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Retrospective: Why 2018 Makes Sense in Hindsight

Posted by jtkoupal , 20 May 2019 · 922 views

I will be the first to admit, I was absolutely stunned by the Twins poor start in 2018 and am equally as stunned by their dynamite start to 2019. All of you on Twins Daily are aware of this, but just to reiterate for the sake of context:
-The Twins came off of a 103-loss 2016 season to nab the second Wild-Card spot in 2017 with a record of 85-77.
-The Twins had an emerging group of youngsters such as Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sanó, José Berríos, and Eddie Rosario that seemed poised to improve after strong finishes to 2017 (with the exception of Sanó, who as an All-Star but missed the last two months due to injury)
-The Twins also were anchored by veterans such as Brian Dozier, Kyle Gibson, Eduardo Escobar, Joe Mauer, and Jason Castro, who were all instrumental to the Twins' run at the end of 2017.
-The Twins then added veterans Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, and Zach Duke to shore up a weak bullpen that waved goodbye to Brandon Kintzler at the 2017 Trade Deadline, when the Twins were below .500 and looked to be out of the race. They also traded for Jake Odorizzi, who the brass liked and believed had untapped potential (he was a former top prospect, after all) and signed starter Lance Lynn, who had a very good track record in St. Louis.
The result? A 7-4 start, followed by a 3-13 stretch that included an 8-game losing streak, en route to a disappointing 78-84 finish to the season. It also was the gut-wrenching goodbye to fan-favorites Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar, in addition to Duke, Rodney, Lynn, and, to my surprise, Ryan Pressly.
I, along with many other Twins fans, held on to hope for dear life until the Twins were swept in a three-game series in Kansas City after the All-Star Break. At that point, I knew and finally, reluctantly, accepted that it was over. A once-promising season thrown down the drain. However, looking back, is that final 78-84 mark actually surprising? And is it actually bad? Let's stop and consider.
It all started before the season started, when Ervin Santana, the ace of the Twins in 2017, delayed his surgery until February and would not be able to start the season on-time. As it turned out, he didn't throw a pitch until August. Then, the news broke that Jorge Polanco would miss 80 games with a suspension for testing positive for Stanozolol, a banned substance. The Twins were surely upset, but not panicked, as Lynn was signed and Escobar became the regular shortstop and hit very well.
In April, the Twins had three consecutive games postponed due to weather, which ended up giving the Twins 4 days off before going to Puerto Rico, where they played in a 16-inning game that resulted in a win vs the Indians. Then the 8-game losing streak began.
The barrage of setbacks then continued when it was announced that Jason Castro was going to miss the rest of the season. Jason Castro was not a huge weapon offensively at this point, but his value defensively was immense. The Twins turned to veteran Bobby Wilson, who almost gave up baseball before the season, to receive a bulk of the playing time alongside Mitch Garver, who was still very unpolished.
Byron Buxton then proceeded to make 2 trips to the Disabled List and ended up only playing in 28 games all season. That opened the door for Ryan LaMarre and, eventually, Jake Cave. Cave showed an ability to hit the ball, but he and Robbie Grossman in the outfield on a regular basis is clearly not ideal and a substantial downgrade from having Buxton in center, even if he put up mediocre numbers at the plate.
Then June rolled around and the Twins were treading water, fighting for their lives to stay alive. The Twins were forced into making the nuclear decision to send a struggling, and by some reports disinterested Miguel Sanó not to Triple-A, but to Single-A for a complete reboot. His struggles opened the door for Ehire Adrianza to play shortstop every day until Polanco returned. Similar to Cave, Adrianza is a decent player, but he is not a healthy, productive Sanó. The more bench players that have to play regularly, the harder it is to win games.
To compound that, Addison Reed, who was solid for the Twins early, started to break down from overuse and spent a lot of time on the Disabled List. To this day, he has not regained his already-declining velocity and was just recently Designated for Assignment.
The Twins embarked on a late-June, early-July, 9-game road trip to Chicago (3 with each team) and Milwaukee. The Twins went 1-8 on that trip and were, in my mind and the mind of most, dead in the water. Then they went 9-2 on a homestead against the Orioles, Royals, and Rays right before the All-Star Break and were hanging on by just enough of a thread to keep me optimistic. Then the aforementioned Royals series happened and I knew what little hope was left was gone.
The last week of July saw the departure of Brian Dozier, most notably. Another reason for the Twins struggles was that Dozier was never able to get it going after having a hot first week in Baltimore and Pittsburgh with 4 home runs. It was all downhill from there, though a dramatic walk-off grand slam in the last game before the break provided one last thing to cheer about before his send-off to LA.
To summarize, here is what happened to the Twins in 2018:
-Injured starting catcher, who was replaced by a veteran backup.
-Injured starting center fielder
-Suspended starting shortstop
-Injured ace
-Injured relief-ace
-Declining starting second baseman
-Disinterested former-All-Star third baseman who had to be demoted and rebooted
All things considered, it is no surprise that the Twins underperformed in 2018. All told, perhaps 78 wins is not so bad after all. 2019 is off to a great start; this was the expectation last year, but we're getting it a year late! In my opinion, this team is better than the Opening Day 2018 team.

