twins are doing right now, today, with that second-lowest GB/FB rate. Currently they’re only 20th in hard hit percentage. Mitch Garver is actually leading the club in barrels per plate appearance, and he’s top-10 in the big leagues with his output. Also let’s remind ourselves that fly balls include line drives, and Minnesota’s 19.4% is only 20th in all of baseball for that category. Where the outlook appears a bit shinier, the Twins' .315 BABIP is eighth best in all of baseball (Seattle’s .328 is 4th).

With the numbers above, we can see that the results of an updated process currently look like. Now, let’s add some context to who is actually generating these inputs. Over the winter the Twins front office added thumping bats like Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and C.J. Cron. Right now, Cruz owns the 10th highest hard hit rate in baseball, with Schoop not far behind at 22nd. Stretch a bit further and Jorge Polanco is just under 50% hard hit, but checks in one place ahead of superstar Mike Trout.

Generating hard contact, like we discussed with launch angle, is not all that valuable in a vacuum. Pairing it with zone control, and optimal launch angle, is a formula for strong production though. This is where the idea that teams wanting big power guys and not caring about strikeouts breaks down. What we know is that strikeouts are as damaging as any of the other 27 outs within a game. They aren’t more detrimental, and sometimes, they can be even less harmful. Shying away from a player because he strikes out isn’t a worthwhile proposition for organizations today. The guys who succeed however, are not those who do so despite the strikeouts, but rather in spite of them.

Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, and Khris Davis all fanned at least 175 times in 2018, but each of them had an OPS north of .800. Their strikeouts weren’t a problem because of the ability they showed to command the zone in any other situation. Rather than making soft contact, or simply putting the ball in play, they were taking walks or doing damage each time they were at the plate.

I’m not here to suggest that Cruz, Schoop, Cron or any number of Twins hitters is going to finish 2019 in the upper tier of power hitters. What I do think is worth watching however, is whether or not a consistent command of the zone and strong plate approach becomes a regular expectation for these guys. If that does wind up being the outcome, it appears Minnesota’s strategy to get the ball off the ground and hit it hard, will result in a positive outcome this organization has long not achieved.

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26 Comments

After reading this article the following comes to mind. Maybe Major League Baseball should think about The future of the game. Too many strikeouts, less hits, bunting dying a slow death, hit and run not emphasized as much. This leads to a boring game and less people in the stands. And the shift. I start to think that so many fans love the analytical part more than game itself. Bob Nightengale the long time baseball writer had a good article about this issue in the USA Today. I think the article was written last summer.
Now my personal opinion is that we need both: some of the old time baseball and with a good analytics dept. We just have to keep interest in the game. Football, basketball, and hockey are action sports and don’t have this program. Look at the Vikings, and the Wild..
sold out every game. And the NBA is thriving.
    • mikelink45 and CUtomorrownight like this

 

After reading this article the following comes to mind. Maybe Major League Baseball should think about The future of the game. Too many strikeouts, less hits, bunting dying a slow death, hit and run not emphasized as much. This leads to a boring game and less people in the stands. And the shift. I start to think that so many fans love the analytical part more than game itself. Bob Nightengale the long time baseball writer had a good article about this issue in the USA Today. I think the article was written last summer.
Now my personal opinion is that we need both: some of the old time baseball and with a good analytics dept. We just have to keep interest in the game. Football, basketball, and hockey are action sports and don’t have this program. Look at the Vikings, and the Wild..
sold out every game. And the NBA is thriving.

 

Maybe it's just me but I find basketball to be super boring.

    • diehardtwinsfan, 70charger, Longdistancetwins and 4 others like this

 

Maybe it's just me but I find basketball to be super boring.

College basketball is fantastic, but the NBA is boring. That said, there is no denying that it is really the only one of the Big 4 pro sports leagues in North America that is growing.

But I don't think it's so much the fast paced action of the NBA that MLB needs to replicate, it's the personality the players get to show while the game is in action. That sort of personality is against the unwritten rules of baseball and will too often result in being assaulted with a deadly weapon, either for you or someone on your team.

