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Front Page: How Miguel Sano Turned His Season Around

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:11 AM
In late June, Miguel Sano’s 2019 season felt like it was on the brink of collapse.From his delayed start in May through the end of June,...
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Front Page: Twins Game Recap (8/24): Sano 3-Run Bomba, Bu...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:10 AM
The Twins trailed the Tigers 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning tonight at Target Field, but Miguel Sano smashed a go-ahead...
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Front Page: Twins Minor League Report (8/24): Gray, Webb...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 12:10 AM
In the Twins minor leagues on Saturday night, the E-Twins were on the road but got a huge late-inning home run to take a lead. In Cedar R...
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Front Page: Twins 2019 Draft Pick To Have Tommy John Surgery

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 11:44 PM
Unfortunate news from the Minnesota Twins minor league system came out on Saturday night. According to Le Soliel, a French Canadian newsp...
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Front Page: Twins Game Recap (8/23): Berríos, Bullpen Can...

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:39 PM
Kicking off the Players Weekend, the Twins hosted the first of a three-game series against the team with the worst record and offense in...
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Perspective Proving Important for Twins Success

As a society we are a “What have you done for me lately” group of people. In all facets of life, we concern ourselves with the here and now, often misremembering even the most recent past. This is true in sports as well, and while just one team among 30 or more win a championship each year, that becomes the measuring stick for greatness. As the Minnesota Twins enter play on August 8 with a 70-44 record, this perspective seems all but lost.
Image courtesy of © David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Through May the Twins had compiled an MLB best 38-18 record. Over the course of a full season that’s a 110-win pace which would be the franchise record (102 in 1965) by nearly double-digits. To expect the continuation of that level of dominance over 162 games seemed like a longshot. What it did do however, was set up strong positioning for the stretch run.

Since June 1st the Twins have played to just a 32-25 record. Obviously, that isn’t the torrid pace that the first three months of the season saw, but that still plays out to a 91-win pace. In 2018, 91 wins would’ve won two different divisions and have been worth of a postseason berth. It’s also representative of a 13-game improvement year over year for Minnesota. If at their worst the Twins play at a 91-win clip this season, I’d imagine Rocco Baldelli would take that any day of the week.

So, as things have cooled for the big-league club, let’s get out in front of some common misconceptions.

Beating Good Teams

All season long there’s been plenty made regarding the Twins record against teams over .500. While this is somewhat of a silly practice given the volatility of records for teams hovering around that midpoint, it’s worth noting Minnesota has held their own against the best. Baldelli’s club has played six different teams that are at least 16 games over .500 (NYY, HOU, CLE, TB, ATL, and OAK). They own a 20-19 record against those clubs who have a combined winning percentage of .604. That winning percentage would be fifth best in baseball, and Minnesota is beating them at over a .500 clip.

In any sport, the goal is to hold serve with the best teams while cleaning up against the lackluster competition. Minnesota has done exactly that and has far more opportunity to expand on the latter as the calendar closes out the year. 9 games remain with Cleveland (four of which take place this week) and then just 11 games remain with clubs north of the .500 mark (MIL, TEX, BOS, and WAS).

Starting Rotation Issues

A point of discontent among fans since the season began, the Twins pitching staff has performed largely above expectations. Martin Perez isn’t close to the pitcher he started the year as, but you can’t discredit what he gave Minnesota from the get-go. Michael Pineda was scoffed at plenty early on, but he’s been one of the best and most consistent arms in baseball during 2019. This grouping isn’t bolstered just by early season performance either. Only eight different pitchers have made starts for Minnesota, the fewest in baseball, and the Twins rotation still has the seventh best fWAR since June 1st.

Pineda and Jose Berrios both have ERA’s south of 3.20 since June 1st, and Kyle Gibson is performing well with a 3.97 mark. Throwing out his nine-run blowup against the Yankees, Jake Odorizzi owns a 3.18 ERA in his last 4 turns and was the ERA leader early in the season. Wanting a starter at the deadline was a fair hope for the front office and fans alike, but with only Marcus Stroman as a realistic option, opportunity was hardly missed by passing on guys like Mike Leake, Tanner Roark, and Jordan Lyles.

The Competition is Stiff

There’s no denying that Minnesota should be eyeing up their postseason prospects at this point. They’ll need to finish out the slate strong, but they’re trending towards a berth and a division title. Despite losing two of three at home to Atlanta, run differentials suggest Minnesota may be the superior team. There were clunker pitching performances in the set, but it’s clear the clubs are evenly matched throughout their 25-man rosters.