  • birdwatcher, DocBauer, Tom Froemming and 3 others like this



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birdwatcher
May 21 2019 09:13 AM

Maybe the best, most contextual, least inflammatory explanation of what happened in 2018 that I've read. Very well-written.

 

Keeping all these extraordinary factors in mind is why we should probably think of every new season as a reboot, really, good results or bad. Control the things you can control and watch the cards fall.

    • woolywoolhouse, jtkoupal and caninatl04 like this
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Channing1964
May 21 2019 10:36 AM
I wouldn't have explained it in those kind of "kind" words but that's pretty much exactly what happened. You just left out the part about tanking the season with 60 games to go.
    • jtkoupal likes this
I argued repeatedly in the past that with everything that went wrong in 2018, that team should have list at least 90 if not a 100 games. The fact that they actually went 78-84 is a testament to how much talent and potential was still on that club. IMHO, I felt the baseline for a healthy, (at least mostly), 2019 Twins team was about 85 wins with the potential form 95. I didn't like every move the FO made, or didn't make, but was happy overall.
    • gil4 and jtkoupal like this

 

I wouldn't have explained it in those kind of "kind" words but that's pretty much exactly what happened. You just left out the part about tanking the season with 60 games to go.

The Twins went 14-14 in August and 15-13 in September. The only disastrous month was April (8-14). I know that a lot of those wins were against KC, Detroit, and Chicago, but calling it "tanking" is truly misguided. The trades all made sense, and make more sense in retrospect. The Twins were out of it and had expiring contracts they weren't going to bring back anyway. There was some experimentation the last 2 months, but they did not "tank" as you suggested.

    • Danchat likes this

 

I argued repeatedly in the past that with everything that went wrong in 2018, that team should have list at least 90 if not a 100 games. The fact that they actually went 78-84 is a testament to how much talent and potential was still on that club. IMHO, I felt the baseline for a healthy, (at least mostly), 2019 Twins team was about 85 wins with the potential form 95. I didn't like every move the FO made, or didn't make, but was happy overall.

A lot of people, myself included, were in your boat. 538 pegged the Twins with 84 wins to start the season. For the Twins to hit 90, it was always going to take a lot of things going well. So far, a lot has, but not necessarily the things we expected.

I... of course will not let them off the hook that easy. There will be no shoulder shrug "what can you do?" from me. 

 

What you present is very well written and it's a nice overhead view of what was 2018... Yes... everything you list contributed to the season that was 2018 and many people want to give the team a pass saying "what can you do in consideration?" 

 

 

The reasons you list are accurate but the reasons were still organizational decisions that they didn't have to make. 

 

We didn't have to lie there and take it. But we did lie there and take it.When players hitting .200 are deemed as impossible to replace... You have failed as an organization. 

 

I contend that Molitor simultaneously deserves "Manager of the Year" for getting 78 wins out of the performances he chose to work with. And he also deserves to not be coaching in 2019 for choosing who he chose to work with.