Jump to content

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

The Forums

Article: Luis Arráez: Hitting Machine

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 01:44 AM
Luis Arráez, the guy that knows how to hit a baseball.He is just 22 years old but already made his MLB debut more than a month ago, when...
Full topic ›

Article: MIN 6, TB 4: Cruz Bails Out Another Bunting Blunder

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 01:38 AM
Messages from the team’s marketing department are apparently being lost in translation on their way to the club’s manager. Instead of the...
Full topic ›

Article: Twins Minor League Report (6/24): Davis Delivers...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 01:00 AM
Three Twins affiliates did not play on Monday, but the three teams that did provided a lot of highlights. Keoni Cavaco and the 2019 GCL T...
Full topic ›

Article: 2019 Twins Midseason Top Prospect List: 16-20

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 12:45 AM
How deep is the Minnesota Twins’ system right now? So deep that we have one of the best hitters in all of the Double-A level this season...
Full topic ›

Article: Twins Minor League Report (6/26): Rochester Roas...

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 11:33 PM
A handful of affiliates found themselves on the wrong side of the action tonight but the Rochester Red Wings had enough offense for all o...
Full topic ›

Why Miguel Sano's Strikeouts Are Not a Problem

Miguel Sano has played in 17 games for the Minnesota Twins in 2019. He missed the beginning of the season rehabbing from an Achilles injury, and joined the club in the middle of May. Through his first 75 plate appearances Sano has fanned 28 times while drawing nine walks. Each of those strikeouts has drawn the ire of Twins fans and stirred up a vocal minority suggesting the club deserves more. They are wrong, it doesn’t matter, and the slugger has been great.
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s the deal, Miguel Sano currently owns a .949 OPS which is the third best among Minnesota hitters. Rocco Baldelli’s club has the best OPS in baseball, and the next closest team (Houston) is over 40 points in the rear-view mirror. While Sano’s impact hasn’t been felt for a considerable amount of time this season, he’s been adding to what is already the most feared lineup in the game.

Now, let’s get into the merits of Sano based on this year alone. His 37.3% strikeout rate is down just slightly from the 2018 mark (38.5%), and up just slightly from the 2017 mark (35.8%). Essentially, he’s striking out a third of the time as he always has. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. The other part of this equation is what takes place the other two-thirds of the time.

Right now, Miguel Sano owns a 12% walk rate for the Twins, which is the highest it’s been at any point since his 15.8% tally in 2015 as a rookie. There is some reason for concern regarding his plate discipline, however. The 31.1% chase rate and 20.1% whiff rates are both career highs. He’s generating contact just 61% of the time, and while that’s lower than his career mark, it’s right in line with what he’s done in his two best years (2015 and 2017). A silver lining here is that his 4.34 pitches per plate appearance is a career best mark. When it comes to this piece of the puzzle, the walks are an encouraging sign even if there are lots of opportunities left on the table.

That brings us to batted ball opportunities. As he was billed to do when coming through the system, the Dominican native is absolutely destroying the baseball. In a year with the ball being juiced and flying out of the park more than it ever has, a 50% hard hit rate is going to do significant damage. Across 361 players with over 70 plate appearances this season, no one has a lower soft hit rate than Sano’s 5.3%. Miguel is also not a stranger to elevating the baseball. He’s putting it on the ground just 21.1% of the time and hitting fly balls 44.7% of the time. Because of the hard-hit rate, and lift on his batted balls, 35.3% of them have left the yard (eighth best in baseball).

At the end of the day the reality is Miguel Sano is essentially the perfect version of himself. If you’re looking for him to hit for a high average and be some sort of MVP candidate, you’ve probably misunderstood his skillset all along. If you’re on board with him batting around .250, having a OBP around .330, and SLG in the upper .500’s celebrate because that’s what you’ll get. Sano isn’t a franchise cornerstone, but he’s definitely a middle-of-the-order bat that can hold his own against the best in the game.

There’s been some goofy suggestions thrown out over the course of the season. Trading Sano for peanuts, preferring the likes of Willians Astudillo, or demeaning his production because he produces outs are all foolish reasons to be down on him. Although he’s been lumped in with Byron Buxton from a timeline perspective, Sano has never been in the same boat from a 100th percentile impact expectation. At his best Buxton is a perennial MVP candidate. At his best Sano is an all-star who challenges for the yearly home run title.

At some point we need to get to a place where the head trash that strikeouts are bad is removed from our memory. In baseball the most important commodity is the out, and you get 27 of them. Striking out is no worse than any other out and given the inability to be doubled up in that scenario, it may even be better. Enjoy how much Sano is demolishing the ball, hope he can rein in the plate discipline even a bit more, and allow whatever happens in between to be the gray area providing a reminder that baseball is hard.