It’s not just the Twins looking for answers either. New York has the best record in the American League, and second in baseball. Since June 1st their rotation ranks 26th in baseball. Atlanta leads the NL East by a healthy six game margin, but they have just the 14th best rotation in baseball during that same time period. Neither team made starting acquisitions at the deadline, and Atlanta even parted with an option. You’re going to run into good teams during the postseason, but each one of them will have warts.

Peaking in May

After going gangbusters to open 2019 and distance themselves from a disappointing 2018 season, Minnesota has been consistently tied to their start. Getting out of the gates that fast makes it understandable to reference that point, but a mediocre stretch doesn’t trump Minnesota still making their mark.

Since July 1st the Twins have a 17-13 record, which is a 92-win pace. That would’ve won four of six divisions a season ago and getting into the postseason is the only regular season goal. Record doesn’t matter once you’re there, and the opponent doesn’t care how you’ve arrived in the other dugout. We can break the season into chunks from an evaluation standpoint, but 162 games exist to legitimize trends over a significant period.

At the end of the day, there’re a few takeaways here. First and foremost, this Twins team is very, very good. They absolutely have deficiencies but so does every team in baseball. Even the Zack Greinke-bolstered Houston Astros have a World Series probability of less than 30%. In a sport where five or seven games can be so closely contested, calling anything a wrap before the final pitch seems foolish.

Since 2010 the Twins have looked like a lost franchise chasing a competitive window without much luck. Now they are not only well positioned to make waves in 2019, but for multiple years beyond. Reacting to contests without the context of a new game tomorrow or the opportunity that lies ahead is shortsighted. Smart money says there’s lots more winning to come, and the level we soak that in should only further the experience.

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36 Comments

I agree with the overall message of this article.

 

As a long time Twins fan, this team has been fun to follow and i strongly believe that the organization is headed in the right direction.The amount of talent they have, major and minor league, is impressive.

 

I do not believe they will hold on to the division lead.Their shaky pitching situation and the loss of Buxton makes winning the division unlikely.Maybe they can qualify as a wild card - a 50/50 chance in my opinion.

 

Attended two games at Target Field this summer - my first time there.Very fun!

 

    • mikelink45 likes this

As of the 7th, Stathead has the Twins odds of making the post-season at 98.5%, and of winning the division at 80.3%. For CLE, it's 78.6% playoffs, 19.7% division. While I think the numbers are too high, Minnesota is in the drivers seat. With the remaining schedule difference, the Indians probably need to win 7, maybe 8, of the 10 head-to-head match ups. Whatever happens, I'm excited about the future.

    • Mike Frasier Law and Minny505 like this

I wish I could be optimistic. They do have a lot of wins in the bank. But they are playing like a .500 team, and with any bad luck they'll be running on fumes or perhaps even just coasting in to the finish line. With 7 teams vying for 5 spots (I refuse to rule out Boston as yet), they need to do better than I'm forecasting. Low 90s in wins won't get the job done - mid-90s might prove iffy. This is a feast or famine league this year, and I'm not sure we're capable of loading up at the buffet.

    • mikelink45 and jud6312 like this
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yarnivek1972
Aug 08 2019 10:00 PM
I’m not seeing any warts that the Astros have.
    • Vanimal46 likes this
Lousy defense is starting to hurt thus team bad. Kepler should bat cleanup, Sano to the three hole if Cruz is out. Eddie Rosario no longer deserves to bat cleanup, to undisciplined to stay a 4. He has been almost as bad as Mitch Garver is lately. Both Garber and Rosario need a dose of patience. Starting pitching is failing badly right now.
    • shimrod likes this
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Aerodeliria
Aug 08 2019 10:25 PM

Starters can no longer give us seven or even five! Gibson can't throw strikes when he needs to. Perez seems to be a basket case at the moment, and even Berrios was left in too long against Atlanta (IMHO)...just to give the illusion that someone could go seven. The starters have got to step up their games or we'll soon be chasing Cleveland.

    • mikelink45 and Battle ur tail off like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Aug 09 2019 05:31 AM

Thanks for this article Ted. I needed that this morning.

    • Mike Frasier Law likes this
Your trying to defeat our Minnesota defeatism with data, facts and reality?!? Put away your truth!! We shall dwell in our gloomy sun deprived basement man caves dreading the boogie man and the Yankees until we have a 5 game lead over Cleveland!! Even then we shall emerge somber and unenthusiastic until the Yankees are eliminated from the playoffs. Only after they fall shall we allow a glimmer of hope to shine in our eyes and a crease of a potential smile to nudge the edge of our lips!!!
    • brvama, DocBauer and Minny505 like this

This is amazing. "Throwing out" a start against the Yankees for Odorizzi is very convenient for your argument, and saying the Twins are better than Atlanta (after they were embarrassed on their home field) because of run differentials is laughable. 

