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TEX 4, MIN 1: Quiet Bats Can’t Back Up Great Pitching

A stellar pitching performance - which included using Kyle Gibson as the opener - was derailed by an unusual off game by the offense. After holding Texas offense to only one run through ten innings, Twins bats never showed up and a three-run homer off the bat of Rougned Odor in the 11th prevented the Twins from sweeping the Rangers.
Image courtesy of FanGraphs
Box Score
Smeltzer: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 64.6% strikes (42 of 59 pitches)
Rest of Staff: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 12 K

Home Runs: None
Multi-Hit Games: Garver (2-5), Sanó (2-3, R)

Top 3 WPA: May .288, Harper .170, Smeltzer .117
Bottom 3 WPA: Mejia -.462, Kepler -.194, Gonzalez -.169

After scoring a total of 23 runs in the first two games of this series, the Twins really struggled to put runs on the board Sunday, before a crowd of 35,495. They were unable to score more than one run against a Ranger pitching staff which didn’t have a single pitcher with more than three innings of work in the game. Texas out-hit Minnesota 10-8 and the Twins went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

The Openers and Smeltzer
Gibson pitched only one inning and didn't have the smoothest of starts. He had a long, 26-pitch inning (only 14 strikes), struggling with his command. He pitched to the top five Rangers batters, as Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Gallo reached safely, but he managed to strand both. José Leclerc, the Rangers opener, also allowed to men to reach, but he managed to close the inning with 15 pitches. He came back to pitch the second, but didn’t last long.

Smeltzer took advantage of Gibson’s outing and cruised past the bottom half of the Texas lineup in the second with only twelve pitches. He went on to have an uneventful game, pitching into the sixth. He never pitched himself into any jams, as the Rangers never had more than one man on at any point of his outing. They did tie the game in the fourth, with Joey Gallo leading off the inning with a double and then being scored by former Twin Danny Santana a couple of batters later.

Sanó, Buxton Definitely Back on Track
Not too long ago we were all discussing what was wrong with Miguel Sanó, as he was slumping really hard. He then he decided he was through with that and decided to catch on fire. He came into this game slashing .348/.423/.739 (1.162) in the past seven games and he did not slow down. After smacking a single in the second inning he scored the first run of the game, crossing the plate on a Byron Buxtton triple



Similar to Miggy, Buxton went through a rough funk since coming back from the IL. In the first five games back he went 1-for-16. But he started to regain confidence in the first game of this Texas series and came into the game hitting 3-for-9 with three runs batted in. He started this game reaching safely twice, once with the RBI-triple in the second and one on a fielder’s choice in the fourth. On that play, he nearly scored Sanó again after Miggy had walked to reach for the second time, but he (Sano) was thrown out at home.

The Twins bullpen continued its impressive recent stretch, in spite of the loss. Adalberto Mejía gave up the winning home run to Odor in the 11th, but Minnesota relievers still hold a 3.08 ERA since June 14, which ranks third best in the majors. That is, of course, considering that technically all innings pitched after Gibson’s departure will count as bullpen stats.

The Twins get to the All-Star break with a 56-33 record. That’s the most wins the Twins have gotten before the All-Star break since 1969. They now hold a five-and-a- half game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central, but the Indians won their sixth in a row today, as they swept the Reds, reaching the 50-win mark.

Postgame With Baldelli

Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.


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52 Comments

 

Joey Gallo almost threw a ball into the press box from CF the game before. It took a perfect throw to get Buxton and he delivered. I don't think it was a mental mistake by Buxton; he is at his best when he is aggressive running the bases and creating mayhem. Gallo's throw could have easily hit him and ricocheted into no-man's land and Buxton could have scored on that.

 

It is obvious in hindsight he shouldn't have tagged, but I think Buxton deserves the benefit of the doubt for putting that pressure on the defense.

 

One other item of note here; Max Kepler had a terrible series at the plate. Buxton's best chance to score that inning might have been getting himself to third and having the pitcher throw a wild pitch. The fact the Twins only needed 2 runs to win the game yesterday makes Buxton's out at 3rd that much more egregious.

Sorry, but IMO it's not even debatable. It was a terribly bad decision, one that simply isn't done. 

 

For the record, it didn't take a perfect throw, the play wasn't even particularly close. But that's not important, it would have been the absolute wrong decision even IF he had made it.

 

Consider this: when is the last time this situation came into play? I bet you haven't seen it in ... forever. That's because nobody makes that mistake. It's something that's completely intuitive, and if not, learned early in a player's baseball career. You simply can't get thrown out in any situation like that, so players don't try it....because it might cost a run, and there's little to be gained anyway.

