Dear Future Rocco
Image courtesy of © David Banks-USA TODAY SportsDear future Rocco,
Twins Territory is grateful and maybe surprised by how good our team has been with you behind the wheel. We thank you for such a fun season, for putting together, alongside your coaching staff, the best offense in baseball and maybe one of the best of all time. So many smiles after each record-breaking Bomba are priceless.
At this point, we’re really hoping you can pull an Alex Cora-type rookie season as a manager. Some of us have believed that for awhile now. But even if that doesn’t happen, it’s OK. This young core is here for the long haul and we’re looking forward to the next decade as Twins fans.
In the past couple of months, though, the Twins have slowed down a lot, at some points struggling to remain above .500 since the first week of June. At the same time, Cleveland has reached the Twins, coming back from an eleven and a half game deficit, which made things even more bitter. So, every mistake has been blown out of proportion, whether that’s fair or not. So here’s a short list of obstacles you could work on avoiding in the years to come.
Fix the infield defense
As of late, the Twins fielding hasn’t been the best. As a team, they’ve committed 86 errors, the sixth-most in MLB. Among those, 43 were throwing errors, which is the fourth-highest in baseball. Earlier this week Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman tweeted an ugly fact about Minnesota’s infielders:
Basically, all the Twins everyday infielders can be held accountable for that. Jonathan Schoop is tied for most errors in the league among second basemen with 12. Jorge Polanco is tied at third among shortstops with 15 errors. Miguel Sanó is tied for sixth among third basemen with 12. Even C.J. Cron, who has had some very good defensive plays throughout the year, makes this list. He is the fourth among first basemen with nine.
Overall, the Twins defense isn’t one of the league’s worst. For instance, they rank 10th in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), according to FanGraphs, with 24. But that’s mostly because of their outfield. FanGraphs briefly breaks down how they calculate DRS here and when you look at the fielding calculations, you find that it uses rARM (Outfield Arms Runs Saved). The Twins outfielders are responsible for 11 (highest in baseball!) of those 24 runs saved. In other words, the infield defense has been bringing the defensive numbers down.
You were able to put together such a good team of coaches to help transform this team in such an exciting unit. We trust you to find professionals who will help fix this infield defense. Of course, there’s always the option of replacing a player here or there as well. But, I’m sure you’ll figure that out.
Give the bullpen a rest
The Twins bullpen has suffered a lot this season when relievers were used with no days of rest. It’s not that Minnesota is one of the teams who’s done that the most frequently (they’re only 14th in the league at 73 games). But, even so, they have one of the worst outcomes. When pitching in back-to-back days, Twins relievers have allowed the fourth-most runs in MLB, 50, and have the second-highest OPS against, with .926. That is simply unbelievable.
Not even Taylor Rogers, Minnesota’s best reliever, escapes this pattern. After he gave up a grand slam against Cleveland last Sunday, Aaron Gleeman posted how much worse his numbers are when pitching with no rest:
Other pitchers who have suffered because of this include Ryne Harper and Tyler Duffey, as well as trade deadline acquisitions Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson. Since this is your first year with these players, you’re still getting to know them. It’s understandable. Maybe you and the front office should work next offseason on adding arms you trust as much as you trust Rogers.
Maybe do something about the injuries
Injuries have been one of the smallest problems for the Twins as a team this year, at least if compared to last year. And, let’s face it, what can a manager do to prevent them from happening? Very little, we assume. But, if there’s anything in your power to change the frequency with which they happen to this team, we ask you, please do it.
Almost every position has suffered from the consequences of injuries this year. Position players who hit the IL include Willians Astudillo (67 days), Mitch Garver (19 days), Cron, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza (each one of them 11 days) and Eddie Rosario (19 days). Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda (11 days each) were sidelined starters and José Berríos has shown signs that possibly something is not quite right with him in the past few weeks.
No injuries have had more impact than those to Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz. They have both had multiple IL stints and are currently combined for 49 IL days on the year. Not only is that a very long time, but they are maybe the most impactful players on this team. When Nelly was sent down last week, he was raking, hitting home runs left and right. Thankfully, earlier this week it was reported that his injury wasn’t serious and that he would be back in action shortly. But, should we be worried for the future? Maybe he should seek a specific treatment for his wrist problems during the offseason.
Buxton’s absence was felt even more. While the Twins have a 53-25 (.679) record when he’s on the field, they have a 21-23 (.477) without him. Although it’s very hard to prove, I can’t believe that’s a simple coincidence. A lot of people have been discussing for years now whether or not he should change his approach to the game, maybe being less aggressive when chasing after warning track fly balls. As a former outfielder, maybe you could guide him through those changes, if they’re really the way to go. Or maybe just better conditioning would do the trick.
Something must be done to change the fact that injuries are becoming the greatest obstacle in Buxton’s career success. The Twins can’t afford to lose a player that maybe represents 20 percent more wins in a season multiple times a year. Like I wrote before, there’s maybe very little a manager can do about that, but we ask you, whatever is in your jurisdiction to do, please do it.
We all hope these tips can help you maintain this team on the right track for years to come.
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