 

People could definitely stand to be more positive about this season, myself included. But holy cow some of these "facts" remind me of John Gordon's stats on Little Big League, in that they are highly doctored to produce a favorable outcome for your argument. 

 

Atlanta's starters may not rank highly, but Soroka/Fried are a pretty good 1-2 punch, and they ponied up to buy Keuchel last month.

 

Further, Atlanta's top three starters have combined for a total WAR of 8.3, while the Twins' top three is at 6.8. 

 

The Yankees starters are not great, but let's compare their bullpen to Minnesota's! 

    • Highabove, mikelink45, jud6312 and 1 other like this

Nice optimism, but hard to get enthused after another game where the starter gave up too many runs to allow our good offense to win the game.Hard to see our relief pitcher come back from exile with new enthusiasm only to see a critical HR in his one inning of work.  

 

Difficult to see Cruz go out for any injury.Hard to swallow the Dyson pill.Wishing our defense was not worrisome in critical situations.  

 

Not wanting to see Perez start another game, wishing Gibson could only start against mediocre teams.Hoping Pineda comes back soon.

 

Wanting Graterol, Thorpe, Smeltzer to provide arm relief to a team that seems to have pitcher fatigue.  

Hoping Rocco gets the starter out before the other team builds a massive lead.

 

Wanting some big wins against good teams because NY, Atlanta, and Cleveland have put our weaknesses on the bulletin board.

 

I know this post does not follow your positive post, but I do appreciate your attempt to boost our fan morale. 

It's great to not watch the worst team in baseball over the last decade anymore. I'm really happy about that.

 

It's still OK to want more. It didn't take Nostradamus to predict last off season that the Twins could hit well, but pitching was going to be the issue, or that the trade deadline was going to be a difficult way to fill gaps.

 

"I told you so" doesn't get us very far, but neither does a dose of perspective. The Twins were the only 100 game winner in 1965 (AL and NL). There's currently 5 teams in the AL alone that seem very likely to win 100 games. The Twins and Indians are in that list, both of which on pace for high 98 or 99 wins and soft schedules going forward.

 

In the AL in 2019, you dominate or get dominated. 95 wins will probably miss the post season. It'sa very different season than years past.

 

The Twins still need to pull the pitching staff together. Hopefully they can strike gold quickly with minor leaguers. They need it.

    • Doomtints, Vanimal46 and Minny505 like this

Thanks for the perspective.I too am concerned, I too can see slippage, I too fret over Rocco's decisionmaking.

But as Ted noted, this is a 162 game season, and there's almost a third of it left.Much has happened, much will happen. 

This team is 17 games better than they were last year at this time, a remarkable achievement.Successful organizations and players and teams grow over time, over multiple years.They take their lumps, they get better, they grow an identity and a core group of leaders, the league adjusts to them, they fail, then they get even better.This is how championship teams are developed. 

I am thoroughly enjoying this team, warts and all, and I will relish every pitch and at-bat through the rest of the season, knowing the Twins are an organization with an intelligent plan, developing talent, and a growing sense of confidence. 

    • DocBauer likes this
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woolywoolhouse
Aug 09 2019 09:32 AM

Still waiting to hear of a players-only meeting, hopefully called by Nelson Cruz. Telling the team to relax, have fun, trust their teammates... Maybe politely suggest to Rosario and Garver that swinging at the first pitch when a clutch-hit is needed isn't the best idea in the world?

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yarnivek1972
Aug 09 2019 09:52 AM

Still waiting to hear of a players-only meeting, hopefully called by Nelson Cruz. Telling the team to relax, have fun, trust their teammates... Maybe politely suggest to Rosario and Garver that swinging at the first pitch when a clutch-hit is needed isn't the best idea in the world?

Garver has the lowest outside zone swing percentage on the team. Rosario has the highest other than Astudillo. The last thing Garver is is undisciplined and I think it is extremely unfair to Garver to lump him with Rosario in that context.

It is very often that the first pitch you see will be the best one. He took a whack at it. It didn’t work last night but his approach this year has clearly worked. If Baldelli would get him more at bats he might be in serious consideration for MVP.
    • Danchat, Sconnie, Minny505 and 1 other like this

Still waiting to hear of a players-only meeting, hopefully called by Nelson Cruz. Telling the team to relax, have fun, trust their teammates... Maybe politely suggest to Rosario and Garver that swinging at the first pitch when a clutch-hit is needed isn't the best idea in the world?

  1. Relax.
  2. Have fun.
  3. Oh, and change your entire approach when you go up to the plate.
  4. ????
  5. Profit!
    • Brock Beauchamp, Riverbrian and Minny505 like this

This is a flawed team and we all know it.

 

However, if they can avoid a long losing streak right now, the games after Aug 20th are largely a piece of cake (or the 15th if you believe Texas won't put up a fight).

 

But there's no avoiding the conversation. We can talk about their flaws now or we can talk about them after they're bounced, probably by the Yankees, from the postseason. I think we all know that despite efforts to avoid the conversation, we will end up having the talk at both times.

 

We knew the bullpen was bad, but we didn't know the defense would be quite this bad. When they were playing well, they were playing better defense. To me this suggests they can fix the defense. If this team wants to be dominant like they were at the start of the year, they've got to get back to it.

 

The Twins were playing good defense before Sano returned. They were winning without Sano. This tells us all we need to know -- work on the dang defense. Don't be afraid to give guys days off to field a defense against teams that can hit!

    • Vanimal46 likes this
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theBOMisthebomb
Aug 09 2019 10:43 AM
Ok, you talked me off the ledge. Still nervous, though...

 

Still waiting to hear of a players-only meeting, hopefully called by Nelson Cruz. Telling the team to relax, have fun, trust their teammates... Maybe politely suggest to Rosario and Garver that swinging at the first pitch when a clutch-hit is needed isn't the best idea in the world?

 

It might seem like it, but hitting isn't the problem.

 

If the position players want to help win games, the step is to start playing defense competently. The hitting this year will be something we all remember for a very long time for how great it is.

"If at their worst the Twins play at a 91-win clip this season, I’d imagine Rocco Baldelli would take that any day of the week."

 

Seriously? I hope that's not true. If it is, he never should have been hired for this job.

 

Why should anyone believe that Stroman was the only realistic option? I wasn't in the front office fielding and making calls and neither were any of the rest of us. People that suggest that just because no other pitchers were traded, it means none could have been had are just giving the FO a free pass.

 

And to suggest that Gibson and the others are pitching well is just ignoring reality. 

 

"They’ll need to finish out the slate strong, but they’re trending towards a berth and a division title."

 

What trends are you looking at? Because virtually every "trend" we can see would show this team is trending to a 2nd place finish and maybe... if they can control the trend a little bit... holding on for a wild card. But there is absolutely no rational trend you can provide that indicates they are trending to a division title. None.

 

It's fine to want to see as much hope as possible. But there's a fine line between being hopeful and having your head in the sand. This team does not play good defense when Buxton isn't in the lineup and he isn't in the lineup far too often. The starting pitching has not done its job well lately, especially against decent teams. Their only chance of success is that the offense scores 8-9 runs a game. Could happen. Not betting on it.

 

The Twins will quite likely finish 2nd in the ALC and maybe you can argue that, going into the season, that would have been satisfactory. But no, I can't feel that way at this point.

 

 

    • ashbury, USAFChief, Sconnie and 5 others like this
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MMMordabito
Aug 09 2019 11:49 AM

"Pineda and Jose Berrios both have ERA’s south of 3.20 since June 1st, and Kyle Gibson is performing well with a 3.97 mark. Throwing out his nine-run blowup against the Yankees, Jake Odorizzi owns a 3.18 ERA in his last 4 turns and was the ERA leader early in the season. Wanting a starter at the deadline was a fair hope for the front office and fans alike, but with only Marcus Stroman as a realistic option, opportunity was hardly missed by passing on guys like Mike Leake, Tanner Roark, and Jordan Lyles."

 

 

Giving Berrios a pass on a terrible day at the park is OK, because he has been really good otherwise.

 

The rest of this take is nonsense. 

 

Pineda is hurt again. How can the team realistically count on him when it's going to count?

 

Anyone can throw out a terrible start and make numbers look better overall.That's misrepresentation with Odorizzi, because the guy can't go deep in ballgames and hurts the team in other ways by doing that. Sweeping his turd against the Yankees under the rug is a huge cop-out.

 

Gibson only performs well against bad teams when nothing extra is asked of him.Needs some innings eaten up after an extra-innings marathon. Nope. Fail.Need to set the tone early in a huge series with your biggest competitor. Nope. Fail. Badly.

 

You know what Mike Leake does well.He pitches deep into ballgames.Writing him off in sour grapes fashion isn't really fair.I'd much rather have him that Martin Perez or Kyle Gibson in the rotation. I would trade both for Leake today, if given the opportunity, and never look back.I'd even throw in another prospect to sweeten the pot for the other party.

