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Article: Is this the Real Schoop?

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Making Sense of the Lineup Makeover

Considering the team's weaknesses, I was surprised by the type of hitters the Twins’ front office decided to bring in this offseason. I expected there to be a focus on signing high on-base percentage guys to multi-year deals. After having some time to digest things, I think I’ve identified a few things that may explain what the Twins were looking for.
Image courtesy of © Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Usually I'd hash through everything and make you wait for the conclusion, but this thing got long. So instead, it's choose your own adventure! Here comes the conclusion, stick around for the more detailed analysis if you'd like.

Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop are all right-handed pull power hitters who are comfortably above average against right-handed pitching, making them particularly platoon proof. If you believe Target Field is a great place for right-handed hitters, it seems to make a ton of sense to seek out that profile. Also, if you’re inclined to carry a 13-man pitching staff, as is commonplace in today’s age, filling your roster with guys who can hit same-sided pitching makes a ton of sense. One-dimensional hitters really lose their value when you only have three bench spots.

Alright, that’s the quick hit take. For those of you interested in a deeper dive, here we go ...

The OBP Issue
Take a look at how those new additions stack up against some of the key departures in terms of OBP over the past three seasons.

OBP 2016-18
.371 Robbie Grossman
.366 Joe Mauer
.359 Nelson Cruz
.336 Brian Dozier
.319 C.J. Cron
.313 Eduardo Escobar
.304 Jonathan Schoop

The added pop is welcome from the new faces, but the Twins ranked 16th in OBP last season as it was. They can ill afford a slip further back. This is still definitely a concern of mine.

The Lefty Issue
The Twins had a 91 wRC+ against lefties last season, which ranked 21st in baseball. To make matters worse, they also lost their best two hitters against lefties last season in terms of wRC+ (min. 100 PAs vs. LHP). Robbie Grossman led the club with a 147 wRC+ vs. southpaws while Joe Mauer finished second at 106.

So these new right-handed bats will help solve that problem, right? Well ... it's interesting. Let’s take a look.

Into the Splits
Before we continue, I think it’s important to relay the league averages for context. Here are the league batting splits of right-handed hitters from 2018 per Baseball-Reference:

RHB vs. LHP: .251/.330/.423 (.753 OPS), 21.3 K%, 9.8 BB%
RHB vs. RHP: .246/.308/.403 (.711 OPS), 23.0 K%, 7.2 BB%

So how do the new guys stack up? We’re going to first take a look at their career splits. I’ll touch on some interesting single-season trends a bit later, but it's worth pointing out an everyday player may only get around 150 plate appearances against lefties in a season. That’s not a very big sample, so I prefer to look at the bigger picture first.

Nelson Cruz career
vs. LHP: .290/.378/.549 (.927 OPS), 20.0 K%, 12.0 BB%
vs. RHP: .269/.328/.507 (.835 OPS), 23.3 K%, 7.3 BB%

Cruz has definitely been a lefty killer over his career, but there’s really nothing lacking about his slash line against same-sided pitchers. Last season, the league average OPS for a DH was .774, which he blows out of the water even against right-handers.

Cruz ranks seventh in wRC+ vs. right-handed pitchers among the 150 right-handed batters with at least 600 PAs over the past three seasons. Even though he's hit lefties much harder, Cruz actually ranks 10th vs. left-handers among the 186 right-handers with at least 250 PAs last three seasons. Point is that Cruz is an uncharacteristically balanced hitter. Was that something the Twins found particularly attractive about him?