 

Either that sort of small d*** retaliation has to stop or young fans who care just as much about the showmanship of players as the actual play itself will never get into baseball.

The NBA is so incredibly awful these days, it's worse than Disney on Ice. It's the new Chuck E Cheese:a place to host your 10 year old's birthday party. It's not for adults and that's by design. They've gone all in on the entertainment angle and it's just ruined the league for true sports fans IMO.
    • USAFChief, Jerr, peterb18 and 4 others like this
I checked out of the NBA about 15 years ago. College hoops is exciting though, especially the tourney. Football is my favorite. I could go watch kids playing catch in the park. Hockey is best live. I do like to watch the Twins play and will travel to do it. When in Minnesota the game is always on, it's a family thing.
    • bighat likes this

Another Twin's mantra, ala our TV color guy(s) is to say something like, Well you know so-and-so is coming out of their slump when they're driving the ball like that to the opposite field.

And the old baseball advice before an at bat was to, Hit the top half of the ball, obviously meaning to make the defense have to play anything but a fly out.The rules of the game are the same, but the new advice is the polar opposite of the old.

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diehardtwinsfan
Apr 12 2019 05:43 AM

Not to ask a silly question, but woudln't hitting the ball the other way counteract the shift?

 

I get not using it for the sake of using it, but if one side of the field is loaded with players, why not hit to the other side?

    • birdwatcher, mikelink45, wsnydes and 2 others like this

Not to ask a silly question, but woudln't hitting the ball the other way counteract the shift?

I get not using it for the sake of using it, but if one side of the field is loaded with players, why not hit to the other side?

Of course you are right. The best hitters on this team, Cruz and Polanco use the whole field. So does Rosario when he is going good. Those hitters aren't shifted as much, and when they are, it isn't as effective. You can see it in their spray charts that they get hits to all fields.

Even Ortiz got a lot of hits to the opposite field. He played ping pong with the Green Monster a lot.
    • Dantes929, wsnydes and Original Whizzinator like this
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Ski U Mah Gopher
Apr 12 2019 07:58 AM

 

Not to ask a silly question, but woudln't hitting the ball the other way counteract the shift?

 

I get not using it for the sake of using it, but if one side of the field is loaded with players, why not hit to the other side?

 

Because most teams see teams don't want players to change their approach to hitting because of a shift. That might screw up their swings.

 

Plus the shifting team is saying a single to the opposite field is better than a double in the gap or a home run.

    • peterb18 likes this

Not to ask a silly question, but woudln't hitting the ball the other way counteract the shift?

I get not using it for the sake of using it, but if one side of the field is loaded with players, why not hit to the other side?

Stop it! You're making far too much sense!
    • bunt_vs_the_shift likes this

The problem I see with what I consider to be the "all or nothing" approach to hitting is that it devalues putting the ball in play.

 

Okay, two strikes, put the ball in play, make the opposing team field the ball, rather than striking out.

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RatherBeGolfing
Apr 12 2019 08:21 AM

I mean, the Twins' philosophy on this has been changing for a few years now, this isn't new this year or last. 

 

The irony is you could argue that the market inefficiency in the game now as far as hitting goes is what we just got away from, having the ability to just put the ball in play in an era where strikeouts are kind.

The Vikings sell out in part because they play so few games. Small venue for the Wild gets them sell outs more easily too.

"Generating hard contact, like we discussed with launch angle, is not all that valuable in a vacuum."

 

Misleading. Hard contact is always valuable. Always. Exit velocity has a high positive correlation with BA, SLG, BABiP...everything...even bullets hit on the ground.

 

Launching is good. But, the data that shows results are better when the ball is launched is skewed (at least to some extent) due to the fact that the skill to put the ball in play to the opposite field is nearly extinct. The data is going to show it's especially ineffective (relative to pull/launch/K) when nobody can do it well...or that when it occurs, it occurred by accident by someone that was actually trying to pull/launch. If a twelve year old Rod Carew or Tony Gwynn were to come along today, there would be a coach changing his approach by the time they were 16.

