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  1. Twins Offseason Trade Target: Matt Chapman

    What would it take to get Chapman?
    Chapman was an All-Star in 2019 while hitting 36 home runs and 36 doubles with an .848 OPS. He won his second Gold Glove Award at third base and it might not have been close. Chapman is in a close conversation with Nolan Arenado as the best defensive third baseman in all of baseball and Chapman could be in the discussion as one of the league’s best overall defenders.

    Minnesota also has one of the league’s best defenders, but he has been injured over the last couple seasons. Byron Buxton won the Platinum Glove back in 2017, but injuries have kept him off the field over parts of the last two seasons. Could the giant Oakland outfield be a better home for the budding superstar? He has more service time than Chapman and he can be a free agent in 2023.

    Chapman is nearly a year older than Buxton, but they have nearly the same amount of games played at the big-league level thanks to Buxton’s DL stints. Chapman might fit with the Twins, but it will take more than Buxton to land Chapman in a Twins uniform. Minnesota would likely need to add a prospect or two to the equation to get Oakland to consider a deal.

    Minnesota’s Line-Up Ramifications
    Adding Chapman to the line-up would mean Miguel Sano would no longer be needed at third base. This would allow the Twins to shift him to first base and designated hitter on a more permanent rotation. Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez would continue to get at-bats at those positions next season, but this would allow for some positional depth at all those spots, especially since none of those players played a full-season last year.

    If Buxton was out of the equation, Max Kepler would continue to play center field during the 2020 campaign. Then in 2021, Royce Lewis would be given the opportunity to play there and Kepler could slide back to a corner outfield role. Lewis’ defensive future has been in question over the last couple offseasons and this year’s Arizona Fall League only brought that more to the forefront.

    One of Minnesota’s biggest defensive weaknesses this offseason might be third base. Adding Chapman would take away from an area of strength and add to an area of weakness. The cost of adding Chapman might be steep, but the Twins would have him for multiple years with the opportunity to offer him an extension.

    What do you think Chapman would be worth in a trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Dec 02 2019 07:30 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  2. Who Could the Twins Trade this Offseason?

    Outfielders
    While Twins Daily has had plenty of Rosario trade discussion, MLB.com even identified him as a potential trade candidate. Minnesota’s other outfielders, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton, could be in play. Kepler is coming off a career-best season and the Twins signed him to a team-friendly contract last season. Could this make him more susceptible to a trade this year? It seems more likely for the Twins to allow him to continue to develop at the top of their line-up.

    Byron Buxton seemed to be on track for the best season of his career before being injured last season. He has been the league’s best defensive player and he showed some offensive promise last season before being sidelined for the year. Another organization could see some higher value in him and this might allow a trade to occur.

    Infielders
    Miguel Sano struggled through parts of the last two seasons, but he certainly ended last season in a flurry. In the second half of 2019, he posted a .939 OPS with 21 home runs and 55 RBI in 65 games played. He seemed to hit some of the team's biggest home runs as the team went on to win division title. Sano certainly isn’t perfect, but other teams might see significant value in him.

    As a 25-year old, Jorge Polanco was one of the American League’s most valuable players. He was named the AL’s starting shortstop and finished the year with a .356 OBP and an .841 OPS. Like Kepler, the Twins signed him to a team friendly deal prior to last season. This might make him more valuable next season, but the eventual appearance of top prospect Royce Lewis could make him expendable.

    Prospects
    The Twins will have few pitchers available to trade so the organization might have to dip into the minor leagues to find other options on the trading market. Fans wanted the organization to trade for more starting pitching at the trade deadline and this would likely have meant including top prospects Royce Lewis and/or Alex Kirilloff. Both players had up and down 2019 seasons, so their value might not be at the highest point.

    Top pitching prospects like Brusdar Graterol and Jordan Balazovic seem more valuable to the Twins than to other teams. Minnesota needs to fill holes in their rotation and both of these players could offer long-term solutions to the team’s pitching woes. Digging deeper into the minors for pitchers like Jhoan Duran, Lewis Thorpe, and Blayne Enlow would probably produce little in trade value.

    Who do you think the Twins could trade this off-season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Nov 18 2019 12:13 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. Minnesota’s Top Regression Candidates

    Max Kepler
    2019 Stats: .252 BA, .244 BABIP, .336 OBP, .855 OPS
    Few Twins fans knew what to expect when Kepler was named the Twins lead-off hitter during spring training. He actually was a bit unlucky when looking at his batting average and his BABIP, but it also doesn’t seem likely for him to approach 35+ home runs two seasons in a row. Baseball Reference projects him for 26 home runs and a .795 OPS. This is a slight decline from 2019 and it seems like an reasonable projection for the coming year.

    Luis Arraez
    2019 Stats: .334 BA, .355 BABIP, .399 OBP, .833 OPS
    Arraez had one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory for the Twins, but few people saw this coming. He has been able to hit at every professional level, but it makes sense for teams to figure out his tendencies and take advantage of them with more repetitions. For next season, there seems little chance that his OPS stays above .800. Arraez has the offensive tools to be an above-average second baseman but the Twins will have to use him correctly in the years ahead.

    Mitch Garver
    2019 Stats: .273 BA, .267 BABIP, .365 OBP, .995 OPS
    Garver won a Silver Slugger in his first season of playing on a semi-regular basis but Jason Castro won’t be there as a safety blanket next year. Garver might be forced to take on a more regular role. What will that do to his production? He might have been a little lucky with a BABIP that was lower than his actually batting average. It seems more likely for him to be around 20 home runs and a .850 OPS.