  • DocBauer, verninski, nclahammer and 2 others like this

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

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

108 Comments

Strikeouts are good for pitchers, and bad for hitters, but its by degrees. A hitter is going to make outs at least 60% of the time. While balls in play can move runners up, or get them in, they can also erase lead runners via double plays or baserunning gaffes. A strikeout is always one out, unless the ball gets away from the catcher, and a runner tries to advance. So in the sense that a certain number of outs are guaranteed, the upside of balls in play is at least somewhat cancelled by the downside of balls in play, whereas strikeouts are neutral.


And you make a valid point about a contact reading a lead runner, perhaps even setting up a double play. I agree with your point. But a little better selectivity, a little better contact, say a drop from 40% to 35% in SO percentage, and you end up greater opportunity for SOMETHING better than a neural out. Maybe something as simple as a sac fly, is the point I'm making.

I think people have been wondering if he can stick at 3B since he arrived in 2015.

Five seasons and nearly 1800 innings and he has a career UZR150 of -1.1. He has performed as an average 3B. That won’t continue forever but it doesn’t for anyone as they approach 30. Defense declines first.

Will he stick at 3B? Is 5 years sticking at 3B? The guys in the Twins front office making a living in baseball see him as a 3B. His performance suggests he will be next year.

His performance as close to an average 3B with his power is an asset to this team.


Nice post. I've seen a lot of 3B in my day, some with big bats, that are not as good defensively as Sano. Good hands, great at charging balls, VASTLY improved on pop ups, and that cannon for an arm. I think he's just fine at 3B for the next few years for sure.

And to bring that offense makes him a very valuable player. It's all about recognition and just slight improvement to raise his production to another level. Not talking hitting .300, just better overall contact leads to better overall numbers and production.

I think we are on the same page here.
Photo
yarnivek1972
Jun 12 2019 05:58 PM

I suppose it is hard to get to 1500 innings if you are well below average so that set of players may be skewed. Sano is below the median of that skewed group.

I looked at the UZR by team at 3B for this year. There are 15 teams above 0 and 15 teams below 0. The Twins rank is second.

I don't see support for a conclusion of terrible play at 3B where it would be necessary to move Sano off 3B in the near future.



What relevance is team ranking at 3b? Sano hasn’t even played 1/4 of the team’s games there.


It is also worth noting that in 0 seasons has Sano started even 80 games at 3b at the MLB level. I suspect he won’t in 2019 either.

So, I would suggest that Twins decision makers have already reached the conclusion that Sano isn’t a fulltime third baseman. Whether it is due to injuries or performance issues is irrelevant. He isn’t the full time third baseman in the present and almost certainly won’t be in the near future.
    • KGB likes this

Sano has almost 1700 career PA.Austin has less than 500 career PA.That's 3 times the sample that puts Sano at a HR rate that would place him 100th all time if he had 3,000 PA's.It would also put him at 14th among active players.Given his HR rate is accelerating (1 every 13.2 PA this year), that seems likely to hold up.

Jason Castros HR rate is accelerating this year, as is Andrianzas and approximately 300 other players in MLB. From the numbers put up in May, they must be hitting golf balls! :)
Photo
Aerodeliria
Jun 13 2019 03:03 AM

 

I guess you missed the article on ESPN that talked about Bellinger and Trout and how batters are getting smarter and learning how to beat the shift and make choices about what to swing at.Not swinging less hard, but eliminating the trash that gives away an AB.

 

https://www.espn.com...strikeout-trend

 

As an old guy I will always remember the sadness Mickey Mantle felt when his BA for his career dropped below 300.Yes contact can give you a DP, but it can also advance the runner, cause an error, get a hit, rearrange the defense.  

 

I want Sano, but I also want a batter who has a little bat control.  

Amazingly, you can add Joey Gallo to that list as well. I think he compares very well to Sano. Although Gallo's SO rate is almost identical to previous years at about 35.5, he has refrained from chasing so many bad pitches. His BB rate has climbed a whopping 6.1% from last year, and of course his BA is at a very nice .270+ and of course his OBP is now almost laughable at .421. What about his slugging; it must have dropped off a bit? Hardly. It is almost .100 points higher compared to his best season ever (making his OPS a number that is hard to believe at 1.074). His home run rate is actually up about 1%. In other words, when he does choose to swing, he is getting more hits and still driving the ball. Due to all of these factors, he will be in the all star game. 

 

Am I here to trash Sano? No (I don't want to get pelted with frozen homer hankies). I do think he can become a better player and maybe even a star again. We don't have to take the attitude that he can never be... If we think he can't change than we are accepting the notion that he will always be a .225 hitter that hits 35 or so home runs, but also misses frequent opportunities in all situations. That is the Joey Gallo of last year (and all previous years), but the Joey Gallo of this year is an all star for a good reason. Sano has such potential, but will he become that player? That is indeed an interesting and a fair question to be asked.

 

    • Twins33 and mikelink45 like this
Photo
Aerodeliria
Jun 13 2019 03:09 AM

 

I'm curious what impact shifting has on defensive metrics like that. Regularly playing Sano in the hole or on the other side of 2nd base isn't really a fair assessment of how he performs as a 3rd basemen. But then again if that's the direction the game is going maybe the skills required for 3rd basemen are changing also, pushing guys like Sano across the diamond or elsewhere.

This is slightly off-topic. About once a week, they broadcast a show called the 50 best plays in MLB here in Japan. I always watch hoping to see a Twins highlight or two. They showed Arraez's play at 3rd when Morin was pitching (the team they were playing slips my mind at the moment), I was thinking at the time that Sano probably could not put his glove on the ball, although, I am sure he could have made an equally strong throw had he gloved such a ball. That was a very fine play indeed. Arraez looked like the real deal on that play (granted it is just one play).

 

Amazingly, you can add Joey Gallo to that list as well. I think he compares very well to Sano. Although Gallo's SO rate is almost identical to previous years at about 35.5, he has refrained from chasing so many bad pitches. His BB rate has climbed a whopping 6.1% from last year, and of course his BA is at a very nice .270+ and of course his OBP is now almost laughable at .421. What about his slugging; it must have dropped off a bit? Hardly. It is almost .100 points higher compared to his best season ever (making his OPS a number that is hard to believe at 1.074). His home run rate is actually up about 1%. In other words, when he does choose to swing, he is getting more hits and still driving the ball. Due to all of these factors, he will be in the all star game. 

 

Am I here to trash Sano? No (I don't want to get pelted with frozen homer hankies). I do think he can become a better player and maybe even a star again. We don't have to take the attitude that he can never be... If we think he can't change than we are accepting the notion that he will always be a .225 hitter that hits 35 or so home runs, but also misses frequent opportunities in all situations. That is the Joey Gallo of last year (and all previous years), but the Joey Gallo of this year is an all star for a good reason. Sano has such potential, but will he become that player? That is indeed an interesting and a fair question to be asked.

Thanks for the additional comments and information - you make an excellent comparison.

    • Aerodeliria likes this
Photo
Don't Feed the Greed Guy
Jun 18 2019 08:23 PM
6/18 Twins tied 1-1 vs. Boston. Bases loaded in the bottom of the 6th. Two out. Sano strikes out on three pitches. Ted, we have a problem.
Photo
RatherBeGolfing
Jun 19 2019 06:54 AM

Bump

Photo
Brock Beauchamp
Jun 19 2019 07:02 AM
His K rate now stands at 39.2%.
And his OPS has dropped 96 points in a week.
    • Tomj14 likes this
Photo
Brock Beauchamp
Jun 19 2019 07:35 AM

 

And his OPS has dropped 96 points in a week.

This is literally what I feared would happen when I saw he was still striking out a ton. 

 

To quote myself from June 4th in the "Need to take a hard look at Sano" thread:

 

"We've seen this with Sano before; a hot start where pitchers underestimate him, then an adjustment period where Miguel's numbers start to decline as pitchers realize he'll swing and miss at a ton of borderline pitches. We'll see if that happens again this season soon enough. I hope it doesn't but given his miss rate, I don't have a lot of confidence."

    • Dman, Jham and Tomj14 like this
Photo
diehardtwinsfan
Jun 19 2019 07:45 AM

I didn't have too much of an issue with him swinging out of his shoes last night. It was a tight game where a solo home run certainly would have mattered...

 

That said, in the few at bats I watched, he wasn't doing a good job taking pitches. Granted I'm on game day, so I cannot tell if they were balls or strikes, but based on GT comments, he was just swinging. He's got to lay off pitches outside the zone. 

I didn't have too much of an issue with him swinging out of his shoes last night. It was a tight game where a solo home run certainly would have mattered...

That said, in the few at bats I watched, he wasn't doing a good job taking pitches. Granted I'm on game day, so I cannot tell if they were balls or strikes, but based on GT comments, he was just swinging. He's got to lay off pitches outside the zone.

he swung through everything last night. In the zone, out of the zone. Fastballs. Breaking balls. Changes ups. Warm up pitches. Pitchers tossing balls underhand to umpires asking for a new ball. Pitches thrown in the bullpen. Even his warm up swings in the on deck circle drew air.
    • Brock Beauchamp, birdwatcher, pbrezeasap and 9 others like this

It's bad to chase. It's worse to swing and miss at strikes repeatedly. I'm discouraged after watching (half the game) last night.

    • Brock Beauchamp and USAFChief like this
Keep working with him.

But yeah... Arraez and Marwin can play a little 3B from time to time until he comes around.

I watched him last night and never felt like he was going to put the ball in play. He was more off than normal.
    • twinsnorth49 and Tomj14 like this
Photo
Brock Beauchamp
Jun 19 2019 08:16 AM

 

he swung through everything last night. In the zone, out of the zone. Fastballs. Breaking balls. Changes ups. Warm up pitches. Pitchers tossing balls underhand to umpires asking for a new ball. Pitches thrown in the bullpen. Even his warm up swings in the on deck circle drew air.

Yeah, pretty much this. His plate appearances last night were brutal.

Photo
SpicyGarvSauce
Jun 19 2019 09:47 AM

 

Yeah, pretty much this. His plate appearances last night were brutal.

 

And he struggled against fastballs in the zone - like, couldn't even make contact struggled.

Photo
Brock Beauchamp
Jun 19 2019 09:51 AM

And he struggled against fastballs in the zone - like, couldn't even make contact struggled.

Yeah, it didn’t matter where the pitcher threw the ball, Miguel was going to miss it.
Photo
SpicyGarvSauce
Jun 19 2019 09:54 AM

 

Yeah, it didn’t matter where the pitcher threw the ball, Miguel was going to miss it.

 

Particularly in one AB that I recall, he was missing low 90's fastballs...badly. Like, it wasn't like he was facing Chapman or Hicks or anyone that was throwing upper 90's. He just had no absolute idea at the plate last night.

Photo
Brock Beauchamp
Jun 19 2019 09:57 AM

Particularly in one AB that I recall, he was missing low 90's fastballs...badly. Like, it wasn't like he was facing Chapman or Hicks or anyone that was throwing upper 90's. He just had no absolute idea at the plate last night.

Yeah, that’s the PA that really stuck with me last night.

 

he swung through everything last night. In the zone, out of the zone. Fastballs. Breaking balls. Changes ups. Warm up pitches. Pitchers tossing balls underhand to umpires asking for a new ball. Pitches thrown in the bullpen. Even his warm up swings in the on deck circle drew air.

I literally tell him he's not allowed to swing until he's taken a called strike or he has a 2-0 count.

 

he swung through everything last night. In the zone, out of the zone. Fastballs. Breaking balls. Changes ups. Warm up pitches. Pitchers tossing balls underhand to umpires asking for a new ball. Pitches thrown in the bullpen. Even his warm up swings in the on deck circle drew air.

 I totally agree with that assessment.I just wanted to him hit the ball.Didn't even care if was an out just show me you can hit the darn ball.He could not do it.That is one of the poorer batting performances I have ever seen. Probably a good time to sit him.

 

I don't know what it is but he does seem to get his fair share of tough calls each at bat.I thought he was maybe getting better a few weeks back as he was taking more pitches and having longer at bats.Recently though it feels like he is back to swinging at everything which is fine if he could actually hit the ball. 

 

Part of working the count is getting a good pitch to hit.Use a little reverse psychology on the pitcher and don't swing at anything one or two at bats and then just when they think you won't swing start swinging. I don't know but doing something different has to be better than getting the same result every time.

This is what gets me


I don't remember if it was here I read it or elsewhere but someone said they don't trust him in high leverage situations and I completely agree. Even more so after seeing the stats. When he's up in an important situation I always am waiting for which kind of K it will be (looking, swinging and my favorite the check swing K). I never think he's going to homer or do anything good.
    • Tomj14 likes this
Photo
SpicyGarvSauce
Jun 19 2019 11:28 AM

 

This is what gets me



I don't remember if it was here I read it or elsewhere but someone said they don't trust him in high leverage situations and I completely agree. Even more so after seeing the stats. When he's up in an important situation I always am waiting for which kind of K it will be (looking, swinging and my favorite the check swing K). I never think he's going to homer or do anything good.

 

Oh, this definitely passes the "eye test" as well. Stats are a good way to just quantify this.


Similar Articles


by Ted Schwerzler , Yesterday, 09:06 PM
Photo


by Andrew Thares , 25 Jun 2019
Photo


by Ted Schwerzler , 25 Jun 2019
Photo


by Andrew Thares , 24 Jun 2019
Photo


by Ted Schwerzler , 24 Jun 2019
Photo