In retrospect, all "pitching to contact" meant was favoring not walking people over striking people out.

 

Though this sounds like a 'backstop' strategy it worked for the Twins for an entire decade.

 

But this requires more than a pitching strategy. For this to work, you also need a fired up group of position players who are willing to play some hard defense. Do we have that now? Maybe, I don't know.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

A hitter positions himself relative to the plate so that he has full plate coverage with a repeatable swing. He doesn't want to change his swing for any reason- not to pull or "push" the ball, not to reach a pitch in a specific location. He wants to swing the same every time. He wants to cover the width of the strike zone with authority. To hit a ball with authority you contact with the ball on the sweet spot of the barell. With a repeatable, mechanically correct swing, on an inside pitch you want to make contact out in front of where your stride foot lands- you will pull this pitch. On an outside pitch, with the same swing, you want to make contact deeper, a little past where your stride foot has landed- you will hit this pitch to the opposite field.

 

If you are early on an outside pitch, in anticipation of an inside fastball, you will make weak contact. Often a hitter is early with his lower half, recognizes the location (or offspeed pitch) and tries to slow his hands down and/or reach to make contact. his weight is on a flexed front leg, his butt sticks back, his back arm is extended at the point of contact instead of in a "power L". The contact is weak.

 

I'm not saying that no one has ever pulled an outside pitch. I'm saying it's unusual, and generally unlikely. 

 

When there are so many things to keep track of and react to as a hitter (location, velocity variability, movement) one approach to making things a little easier is to isolate focus. You can do this from pitch to pitch based on a variety of information, and obviously the extent to which a hitter is intellectually capable of doing this will have an impact on his success. You can also do it generally. Some hitters will just disregard a whole portion of the zone. I would say pretty much every hitter has done this to some extent. Even Ted Williams pretty much eliminated low and away. I think the way hitters do this differs along two different paths. One is that a hitter recognizes the pitch in the eliminated part of the zone, and refuses to swing at it. The other is that a hitter doesn't make the recognition and swings as though he hopes the pitch will be in the part of the zone he likes. The former is a better approach, but it relies on the abilities of the hitter to work. 

 

For a hitter whose spray chart is so heavy to the pull side that a defense shifts to that side (this is a hitter who is obviously isolating focus on middle-inside part of the zone) the pitcher's job is easier. He can expose the hitter for called and swinging strikes on the outer third, and force him to hit into the shift on the inner third (the area the hitter is focused on). The hitter is left with (as this article suggests): beat the shift by hitting over it with launch angle plus exit velocity. So, either hit a jack or get lucky. I would say this is pretty much what we see now in MLB. Hitters are successful at hitting more home runs, but the chances of any other hard hit (or weakly hit) ball landing for a base hit are reduced significantly, with the exposed vulnerable parts of the strike zone yielding more strike outs. 

 

A hitter who can "go with the pitch"- pull the inside pitch and hit the outside pitch away- with the same powerful swing, has a serious advantage over the hitter who isolates. 

 

One of the tricks to being able to hit the outside pitch with authority is that you have to "wait" for it, which is a weird concept when we're talking about milliseconds. You have to wait for it to travel just a little bit deeper in the zone, like maybe 8-12 inches deeper. (Also, how the &!%# do you "wait" when the pitch is coming well over 90 mph most of the time?) I think the hitters who do this successfully, are focused first on the outer third- they are thinking about "waiting" and letting the ball travel a little deeper and driving it the other way; AND, they are trusting their instincts to recognize and quickness to react to the inside pitch and pull it. Ability to recognize (location or pitch type) is increased by the extra wait time. It can also be increased by "shortening" the swing- less load action (maybe no leg kick, maybe the hands fire from a position closer to the point of contact rather than loading back to a more powerful counter rotated position, a position farther from the point of contact)- this would obviously sacrifice power in favor of contact. The closer that your hands are to the point of contact when they fire, the longer you can wait before firing. 

 

It is a HUGE advantage to be able to cover the outer third and hit the ball to the opposite field. To be able to do it with authority (and still be able to recognize, react, and turn on the inside pitch) is a demonstration of exceptionally capable hitting.