 

This was a Baseball-101 level mistake. And I'm absolutely positive Buxton would say the same thing.

    • Blake, jkcarew, Aerodeliria and 1 other like this

Buxton should be safe 10 of 10 times on that play, because he shouldn't tag up 10 of 10 times.

That was a really, really bad baseball mistake. Really bad, and a mental error which I find difficult to ignore. I'm pretty confident Buxton would agree.

That it cost a game is beside the point, almost. Hopefully that won't ever happen again.



One of the Cardinal rules of baseball. Do not make the 1st or 3rd outs at 3rd base. He just didn't need to advance as he can't score on another sac as there are now 2 outs anyway and he can still score on a base hit as he was standing on 2nd? I also get it that most people will say that the Twins just haven't hit in clutch situations very well but even when someone is going good they are going to get out 7 out of 10 times so they need to take advantage of productive out when they can and getting thrown out at 3rd for the last out which nullified Schoops run was really bad. By the way Buxton has overall been doing a fantastic job this year, that was just a bad play that cost the team a win.


So does something like that reduce his WAR? 😀
    • Aerodeliria likes this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Jul 08 2019 08:42 AM

error which I find difficult to ignore


Agree.

There is not much to complain about, it was a baseball game that was tight and could have gone either way. The only real disappointment is Mejia who had a lot to gain by a good outing.


Mejia nibbled too much. Then he got himself in trouble and had to bring it and it got crushed. I would have rather seen him give up a solo shot or two rather than two walks and a three run bomb.
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Aerodeliria
Jul 08 2019 08:54 AM
I have to disagree with the gushing over Buxton's tag-up to 3rd. Unless the centerfielder turns his back on the infield, one should never run on that play because it doesn't give you any significant advantage and if you get thrown out the runner on 3rd doesn't score, so it's a bad play. Buxton's triple was good play and stealing second to get in scoring position was a good play. "Almost driving in Sano" was not a good at bat and the tag-up was a particularly poor decision because it takes a run off the board.

 

Consider this: when is the last time this situation came into play? I bet you haven't seen it in ... forever.

 

It is a situation that only occurs with Buxton's speed, that is a certainty.

 

I think I am a little more lenient than you in regards to his decision. With the offense struggling a bit as of late, I am ok with Buxton trying to make something happen with his legs.

 

As for the throw and play itself, it was about as perfect a throw and as close a play as it gets.

 

Buxton might consider the play a mistake after the fact like we all do. I hope he remains aggressive on the bases. Generally speaking, his speed adds much more than it takes away.

 

 . I hope he remains aggressive on the bases. Generally speaking, his speed adds much more than it takes away.

Agreed.

 

And I would be willing to bet he never makes that same mistake again.

    • JW24 and In My La-Z-boy like this
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Aerodeliria
Jul 08 2019 09:02 AM
PS-When the play is in front of you, that throw to third is quite easy for nearly any centerfielder to make. That's why no one tags up on that play not even speedsters.
    • USAFChief likes this

 

Sorry, but IMO it's not even debatable. It was a terribly bad decision, one that simply isn't done. 

 

For the record, it didn't take a perfect throw, the play wasn't even particularly close. But that's not important, it would have been the absolute wrong decision even IF he had made it.

 

Consider this: when is the last time this situation came into play? I bet you haven't seen it in ... forever. That's because nobody makes that mistake. It's something that's completely intuitive, and if not, learned early in a player's baseball career. You simply can't get thrown out in any situation like that, so players don't try it....because it might cost a run, and there's little to be gained anyway.

 

This was a Baseball-101 level mistake. And I'm absolutely positive Buxton would say the same thing.

 

How in the world can you say the play wasn't even particularly close?It took a perfect throw to get him on nearly a bang bang play.I am not advocating his decision in that situation, but it was close.  

Not that it really matters, but it stinks that Kepler gets tagged with a big negative WPA on that Buxton play, when he actually accomplished what we needed him to accomplish. 

    • JW24, Aerodeliria and jz7233 like this
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Aerodeliria
Jul 08 2019 09:14 AM
When I saw it was Mejia that was the pitching change, I was pretty certain we would lose the game. His notorious control problems really don't bode well for such situations. I'd rather experiment with other arms than relying on Mejia until he shows he can help the team. For all intents and purposes, up to this point, he's only hurt the team.
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SpicyGarvSauce
Jul 08 2019 09:14 AM

From a pure do and don't as far as baseball plays go, that wasn't a good play by Buxton. The ball was hit to the left side of center field. He may have thought that Gallo was going to air it out to home plate, but he didn't. That play, looking back on it, cost the Twins a huge run.

