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Article: MIN 11, CWS 4: Twins Make Home Run History

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:04 PM
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Souhan: Mauer is Twins 2019 Most Valuable Pensioner

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http://www.startribu...team/510360372/     Surprised to see this wasn't posted here yet.   I have to agree. Letting Mauer...
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Article: When the Twins Go Buying... Who Are They Selling?

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:25 PM
As we approach the trade deadline - What? It’s only a little over two months away - there are a number of moves the Twins could and possi...
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Where Can the Twins Find Some OBP for Their Lineup?

It is well understood (and intuitively obvious) that on-base percentage correlates highly with run-scoring. In fact, looking at this year's MLB results, you'd conclude it simply correlates with winning. Thirteen of the top 14 teams in OBP finished above .500, and 10 made the playoffs.

The Twins now find themselves with a dire scarcity of this treasured resource. Where can they acquire it?
Image courtesy of Isaiah J. Downing, USA Today (D.J. LeMahieu)
It wasn't a big surprise when the team non-tendered Robbie Grossman on Friday, nor was it an especially controversial move. But while Minnesota won't miss his lack of power or defensive prowess, they will absolutely miss his on-base proficiency. Among Twins players to make 500+ PA since 2016, Grossman led all with a .377 OBP.

In fact, here's what that list looks like:

1. Robbie Grossman – .377 OBP
2. Joe Mauer – .366 OBP
3. Brian Dozier – .339 OBP
4. Jorge Polanco – .327 OBP
5. Miguel Sano – .323 OBP

The top three guys on that list are gone, and Sano is coming off a 2018 campaign where he posted a .281 mark. Needless to say, the Twins are looking at a real deficiency in the on-base category. Of course they're hoping that rebounds and better health will trigger some improvement, but the fact remains: This is a roster full of free swingers with pop, and right now it is very short on disciplined hitters who can draw a walk.

The addition of C.J. Cron, who agreed to terms Friday on a one-year, $4.8 millon deal and appears penciled in at first base, doesn't help in this department. He has a .311 career OBP, and even in his career year of 2018 still struck out four times for every walk.

It's a weakness the front office will need to address with its remaining offseason moves. Perusing the Offseason Handbook and beyond, let's take a look at nine free agent options that might help move the needle.

Justin Bour, 1B
This is the kind of player the Twins should have been seeking at first base, in my opinion. With his .853 career OPS against right-handed pitchers, Bour would've been an ideal complement to Tyler Austin (.937 OPS vs. LHP). It's still possible the Twins will seek such an arrangement alongside Cron – also a righty – but that's not likely, which is too bad. In addition to his platooning fit, Bour would bring sorely needed patience to this offensive unit. His BB rates over the past three seasons: 11.8%, 11.0%, 14.6%. His 2018 mark would've led the Twins (Grossman and Mauer included).

D.J. LeMahieu, 2B
The two-time All-Star and 2016 NL batting champ is hitting the open market for the first time, and has been popular as a theoretical target for the Twins. It isn't hard to see why; over the past three years LeMahieu has slashed .309/.369/.429, and that middle number is especially attractive. In the Handbook, we added this caution: "Like many products of Coors Field, there are questions about his offensive numbers translating elsewhere. His career OPS is 160 points lower on the road than at home." If the Twins were to get an OBP closer to his .277 lifetime mark away from Coors, that would obviously not be helpful.

Jed Lowrie, 2B
I haven't seen Lowrie's name connected to Minnesota in reports yet, but I have to assume we will. He's a switch-hitter who's proven very adept in Oakland over the past two seasons – even making the All-Star team this year. He also turns 35 in April, so he won't require a long-term deal. If Lowrie's late-career surge with the A's (.356 OBP and .804 OPS in 2017-18) can sustain, he's very appealing. If he reverts to his previous form (.326 OBP and .726 OPS from 2008-16), less so.

Logan Forsythe, 2B
Should the Twins turn their gaze toward the lower end of the second base pool, they could go with Forsythe on a one-year deal and hope he provides some on-base juice to go along with his solid defense. The veteran posted a .359 OBP in 2015 with Tampa, and a .351 mark in 2017 with LA. He also turned in a .356 OBP in 50 games with the Twins after he was acquired this summer. But that figure stood at a .270 when the Dodgers dealt him, and his .327 career OBP is mediocre. Forsythe's bat has also been anemic the last two years: .228 AVG and .309 SLG. The ability to take walks becomes somewhat trivial at that rate.

Michael Brantley, LF
Brantley is past his lengthy bout with shoulder issues and back in All-Star form. This year he played in 143 games for Cleveland and posted a fantastic .309/.364/.468 slash line with a 60-to-48 K/BB ratio. He has a .351 career OBP and has been above that number every year since 2014 (except '16, when he played only 11 games). The problem is that he's a lefty-swinging left fielder, so he doesn't really fit with the roster as currently constructed. The Twins would need to shake things up – say, with an Eddie Rosario trade.