 

To do it, a hitter has to have exceptional vision, be smart, have a mechanically powerful, repeatable swing, be able to "wait", and be able to react with elite quickness.

 

Vision can be measured, and corrected to an extent if needed. Intelligence can be evaluated (and maybe improved???). A swing can be learned. Ability to wait can be learned. Quickness can be measured, and it can be optimized. 

 

I bet most MLB guys have the vision, swing, and quickness. I bet their intelligence is generally disregarded. I bet (traditionally) hitting instructors put a lot of effort into teaching hitters how to "wait". 

 

I'm happy to see launch angle and exit velocity embraced, and in particular the amended philosophy on bat path to facilitate increases in launch angle and exit velocity. I think even, along these lines, it is fine for some hitters to have a pull first approach. That approach would be relative to their intellect and to their skills, and maybe for them it happens to be optimal and it makes them the most productive hitter they can be. I think a hitting instructor's job is to help them figure that out. If I'm a hitting instructor, the general approach I advocate is to think 'cover the outer third to the opposite field first, and trust my quickness to react to the inner third'. 

 

It's interesting that while annual home run totals are up relative to league history, annual home run totals for the league's elite hitters are pretty stable. Mike Trout is the best hitter in baseball. He doesn't strike out a lot, he walks a lot, his avg is over 300, his obp is over 400, he hits 30-40 dingers. it's pretty comparable to elite hitters of the past (home run spikes of the steroid era aside). Recent elites, Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols have similar numbers. The overall annual homerun total increases are not accounted for in elite hitters hitting more homeruns, but rather sub-elite hitters, and even sub all-star hitters hitting more homeruns. I'll draw from this that the approach of elite hitters has stayed constant over time, and that we see sub-elite hitters favoring one approach/result over another (presently, power over contact). 

 

If the league has a temporary trend in a specific direction, in order to be competitive in the league you either have to be among the best at executing the characteristics of the trend or find the weaknesses in the trend and expose them with opposing characteristics. The teams that will be the best at executing the trend will be the teams that are willing to spend the most money, or get lucky in the draft/develop their talent most successfully. Maybe the Twins will be one of these teams. They usually aren't. I hope they are, because I don't see any signs of them being an organization ready to find and expose the weaknesses of trending MLB defense/pitching strategy. 

 

I wonder if there are any organizations out there who have been recruiting/developing contact hitters. I would like to see it. I think a lineup of hitters who aren't exposable on the outer third would tear up the league. And I think they could have a sustained run. I think it would take a while for organizations to adjust.

 

I'm not advocating for a return to small ball. I stand firmly against the sacrifice bunt. It's a waste of an out. I don't think it's exciting. I do like a hit and run- maybe in an offspeed count, with a runner who has a chance of a clean steal anyway, and with a non-elite hitter at the plate. Hit and runs are exciting. I would like to see more balance from hitters, even if it means a drop in power from guys like, say, Brian Dozier. I would be happy to see bunts for hits into the shift. I would be happy to see it over and over and over again until the shift goes away, if that's what it takes. The shift is ugly. I would rather see the game take care of it naturally than have it legislated away.

 

Chicks dig the long post.

    • Clare, Dantes929 and by jiminy like this

 

Not to ask a silly question, but woudln't hitting the ball the other way counteract the shift?

 

I get not using it for the sake of using it, but if one side of the field is loaded with players, why not hit to the other side?

The pitchers are also pitching to support the shift they have in place.They try not to give them anything that they can be easily hit the other way. Basically just hit it the other way is easier said than done.If players could beat the shift at will, then it wouldn't make sense to use it.Makes me think hitters can't beat the shift at will.(Some players are exceptions and they don't see as many shifts)

 

MLB.com determined that batting averages are lower with the shift in place but walks and homeruns slightly increased when the shift was on.So in a way that is how hitters are trying to beat the shift.Overall the shift decreased wOBA for the lefties they studied by just .008, the righties they studied were actually better against the shift by .001.Like Ted's article says if the shift is trying to take away my singles I will go for extra bases (launch angle).

 

https://www.mlb.com/...hift-c276706888 

 

Because most teams see teams don't want players to change their approach to hitting because of a shift. That might screw up their swings.

 

Plus the shifting team is saying a single to the opposite field is better than a double in the gap or a home run.

They do not worry about launch angle screwing up their swings.We used to have teams with players who got on base, players who moved them forward and players who drove them in.Are we now at a point where all players are supposed to do the same thing?

How is an article going to talk about Twins Exit Velocity and Launch Angle without mentioning Buxton?I get it, he wasn't a recent pickup or a product of this FO but I still want to talk about it.

 

94.5 MPH average Exit Velocity, 22nd in MLB, higher than MVP Christian Yelich(who is not slumping).

 

55% hard hit rate, 31st in MLB, 0.2% lower than Trout (29th).

 

His Launch angle is also more than double his career average so far.28.2 versus 11.0 for career.

 

    • bighat and Original Whizzinator like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 12 2019 07:00 PM
Every time I see a lefty slugger get in the box, the defense shift, and no bunt is laid down, a little bit of me dies.
    • ashbury, peterb18 and SheboyganBrats like this

 

Every time I see a lefty slugger get in the box, the defense shift, and no bunt is laid down, a little bit of me dies.

Watching Jose Ramirez attempt to bunt and waste pitches made more of me die. Most of these guys can't bunt, and when they attempt to, they usually can't get him down the 3rd base line. Maybe if they could be bothered to learn how to bunt...

    • ashbury likes this
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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 12 2019 09:31 PM

 

Watching Jose Ramirez attempt to bunt and waste pitches made more of me die. Most of these guys can't bunt, and when they attempt to, they usually can't get him down the 3rd base line. Maybe if they could be bothered to learn how to bunt...

Well, yeah. But if you're shifted every time, spending a few hours in March learning how to lay down a bunt seems like a useful way to spend the day.

 

There literally is no excuse for some of these players. You don't even need to be able to bunt well, you just need to be able to aim it within ~30 degrees... in fact, the harder you hit the bunt, the better off you are. Hell, if you hustle it out, you could see a few bunt doubles come your way over the course of a season. Pretty hard for the left fielder to get to a ball bouncing down the line lazily if he's holding position in left-center.

 

Get it past the pitcher and you're guaranteed at least one base. Literally. That's all it takes. Hell, you don't have to hit it on the ground. Sky that "failed bunt" to third and that's even a better result.

    • Original Whizzinator and Nine of twelve like this
I agree with this. It is hard for me to understand why more major leaguers aren't better at bunting. Especially when it doesn't take a particularly good bunt to give you a "free" hit. Since teams hardly work on defending a bunt anymore, you would think more players and teams would want to get better at bunting.

I also wonder about players or teams worrying about changing their swings to take advantage of shifts. I heard Rod Carew say that he had 3 different swings. Clearly Carew was a pretty special player. But if he could work on and maintain 3 different swings, you would think modern players could make adjustments to take advantage of the shift without destroying their swing.
    • Original Whizzinator likes this
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Nine of twelve
Apr 13 2019 11:34 AM

 

Maybe it's just me but I find basketball to be super boring.

I remember reading a Patrick Reusse column many years ago that said something to the effect that you can watch an NBA game closely and see nothing new at all, but you can watch an MLB game closely and see something new every time.

    • diehardtwinsfan and blindeke like this
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Nine of twelve
Apr 13 2019 11:52 AM

There is absolutely nothing wrong with pitching to contact. It's an excellent strategy but it's not one-size-fits-all. Nolan Ryan never thought about pitching that way and he never should have. But pitchers who rely on finesse and deception, and there have been many very good ones, should try to induce less-than-ideal contact. Don't waste pitches trying to strike someone out unless the situation calls for it. That type of pitcher should have as his goal getting through an inning on two ground-outs and a fly-out in 7 pitches.

I seem to remember a game that Brad Radke won with no K's. I guess he said afterward that he couldn't get anyone out.


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