 

Bigger picture though - buckle up. This team needs help NOW. You cannot wait another 2-3 weeks to make move(s). Also - Mejia is garbage. I don't care that he hits 95 MPH on his fastball...his command stinks, he stuff doesn't impress, and he just isn't good. He needs to go.

If there is one player the Twins need on the field its Eddie Rosario. Hopefully he is back at 100% post All Star. The rest of July's schedule is favorable and, despite losing this game when it was there to be had, Twins did win the series. Don't look now but the Central is now the closest race with Cleveland now only 5.5 out and I think that is good. Twins should not be able to coast to the playoffs although it looked like they might be able to. I remember 2010 when the slide that lasted nearly a decade actually started with about 30 games left in the 2010 season even though they easily won the Central that year.

Yeah, no regrets on the Buxton play.I appreciate the aggressiveness.And as you eluded to, it took a super-human perfect throw to get him.8-9 times out of 10, a wild throw or late throw on that play.Use his wheels to create opportunities.

This team needs to find ways to score in tight situations.Bunting included.Manufacturing runs is a good way to pull out these extra inning affairs.A lot of zeroes in these games.

Horrible play by Buxton. If you tag there, you jog down the base-path a few feet to observe the flight of the ball. If it's airmailed in the direction of home, you break to 3rd in a 'delayed' fashion. You might be safe, but if you're out, the catcher (or a deep cutoff player) is the one throwing you out, and the run scores. If you want to be 'aggressive', that's how you do it on that play. With one out and the ball hit where it was and another runner tagging from 3rd, you never...under any circumstances...just put your head down and sprint as fast as you can to third and get yourself thrown out. Especially in a tight game where runs are hard to come by. That, obviously, made it an even stranger decision.

 

Having said that, mistakes and weird stuff happen. The bigger problem recently has been the lack of consistency with the offense. It's probably a safe bet that, even with needed improvements, pitching overall for the Twins is going to be 'just ok'. The offense has to be better than that to continue the ride.

    • USAFChief likes this

 

So does something like that reduce his WAR?

Yes, I think so. Baserunning is a component of WAR, and I assume outs on the bases have an impact.

 

That said, it might not have that big of an impact, since WAR is likely looking at it in a context-neutral way. And Buxton has probably accumulated enough baserunning value otherwise to offset this gaffe pretty well.

Didn't see the Buxton play and finally went back to watch it. I figured there's nothing wrong with trying to be aggressive and Buxton should always try and tag...what nobody mentioned here was that there was a runner on 3rd tagging also. Yeeps, yeah that was a bad play. That said, he was only barely out!

 

All said and done, I hope Buxton continues to be aggressive.

 

We can rail on Buxton all we want, and yeah he'd like a do over, but this offense has been really boom-or-bust lately and they need to be more consistent.

In looking at this game, and other such "opener" games in the past, I think the Twins need to figure out a way to win these games. It appears this is an effective way to beat the Twins. If so, then expect playoff teams to go with this sort of pitching arrangement, should the Twins make the playoffs.

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AlwaysinModeration
Jul 08 2019 03:35 PM

Buxton should be safe 10 of 10 times on that play, because he shouldn't tag up 10 of 10 times.

That was a really, really bad baseball mistake. Really bad, and a mental error which I find difficult to ignore. I'm pretty confident Buxton would agree.

That it cost a game is beside the point, almost. Hopefully that won't ever happen again.


I can see that you feel strongly that it was the wrong decision, and I respect that. However, I don’t think it’s as clearcut as you say. There were three possible outcomes:
a) thrown out
B) safe
c) safe, ball gets away

Figuring out the likelihood of each is what you have to figure out. Just speculation, but my guess is:

10/70/20

So 10% chance the inning ends, 70% chance of a run score, runner on 3rd, and 20% chance of two runs scoring.

Then you also have to figure out what percentage of the time he would score from third with two outs when he wouldn’t have scored from second; wild pitch or infield hit.

I know the rule don’t make the third out at third. I just don’t think the decision was as definitively poor as you say. The percentages could make it pretty close.

 

I can see that you feel strongly that it was the wrong decision, and I respect that. However, I don’t think it’s as clearcut as you say. There were three possible outcomes:
a) thrown out
:cool: safe
c) safe, ball gets away

Figuring out the likelihood of each is what you have to figure out. Just speculation, but my guess is:

10/70/20

So 10% chance the inning ends, 70% chance of a run score, runner on 3rd, and 20% chance of two runs scoring.