 

It's going to be very interesting this off-season right around the time of the Rule 5 draft.The Twins will have to expose some guys.They might even have to expose some guys that they traded for in 2018.If they get selected, that will be a big Falvine fail, because they made the bed by not properly utilizing the assets.If they couldn't get takers on those assets when there was a chance to improve the team, then they are bad salespeople and perhaps someone else should be in charge.

 

Twisting the parts around to present a better picture is lame.

 

Painting the pitching issues as not-as-bad-as-it-seems and then stating that the Atlanta series was only lost because of some clunker pitching performances is self-contradiction.

 

Calling it like I see it ... One and done on October 2, or at best a series loss (3-1) at Target Field on October 8.This pitching staff just doesn't have the depth for anything more.

    • Battle ur tail off and HawksNest like this
It's 2019, people can create their own perception and find some sort of data to help back it up.

My perception aligns more with SD Buhr... More could have been done this year to supplement a good lineup aside from the people who were actually traded.

My perception is Cleveland has the pitching, and now thanks to the trade deadline, the offense to keep up their red hot winning ways.

The Twins are the ones who have to desperately grasp at straws to save the pitching staff. Because of their inactivity, they are looking to rely on a 20 year old with 40 AA innings on his resume to be a bullpen savior.
    • SD Buhr and jud6312 like this

this-is-fine.0.jpg

    • ashbury, SD Buhr, jud6312 and 1 other like this
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Battle ur tail off
Aug 09 2019 12:04 PM

 

"Pineda and Jose Berrios both have ERA’s south of 3.20 since June 1st, and Kyle Gibson is performing well with a 3.97 mark. Throwing out his nine-run blowup against the Yankees, Jake Odorizzi owns a 3.18 ERA in his last 4 turns and was the ERA leader early in the season. Wanting a starter at the deadline was a fair hope for the front office and fans alike, but with only Marcus Stroman as a realistic option, opportunity was hardly missed by passing on guys like Mike Leake, Tanner Roark, and Jordan Lyles."

 

 

Giving Berrios a pass on a terrible day at the park is OK, because he has been really good otherwise.

 

The rest of this take is nonsense. 

 

Pineda is hurt again. How can the team realistically count on him when it's going to count?

 

Anyone can throw out a terrible start and make numbers look better overall.That's misrepresentation with Odorizzi, because the guy can't go deep in ballgames and hurts the team in other ways by doing that. Sweeping his turd against the Yankees under the rug is a huge cop-out.

 

Gibson only performs well against bad teams when nothing extra is asked of him.Needs some innings eaten up after an extra-innings marathon. Nope. Fail.Need to set the tone early in a huge series with your biggest competitor. Nope. Fail. Badly.

 

You know what Mike Leake does well.He pitches deep into ballgames.Writing him off in sour grapes fashion isn't really fair.I'd much rather have him that Martin Perez or Kyle Gibson in the rotation. I would trade both for Leake today, if given the opportunity, and never look back.I'd even throw in another prospect to sweeten the pot for the other party.

 

It's going to be very interesting this off-season right around the time of the Rule 5 draft.The Twins will have to expose some guys.They might even have to expose some guys that they traded for in 2018.If they get selected, that will be a big Falvine fail, because they made the bed by not properly utilizing the assets.If they couldn't get takers on those assets when there was a chance to improve the team, then they are bad salespeople and perhaps someone else should be in charge.

 

Twisting the parts around to present a better picture is lame.

 

Painting the pitching issues as not-as-bad-as-it-seems and then stating that the Atlanta series was only lost because of some clunker pitching performances is self-contradiction.

 

Calling it like I see it ... One and done on October 2, or at best a series loss (3-1) at Target Field on October 8.This pitching staff just doesn't have the depth for anything more.

 

 

I like this post. And to make matters worse. The guys they traded for last year weren't able to be dealt this deadline for anything worth a snort. But they sure as heck were enough to pry the Twins best reliever away from us last year. What a huge loss not having Pressly on this team is. And I don't want to hear he wasn't as good here from anyone. 

He was studly towards the end of his time with the Twins. The Astros saw it, offered us some prospects that project as a back of the rotation guy and a 4th outfielder and the Twins couldn't resist. Those are exactly the types of players they can hold onto and pay nearly nothing to fill out a major league roster. 

 

 

This reminds me of a roster full of rookies with pennant chase fever. Trying to do too much. Swinging wildly at pitches over their head, throwing curve balls in the dirt and trying to make plays on defense that give the other team extra bases and outs. There are 47 games left, nearly a third of the season, too early to get all worked up.

A front page article describing the right way to fan..... Sigh.
    • SD Buhr, Sconnie, MMMordabito and 1 other like this