Cruz is a great power hitter, has has a solid OBP and crushes lefties, so he checks all the boxes. But the curious thing to me is the Twins already had some interesting internal options to fill the DH spot. Tyler Austin has a career .937 OPS against lefties and Jake Cave has an .844 OPS against right-handers, making them appear to be perfect platoon partners. But in today’s age of the three-man bench, is it really optimal to try and deploy a platoon? The Twins didn’t seem to think so. Moving on …

C.J. Cron career
vs. LHP: .264/.313/.463 (.776 OPS), 21.9 K%, 5.9 BB%
vs. RHP: .258/.311/.460 (.770 OPS), 22.8 K%, 5.2 BB%

Take a look at that. Cron has essentially been the exact same guy against either side over his career. There’s certainly been some fluctuation year-to-year, more on that in a moment, but the grand totals are incredibly even. Cron appears to be a very steady option. This only adds steam to the theory that the front office was seeking out balanced hitters who do not need a platoon partner. OK, now let’s get weird …

Jonathan Schoop career
vs. LHP: .246/.292/.401 (.693 OPS) 24.9 K%, 5.8 BB%
vs. RHP: .262/.294/.461 (.755 OPS), 21.7 K%, 2.9 BB%

Huh? Schoop has actually been a good amount worse against southpaws over his career!? Does not compute. I had to triple check these numbers. Since the start of 2014, Schoop ranks 81st among 86 right-handed hitters in wRC+ vs. left-handed pitching (min. 600 PAs).

Still, just like Cruz and Cron, Schoop is comfortably better than the average right-handed hitter against same-sided pitching. And there are some interesting things to observe in the single-season splits.

Schoop has struggled against lefties for most of his career, but he hit .300/.361/.593 (.955 OPS) in 166 plate appearances against them in 2017. That was by far and away Schoop’s best season. The bigger sample doesn’t inspire confidence, but maybe the Twins expect a better performance against southpaws again in 2019.

Cron has been solid against lefties, but in no means a lefty killer over his career. In 2018, however, he hit .307/.376/.553 (.930 OPS) in 170 plate appearances them. Hmm, so Cron’s best season against lefties also lines up with his career year. That’s an interesting coincidence. Again, keep those sample sizes in mind.

When I think of Schoop and Cron in terms of their ceiling and floor, I think this splits conversation is a really good place to start. Both have shown the ability to consistently produce against right-handed pitchers. That helps give them a high floor. But what if they destroy lefties again? That’s how they could also have a high ceiling.

Projected AL Central Rotations
Let’s take a look around of rest of the division. According to Roster Resource, there are only five left-handed starters projected to occupy the rotation spots of the four AL Central rivals: Matthew Boyd and Matt Moore of the Tigers, Carlos Rodon and Manny Banuelos of the White Sox and Danny Duffy of the Royals. Not exactly world beaters.

Cleveland is expected to have an all right-handed rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. And remember, with the unbalanced schedule the Twins play nearly half their games against AL Central foes. So there wouldn’t be much advantage in the Twins adding hitters who just mashed lefties.

Pull Power
So why not just target left-handed hitters then? Well, balance for one thing. The Twins already have lefties Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler playing everyday and Jason Castro is expected to return as the primary catcher. Also, the switch-hitting Jorge Polanco has been much better from the left side over his career. That’s already almost half of your primary lineup.

We’ve also seen right-handed pull power play up at Target Field. According to the data on FanGraphs, the league average pull rate was 40.3 percent last season. Over the past three years, Schoop is at 44.7 percent, Cron is at 41.6 and Cruz at 41.1. That's nowhere near as extreme as Brian Dozier (51.2) or Josh Willingham (49.7), but all three are still above average. Perhaps they'll even be encouraged to pull the ball more frequently this year.

So How Does the Lineup Look?
Here’s a list of Twins hitters who are above average versus each side. In 2018, all batters (regardless of handedness) combined for a .731 OPS against right-handers and a .720 mark against lefties.

Twins hitters who are better than those averages against right-handers over their careers:
.844 Jake Cave
.835 Nelson Cruz
.813 Eddie Rosario
.802 Miguel Sano
.776 Max Kepler
.776 Mitch Garver
.771 Jorge Polanco
.770 C.J. Cron
.755 Jonathan Schoop
.739 Jason Castro

That’s 10 guys! This Twins team is going to be able to field a very deep lineup against right-handed pitching.

Twins hitters who are better than average against lefties over their careers:
.937 Tyler Austin
.927 Nelson Cruz
.846 Miguel Sano
.776 C.J. Cron

That’s it. Considering the composition of the other teams in the division, however, this doesn’t seem like such a bad problem to have. While there are fewer guys who hold their own against lefties, those top three can really mash. And just imagine if Cron and Schoop can crush southpaws like they did in their career years. It's also worth noting Byron Buxton had a .792 OPS against lefties in 2017.

But what about Willians!?!?!? His MLB samples are just so small, less than 100 total plate appearances, so I didn’t include him. But between the majors and minors last year Astudillo had an .800 OPS against right-handers (304 PAs) and an .830 OPS versus lefties (100 PAs). Lucas Duda’s not on the 40-man roster, but it’s worth mentioning he has a career .839 OPS against right-handers but just a .642 OPS versus lefties.

But What About Those Short-Term Deals?
That’s the one thing I don’t really have an answer to. I wouldn’t suggest the Twins should have signed any one of Cruz/Cron/Schoop to a long-term pact, but it seems like it would have made some sense to target at least one addition who would be around for the long haul. If not via free agency, then through the trade market.

After all the one-year deals went so poorly last season, and the front office was open about how that may have been a mistake, I expected them to focus more on long-term assets. Schoop is on a one-year deal, Cruz has an option with a very modest buyout and Cron has one more year of arbitration eligibility after 2019.

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21 Comments

Excellent breakdown Tom. I was wondering why they were pursuing who they signed. Now it makes sense. I'm getting excited!
    • howieramone2 likes this
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Don Walcott
Feb 14 2019 04:36 AM
Excellent analysis. Hope this strategy works. It makes a lot of sense the way you broke it down.
    • howieramone2, gagu and caninatl04 like this

Great article.I am concerned about the lack of OBP on the Twins.Other concern not mentioned here is how Cleveland right handers stack up against same sided hitters.I would be much more concerned if most of the righty starters had Whale like statistics.The Whale for those of you who do not reconize the term was Rich Reshuel who was death on righties and very hittable by lefties.(pardon the spelling).There are two sides to this, but give what MLB is trying to do to speed up the game, balanced hitters seem to be the way to go (due to 13 man pitching staffs, 3 bench players is all you can carry at this time).

    • Minny505 likes this
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yarnivek1972
Feb 14 2019 06:34 AM
Schoop’s struggles against LHP would suggest he’s vulnerable to the change up - the typical weapon of choice for LHP against RHB.
    • adorduan likes this
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killertwinfan
Feb 14 2019 06:49 AM

Very nice article.I am stunned the difference in rhb/lhp and rhb/rhb is 5 points.That's 2 or three hits per year on average.Doesn't seem to make sense especially when we have had a bunch of lefty relievers that couldn't get a righty out. I would like to see the player data on that one.  

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killertwinfan
Feb 14 2019 07:02 AM

On the OBP side of things, I think we are in trouble.This line up could struggle with clutch hitting which will make HR's all the more important.We'll need at least ~ 60 hr's from the corners.60 hr's from the 3 positions in the middle and another 60+ from the outfield and 30 from our DH to be competitive for the post season.IF these guys don't knock the ball out of the park we are in for a long season.  

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yarnivek1972
Feb 14 2019 09:10 AM

On the OBP side of things, I think we are in trouble. This line up could struggle with clutch hitting which will make HR's all the more important. We'll need at least ~ 60 hr's from the corners. 60 hr's from the 3 positions in the middle and another 60+ from the outfield and 30 from our DH to be competitive for the post season. IF these guys don't knock the ball out of the park we are in for a long season.


That’s 210 plus homeruns. The Twins got close to that number in 2016-17. Were WAY short in 2018. Besides that, they haven’t been above 200 since 1963-4.
    • caninatl04 likes this

Excellent presentation of the Twins lineup as they begin spring training.

 

Don't they have a team option to bring Cruz back in 2020?Also, I think the problems with one year deals last year had less to do with the length of the deal and more to the timing of when the players were signed.Lynn went into the winter thinking he was going to get richer, then waited and waited while no one gave him the offer he thought he deserved.He eventually signed with the Twins, but was really disappointed and missed most of spring training.Morrison's problems were likely more related to his injury than a one year deal.

    • howieramone2 likes this
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howieramone2
Feb 14 2019 10:27 AM

 

Excellent presentation of the Twins lineup as they begin spring training.

 

Don't they have a team option to bring Cruz back in 2020?Also, I think the problems with one year deals last year had less to do with the length of the deal and more to the timing of when the players were signed.Lynn went into the winter thinking he was going to get richer, then waited and waited while no one gave him the offer he thought he deserved.He eventually signed with the Twins, but was really disappointed and missed most of spring training.Morrison's problems were likely more related to his injury than a one year deal.

Completely agree. The problem was missing 4 weeks and 2 weeks of ST respectively. Players know their careers are relatively short, and they are not going to spent a season pouting. 

Excellent analysis!

 

The outs are going to come in bunches...fast and furious. The ball better leave the park on a regular basis...even if it does, there are going to be long stretches of excruciatingly painful offensive baseball.

 

And this from the article regarding facing left-handed pitching...the problem here is that Austin won't be on the 25-man roster...or at least BOTH Austin and Cron won't be on the roster..

 

Twins hitters who are better than average against lefties over their careers:
.937 Tyler Austin
.927 Nelson Cruz
.846 Miguel Sano
.776 C.J. Cron

That’s it. Considering the composition of the other teams in the division, however, this doesn’t seem like such a bad problem to have. While there are fewer guys who hold their own against lefties, those top three can really mash.

I'm not that concerned with our OBP.I'm sure a few of the projections below will not live up to these numbers but it is encouraging that we have 8 players projected to have an above average OBP.Astudillo is probably the only one of those 8 that won't see regular playing time.

 

Steamer 2019 OBP projections (League average was .318 in 2018)

Cruz .361

Kepler .342

Polanco .333

Sano .327

Cron .323

Garver .322

Astudillo .320

Rosario .318

Adrianza .313

Castro .308

Schoop .307

Austin .306

Torreyes .306

Cave .305

Buxton .301

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yarnivek1972
Feb 14 2019 12:00 PM

Excellent analysis!

The outs are going to come in bunches...fast and furious. The ball better leave the park on a regular basis...even if it does, there are going to be long stretches of excruciatingly painful offensive baseball.

And this from the article regarding facing left-handed pitching...the problem here is that Austin won't be on the 25-man roster...or at least BOTH Austin and Cron won't be on the roster..

Twins hitters who are better than average against lefties over their careers:
.937 Tyler Austin
.927 Nelson Cruz
.846 Miguel Sano
.776 C.J. Cron

That’s it. Considering the composition of the other teams in the division, however, this doesn’t seem like such a bad problem to have. While there are fewer guys who hold their own against lefties, those top three can really mash.

Problematically, unless Austin plays the outfield (which isn’t likely barring injuries) only 3 of those guys can play at a time. And only 2 in NL parks.
    • jkcarew likes this
Interesting C.J. Cron stats: his ISO is six points higher versus RHP, but his walk rate is .7% lower. Was he hit by a bunch of RHP pitches?
I wonder if the 1 year contracts instead reflects the FO”S confidence in prospects: Gordon for Scoop, Kirilofff for Cron. I don’t necessarily share that confidence BTW.

 

I wonder if the 1 year contracts instead reflects the FO”S confidence in prospects: Gordon for Scoop, Kirilofff for Cron. I don’t necessarily share that confidence BTW.

I doubt they wanted to bet multiple years on the Schoop rebound. (Schoop was only interested in a 1 year deal too). 

 

It's not a bad idea to keep 1B semi open for the future.Sano could move over, Rooker or Raley could pan out in the prospect department.Signing a player similar to Austin and Cron is pretty easy, we shouldn't be too worried about the future there. 

    • gagu likes this
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killertwinfan
Feb 15 2019 07:27 AM

 

That’s 210 plus homeruns. The Twins got close to that number in 2016-17. Were WAY short in 2018. Besides that, they haven’t been above 200 since 1963-4.

Well, yeah those were rounded numbers and these are entirely different players and coaches.Pecota's projection is 189 which I think is low.But the message I was trying to convey is that Falvine has assembled this line up which appears to be OBP low but has power and is constructed to hit over 200 HR.That alone could be fun.If you take the high season for 12 of the projected starters, that is 254 HR. Take 80% of that and you are over 200. I think that is fairly attainable when you have a number of players who are young and improving.Also, can you imagine if you have Cruz batting behind Sano who finally realizes a walk could be as good as a run and he stops swinging at wide breaking balls. He could hit well over 30 HRs.

This lineup is based on whoever they could get for “best value” not who would construct the best lineup. There will likely be plenty of homeruns but plenty of strikeouts
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Tom Froemming
Feb 16 2019 09:49 AM

Thanks for the feedback everybody. 

 

Great article.I am concerned about the lack of OBP on the Twins.Other concern not mentioned here is how Cleveland right handers stack up against same sided hitters. 

Cleveland's staff is for the most part really tough on righties, but check this out:

 

vs. current CLE pitchers

Cruz .340/.386/.745 (1.131 OPS) in 101 PAs

Cron .306/.390/.528 (.918 OPS) in 42 PAs

Schoop .311/.317/.443 (.760 OPS) in 63 PAs

 

Now those vs. pitcher splits may not be the most predictive numbers you can find, but you'd certainly rather see a good track record than not.

 

Interesting C.J. Cron stats: his ISO is six points higher versus RHP, but his walk rate is .7% lower. Was he hit by a bunch of RHP pitches?

Cron got hit by 17 pitches last year, third-most in the AL. He's averaged an HBP per every 46 PAs vs. RHP compared to one every 99 PAs vs. LHP, so that was a good hunch.

 

This lineup is based on whoever they could get for “best value” not who would construct the best lineup. There will likely be plenty of homeruns but plenty of strikeouts

It's certainly possible that was their motivation, but that's a poor overall way to build a team. I think you only do that if you're looking for guys to flip at the trade deadline. If you're trying to win, I think you have to focus on how guys fit into your current team and you need to look at your lineup as one singular element as opposed to a bunch of individuals. Again, not saying you're wrong, I just hope that wasn't the case.

https://www.mlb.com/...-19/c-304048078

Does Astudillo have a chance to make the team out of spring training? His contact ability creates interesting lineup options.
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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 17 2019 09:10 AM

 

Great article.I am concerned about the lack of OBP on the Twins.Other concern not mentioned here is how Cleveland right handers stack up against same sided hitters.I would be much more concerned if most of the righty starters had Whale like statistics.The Whale for those of you who do not reconize the term was Rich Reshuel who was death on righties and very hittable by lefties.(pardon the spelling).There are two sides to this, but give what MLB is trying to do to speed up the game, balanced hitters seem to be the way to go (due to 13 man pitching staffs, 3 bench players is all you can carry at this time).

 

I suspect they are banking a bit on Sano in this one. His career minor league OBP is .375 and he was over .350 two of this first 3 ML seasons. The floor fell out on him last season, but I'm suspect Sano will be much better than his career ML OBP.

Tyler Austin is career .272/.345/.592 off LHPs...

 

It is not only the rotation.It is the pen as well and Cleveland has 3 good lefties there: Brad Hand, Oliver Perez, and Tyler Olson...

 

 

    • Tom Froemming likes this

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