    Jorge Polanco
    2019 Stats: .295 BA,.328 BABIP, .356 OBP, .841 OPS
    Polanco was the team’s lone position player All-Star in 2019 and he was elected as a starter. Baseball Reference projects him to accumulate an .803 OPS next year, while dipping from 22 home runs this season to 17 homers next year. He’s managed a .339 OPS over the course of his big league career so it will be interesting if he can continue at that level with other top prospects trying to take his big-league spot.

    Miguel Sano
    2019 Stats: .247 BA, .319 BBIP, .346 OBP, .923 OPS
    Sano struggled through parts of the 2019 campaign, but he seemed to settle into a routine as the season progressed. His batting average on balls in play seems destined for some regression and it’s hard to predict whether he will be able to stay healthy for an entire season. He has yet to play more than 116 games in one year and that was back in 2016. A full season of Sano could be dangerous or a full season could more fully expose his flaws.

    Which player do you think will regress this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Nov 12 2019 09:20 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  4. 3 Creative Ways for Twins to Leverage Their Spending Flexibility

    In his Payroll Analysis feature for the Offseason Handbook, John Bonnes surmises that the Twins could plausibly push payroll to around $140 million this winter, giving them up to $70 million in spending flexibility. That total would push them past their 2018 and 2017 payrolls, but only modestly so. It's a reasonable target for a team that's in championship contention and experiencing a wave of renewed fan investment.

    In three shorts years since taking over as general manager under Derek Falvey, Thad Levine has already made some of the boldest free agent splashes in Twins history. The contracts given to Jason Castro, Addison Reed, Lance Lynn, Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez may not be lofty signings relative to the rest of the league, but judged against the standard set by Terry Ryan, they were tremendously aggressive signings.

    With the exception of Castro, however, none of these pacts were for more than two years. The Twins reportedly backed out of the Yu Darvish derby two winters ago because of his contract length demands. Minnesota epitomizes baseball's general aversion to bulky free agent deals, and to committing enormous guaranteed sums to players in their 30s.

    You know what? It's undeniably smart, especially for a team with finite payroll constraints. Ongoing flexibility is a worthy aspiration and directive for this front office. Let's explore some ways the Twins could maximize their present cash surplus while staying true to their strategically prudent ways.

    Frontload a Free Agent Contract

    Are the Twins going to sign Gerrit Cole to a deal pays him $40 million as a 34-year-old in 2025? Probably not. In fact, they're likely aiming to avoid any huge financial obligations down the line. But let me throw a theoretical scenario at you.

    Say Minnesota is targeting Madison Bumgarner. (You can insert the name of another high-end free agent starter as you please.) He has a five-year, $100 million offer in hand from another team, with salaries evenly dispersed across the length of the contract, maybe even backloaded. Pretty standard framework.

    Okay, Twins might not want to go there. But what if they proposed this contract: five years and $96 million, with $30 million salaries in each of the first two seasons, followed by an opt-out clause, and then $12 million salaries in each of the final three seasons. This gives Bumgarner the ability to make an extra $20+ million over the next two years, then hit free agency again at age 32 for another big payday. Meanwhile, if things fall apart on him, he still has three years of solid paychecks guaranteed. Basically it gives him the ability to bet on himself while maintaining security.

    From Minnesota's perspective, the extra money up-front doesn't matter much, and they ensure they won't be saddled with a major payroll drain just as guys like Jose Berrios, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Taylor Rogers are getting expensive or reaching free agency.

    You can tinker around with the specific terms and numbers, but in general I think the heavily front-loaded opt-out contract is a model that could help the Twins compete for prime talent in free agency while remaining nimble.

    Trade for a Hefty Salary

    Teams that are willing to take on a burdensome contract often give up less in prospect capital to acquire a player. As it happens, there are several teams looking to shed payroll this winter, even – if rumblings are to be believed – heavy hitters like the Red Sox and Cubs.

    With considerable short-term flexibility, might the Twins be able to land a player like David Price ($32M/yr owed through 2023) or Kris Bryant (due around $40 million his final two years of arbitration, pending his service time grievance) for a relatively light return?

    Frontload Internal Contract Extensions

    This might not be as exciting as flashy outside pickups, but team-friendly extensions for core players – like the ones inked with Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler in the spring – are critical to the franchise's long-term health, enabling the front office to making impactful additions year after year.

    In the cases of both Polanco and Kepler, the Twins gave large immediate raises in exchange for reasonable rates and team options during the latter portions (which also happen to encompass the players' primes). It'd be great to see the front office take a similar approach this offseason, maybe even bringing it a step further.

    Earlier this week, Cody Christie looked at five extension candidates, and of course Berrios was at the top of the list. The 25-year-old is projected to make somewhere around $5 million in his first turn at arbitration this offseason, but what if the Twins bumped that up to – say – $9 million, with an ensuant raise the following year? What kind of discount might that score for his first few years of free agency?

    The bottom line is that Minnesota has a ton of spending flexibility right now, but it's a fleeting reality if the Twins hope to keep their core intact. They have at least seven key players in the arbitration process now, which puts those fixtures on a rapidly rising pay scale.

    Moves like the ones above will serve the team's short-term and long-term goals, aggressively pursuing a winning window while maintaining the freedom to keep the band together.

    • Nov 07 2019 09:02 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
    • Oct 28 2019 05:38 AM
    • by John Bonnes
  5. Quantifying Byron Buxton's Defensive Value

    Byron Buxton, when healthy, is one of the best center fielders in the game. Baseball Savant has many metrics that can make this argument. Keeping Buxton healthy has been endlessly debated on Twitter and, without spending too much time on that, I think the answer may be found by improving his reaction time, per the graphic from Baseball Savant below.
    Posted Image

    I found their “jump” metric to be the most surprising. For being such a great outfielder (he was sixth in Outs Above Average among outfielders despite missing two months) he was rated as average in his “jump”, which takes into account a players reaction, burst, and route. Improving on reaction time is something much more realistic than asking him to change his instincts. Defense can be a hard thing to quantify in baseball, but using data Baseball Savant I will try to paint a picture of just how impactful Byron’s glove is in center field.

