Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Helfand: “early June start appears out of picture”

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:30 PM
https://www.twinciti...florida-orders/
Full topic ›

Will The Player's union do SOMETHING for first respon...

Other Baseball Yesterday, 09:38 PM
Why not?Afterall, they will get their guaranteed money and millions where millions of other Americans will not. https://www.spotrac....b/...
Full topic ›

Get to know each other

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 07:00 PM
I did this once about 2-3 years ago, but it was during the offseason and well, it's been a long time ago... Let's get to know each other...
Full topic ›

2019 2020 (non-Twins) off season

Other Baseball Yesterday, 09:38 PM
My first prediction is that WA signs their two big possible FAs to extensions.   My next is that Cole goes to LAA.   The White...
Full topic ›

VIDEO: Opposing Pitchers Getting Wasted By The Bomba Squad

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:44 AM
Here's an entire highlight reel of just pitchers reacting to Twins bombas. Enjoy.  
Full topic ›

The Optimal 2020 Twins Lineup, According to PECOTA

The industry-leading projection engine has made its pronouncements about Twins players, and about the teams' likely record. What does it tell us about who should bat where?
Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Signing Josh Donaldson as a free agent was the biggest offseason move in the history of Minnesota baseball, and it’s one of the great moves in recent memory in another category, too. An abiding joy of the hot stove league, one that long predates free agency, is the building of lineups on napkins and envelopes. Donaldson’s addition to an already stacked 2020 Twins lineup makes for some truly delightful dream-weaving, and surely set off a frenzy of such scribbling. Now, however, spring training has begun, and reality is rushing forward to blend into (if not overrun) our dream worlds. We have players in uniform, nagging injuries lurking, and projection systems spitting out hard, cold numbers that forecast each player’s 2020 season. Let’s shake off our dreams and memories of 2019, then, and use PECOTA projections to build the optimal Twins lineup for the year ahead.

Neither Richard Rodgers nor Oscar Hammerstein II ever made it to the top step of a big-league dugout, but “start at the very beginning” is still salient advice, so let’s follow it. According to PECOTA, the Twins’ rightful leadoff hitter for 2020 is Luis Arraez. While the system doesn’t entirely buy into Arraez’s .334 average or .399 on-base percentage from 2019, it boldly projects the sophomore to post the highest OBP of any Twin, and the only others even in the same range as Arraez hit for too much power to slot them in at the top of the order. Arraez’s excellent contact rate could be a minor liability elsewhere in the order, because of the risk of hitting into double plays, but at the top of the order, it’s just one way to drive an opponent’s pitch count up and give teammates an early look at their stuff.

Of the 304 batters who swung at least 500 times in the majors last year, Arraez had the seventh-highest rate of foul balls per swing. That’s not necessarily indicative of a great hitter; much depends on the way they get there. In Arraez’s case, however, it’s more feature than bug, keeping him in at-bats and perhaps giving the offense an early look at a starter’s third or fourth pitch.

Second in the order, where he’s batted frequently and comfortably in the past, would be Donaldson, whom PECOTA projects to nearly match Arraez’s OBP despite a strikeout rate roughly two and a half times higher. The system expects Donaldson to make up for a strikeout rate just north of the league average with a gaudy 13.9-percent walk rate, highest among Minnesota regulars. Donaldson projects for less power than Nelson Cruz or Miguel Sanó, but the patience and on-base skills he provides fit best in the two-hole.

Because of his extraordinary power (but less sterling walk rate), Nelson Cruz would be the optimal third hitter, according to PECOTA. The system forecasts a team-high .590 slugging average and a .304 isolated power that runs just behind Sanó for the team lead. The third spot in the order, because it is the most likely of any slot to come up with two outs and no one on base, should feature a batter who gets most of their value from their ISO, and shouldn’t feature someone who relies on walks. Cruz is just the right type of hitter for the job, and is especially perfect for it on this particular team.

