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Article: Expansion Could Alter MLB's Landscape

Other Baseball Today, 05:41 AM
The winds of change are in the air. Major League Baseball could be nearing an expansion to 32 teams which would signal a large shift in t...
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Twins to hire John Manuel

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 05:41 AM
Didn't see that coming.
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Gardy being considered to manage the Red Sox

Other Baseball Today, 05:35 AM
https://www.cbssport...draws-interest/   "Now, as the postseason continues with the LCS round, the Red Sox are moving forward with t...
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Article: Diving Into The Offseason: A Buxton Extension?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 05:26 AM
Last week, I considered what a potential long-term extension might look like for All Star Brian Dozier. Today, I want to do a little digg...
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IMO, this is why you acquire SP from outside

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 03:01 AM
I keep reading that a team shouldn't sign FA pitchers, because they don't always work out. Or, that a team shouldn't trade "real" prospec...
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What The Hell Just Happened?

Our view of the 2017 Twins will be altered by time: softened and comforted. Today the view is more raw, and I want to embrace that. In the immediate aftermath, when I look at the victory we just witnessed, I see two traits that are the cornerstones of most victories: resilience and growth.

“No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That's the only way to keep the roads clear.”
- Greg Kincaid
Image courtesy of © David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
In mid-April, the Twins lost six of seven games in a week to division foes. In May, they lost five of six to Cleveland and Houston, which included one gut-wrenching loss and several drubbings. At the end of July they lost seven of eight and traded away a starting pitcher and their closer. Finally, just last week, they lost five of six in the midst of the Wild Card race.

In each case they persevered. In each case they bounced back, most recently with a five-game winning streak. Also, to be fair, in each case their rivals kind of blew it. The Royals struggled badly out of the gate. Several Wild Card contenders stumbled shortly after the trade deadline. The Angels were getting swept themselves when the Twins were swept by the Yankees.

But focusing on rivals’ problems need not be disparaging. The Twins did what the others could not – they persevered. It’s easy in today’s society to overlook Grit in the search for The Shiny. That is our failing. Grit is a differentiator.


“My turn shall also come:
I sense the spreading of a wing.”
- Osip Mendelstam

The Twins overall philosophy as a smallish market club has not changed. One can also find it with other teams and with families. The family grows with the kids. It invests in them, probably to its short-term detriment. And it does this in the hope that one day The Growth happens and raises everyone up.

Baseball prospects get more early attention than ever before, and so the clock starts ticking earlier on them in the minds of the media and fans. It’s not surprising that we grow impatient. Eventually, we even grow impatient with the impatience.

It took a while, but all those investments were paid back in full this August. When the season was on the brink, they Twins were led back from the ledge by the kids. The Twins went 20-10 in August, and the engine was their offense, which outscored the rest of the American League. A couple of veterans, Brian Dozier (1.023 OPS) & Joe Mauer (.863 OPS) paced the team, but the surge was driven by three guys under the age of 26: Jorge Polanco (1.099 OPS), Byron Buxton (.973 OPS) & Eddie Rosario (.944 OPS).

None of them are going to keep up that pace for their careers, but none of them have fallen off a cliff in September, either. We’re sensing the spreading of wings.


“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”
– Robert Jordan

I was not optimistic about this bullpen, and neither was Twins manager Paul Molitor. There have been times, like that terrible Houston series, where they have been more embarrassing than I could have imagined. There have been times where they were ranked dead last in ERA. In fact, by that metric, they’re still not … good. Their 4.45 ERA ranks 12th in the American League.

But there is a better advanced stat for measuring bullpen efficacy: WPA. It measures the ability of the bullpen to turn a game into a win – or a loss. The Twins bullpen ranks 9th in the AL and has a value of .31, which means they’re about 1/3 of a win better than bullpens have historically been. That isn’t especially impressive, but ….

This team traded away its closer, Brandon Kintxler, at the trade deadline. Their best reliever in the second half, Trevor Hildenberger, spent part of last year in High-A Fort Myers. Their current shutdown closer, Matt Belisle, was a late-season, low-cost free agent pickup who had a 5.82 ERA in the first half of the season. They are a collection of no-names who have kept it together to survive and protect the games they needed to protect. If a handful would have slipped away, the Twins are also-rans.

They bent – a lot – but they did not break, and the team survived.


“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud.”
– Goldie Hawn

The Twins were supposed to have a thin starting rotation – and then they lost three arms: Trevor May, Hector Santiago, and Phil Hughes. That put a large burden on Ervin Santana, who served both as staff ace (especially early) and workhorse. However, the year was saved when the other 80% of the starts were taken by youngsters or pitchers who bloomed despite dealing with their share of mud.

Jose Berrios has been a dependable #2 starter; his ERA was 8.02 last year. Adalberto Mejia, to quote the movie Clerks, wasn’t even supposed to be here. Neither was 44-year-old Bartolo Colon, who injected hope mid-season after posting an 8.14 ERA with Atlanta. And finally, Kyle Gibson, who had a 6.05 ERA and looked like he had pitched himself out of a baseball career in mid-August, posted a 2.56 ERA in his last seven starts, all of which the Twins won. The rotation hasn’t thrived, but it survived, and we’re seeing a couple of the petals open one by one.


“Change may not always bring growth, but there is no growth without change.”
― Roy T. Bennett

We may look back on the 2017 Twins the way we look back on the 1984 season or the 2002 season as a year of breakthroughs, a sign of things to come. Twins fans (and the Twins organization) have traveled a similar road, but that doesn’t make it any easier when one is lost and wondering if this path will go anywhere. This time, it did, but it took a lot of resilience and growth to get there.

"We will either find a way, or make one."
- Anibal Barca


~~~~


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22 Comments

I am so bleeping excited.

    • Jerr, ericchri, tarheeltwinsfan and 1 other like this

Awesome article!You always felt these guys had what it takes and I remember you being quite perturbed that the Twins traded at the deadline and kind of gave up on the season.Well things worked out both ways for a change.

"When you can take the wildcard from my hand, you will have learned." -- Master Kan.

    • twinssporto and DelusionalTwinsFan like this

Probably the Twins won't go far in the playoffs, but this is definitely a young team on the rise. Give them one more good starter, and this is a legit contender. That could be Stephen Gonsalves next season, or Fernando Romero, Kohl Stewart, Felix Jorge, Trevor May, maybe even Zack Littell. Most of these starters could be in camp next spring, and the best of them may be better than Mejia, who himself is improving. 

 

As much as we like Big Sexy, baseball remains a game mostly for guys in their early 20's to early 30's. To be a real contender, the Twins need to bring in a staff of young, talented starters to go with their young, talented position players. Then maybe we'll see them reach that next level. 

 

Skol Twins!

    • DocBauer and DelusionalTwinsFan like this
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notoriousgod71
Sep 28 2017 02:42 PM

 

Probably the Twins won't go far in the playoffs, but this is definitely a young team on the rise. Give them one more good starter, and this is a legit contender. That could be Stephen Gonsalves next season, or Fernando Romero, Kohl Stewart, Felix Jorge, Trevor May, maybe even Zack Littell. Most of these starters could be in camp next spring, and the best of them may be better than Mejia, who himself is improving. 

 

As much as we like Big Sexy, baseball remains a game mostly for guys in their early 20's to early 30's. To be a real contender, the Twins need to bring in a staff of young, talented starters to go with their young, talented position players. Then maybe we'll see them reach that next level. 

 

Skol Twins!

 

To be a real contender they need to improve at least seven of their bullpen arms and two of their starters.

    • DelusionalTwinsFan likes this
Best thing I think you've written John! Outstanding!

Continued growth, one more quality SP, and a couple bullpen arms to be added or emerge and we could be a legitimate contender next season. (Not to sound like I'm disparaging this season, just optimistic for what is to come).
    • DelusionalTwinsFan likes this

Did you quote the most diverse group ever?

 

Robert Jordan and Goldie Hawn?

 

Heck, I don't even know who the others are, and now I want to look 

    • Jerr, Craig Arko, tarheeltwinsfan and 1 other like this
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Physics Guy
Sep 28 2017 03:51 PM

To be a real contender they need to improve at least seven of their bullpen arms and two of their starters.


So Santana, Berrios and Gibson or Meijia are the only things worth keeping? 7 new bullpen arms is pretty much the whole thing. I couldn't disagree more.

I think one additional starter in the mold of Santana would stabilize the rotation and leave some room for young kids to come up. There are plenty of encouraging signs in the bullpen. I think two different pieces, specifically a shut-down closer would do the trick in the bullpen.
    • DocBauer, terrydactyls1947 and Doctor Wu like this

There is some way to grow with the current crop, but I hope the front office doesn't fall too much in love with certain pieces that are...to say the least, expendable. And not really sure how to read Molitor. Did the Twins win despite him (as in 2015) or is he really a good manager?

    • DelusionalTwinsFan likes this

At least the Twins are fun to watch again. Sure there is room for improvement but don't forget they will have the 5th best record in the AL. That's better than 10 other teams.

    • tarheeltwinsfan, DelusionalTwinsFan and Doctor Wu like this
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notoriousgod71
Sep 28 2017 07:53 PM

 

So Santana, Berrios and Gibson or Meijia are the only things worth keeping? 7 new bullpen arms is pretty much the whole thing. I couldn't disagree more.

I think one additional starter in the mold of Santana would stabilize the rotation and leave some room for young kids to come up. There are plenty of encouraging signs in the bullpen. I think two different pieces, specifically a shut-down closer would do the trick in the bullpen.

 

Santana and Berrios are obvious and the Twins could survive with one of Mejia or Gibson (but preferably not as the number 3).

 

Outside of Busenitz and Hildenberger who do you really want to keep from the bullpen? Belisle is ok, but should not be anywhere near the 9th inning. Rogers, Duffey, Boshers, Perkins, Curtiss, Moya, Turley, whoever else I am forgetting are not good.

    • DelusionalTwinsFan likes this
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Physics Guy
Sep 28 2017 09:48 PM

 

Santana and Berrios are obvious and the Twins could survive with one of Mejia or Gibson (but preferably not as the number 3).

 

Outside of Busenitz and Hildenberger who do you really want to keep from the bullpen? Belisle is ok, but should not be anywhere near the 9th inning. Rogers, Duffey, Boshers, Perkins, Curtiss, Moya, Turley, whoever else I am forgetting are not good.

Busenitz and Hildy alone means you don't need seven new arms in the bullpen.Outside of a four game stretch in late July where he gave up nearly half of his earned runs, Rogers has been excellent.I think he was overused a bit before Hildy and Busenitz gained Molitor's confidence.I also would be OK with Belisle in the 6th and 7th innings.Would like to see them bring back Kintzler and another guy to battle for closer and 8th inning.I think two new guys could make for a pretty solid bullpen.

 

As an aside, I don't know what to make of Pressly and Duffey.Both seem to have the velocity and secondary pitches to be successful, but I'm about done with giving them chances.Either one could be the last guy in the bullpen, but it sure would be nice if they could figure it out. 

    • DocBauer and MN_ExPat like this

I would also like to see Kinsler return and I think that is realistic. Also need a closer and 1 starter. 

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

This pitching staff has about got as much as they can out this group of individuals down the stretch. Yet i think this team could surprise alot of experts if they get a chance to show people what they are capable of. What makes this pitching staff work is the kids playing behind them. This group of kids catch ball if its close and turn them into outs or limit the hits to singles majority of the time. I think this what has trurned around Gibson season he has learned he doesn't need to make perfect pitch but make the pitch that will keep the ball in the park. This has been  Colon problem recently he has give up to many home runs in last outings. The Front office knows now they wish they wouldn't have traded Kinsler but they did. Today Levine I think was as honest as I have ever heard him in that they thought they were couple years away from becoming contender they miss judged what they had in the early part of the season. But right now all that's water under the bridge in that this team got to compete with what they got. I think a lot of people have been hard on couple of these kids lately like Duffey and Rogers. Both these guys have been used a lot put in some very high leverage positions some games to pitching more than one inning to piece a game together. I think they are worn down some mentally and physically and need some rest because neither one of these guys have gone through whole season before and have been used to this degree there's learning curve. Matter a fact pretty much whole relief staff has little experience of going through whole season. I lack confidence in several of these relievers but I have seen them do what is expected of them also. The ones they take to playoffs will depend on coaches and what type of game plan they are going to try implement. I have wondered about Perkins why they haven't used him a little more recently because they are going to need another left hand specialist to get left hand bat or two out in playoffs and he has experience and has been in high leverage situations. Yankees are going to br tough to beat in there park because its hard to keep the ball in park because of small size which there teamis built to hit in that park. My guess is the Twins pitching can keep the ball in park they have very good chance to beat them but if they let them hit home runs I don't think the Twins can match them in that type of game.

Falvey and Levine work really begins next year they have a very young team that has developed to where they can be contenders for number of years. The thing the Twins need is front line pitching to be added to this group of players for next several years. They need at least one to two starting pitchers add to their pitching staff plus they need closer plus at least one other relief pitcher to fill out their pitching staff. They may have relief help in the minors but starting pitching looks to be at least another year away before they will have them up to big leagues. My guess will be they will need to find this help through free agency because they are in best of all worlds now they have young and controllable players all way around field with exception of Dozier and Mauer but they don't have to address that unless they want to keep them. This could be very good times for the twins in next few years if we don't have major injury problems with this group of players.

Great article John, Thanks.

What a year to be a Twins fan. The best for me is watching the outfielders do their thing after a win. A great display of what this team is all about!

I think Broker put it well; the Twins ARE fun to watch again. Plenty of power, some speed on the bases, a trio of great athletes in the outfield. Sure, the pitching still needs some tweaking, but there are some very exciting ingredients at play. All in all, what we have on the field is making the games much more interesting. And of course having Big Sexy on the staff make things more entertaining too.

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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 29 2017 09:20 AM

This has been a feast of outstanding baseball this year for the Twins' players, fans, organization, coaches and staff. The minor league teams did well and some promising prospects are on their way up. It has also been a great season for Twins Daily. Thanks to everyone here at Twins Daily. But the main thing I want to say to all of you is what we say sometimes ata large family dinner when we have finished the crisp salad and the delicious main course and we are getting ready for our favorite desert..."Hold on to your forks, the best is yet to come"!

    • Longdistancetwins likes this

Same old story...nothing that a pitcher (or five) wouldn't fix. As Earl Weaver once said - do you know what you do when you think you have enough pitching? You go out and get more pitching. Of course you could say this about pretty much any team, not just the Twins! 

    • USAFChief, tarheeltwinsfan and spinowner like this

Busenitz and Hildy alone means you don't need seven new arms in the bullpen. Outside of a four game stretch in late July where he gave up nearly half of his earned runs, Rogers has been excellent. I think he was overused a bit before Hildy and Busenitz gained Molitor's confidence. I also would be OK with Belisle in the 6th and 7th innings. Would like to see them bring back Kintzler and another guy to battle for closer and 8th inning. I think two new guys could make for a pretty solid bullpen.

As an aside, I don't know what to make of Pressly and Duffey. Both seem to have the velocity and secondary pitches to be successful, but I'm about done with giving them chances. Either one could be the last guy in the bullpen, but it sure would be nice if they could figure it out.


Rogers is good. Still young and overused the first half, definitely. Busentiz and Hildenberger are rookies with barely half a season at the ML level and looking like they have quality futures.

Is Curtiss ready? I don't know. The milb track record and stuff say he's a guy to watch, for sure. To say he's nothing, as implied in another post, is ridiculous at this point.

I'm OK with Belisle back, or Kintzler, for a veteran presence, but not both. There HAS to be a veteran FA out there, under 30 or around 30, that could be an upgrade.

FA improvement, one of Belisle or Kintzler, Rogers, Busentiz and Hildenberger gives you 5. At some point in 2018 you have Bard, Reed, Jay, Chargois and even Burdi maybe. I still hold on to Pressly. Except for a couple bad moments...they happen...hes been so much better the past few months and has a real arm. Duffey could be an ideal long/middle/swing man, has options, and is worth keeping.

I'm not saying don't make a move or two, but the second half bullpen has been very different than the first half.

 

Same old story...nothing that a pitcher (or five) wouldn't fix. As Earl Weaver once said - do you know what you do when you think you have enough pitching? You go out and get more pitching. Of course you could say this about pretty much any team, not just the Twins! 

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t have pitching, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t have pitching, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t have pitching, I would have gained nothing.

13 And now these three remain: hitting, fielding, and pitching. But the greatest of these is pitching.

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ashburyjohn
Sep 30 2017 02:35 PM

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t have pitching, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t have pitching, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t have pitching, I would have gained nothing.

13 And now these three remain: hitting, fielding, and pitching. But the greatest of these is pitching.

Pitching is patient, pitching is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud - but it would be within its rights if it was.

    • jimmer likes this
I've been impressed with Dillon Gee. I would like to see what he can do in higher leverage 1 inning stints. He's certainly been a fantastic long man. May have found something there.

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