    For the majority of this exercise I will compare Buxton’s centerfield metrics to Max Kepler’s as he has the most meaningful data from the 2019 season. In 2019, the average batted ball had an average flight time of about five seconds, was hit about 65 feet away from the outfielder, and had a 97% catch probability. When looking at five second hang time data, the catch probability significantly drops from 85 feet (72.5%) to 90 feet (50.0%) and then again at 95 feet (27.8%), so this is the range I want to focus the comparison.

    Posted Image

    In the graphic above, I have put a black rectangle around that 85 foot to 95 foot range mentioned above. Your first reaction might be to notice that the specified range, specifically around the five second mark, doesn’t look much different. On that note, I’d remind you that Kepler had 419.0 more innings in the outfield than Buxton and thus had many more opportunities to get outs. If anything, you should compare the number of grey dots (hits) in each rectangle as well as the number of red dots (outs) to the right of the rectangle. More simply put, Buxton had three more Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in fewer innings than Kepler.

    Let’s look at the impact it had on Twins pitchers. Due to sample size, I did not include relief pitchers, and due to suspension or health issues, the only starters I decided to include were Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. Prior to the Buxton injury on Aug. 1, Berrios and Odorizzi had a .968 and .830 OPS on line drives and fly balls hit to center field, respectively. After the Buxton injury, their OPS increased to 1.339 and 1.154, respectively.

    In short, it’s clear Buxton absence had a significant impact on their defense. With all that in mind, where do you sit on Buxton? Trade him? Buy out his arbitration years and sign him to a long-term deal? Continue playing the waiting game to see if he can stay healthy? Let’s discuss in the comments. Next week, I’ll be looking at what free agent starters we should target to compliment Buxton’s strengths.

    Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.

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    • Oct 22 2019 09:15 PM
    • by Matthew Lenz
  6. The Defensive Future of Royce Lewis

    Shortstop
    Lewis was drafted as a shortstop and the Twins have given him every opportunity to stick at one of the most important defensive positions. Through three professional seasons, 94.7% of his defensive innings have been played at short. He has been charged with 48 errors in 1076 chances for a .955 fielding percentage. This might not seem terrible, but Jorge Polanco had a .957 fielding percentage this year and there were plenty of people critical of his defense this year.

    Even with Minnesota continuing to use Lewis at shortstop, there is no guarantee he stays there long-term. As Matthew Trueblood wrote, there have been some “dubious recent scouting reports” about his shortstop play. Lewis could be entering a critical time for his defensive future and shortstop might not be his position in the years ahead. In fact, he has yet to log a defensive inning at shortstop in the AFL.

    Third Base
    Minnesota currently has Miguel Sano at third base, but there have been questions about his ability to stick at that position long-term. In fact, he might be better suited for first base or even designated hitter. If there was an opening at third, Lewis might be given the opportunity to take over the hot corner.

    In 11 of his 18 AFL games, he has started at third base and he has yet to be charged with an error. His time at third was almost nonexistent before the AFL started. During his professional career, he had played four innings at third base and he had yet to start a game at that position.

    It’s also not like there is a better shortstop prospect ahead of him on his AFL roster. Tampa’s Vidal Brujan has played the majority of the time at short and his own organization rarely uses him at that position (377 2/3 innings over five seasons).

    Outfield
    Minnesota’s current outfield looks strong if Bryon Buxton, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario are all healthy and on the field. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen very often in 2019 and one must wonder what the future holds for the team’s outfield trio. It also seems possible for one of these players to be dealt for starting pitching help before the beginning of next season.

    Lewis has played four games in center field during his career and three of those contests have been in the AFL. That still hasn’t stopped him from making a highlight reel catch.


    Outfield seems like a good back-up plan for Lewis if he doesn’t pan out at either one of the infield positions mentioned above. He has the athleticism to shift to the outfield, but it would take a lot of work to get him accustomed to chasing down fly-balls.

    Where do you think Royce Lewis will play defensively in the future? Leave a COMMENT and join the discussion.

    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY

    • Oct 21 2019 07:38 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  7. Twins Daily 2019 Awards: Most Valuable Player

    Here's a rundown of all the Twins players who received at least one first-place vote in our balloting:

    • Taylor Rogers, ranked at the top of one ballot, was the glue that held a shaky bullpen together in the first half, and he remained steady down the stretch. He led all Twins pitchers in Win Probability Added and ranked second among American League relievers.
    • Byron Buxton, also ranked at the top of one ballot, was arguably the biggest difference-maker for the Twins whenever he was on the field. They were a vastly better team with him out there, going 62-25 (.713) in games he played, compared to 39-36 (.520) without him – not including a playoff sweep where his absence was deeply felt.
    • Mitch Garver, ranked No. 1 on two ballots, almost certainly delivered the most qualitative value, mashing 31 home runs and producing 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games as the Twins carefully managed his workload behind the plate. The combination of offensive and defensive impact he brought to the field was transformative for the Twins.
    • Jorge Polanco, also ranked atop a pair of ballots, led the team in bWAR (5.7) and recorded the highest mark for a Twin by Baseball Reference's metric since Brian Dozier in 2016. FanGraphs wasn't quite so accepting of his defensive shortcomings (4.0 fWAR) but from any perspective, Polanco was adequate at shortstop and was the team's iron man, playing in 153 games and making 100 more plate appearances than the next-highest player.
    • Nelson Cruz, picked as Twins MVP on three ballots, was a dominating force at the plate like we've rarely seen before. Overcoming a wrist injury that plagued him for much of the summer, he still bashed 41 homers with 108 RBIs while registering a career-high 1.031 OPS. He provided zero defensive value but the sheer offensive production and leadership were more than enough to offset it.
    Like I said, the Twins received vital contributions from across the board, and it's hard to single out one most essential player. However, the guy that ultimately rose to the top – and the only remote source of consensus for our panel, landing No. 1 on nine ballots and among the top two in all but one – is Max Kepler.

    Whether due to stylistic adjustments, changes in the baseball, or simply the developmental emergence of a 26-year-old with three seasons of experience under his belt – possibly all three – Kepler turned the corner in a big way:

    OPS+
    2016: 96
    2017: 95
    2018: 97
    2019: 122

    HR
    2016: 17
    2017: 19
    2018: 20
    2019: 36

    fWAR
    2016: 1.3
    2017: 1.5
    2018: 2.7
    2019: 4.4

    That fWAR led all Twins players, and was influenced heavily by his strong defensive ratings: Kepler posted a career-high 12.7 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and was credited with 10 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), leading the team in both categories. He was exceptional in right field (third-best in baseball, according to UZR/150) and, crucially, also proved capable as fill-in center fielder – a role made necessary by Buxton's frequent unavailability.

    If the Twins don't have Kepler ready to step in for 53 starts and 459 innings at the position, Buxton's injuries take a much greater toll on the team. Speaking personally, this played a big part in my placing Kepler atop the ballot.

    But even when you take away that contextual wrinkle, Kepler was just a tremendously productive player all year long, setting the tone as unconventional leadoff hitter for one of the league's best lineups. He amassed 32 doubles in addition to 36 homers, drove in 90 runs, scored 98 times, and had the second-highest WPA among Twins hitters (behind Cruz).

    Unfortunately he succumbed late to a shoulder issue that had plagued him for much of the year, costing him the last two weeks of the regular season and seemingly turning him into a nonfactor in the ALDS, but the inauspicious finish doesn't offset the outstanding production Kepler delivered throughout the majority of a true breakout campaign.

    THE CANDIDATES
    It's an impressive bunch. Cruz, who finished second in our balloting, was officially named team MVP earlier this week and it's tough to knock that choice. Ultimately, Kepler's huge advantage in defensive value gave him an edge in our vote. Meanwhile, Polanco's defensive struggles likely dinged him in the eyes of many, even though he delivered high-caliber offensive output at a premium position – albeit output that tailed off in the second half. Garver, Buxton and Miguel Sano were bona fide stars when on the field, but a lack of volume detracted from the ultimate value provided. Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios got some love as leaders in a resurgent rotation, as did Rogers and Tyler Duffey in the bullpen.

    One nugget of the final tallies I found surprising, yet telling: Eddie Rosario, last year's Twins Daily MVP recipient, received only one sixth-place vote, despite putting up 32 home runs and 109 RBIs. The misleading nature of his raw totals didn't fool our panel, and unfortunately, probably won't fool potential trade partners this winter.

    THE BALLOTS
    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 18 voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Nick Nelson: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Nelson Cruz
    John Bonnes: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Taylor Rogers
    Tom Froemming: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Cody Christie: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Mitch Garver
    Steve Lein: 1) Nelson Cruz, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    S.D. Buhr: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Matt Braun: 1) Byron Buxton, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Nelson Cruz, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Miguel Sano
    Andrew Thares: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Mitch Garver
    JD Cameron: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Mitch Garver
    AJ Condon: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Taylor Rogers
    Matt Lenz: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Nash Walker: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Nelson Cruz, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Thieres Rabelo: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Jose Berrios
    Sabir Aden: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Mitch Garver, 3) Jorge Polanco

    POINTS
    Max Kepler: 96
    Nelson Cruz: 78
    Jorge Polanco: 65
    Mitch Garver: 51
    Taylor Rogers: 31
    Jose Berrios: 21
    Miguel Sano: 18
    Byron Buxton: 7
    Jake Odorizzi: 5
    Luis Arraez: 3
    Tyler Duffey: 2
    Eddie Rosario: 1

    Previous Twins Daily MVP Winners
    2015: Brian Dozier
    2016: Brian Dozier
    2017: Brian Dozier
    2018: Eddie Rosario

    • Oct 18 2019 06:13 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  8. Twins Daily 2019 Awards: Most Improved Player

    Yesterday, we handed out our award for the 2019 Twins Rookie of the Year to Luis Arraez. In 2018, that award was presented to catcher Mitch Garver. Garver is no stranger to Twins Daily awards. He was named our Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2014 and again in 2017.

    After posting an OPS over 1.000 as a junior at the University of New Mexico, Garver went undrafted. He returned to the Lobos and put up a second great season. The Twins used their ninth-round pick (260th overall) to select Garver, their third catcher selected in that 2014 draft.

    There were always concerns about his defensive abilities, but he worked hard and kept hitting. He earned his first big-league promotion in August of 2017. In 2018, he hit a solid .268/.335/.414 (.749) with 19 doubles, two triples and seven home runs in 335 plate appearances.

    It was a very solid season for a rookie who spent most of that season as the team’s backup catcher. Turns out, it was just a building block. Garver went to work.

    IMPROVEMENT AT THE PLATE

    In 2019, Mitch Garver went from a backup, part-time catcher role to being the must-play catcher late in the season and in the playoffs. Garver was given plenty of time off throughout the season. That is one potential reason for his improvement. Another reason might just be the confidence shown in him by new manager Rocco Baldelli. While Garver would typically hit near the bottom of the lineup in 2018, he was a middle-of-the-order bat much of 2019. In addition, Garver was usually in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitching.

    The results showed right away. He hit seven homers in 335 plate appearances in 2018. This year he hit his eighth home run on May 10th, within 75 plate appearances. I feel it important to point out that Garver had 359 plate appearances in 2019, just 24 more than he accumulated in 2018. He went from seven homers to 31 home runs. His batting average increased from .268 to .273, but his on-base percentage jumped from .335 to .365. His slugging percentage jumped from .414 to 630, and his OPS from .749 to .995. If you’re into wOBA, he went from .325 to .404. And, he did so while seeing his BABIP drop from .330 to .277 .In other words, it wasn’t based on luck at all.

    It was a concerted effort. In a post-game interview with Marney Gellner on FSN, Garver said, “It’s something that I wanted to do with this season. I want to be a force in the lineup.”



    He got more specific. He said he wanted to “focus on hitting it hard, pull side, in the air.”

    Well, he hit the ball hard. His Average Exit Velocity of 91.1 mph ranked behind only Miguel Sano (94.4 mph) and Nelson Cruz (93.7 mph) on the Twins roster. He was 13th in MLB in Barrels per Plate Appearance (4th on Twins). In 2018, he pulled the ball 38.8% of the time. In 2019, he pulled the ball 51.3% of the time. His Line Drive percentage dropped from 22.5% to 13.7% Meanwhile, he increased his Fly Ball percentage from 37.7% to 47.3% It’s fair to say that Garver gave his hitting philosophy a lot of thought, developed a plan and he not only stuck to it, but he succeeded with it. He succeeded with a season that should result in the American League Silver Slugger Award for catchers.


    IMPROVEMENT BEHIND THE PLATE

    It isn’t as easy to see, but as much as Garver improved at the plate, he took huge strides forward behind the plate as well.

    In 2018, according to FanGraphs, Garver’s DRS (Defensive Run Saves) was at -16.His FRM (Catcher Framing Runs Above Average) was at -9.2. Those are the kinds of numbers that create need for self-evaluation. Garver needed to improve, and he knew it.

    During spring training, Twins Daily talked to Garver, and he was very upfront about his need to improve on defense.

    “If I don’t fix things right now, I will not be in the game in two years, three years,” Garver says he told himself. “I won’t be a catcher anymore.”


    Garver went to work with the help of Twins Minor League Catching Coordinator Tanner Swanson in the offseason. So, what did those defensive metrics look like in 2019?

    DRS: 0
    FRM: 0.8

    From those numbers, it is fair to say that Garver has made himself into an average defensive catcher. And while ‘average’ may not be exciting, when you consider how far he came in just one season, it was a huge improvement. Coupled with his offense, average defense makes Garver extremely valuable.

    Also something to consider, the bar for “average” is a moving target. Organizations much better understand the value of catcher defense. It has become more and more of a focus every year. In short, the “average” catcher has become a better catcher. So not only did Garver go from posting poor defensive metrics to average defensive metrics, but he moved up to the higher ‘average” level.And he did so without it effecting his throwing or blocking.


    DESIRE TO IMPROVE

    Garver has played with a chip on his shoulder going back to college when he was a walk-off. He wasn’t drafted after his junior year and became a “senior sign.” He was never considered a top prospect. People questioned his defense. And through it all, Garver was humble and kept on working.

    Late in the season at Target Field, Twins Daily asked Twins manager Rocco Baldelli about the improvement he's seen from Garver, particularly behind the plate. Baldelli said, “I think he’s coming into his own in a lot of ways.”

    The Twins rookie manager continued, “Experience matters behind the plate. It’s difficult to develop into a major-league player of any kind. There are challenges, but to develop into a major-league catcher. There are just so many more responsibilities that you have, and they're not even just personal responsibilities. You’re responsible for other people and what they’re doing out on the field. That’s tough for a lot of guys, but I think Mitch is certainly making huge strides in those areas. What we ask those guys to do behind the plate compared to what we ask everybody else to do, it’s kind of wild. Mitch has taken to it and he’s shown a very open willingness and desire to improve, whether it’s come to his flexibility and his body, or his receiving, or his game-calling, he spends a lot of time. He’s very diligent. I’ve been very happy with the work he’s put in this year.


    LOOKING FORWARD

    And as his college coach at New Mexico, Ray Birmingham, told us recently, that there just might be another level of improvement to come. “He has worked his butt off to get there, and he’s making an impact, and you haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s sure of himself now. He’s sure that he can do this now, and he will only continue to get better.”


    OTHER CANDIDATES

    While Garver was the runaway winner, as you can see from the results below that there were several strong candidates. After three seasons with very similar numbers, Max Kepler knocked 36 home runs, easily his best season. Jorge Polanco went from a solid start to his career to an All-Star Game starter. Miguel Sano showed great improvement midseason. He was struggling immensely while working on his swing. It took about a week, but after that, he took off. Tyler Duffey had been frequently up and down from the big leagues to Rochester over recent seasons and even began 2019 at AAA. He became one of the best, most dominant set-up men in the game in the season’s second half.


    THE BALLOTS
    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 17 voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Nick Nelson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Tyler Duffey
    John Bonnes: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Max Kepler
    Tom Froemming: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Miguel Sano
    Cody Christie: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Miguel Sano, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Steve Lein: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Miguel Sano
    S.D. Buhr: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jake Odorizzi
    Matt Braun: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Miguel Sano
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Andrew Thares: 1) Miguel Sano, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jake Odorizzi
    JD Cameron: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Matt Lenz: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Max Kepler
    Nash Walker: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Byron Buxton
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Tyler Duffey
    Thieres Rabelo: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Sabir Aden: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Mitch Garver
    AJ Condon: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Max Kepler


    POINTS
    Mitch Garver: 38
    Tyler Duffey: 20
    Max Kepler: 19
    Miguel Sano: 19
    Jorge Polanco: 10
    Jake Odorizzi: 2
    Byron Buxton: 1

    Do you agree with our pick? Who would be your choice for Most Improved Twin and why? How would your ballot look? Leave a comment and make your case.


    Previous Twins Most Improved Player Award Winners

    2015: Aaron Hicks
    2016: Brian Dozier
    2017: Byron Buxton
    2018: Kyle Gibson

    • Oct 16 2019 09:23 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  9. How Many Twins Should Win a Silver Slugger Award?

    Nelson Cruz

    Top three at the position (DH)

    • Nelson Cruz: .299/.382/.616 (.998), 37 HR, 97 RBI, 155 wRC+, 3.6 fWAR
    • J.D. Martinez: .301/.380/.564 (.944), 35 HR, 95 RBI, 138 wRC+, 2.9 fWAR
    • Yordan Alvarez: .316/.418/.674 (1.092), 26 HR, 76 RBI, 183 wRC+, 3.7 fWAR
    The 39-year-old Nelson Cruz and the 32-year-old J.D. Martinez will be in the running with young rookie Yordan Alvarez who is putting up absolutely insane numbers this season. Top of the American League type of numbers.

    The only problem is that he won’t reach even 89 games this season and nobody has ever won the award with less than 112 games played. If he was called up at the beginning of the season and put up these numbers then he would be in the top three for MVP votes. Sadly for him he wasn't called up and Nelson Cruz is here.

    With Alvarez likely not getting enough time to win, it should come down to Cruz and Martinez, although Soler could sneak in depending on how much voters value RBIs.

    Twins slugger Nelson Cruz should definitely win this award over the others. From helping lead his team to a playoff run to hitting 40 bombs as a 39-year-old, he has been one of the best hitters in baseball this season. If you are about to hit the age of 40 and you can still out-homer your age then you deserve a statue at that point.

    Mitch Garver

    Top three at the position (Catcher)
    • Mitch Garver: .276/.364/.636 (1.000), 30 HR, 66 RBI, 155 wRC+, 3.7 fWAR
    • Gary Sanchez: .233/.318/.531 (.849), 34 HR, 77 RBI, 118 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR
    • Omar Narvaez: .284/.357/.477 (.834) 22 HR, 55 RBI, 123 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR
    If Mitch Garver does not win the Silver Slugger Award at catcher it will be the most insane rob of an award to ever occur. I don’t know if that is true, but it should be. Gary Sanchez will receive votes because he has the big name and he plays on the Yankees but Garver is playing on a whole different level right now.

    Mitch is the only AL catcher win an OPS above .850 and his is sitting at .1000 so there is no one even remotely close to putting up the production he does. His 3.7 WAR while splitting playing time is insane. If he had played as many games as Sanchez (104), then he would be at 4.2 WAR and 36 home runs.

    Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco?

    These two players have played well enough to win the award, but the competition this season is just too much to overcome, it would seem.

    Max Kepler should finish in the top 4-7 for the award but with Mike Trout locked in, along with competition of Mookie Betts, George Springer, Jorge Soler, and Austin Meadows, a lot will have to go right for Max to finish top three. It’s definitely possible, and if he gets hot over the last couple weeks it wouldn’t be a surprise.

    Jorge Polanco was the starting shortstop in the All-Star Game, but he went through a rough stretch as players like Marcus Semien, Xander Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor were at their best. Polanco has been excellent this season but likely not good enough to win the award.

    Are Cruz and Garver going to win the award for their respective positions? Could Kepler or Polanco sneak up and grab it? Is there anyone else who could win the award? Leave a comment and discuss below.

    • Sep 19 2019 04:52 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  10. What Should the Twins Postseason Batting Order Be?

    Facing a right-handed starter, which dominate both the Astros’ and Yankees’ rotations, Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Cave are better fits than CJ Cron (684 OPS vs RHP) and Jonathan Schoop (737 OPS vs RHP). Both started Monday night. Garver has also seen more time at catcher lately, even versus right-handers. The rest of the lineup are the everyday players

    But if Kepler is in the lineup, he is likely to lead off. Kepler has been the leadoff hitter for the Twins 105 times this season, versus just eight times for Arraez. So what does the batting order look like if one adds Kepler?

    Turns out, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has written that combination of nine names – last night’s 1-8 hitters plus Kepler - into the starting lineup just one time all year. Like last night, it was against the White Sox at Target Field. And like last night, it was against Reynoldo Lopez. Last month on Tuesday, August 20th, the Twins scored 14 runs and beat up the White Sox. (Here's the box score.) The starting lineup looked like this:

    (L) Max Kepler-CF
    (S) Jorge Polanco-SS
    ® Nelson Cruz-DH
    (L) Eddie Rosario-LF
    ® Miguel Sano-3B
    (L) Luis Arraez-2B
    ® Mitch Garver-C
    (S) Marwin Gonzalez-1B
    (L) Jake Cave-RF

    Does Kepler’s health change things? Does Cave need to show he can hit like he did before the injury? If he does, does he switch places with Gonzalez? Do Sano’s back problems mean he switches places with Garver? These are additional questions for us to explore and the Twins to work out over the next two weeks. But you’re welcome to share your ideal postseason lineup in the comments.

    • Sep 17 2019 12:29 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  11. Who is the Twins Team MVP?

    To unpack this question, I am going to present a few names of the guys that I think are the most deserving candidates for this award, and make a case for each. Then, we will let you guys decide, in the comment section down below, who you think the Twins MVP is. Note, these players are listed in no particular order, and are not necessarily in the order of how I would vote.

    Max Kepler

    The talent that Max Kepler has for the game of baseball has been obvious for years now. However, that talent never really translated to a ton of success as a big leaguer. Sure, he was a solid, league average, right-fielder, but at the end of every season, he left you wanting a little more. This year, Max Kepler has brought that little more. His 4.4 fWAR ranks first among all Twins players, and his 4.1 bWAR ranks second. Kepler also leads all Twins players with a Win Probability Added of 3.01 (per Fangraphs). This doesn’t come as a big surprise, as he was seemingly the only Twins hitter coming through in clutch situations during the middle part of the season.

    Jose Berrios

    Jose Berrios has been a rock star in the Twins rotation for most of the season. His little dip during the month of August is the only thing holding him out of the conversation as a top-three finisher in the AL Cy Young voting. Overall, his numbers are still excellent. Across 181 innings, Berrios has a 3.63 ERA and a 3.9 fWAR, which is a number that has been only surpassed by four other Twins pitchers in a single season since 2000 (Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, Brad Radke and Phil Hughes).

    Nelson Cruz

    While it might be weird to have a DH in the debate for team MVP, it would be even weirder to leave Nelson Cruz’s name off this list. Cruz has been not only the best hitter in this Twins lineup, but one of the best hitters in all of major league baseball. His 1.001 OPS ranks fifth among all qualified hitters in 2019. He has also paced the way on this historic, home run-hitting ball club, with 37 round trippers of his own.

    Taylor Rogers

    In the months leading up to the trade deadline, pretty much the only reliever who Rocco Baldelli could count on to get crucial outs late in ballgames was Taylor Rogers, which is something he has done incredibly well. Among the 160 qualified MLB relievers, Rogers’ 2.89 Win Probability Added ranks fourth. Now with a bullpen deep enough to complement Rogers, he can be saved to pitch in only the highest leverage situations to maximize his talent down the stretch.

    Jorge Polanco

    In the first half of the season, Jorge Polanco appeared to be the runaway favorite as the Twins Team MVP. This hot start led him to getting the nod as the American League starting shortstop in the All-Star Game. Polanco’s bat, and fielding abilities have tapered off somewhat in the second half, but you can’t ignore his overall performance. Polanco leads the Twins by a comfortable margin in bWAR, at 5.5, and ranks fifth among all qualified MLB shortstops with a wRC+ of 124.

    Mitch Garver

    In 2019, Mitch Garver has put together an historically great season for a catcher. His 30 home runs, hit in games that he was catching, is the most by a Twins catcher in team history, and he’s done so in just 328 plate appearances across 85 games, as he has been splitting time with Jason Castro behind the plate. To give you some perspective on what kind on home run pace that is, if Garver had as many plate appearances as Mike Trout this season, and hit home runs at that same pace as he has been, Garver would have 55 home runs this season, easily leading the way in major league baseball.

    Miguel Sano

    While Miguel Sano hasn’t been with the Twins for the entire season, he has still put up some great numbers. Sano has also hit some of the most dramatic home runs in recent memory for the Twins organization, including last night’s grand slam to put away almost any hopes of the Cleveland Indians catching the Twins in the race for the American League Central title. Given all the struggles and criticism he went through in 2018, to bounce back like he has in 2019 is nothing short of remarkable.

    As we can see, there are a bunch of players who deserve some recognition as the MVP on one of the best teams in Twins history. Now it’s your turn to weigh in. Who do you think is the MVP of the 2019 Minnesota Twins? Is there anyone you think I left off the list? If so, feel free to make a case for that player as the Twins MVP.

    • Sep 15 2019 04:44 PM
    • by Andrew Thares
  12. Twins Game Recap (9/6): Offense Dominated as Twins Fall in Extras

    Box Score
    Pineda: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 66.3% strikes (71 of 107 pitches)
    Bullpen: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-5), Polanco (2-for-, RBI)

    Top 3 WPA: Pineda .244, Littell .144, May .098
    Bottom 3 WPA: Graterol -.447, Sanó -.155, Romo -.129

    Pineda is lights-out again
    We’re barely one week into September. It’s too early to jump to any conclusions, but I don’t see why we can’t be excited by some good signs. Take the rotation, for instance. Twins starters were among the ten least productive units in all baseball during August. Now, they’re starting (OK, maybe timidly) to get back on track. Tonight’s outing from Michael Pineda was another indication of this.

    To provide some context, the Twins rotation was among the bottom ten worst in the league in ERA (5.48), WPA (-1.40), WHIP (1.59) and AVG (.294) last month. Coming into tonight’s game, those numbers had improved to 4.70 ERA, 0.09 WPA, 1.17 WHIP and .227 AVG. All of those numbers are going to look even better after Pineda kept the Indians’ offense on a leash, going six innings and allowing only one run on four hits, while striking out ten Cleveland batters. The only run came off a Francisco Lindor solo homer in the third.

    That’s definitely not a fluke for Big Mike. After a rocky start of the season in April, he’s been the Twins best starter since the start of May, posting a team-best 3.46 ERA since then. And that was true even before tonight’s game, as he had a 1.31 WPA (also a team-best) on that same period, more than twice as much as the second starter on that list (Jake Odorizzi, 0.65). Pineda has been great fuel for Minnesota’s playoff push, in the midst of chaos caused by the José Berríos struggles, the Kyle Gibson injuries and the lack of consistency from Odorizzi and Martín Pérez.

    Bullpen does its part in regulation
    This is how amazing the Twins bullpen has turned out to be in the past weeks:



    After their performance against the Red Sox in the three-game series in Boston, they earned even more credit, as they took care of business all by themselves in the series opener and shut down the world champions in the following two games.

    Tonight, they had to work under pressure, as the offense couldn’t provide them with enough run support. Sergio Romo gave up a leadoff triple in the eighth to Oscar Mercado and went on to retire all the remaining batters he faced. However, one of them, Yasiel Puig, managed to score Mercado on a sacrifice fly, which tied the game. Trevor May and Zack Littell both had scoreless innings, with Littell picking off the runner at first to help end the ninth.

    Quiet night from the offense leads to extras
    For the third consecutive game, Twins bats were held back. They couldn’t score more than a couple of runs to back up Pineda and the bullpen. C.J. Cron and Jorge Polanco each batted in a run. They weren’t able to respond after the Indians tied it in the ninth, but they threatened. LaMonte Wade Jr. drew a walk, to bring his OBP to .385, in spite of still not having a hit in the majors.

    Graterol can’t handle first big challenge
    After Cody Stashak and Lewis Thorpe alternated to pitch through the tenth inning, rookie Brusdar Graterol was handed a two-out, one man on situation in the eleventh. He faced four batters, but couldn’t retire any of them. A couple of singles from Roberto Pérez and Lindor gave the Indians a two-run lead. With Trevor Hildenberger pitching, Mercado hit a two-run single to put this one away, doubling their lead.

    Postgame with Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 07 2019 06:35 AM
    • by Thieres Rabelo
  13. Twins Game Recap (9/2): Late Labor Day Offense Propels Twins

    Box Score
    Starter Jake Odorizzi: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 69.2% strikes (63 of 91 pitches)
    Bullpen: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

    Home Runs: Ehire Adrianza (5)
    Multi-Hit Games: Max Kepler (2-for-5), Jorge Polanco (3-for-5), Nelson Cruz (2-for-5), Luis Arraez (3-for-4), Ehire Adrianza (2-for-4)

    Top 3 WPA: Kepler (.368), Arraez (.227), Adrianza (.204)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Cron (-.247), Cave (-.246), Rosario (-.128)

    Miguel Cabrera struck first for the Tigers with a solo shot off Jake Odorizzi in the first inning. The Twins quickly answered, with Ehire Adrianza playing third for Miguel Sano and doing his best impression of the big man. Adrianza went ahead and launched a two-run shot to deep right-center field.

    The Tigers added two more runs to retake the lead in the fifth inning, making the score 3-2. After Jake Cave bobbled a grounder in the sixth inning it looked like the Tigers might extend their lead, but Tyler Duffey was able to strike out two batters, which stranded runners on second and third. The solid appearance comes off of a good August where Duffey put up a stat line of 10.2 IP, 0 ER, 17/5 K/BB and a 0.00 ERA.

    Kepler comes up clutch once again.

    Max Kepler gave the Twins the lead in the eighth inning with a two-out, bases-loaded single to score LaMonte Wade and Luis Arraez. Once again the lefty showed off just how important he is to this team.



    Garver leaves game early

    After getting hit in the mask, Mitch Garver was removed from the game in favor of Willians Astudillo. Thankfully according to all reports coming mid-game Garver doesn’t seem to have any concussion symptoms. Instead he was removed because of a sore jaw.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 02 2019 05:19 PM
    • by Nate Palmer
  14. Twins Game Recap (8/31): Tigers Tally 10 Runs in Perez’s Worst Start of Season

    Box Score
    Perez: 2.2 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 67.1% strikes (55 of 82 pitches)
    Bullpen: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K

    Home Runs: Garver 2 (26), Kepler (36), Polanco (20), Cron (24), Cruz (34)
    Multi-Hit Games: Garver (2-for-3, 2 HR, 2 BB), Polanco (2-for-4, HR, BB), Cruz (2-for-5, HR), Kepler (2-for-3, HR, BB)

    Bottom 3 WPA: Perez -.519, Sano -.079, Rosario -.056

    Martin Perez came into this start with some positive momentum. He’d pitched to a 2.12 ERA in his previous three outings, though he had also walked nine batters in 17 innings. Still, a matchup against Detroit seemed to be the perfect opportunity to keep that positive momentum rolling.

    It did not end up going that direction. In fact, Perez had his worst start as a Twin. He gave up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits while recording just eight outs. Again, this is by far the worst hitting team in baseball the Twins were facing tonight.

    Detroit scored seven runs in the third inning, the most the Twins have surrendered in any single frame all season. Ehire Adrianza played some disgusting defense out in right field that contributed to that inning. Still … worst hitting team in baseball.

    Ah, but there were bombas. Those sweet, sweet bombas that allowed the Twins media staff to completely ignore the results of the game and gush about all the records that fell.

    The Twins hit six home runs tonight; two from Mitch Garver one each from Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, C.J. Cron and Nelson Cruz. They set the MLB single-season home run record with 268 bombas. Polanco’s tater gave the Twins eight players with 20 or more homers, a new record. Garver’s blasts gave the Twins 39 homers from their catchers this year, also a new record.

    It would have been a lot more fun if all those milestones were reached in a victory. It’s been a fun journey leading up to all those accomplishments, of course, but losing to the worst team in baseball leaves a terrible aftertaste on what should have been a delicious evening.

    At least Cleveland lost.

    In celebration of the Twins breaking the home run record, Cooper shared the 10 biggest Twins home runs this season as ranked by WPA. Make sure to go check that out for some fun reminiscing on what’s been a fantastic season.

    Postgame With Baldelli



    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    One More Thing ...
    "Up yours Anthony." -Bert Blyleven

    • Aug 31 2019 09:02 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  15. The 10 Most Important Home Runs for This Record-Breaking Twins Team

    10. