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Front Page: Offseason Blueprint: Generics Over Brand Names

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 02:11 AM
On a shelf sit two bottles of dishwasher gel. One is a brand name you’re familiar with, the other a generic. You start reaching for the b...
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Front Page: Left Side, Strong Side: The Bar Has Been Raised

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:56 PM
The Minnesota Twins have had some pretty notable players take the field for them since the turn of the century. Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter,...
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Front Page: Who Could the Twins Trade this Offseason?

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:56 PM
While we debate Eddie Rosario's trade value, he's far from the only asset the Twins might dangle in front of other teams. The Twins have...
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Twins top 30 by Prospects Live

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 10:00 PM
Produced by yours truly. https://www.prospect...op-30-prospects The back end of the system is really quite interesting, and I’m finding t...
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Sign Yasmani Grandal, be open to trading Nelson Cruz if M...

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 09:40 PM
Mitch Garver had a tremendous home run rate in 2019. If he is anything close in 2020 to the hitter he was in 2019, the Twins' have a spec...
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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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Apr 14 2019 08:31 PM

If we compare the likes of last's years version of Schoop and Joey Gallo to emphasize the point of controlling the strike zone, we can see some interesting differences. They both are known as home run hitters, so strikeouts are something one would expect.


We often throw phrases around when referring to players like Gallo as "All or nothing" or "Either or home run or a strikeout." Hence, to the casual observer it might seem like Schoop was at least a comparable player to Gallo based on the more obvious stats:



Gallo: 207 (sounds ghastly)

Schoop: 115



Gallo: .206

Schoop: .233


That Gallo had more strikeouts than his BA is death-defying, but from that point forward, all metrics are solidly in Gallo's favor. Despite Schoop having a BA .027 higher than Gallo's, his OBP was .046 lower. This is due to strike zone expansion in many cases I would surmise.



Gallo: .312 (.106 higher than his BA)

Schoop: .266 (.033 higher than his BA)



Gallo: 74

Schoop: 19


Strikeout/walk ratio

Gallo: 2.8

Schoop: 6.1


In a weird world where walks were counted as hits, their respective batting averages would be inverted:


Weird world BA:

Gallo: .354

Schoop: .294


This is why, from last year's point of view, Gallo was a far more dangerous player than Schoop. It is true that when Gallo did swing the bat, he certainly was 'all or nothing,' but he didn't always swing the bat as evidenced by the walks. Gallo took those mighty swings at pitches that tended to be in the strike zone to his overall advantage. His 92 RBI attest to this (Schoop had 61).


It is good that Schoop has managed his OBP very well in 2019. He has strikeout/walk ratio is better (3.67) so far, which indicates he hasn't chased as often, but it is still early. Let's hope he keeps this pace as he would be a very dangerous player if her could return to 2017 form.

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