Though Cruz has the best overall offensive projection, Sanó is projected to lead the team in WARP, and would be the optimal cleanup hitter, based on PECOTA. His projected 37.1-percent strikeout rate is less than ideal for a cleanup guy, which could steer one toward an argument for batting him second and Donaldson fourth. However, the system projects such majestic power from Sanó—and the top of the order has such a good expected OBP—that sliding him down to fourth (to maximize the results from having men on base when he bats) makes more sense.

Mitch Garver and Max Kepler have a nearly identical overall projection, in terms of production. The system forecasts Garver to be a slightly better hitter, on balance, thanks mostly to a higher forecasted batting average on balls in play (an area in which Kepler has always struggled), but it pegs Kepler for a considerably better strikeout rate. The raw data nudges things in Garver’s direction, but in acknowledgment of the fact that the three hitters above them will all be right-handed, Kepler should bat fifth.

Though neither has as strong a projected OBP as the four guys at the top of the order, both Kepler and Garver do project to walk often. That could make the seventh slot in the order an effective second cleanup hitter—a hitter who sees a huge number of runners on base when they step to the plate and is tasked with driving them in. That makes it a cozy fit for Eddie Rosario, whom the system projects to slug .506 and be solidly above-average, despite (surprise, surprise) a very low projected walk rate.

Conspicuous in his absence, to this point, has been Jorge Polanco, whom PECOTA projects to be the eighth-best hitter on the 2020 Twins. Even so, the system views him as a very well-rounded hitter, with a solid walk rate, very good strikeout rate, modest power and a solid BABIP. Almost any other team in the league would be thrilled to have a batter of Polanco’s quality, with his balanced skill set, even at the top of its order. Of course, all signs (from last season, and from the team’s remarks this winter) point toward Polanco hitting much higher than this, but if the lineup were constructed purely to maximize expected runs scored, he’d bat eighth.

That leaves Byron Buxton, for whom batting ninth will be neither a surprise nor an insult. PECOTA only foresees an 86 DRC+ for Buxton, making him the weak link in a lineup that otherwise ranges from 152 down to 106. Given his power (when Polanco is on in front of him) and his speed, however, Buxton can be a dynamic weapon, even without being an overall monster. Having his speed at the bottom of the order, especially, could catalyze the lineup for the next round—though PECOTA projects just a .288 OBP, which is why he has to remain down there.

A few caveats are necessary here. Firstly, of course, there is friction to some of these potential decisions, and that friction is likely to prevent them all from coming to pass. It’s hard to imagine Rosario and Polanco as the seventh and eighth hitters. Secondly, PECOTA does not code for or build its projections around handedness, so it can’t help us shake up the lineup based on the handedness or skill set of opposing starters. The projections are also vulnerable to error if the usage pattern of a particular player changes in an important way, for the same reason. It’s worth noting, in addition to all of that, that batting order doesn’t matter all that much, so fans shouldn’t take up torches and pitchforks if Kepler or Polanco break up the top of the batting order in some way not captured here.

Finally, we have to acknowledge that (like many old and beloved baseball practices and customs) the back-of-the-envelope lineup has been rendered somewhat obsolete. Modern lineups are typically highly fluid and modular, and the Twins’ lineup fits those descriptors even better than most. Marwin González, Alex Avila, and others will rotate into the lineup often, changing the optimal alignment of it, even without accounting for injuries or slumps. However, especially with Donaldson on board, it’s still great fun to dream on the set lineup this team could run out on a regular basis throughout 2020.

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

  • mikelink45, ToddlerHarmon and LilMauer like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

15 Comments

Wow!! Come to think that batting Polanco 8th is not absurd, gives an idea of the depth of this line up
    • glunn, JoshDungan1 and DannySD like this
Photo
ToddlerHarmon
Feb 18 2020 12:09 AM
vs RHP:

Arraez
Donaldson
Cruz
Kepler
Sano
Rosario
Garver
Polanco
Buxton

vs LHP:

LOLOMG
    • Danchat and Marcusesm like this
Photo
twinsfanstreif
Feb 18 2020 04:31 AM
Damn this lineup is gonna be TOUGH! Buxton as a sure fire #9 hitter is crazy enough but our #7-8 hitters are gonna most likely be some combo of Garver, Rosario, Polanco, or Arraez which is insane. Without looking at it I estimate that Garver and Rosario would be #3-4 hitters for like over half the league and Buxton, Polanco, and Arraez would be #1-2 hitters for a lot of teams as well. I'm still laughing at ESPN's notion that we have the 10th best line up in the league, LOL

I can't imagine batting our All-Star shortstop 8th? And our 32 HR, 108 RBI guy 7th?

 

Then again....looking at the alternatives, it might just happen.

 

Rocco's going to have a tough decision here, but it should be fun for him.

    • mikelink45 likes this
Photo
Doctor Gast
Feb 18 2020 06:57 AM

I hope Baldelli does put Arraez at lead off. He`s a tough out can that wear down any pitcher & get on base to boot for the Bomba Squad. Getting his at bats in, they could also put in a defensive replacement if need be. I still like SH Polanco batting between RH Arraez & Donaldson especially against RHPs.

    • mikelink45, JoshDungan1 and Nine of twelve like this
Matthew alluded to it that the 2-4 hitters would all be right-handed. Might be an issue in late-game situations where the three batter minimum relief pitcher rule comes into play. I would try to break that up with a lefty somehow.
    • glunn and Nine of twelve like this

 

Matthew alluded to it that the 2-4 hitters would all be right-handed. Might be an issue in late-game situations where the three batter minimum relief pitcher rule comes into play. I would try to break that up with a lefty somehow.

 

I'd still take my chances with Donaldson, Cruz and Sano... 

    • glunn and hybridbear like this
Photo
Twins_Fan_For_Life
Feb 18 2020 01:43 PM
Signing Josh Donaldson as a free agent was the biggest offseason move in the history of Minnesota baseball. Hindsight being 20/20, the Jack Morris signing before the 1991 season was bigger.
    • Platoon likes this

vs RHP:

Polanco

Donaldson

Kepler

Cruz

Sano

Rosario

Garver

Arraez

Buxton

 

vs LHP:

Garver

Donaldson

Cruz

Sano

Kepler

Polanco

Rosario

Buxton

Arraez

 

Imagine being a lefty warming up knowing that's your first 4. I wonder if Eddie is going to throw a **** fit about being moved out of the cleanup spot? It feels like he will.

 

 

Imagine being a lefty warming up knowing that's your first 4. I wonder if Eddie is going to throw a **** fit about being moved out of the cleanup spot? It feels like he will.

I don't think I've ever seen anything out of Rosario that would suggest he would do this. 

    • Danchat likes this

 

I don't think I've ever seen anything out of Rosario that would suggest he would do this. 

 

I'm not so sure, Eddie's a pretty emotional guy. It's part of what I love about him, but I'd say he's the most likely person on the team to feel slighted by losing "his spot" to newcomers. I mean, the kerfuffle over #20 already shows he's not taking a backseat to Donaldson.  

I'm not so sure, Eddie's a pretty emotional guy. It's part of what I love about him, but I'd say he's the most likely person on the team to feel slighted by losing "his spot" to newcomers. I mean, the kerfuffle over #20 already shows he's not taking a backseat to Donaldson.


What was the kerfuffle over #20?
I recall that Donaldson asked for the number, and Rosario declined. I must have missed the ensuing kerfuffle.

 

What was the kerfuffle over #20?
I recall that Donaldson asked for the number, and Rosario declined. I must have missed the ensuing kerfuffle.

 

Donaldson made what was described as a "very generous" offer and Eddie declined again. Don't act like there aren't some hard feelings there with 2 big egos involved. They're not airing it out in the press, but I think it's safe to say Eddie & Josh won't be best friends.

 

https://www.skornort...-to-wear-no-24/

Donaldson made what was described as a "very generous" offer and Eddie declined again. Don't act like there aren't some hard feelings there with 2 big egos involved. They're not airing it out in the press, but I think it's safe to say Eddie & Josh won't be best friends.

https://www.skornort...-to-wear-no-24/


I doubt there are any hard feelings.
Most likely, they aren't airing it out in the press because there is nothing to air out.

 

I doubt there are any hard feelings.
Most likely, they aren't airing it out in the press because there is nothing to air out.

 

Agree to disagree.