Then you also have to figure out what percentage of the time he would score from third with two outs when he wouldn’t have scored from second; wild pitch or infield hit.

I know the rule don’t make the third out at third. I just don’t think the decision was as definitively poor as you say. The percentages could make it pretty close.

A 10 percent chance he's thrown out, and a 20 percent chance the ball gets away?? 

 

Let's just say we disagree. I have no idea the chance he gets thrown out, but it's a lot more than 10 percent--a lot more, he did get thrown out, remember--and I would estimate the chances the ball gets away far enough for him to score at less than 1 percent. These are major league players.

A 10 percent chance he's thrown out, and a 20 percent chance the ball gets away?? 

 

Let's just say we disagree. I have no idea the chance he gets thrown out, but it's a lot more than 10 percent--a lot more, he did get thrown out, remember--and I would estimate the chances the ball gets away far enough for him to score at less than 1 percent. These are major league players.

The problem is also that Schoop just is not a fast baserunner. You have to give him time to score. Buxton's speed actually worked against him and was part of the problem here - if Cron had tried that, the ball would have reached 3rd base just as quickly, but Cron would not have been tagged out until Schoop (who wasn't hustling, to my eye) made it home.

 

"Don't make the first or third out at third base" is usually a decent rule of thumb anyway. Buxton can score on essentially any single. Being on third with two outs gives him a shot if there's a WP/PB, but it's just not that valuable, compared to the risk of NOT EVEN SCORING SCHOOP'S RUN.

 

That's the kind of bonehead play I would have made*, back in my slow-pitch or vintage-ball day. Thinking you've found an edge, instead giving the opponent one last shot at salvaging the situation.

 

 

* Harsh criticism of anyone, I know. Sorry, Byron, not sorry.

    • jz7233 likes this
The risk / reward on that play is ominous. The reason you don’t do it is there frequently is “the perfect throw”. It gains you so little advantage you should never take that risk. People need to analyze this like a poker hand and it would never happen
    • ashbury likes this

I can see that you feel strongly that it was the wrong decision, and I respect that. However, I don’t think it’s as clearcut as you say. There were three possible outcomes:
a) thrown out
B) safe
c) safe, ball gets away

Figuring out the likelihood of each is what you have to figure out. Just speculation, but my guess is:

10/70/20

So 10% chance the inning ends, 70% chance of a run score, runner on 3rd, and 20% chance of two runs scoring.

Then you also have to figure out what percentage of the time he would score from third with two outs when he wouldn’t have scored from second; wild pitch or infield hit.

I know the rule don’t make the third out at third. I just don’t think the decision was as definitively poor as you say. The percentages could make it pretty close.


Your percentage that Buxton scores on a wild throw is way, way too high.
There is no way that major leaguers throw that ball away 1 in 5 times, I'd guess it's closer to 1 in 50.
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AlwaysinModeration
Jul 08 2019 09:03 PM

A 10 percent chance he's thrown out, and a 20 percent chance the ball gets away??

Let's just say we disagree. I have no idea the chance he gets thrown out, but it's a lot more than 10 percent--a lot more, he did get thrown out, remember--and I would estimate the chances the ball gets away far enough for him to score at less than 1 percent. These are major league players.


Ok, I concede that saying it was a 20% chance of a wild throw (which includes, mostly, deflecting off of Buxton; it almost happened on that play) is probably too high. But I still think there was 10% or less chance that he is thrown out. Gallo threw the ball 94.7mph, it bounced once and was caught literally on Buxton’s side, and even with all that, he still was out by only a fraction. (To me, if the ump calls him safe, there isn’t enough evidence to overturn it.) That was a highly unlikely out.

I agree the risk of ending the inning was a huge downside, and I also agree that the advantage gained was small.

But let’s say that the throw is six inches to the left, hits Buxton’s shoulder, he scores, and they go up 3-1, and go on to win the game.

It was the same decision. Would you be harping about his awful decision then, or would you be applauding his aggressive play?

I’m still not arguing he made the right decision. I’m just saying it wasn’t as clearcut as you contend.
    • SwainZag and Hosken Bombo Disco like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Jul 08 2019 10:35 PM
Another poster upthread had it right, I think—the smart play is to take off for third, but check part way to see where the throw is going.

And on plays like that, I think everyone just assumes Buxton is going to be safe anyway.

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