Nelson Cruz, DH
The premier slugger brings OBP (.342 career, .362 the past four seasons) as well as prodigious power, averaging 40 home runs since 2015. He'd be more lineup centerpiece than need-filling pickup, but the Twins could seemingly use one of those. That said, as a 38-year-old with zero defensive value and a big payday on the way, he's very unlikely.

Nick Markakis, RF
The uber-durable 13-year veteran is entering the market at an opportune time, coming off his best campaign in years. He played all 162 games for Atlanta, posting a .297/.366/.440 line with a 80-to-62 K/BB ratio, and helping push an upstart young squad to a surprise postseason appearance. Sounds like the kind of guy that Minnesota would really benefit from. Markakis has always been a patient hitter, with a .358 career OBP and 10.2% BB rate. But like Brantley, he's a lefty-swinging corner outfielder. Tough to see how that makes sense on a team with Rosario, Max Kepler and Jake Cave – unless the Twins were to, say, have Kepler split time between right and first, with Markakis splitting between right and DH.

Andrew McCutchen, RF
We now come to my absolute favorite option on this list (and perhaps on the entire offseason market). McCutchen is a former MVP and five time All-Star hitting the market at age 32. In recent years he hasn't been quite the same top-tier superstar, averaging 2.5 WAR the last three seasons compared to 6.9 from 2011 through 2015, but that'll keep his price tag reasonable and he's still a damn fine player. He has a .378 OBP and has been at or above .363 in nine of 10 MLB seasons. His 12.0% career BB rate is higher than Mauer's. Rotating his right-handed bat with the lefty-swinging corner outfielders and at DH would give McCutchen a regular role. He'd be an excellent leadoff guy.

Bryce Harper, RF
You want OBP? Here's a .388 career OBP and the game's second-highest BB rate since 2015, just sitting there for the taking. How fortuitous! I'm sure he won't cost all the much either. Nope, very affordable and plausible.

Who on this list would you like to see the Twins pursue? Are there other OBP-focused additions you'd be targeting?

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124 Comments

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jorgenswest
Dec 04 2018 08:25 PM
I would go with the infielder who will take a one year deal. I think this is the position to wait out. The losing team will be the one that spends big on Gonzalez. Through his prime he has a career negative UZR around the infield. He has one fantastic year surrounded by years that won’t work well as a LF. As he declines and has to move away from middle infield I don’t think his bat will play well on a corner.
    • ashbury likes this

 

I'm with you as long as the plan then is to add real ballplayers in free agency and trades. If you do as you're suggesting, but then "fill in" with Rondell White's or Ricky Nolasco's and Logan Forsythe's, you will continue to be perpetually mediocre. 

 

Sign or trade for high end guys or fill in with your own is what I would like to see. That doesn't mean you don't make some of these mid level signings, but signing mid level guys to bat 4th or 5th in your lineup, or be a top 2 starter in your rotation has got them in trouble for years.

 

What you are missing is that the success or failure of the Twins in the near term is not based upon Rondell White or Logan Forsythe, guys you bring in to fill in.Instead, it depends upon the core group of prospects. 

 

If Lewis-Kirilloff-Rooker-Berrios become Puckett-Hrbek-Gaetti-Viola, some of the other prospects become the Greg Gagne's and Dan Gladden, and the "fill in" players Brian Harper, Shane Mack, and Chili Davis then we have a chance to compete.

 

If they become 2018 versions of Miguel Sano and Buxton, then it is a much longer stretch of misery for us.

 

Also, instead of committing $10-15-20 milliona year on guys like Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and even Ervin Santana, use your prospects while you are rebuilding so you have the financial flexibility to make a better free agent play once it will matter.Ervin Santana had, despite injuries, the best 4 year stretch of his career, including 2017 which was the best year of his career.Yet, the Twins spent $55 million (including the $1 million buyout) to average 86 losses in his 4 years on the roster. I call that a waste of money.

    • Major League Ready likes this
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TheLeviathan
Dec 04 2018 08:37 PM

 

What are the better options in this year's FA Class?

 

I'd rather have Gonzalez, Iglesias (because of his position), or even Dozier.  

I just don't feel this is an either or situation. In other words, I don't think you have to sign a bunch of guys and "buy" a team to try to compete. But I also don't think you have to promote/rush guys from AA and A ball and force feed them hoping they will adapt. Even if you promote aggressively, there is still value in learning and honing skills.

The Twins have some really fine and still young talent. Have we seen them all reach or approach their potential? Of course not! But other than Rosario, I believe they are all 25-ish. And you have a new season, hopefully better health, and a new manager and staff to work with them.

Why can't you be aggressive in the system in 2019 while working with what you have, and still add a few guys on 1,2 and 3 year deals to build the roster and play good/better ball NOW?

With the number of options available on the market, this could be accomplished. Sign a big RP arm for 3yrs. Why can't said reliever still be good when Lewis, Khirilloff, etc, arrive? Sign one more good one maybe on a shorter deal and a flier or two.

I just don't think it's either or.
    • Major League Ready likes this
Back on original topic, I really like the discussion of OB vs OPS. I think it's an important topic and discussion.

Internally, for example, I've previously mentioned a healthy Buxton simply making better contact and hitting in the .250 range with a low .300 OB. Obviously not what anyone wants to see, or previously expected, and maybe it really is his floor and he can/will do much better. But it's a start. With natural power and tremendous speed, even at those "levels" he could rather easily be a 30+ doubles, 15-18+HR guy with 30SB and high 3B totals. I don't know how that would equate to OPS, but I think it would be pretty impressive.

I really think the prime place right now to look at is 2B. Lowrie will lose it one of these days, but he's still a quality player who gives you a bit of everything. Gonzalez may not match him for OB, but might end up with as good or better OPS.

Not sure which one I'd prefer. And who know's about Schoop? If you look at his 15-16 numbers he's still a nice player, but I think a 3rd, or lower choice, IMO. But what if he could be even close to his 2017 self?
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jorgenswest
Dec 08 2018 07:45 AM
Just a wonder...

Are high strikeout players with an OPS that is homer driven more likely to slumps?

Do teams with a lot of these players tend to win their games by multiple runs but lose lots of close games?

Why does OBP have a higher correlation to wins than SLG?
    • Hosken Bombo Disco likes this

Just a wonder...

Are high strikeout players with an OPS that is homer driven more likely to slumps?

Do teams with a lot of these players tend to win their games by multiple runs but lose lots of close games?

Why does OBP have a higher correlation to wins than SLG?

I'll take a crack at that last one. The game is over when you make your 27th out as a team (24 if you're winning, other numbers in certain cases). So, not making an out at your turn can be thought of as the single most important skill in the game. OBP is basically the mirror image of making outs.

    • Sconnie likes this
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Major League Ready
Dec 08 2018 10:24 AM

How about if a hole bunch of the guys currently on the roster take better ABs and the OBP goes up. There is no excuse for the complete lack of discipline Rosario often displays. I don't remember the exact ranking but he was in the top 10 worst in MLB for swinging outside the zone. There were short bursts where the team overall managed to show some disciplined hitting and it looked like a different team. 

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jorgenswest
Dec 08 2018 10:30 AM

How about if a hole bunch of the guys currently on the roster take better ABs and the OBP goes up. There is no excuse for the complete lack of discipline Rosario often displays. I don't remember the exact ranking but he was in the top 10 worst in MLB for swinging outside the zone. There were short bursts where the team overall managed to show some disciplined hitting and it looked like a different team.


Is strike zone recognition a talent or a mindset? Some of both no doubt and players do improve their pitch recognition as they see more major league pitches. I think it is more skill and talent than mindset. It is hard to have plate discipline when your pitch recognition talent is weak. Rosario makes up for it with great hands. His pitch recognition will get better but I don’t think his deficit is lack of discipline. I think it is lack of that talent/skill.
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Major League Ready
Dec 08 2018 11:11 AM

 

Is strike zone recognition a talent or a mindset? Some of both no doubt and players do improve their pitch recognition as they see more major league pitches. I think it is more skill and talent than mindset. It is hard to have plate discipline when your pitch recognition talent is weak. Rosario makes up for it with great hands. His pitch recognition will get better but I don’t think his deficit is lack of discipline. I think it is lack of that talent/skill.

 

You make a good point in that it's not as simple as just better discipline and pitch recognition is a skill with limitations regardless of approach. Rosario seems to get a pass with most people. I don't think it's pitch recognition because it does not look like he is fooled and he swings at pitches that are not even remotely close. Quite often It looks like he has no approach, no plan whatsoever, just swing at whatever is thrown. He was the worst hitter on the team the 2nd half and it looked to me like the pitchers had adapted and used his lack of discipline to turn him into a very poor hitter. I hope he proves me completely wrong but I don't have nearly the confidence in him as most do here. I would trade him if someone was willing to give value commensurate with his 1st half performance.

 

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Dec 08 2018 11:31 AM
Rosario seems to often lose focus in a lost situation (a losing game, or the second half of last year) which yes speaks to a lack of discipline. He's also our best player. Should have been an All Star last year. He's matured as a hitter from his first two seasons, and he's entering his peak years. He's a free swinger, as Oliva and Puckett were. In the context of this thread, he's the least of our worries, so yes, he gets a pass from me.
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Winston Smith
Dec 08 2018 12:47 PM

"It is well understood (and intuitively obvious) that on-base percentage correlates highly with run-scoring...…"

 

With the Twins:

 

Grossman: 1310 pa's, .371 obp scoring a run 12.3% of pa's

 

Kepler; 1633 pa's, .313 obp scoring a run 12.2% of pa's

 

Rosario: 2009 pa's, .312 obp scoring run 13.8% of pa's

 

Mauer (last 3yrs)1713 pa's, .366 obp scoring a run 11.7% of pa's

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jorgenswest
Dec 08 2018 01:01 PM

 

"It is well understood (and intuitively obvious) that on-base percentage correlates highly with run-scoring...…"

 

With the Twins:

 

Grossman: 1310 pa's, .371 obp scoring a run 12.3% of pa's

 

Kepler; 1633 pa's, .313 obp scoring a run 12.2% of pa's

 

Rosario: 2009 pa's, .312 obp scoring run 13.8% of pa's

 

Mauer (last 3yrs)1713 pa's, .366 obp scoring a run 11.7% of pa's

 

Team OBP correlates with team runs scored.

 

Is it true in every run scoring environment? Maybe not.

 

http://www.banishedt...ase-percentage/

 

 

 

How does Harper make our pitchers better?

I am back...I would say Harper makes our pitchers better because they can pitch from a lead more often.It sounds like a moot point now anyway.I think he would make everyone better in a place like this.

I am back...I would say Harper makes our pitchers better because they can pitch from a lead more often. It sounds like a moot point now anyway. I think he would make everyone better in a place like this.


Not sure I've ever seen any evidence that pitchers pitch better with a lead.

Do you have any theories on why that'd be the case?

 

Not sure I've ever seen any evidence that pitchers pitch better with a lead.

Do you have any theories on why that'd be the case?

 

Without looking I would guess the numbers support this, but what's going on is probably the opposite. Average (and below) hitters probably hit worse when the team is behind, at least in general.

Average (and below) hitters probably hit worse when the team is behind, at least in general.

The chances that the opposing starting pitcher is pretty good have to be higher when you slice and dice the data to look at games where the team is behind.

 

Not sure I've ever seen any evidence that pitchers pitch better with a lead.

Do you have any theories on why that'd be the case?

 

I love the new statistical evaluation methods used today, but they have limits.To argue Harper does not make this team better and more exciting to watch illustrates the limits.

 

Has anyone run any metrics on Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek lately.Please explain to me why they heck they won 2!

I love the new statistical evaluation methods used today, but they have limits. To argue Harper does not make this team better and more exciting to watch illustrates the limits.

Has anyone run any metrics on Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek lately. Please explain to me why they heck they won 2!


That's not what I asked.
Of course he would make the team better.
I'm asking why he would make the pitchers pitch better. He's not a defensive upgrade. So what about his presence on the team would make the pitchers perform better?
    • Mike Sixel likes this

I love the new statistical evaluation methods used today, but they have limits. To argue Harper does not make this team better and more exciting to watch illustrates the limits.

Has anyone run any metrics on Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek lately. Please explain to me why they heck they won 2!

baseball is a team sport with a championship predicated in transitioning from 162 game season to a 5 game season followed by a 7 game season, followed by a seven game season. Post season metrics are a very small sample size for individual players

 

That's not what I asked.
Of course he would make the team better.
I'm asking why he would make the pitchers pitch better. He's not a defensive upgrade. So what about his presence on the team would make the pitchers perform better?

I understand your point.I disagree with the question.It's about wins and losses.Harper=more wins.Metrics can prove what the designer wants.Wins are wins.

 

I understand your point. I disagree with the question. It's about wins and losses. Harper=more wins. Metrics can prove what the designer wants. Wins are wins.


I'm not arguing that. Harper would bring the team more wins, I'd love if they signed him.

I was responding to this:

"If we have a chance to get Harper, we should take it.Period.He makes all our pitchers better."

Harper is a great hitter, but not much of a fielder. Just trying to get an idea of what you meant here.

 

I'm not arguing that. Harper would bring the team more wins, I'd love if they signed him.

I was responding to this:

"If we have a chance to get Harper, we should take it.Period.He makes all our pitchers better."

Harper is a great hitter, but not much of a fielder. Just trying to get an idea of what you meant here.

There's a school of thought in aeronautical engineering that if your wing design isn't developing enough lift then get a bigger jet engine and the wing will be just fine. :)

Actually, outside one season where he was injured, Harper has been a decent to good fielder. But in general, I agree, he's not a difference maker on defense.