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The new, patient, Eddie Rosario

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Get Ready for a 60-Game Sprint, Twins Fans

In 2006, after 60 games, the Minnesota Twins were 27-33. They were fourth in the division, and 10 1/2 games out of first place.

Under the parameters of the planned 2020 season, they'd have been dead in the water.
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Of course, as we now know, that '06 team ended up with 96 wins, the second-highest total (behind 2019) of any Twins team since the 1970s. Over the next 60 games, those pesky piranhas went 43-17, moving from seven games under .500 to 20 above.

Given our recency bias as fans, it can be easy to fall back on the image of this current Twins club as an impervious regular-season team that will weather any circumstance and emerge on top. It's a valid perception, really. The 2019 Twins were amazingly consistent and slump-proof. Their longest losing streaks of the season were four games (once) and three games (once).



It was the second winningest team in franchise history – a charmed season the likes of which we rarely see. Realistically, we can't expect things to go quite so smoothly again, even though the group is mostly intact (and even bolstered).

While the 2006 team is obviously an opposite extreme in terms of variance, it's a more conventional example. Ups and downs are inherent to this game. It is extremely common for teams to overperform or underperform in a two-month sample. In fact, it's more or less expected.

And 60 games is a helluva short season. In '06, Tony Batista was still the Twins third baseman after 60 games and Juan Castro was still their shortstop. Meanwhile, you can basically triangulate the turning point in Justin Morneau's MVP campaign to Minnesota's 60th game, against Baltimore, where he homered twice and drove in five. Before that day he'd hit .235/.295/.444; from then on he'd go .364/.414/.616.

For a variety of reasons, the 2020 Twins figure to be much less volatile than that scrappy bunch from 14 years ago, in part because they're much more soundly built, and not featuring the likes of Batista, Castro, and Rondell White as planned Opening Day starters. But there's no assurance that injuries or poor performance wouldn't have manifested in the early part of a full schedule, and now that reality looms extra large, should the season proceed as the league intends it to.

For a more pertinent example as it relates to this year's team, let's look at Mitch Garver in 2019. There was one 60-game stretch for the Twins (5/11-7/19) where he started only 23 times, and made 121 plate appearances, missing three weeks in the middle with an ankle sprain on top of the ample rest he saw as part of the team's strategy. Garver's production when on the field during this stretch (.250/.331/.528, 8 HR, 34-to-10 K/BB, 0.8 fWAR) was solid but certainly paled in comparison to his season in full.

This goes to illustrate how one single injury, and typical rest patterns, can significantly reduce the impact of key players over such a sample. But it also brings to mind an interesting question about how managerial philosophies might differ in this proposed 60-game mad dash.

Rocco Baldelli and the Twins were quite purposeful about how limiting Garver's work behind the plate in 2019, and they clearly expressed their intent to do the same in 2020. But with far fewer games (all heightened in importance), and reduced concern about preserving players like Garver late into a marathon season, will the Twins soften on this stance? The concentrated nature of the schedule will also need to be taken into account.

It's one of many subjects that will be interesting to ponder, as we now (finally) have the ability to discuss a defined plan and timeline for returning to play. There are plenty of other matters to work through before that can actually happen, but as things stand, Major League Baseball and its players appear united in their commitment to making this strange, shortened sprint of a season happen.

The Minnesota Twins, with their abundant depth, flexible talent, and cutting-edge management, are well poised to dominate such a format, with results that could harken back to that 2006 club upon hitting its stride.

Should it all come together as hoped, we can't wait to experience all the unprecedented twists and turns of this wild ride along with you.

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27 Comments

I'm sympathetic to the concern about a short bad streak burying our team. OTOH every other good team in the majors faces this same risk.

 

And, if I'm hoping for a post-season juggernaut, I want my guys to be ones who answer the bell every time it rings - the playoffs are a string of short series each of which could bury our team. So in practicality, I'm putting this special 60-game risk out of my mind.

    • glunn, DocBauer and Minny505 like this

Avila is a powerful left handed bat.Garver will get plenty of rest. I would think something like 45 games for Garver- 15 Avila

 

So glad that the conversation can turn to actual baseball stuff. But for some reason I still feel like the season may not happen. 

    • birdwatcher and DocBauer like this
Apparently its 10 games each against division foes, 4 games each against the NL Central. We won’t lose to the Yankees this year (in the regular season at least)!
    • glunn likes this
How many instances are there where the twins started hot and then faded down the stretch?

 

How many instances are there where the twins started hot and then faded down the stretch?

It's never happened in the history of mankind.

    • SkyBlueWaters likes this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Jun 23 2020 08:56 PM
The Twins were smokin’ in the first half of 2001. That was coming off four 90-loss seasons and there was nothing flukey about it!

55-32 at the All Star break.

 

How many instances are there where the twins started hot and then faded down the stretch?

 

2005 they started 36-24, but only won 83 games and the White Sox won the division and World Series.

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twinstalker
Jun 24 2020 01:43 AM

1977, 1979, 1984 are candidates, too, though I'm too lazy to look it up.

Edit:

1977: 24-11, 42-31, 67-48 were local maxima before finishing 84-77 (35-25 after 60)

 

1979: 22-8, 53-42, finish 82-80 (32-28 after 60)

 

1984: 18-15, 54-49, 67-58, finish 81-81 (28-32 after 60)

 

1972: 23-12, finish 77-77 (33-27 after 60)

 

 

    • glunn likes this
Great article and can’t wait for the season! But, “Garver's production when on the field during this stretch (.250/.331/.528, 8 HR, 34-to-10 K/BB, 0.8 fWAR) was solid...” .859 OPS from catcher = solid? Wow has he set the bar high.
    • bluechipper likes this
This short season could really help Berios, we shouldn’t see his 2nd half fade with no second half.
    • glunn, birdwatcher, DocBauer and 2 others like this

 

This short season could really help Berios, we shouldn’t see his 2nd half fade with no second half.

If there was a Cy Young vote after 60 games last year Odo would've gotten some votes too. 

    • glunn, birdwatcher, DocBauer and 2 others like this
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Nick Nelson
Jun 24 2020 08:58 AM

 

If there was a Cy Young vote after 60 games last year Odo would've gotten some votes too. 

Dang this is a good point. Odorizzi after the team's first 60 games (12 starts): 8-2, 1.96 ERA, 0.96 WHIP. He probably woulda won the thing. 

    • DocBauer and Minny505 like this

Something to also ponder is Byron Buxton's defense. He's a game changer out there. In a 60 game season it creates an interesting dynamic. Every single game matters. Because of that, I don't want him playing cautiously out in center. On the other hand, every game matters so we can't afford to have him missing a few days here and there for minor injuries, or worse.

    • DocBauer likes this

 

Dang this is a good point. Odorizzi after the team's first 60 games (12 starts): 8-2, 1.96 ERA, 0.96 WHIP. He probably woulda won the thing. 

Also, through 11 starts another Twins pitcher was 7-1 with a 2.95 ERA. His name is Martin Perez.

 

I guess that's exhibit A of what a small sample size 60 games is and how regression to the mean may not necessarily happen in 60 games. Hey, maybe Luis Arraez will hit .400 for the season. 

    • glunn, DocBauer and Minny505 like this

Having Rich Hill from day 1 helps. Berrios, Odo, Hill, Maeda and Bailly/Dobnak is a pretty good 5. Better once Pineda is added. That alone should prevent long slumps. And our line-up is loaded if the 1B isn't in legal trouble.

    • DocBauer likes this

 

 

Something to also ponder is Byron Buxton's defense. He's a game changer out there. In a 60 game season it creates an interesting dynamic. Every single game matters. Because of that, I don't want him playing cautiously out in center. On the other hand, every game matters so we can't afford to have him missing a few days here and there for minor injuries, or worse.

I still want him being a little cautious. Having him play deep and come in on balls was the right idea, even though he still got hurt in Cleveland. Just stop fighting the walls.

    • DocBauer and SkyBlueWaters like this
I don't want a 60 game season. I still want 82 games. But I will take what I can get, as will the rest of us. But barring big injuries, or covid outbreak, even with hit streaks and slumps, I do believe 60 games is enough for the cream to rise to the top.

The Twins were one of tbe best teams in all baseball last year despite the finish. They have done nothing but improve and deepen the roster since then. They have a powerful, dangerous and productive lineup. They have depth everywhere. It appears they have a strong pen and a solid, deep rotation. The one ongoing "complaint" is lack of a true ACE SP. But while I felt an adjusted routine, as well as experience/maturation would give Berrios his best season yet, a 60 game season should allow him to shine. And, as already pointed out, Oddo had a great season, really finding himself, and would have been a legitimate ACE and Cy Young candidate over half a season. Berrios would received votes as well I'm sure. Now we add Maeda and hopefully Hill for a half season along with depth, I think the rotation holds its own against most anyone.

My concern, strictly from wanting the Twins to do well and win it all, is the expanded playoffs, echoing Ash's concern. The Twins could legitimately go 40-20 or 45-15 But face a lesser team in a short series that they just don't match up well against and lose out. Unfortunately, it's not an uncommon phenomena for a great team having a great season but a lesser team, even having a losing season, just has a team's number at times.

I think we have a tremendous team with as good of a chance as anyone. I just really wish we had 82 games and a normal playoff for something close to a "normal" season.
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Nine of twelve
Jun 24 2020 06:11 PM

I've been trying figure out how to say what I want to say about all this. This might not quite be it but here goes anyway.

First, a 60-game season with only some of the top-line players is a farce. To attempt to give even a hint of legitimacy to this is totally disingenuous, to put it nicely.

Second, the health of the players, of thousands upon thousands of support personnel, and of their families is being placed at risk. And for what? To enable a farce.

Third, the political/social situation in our country weighs much more heavily on me right now than the lack of baseball.

I frankly don't give two ****s whether baseball resumes or not and this is from someone who has been a true Twins fan through thick and thin for 58 years. I wish the season had been canceled two months ago.

That said, I can't wait until real baseball is back. I ardently hope that can happen beginning on opening day in March, 2021.

    • birdwatcher and Vanimal46 like this
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Nick Nelson
Jun 24 2020 07:02 PM

 

My concern, strictly from wanting the Twins to do well and win it all, is the expanded playoffs, echoing Ash's concern. The Twins could legitimately go 40-20 or 45-15 But face a lesser team in a short series that they just don't match up well against and lose out. Unfortunately, it's not an uncommon phenomena for a great team having a great season but a lesser team, even having a losing season, just has a team's number at times.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but expanded playoffs are not in the plans right now, yea? That was part of a proposed deal that players and owners couldn't reach agreement on. Which is not to say they couldn't still agree to implement it between now and the season, but right now I think we're looking at the standard 10-team format.

    • Danchat likes this
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Nick Nelson
Jun 24 2020 07:10 PM

 

I've been trying figure out how to say what I want to say about all this. This might not quite be it but here goes anyway.

First, a 60-game season with only some of the top-line players is a farce. To attempt to give even a hint of legitimacy to this is totally disingenuous, to put it nicely.

Second, the health of the players, of thousands upon thousands of support personnel, and of their families is being placed at risk. And for what? To enable a farce.

I'll be honest, I've been battling this same inner conflict myself. As much as I love baseball, I recognize it's no more than a sports exhibition and I personally find all the poetic waxing about how it'll "reunite the country" or whatever to be silly.

 

But, players aren't taking these risks "to enable a farce." They're doing it to advance their careers and provide for their families. And while one might say most of 'em can afford to take a year off (some really can't), there are so many more people beyond players whose livelihoods are dependent on this game.

 

So, I don't begrudge you for feeling as you do, but that's something I've been weighing in my own mind.

    • Danchat, DocBauer and Vanimal46 like this
I’m really not looking forward when we inevitably normalize a player testing positive for covid and added to the IL. Followed up with discussing the strategy of who will take their spot in the lineup. Makes me very uneasy to be frank.
    • Nine of twelve likes this

Correct me if I'm wrong, but expanded playoffs are not in the plans right now, yea? That was part of a proposed deal that players and owners couldn't reach agreement on. Which is not to say they couldn't still agree to implement it between now and the season, but right now I think we're looking at the standard 10-team format.


Just read an update on mlb.com concerning the proposed season. It makes no mention of expanded playoffs, which was proposed earlier and which I assumed was a given. Further, it speaks about a 30 man roster that reduces down to 26 after 4 weeks with a 3 man taxi squad that must include a catcher.

I have taken no sides in this cluster mess, though I confess a slight 51-49 in favor of ownership just based on pure financial logic. But after everything we have heard and read of proposals and rosters and taxi squads comes down to a 30/28/26 man roster with only a 3 man taxi squad....then my opinion has shifted towards the players and I will call out the owners as complete idiots!!

There is no milb season. We have no idea about effects of covid, much less normal injury. So we have a 3 man taxi squad? If this is factual, then just call the season off now! This is an absurd joke if true.
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KirbyDome89
Jun 25 2020 01:42 AM

 

I'm sympathetic to the concern about a short bad streak burying our team. OTOH every other good team in the majors faces this same risk.

Not to mention the Twins have the advantage of playing one of, if not the easiest 60 game schedules in all of baseball. Nearly 2/3 of their games are against teams that finished 10 games or more under .500, and 1/3 of them are against two of the worst teams in baseball. Maybe Cincy and the Sox rise up, but right now I'd say this shortened schedule works in favor of the Twins. 

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Nine of twelve
Jun 25 2020 04:51 AM

 

 

But, players aren't taking these risks "to enable a farce." They're doing it to advance their careers and provide for their families. And while one might say most of 'em can afford to take a year off (some really can't), there are so many more people beyond players whose livelihoods are dependent on this game.

 

My son and my sister are both professional musicians. The two of them, especially my son who is early in his career, are in the same situation as athletes and others in the entertainment field. And of course they want to advance their careers but it's just not feasible right now. Witness today's StarTribune front page headline: U.S. virus cases reach new single-day record.

What it comes down to is that this situation is much, much bigger than the careers of a few athletes. That's unfortunate but I just don't see any way around it that does not entail unacceptable risk.

    • Craig Arko likes this
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SkyBlueWaters
Jun 25 2020 12:12 PM

 

First, a 60-game season with only some of the top-line players is a farce. To attempt to give even a hint of legitimacy to this is totally disingenuous, to put it nicely. ...

 

Third, the political/social situation in our country weighs much more heavily on me right now than the lack of baseball.

 

If you go to Dodger Stadium, you will see pennants flying for titles won, including 1981. There is no asterisk explaining that the NL team with the best record that strike-shortened year was Cincy (4 games better than LA, 6 games better than Hou), who finished 2nd in both halves but did not make the playoffs. That might qualify that NL season as farcical, but as time passes it gets forgotten. (Except perhaps in southern Ohio.)

 

Similarly, '95 was a strike-shortened season; and the '89 earthquake gave the A's an advantage, using their no. 1 & 2 starters twice. (Only 2 pitchers threw more than 2.2 IP in the series.)

 

The ball is going to be in the air soon. Unexpected players will start hot, stars may struggle, there may be hitting streaks and pitchers taking no hitters deep into games. Key errors will happen, and incredible run-saving catches. Those who care will live in the heat of the moments once again.

 

9of12, I agree with you to a large extent; I dislike how this has gone down. Farcical might be a bit harsh, however ridiculous the owners' posturing was (I don't believe they ever intended to play more games, thus negotiated in bad faith).

 

And hell yes, grave current events are vastly more important. I totally agree there. So was it a mistake to play baseball during WW2? NFL games the weekend after the JFK assassination? 

 

Probably the prior season closest to this is '94, when the poor Expos had a 6 game lead on Atlanta when it ended. We'll see if they make it to the playoffs this time. Rather than strike-shortened, it may be pandemic-shortened.But I lean toward wanting the players to try, to give them a chance. Some careers are short, some are stars only a brief while.

 

Last, if I might take a weak stab at levity, a Twins fan for only 58 seasons? Where were you the other 2?

 

 

 

 


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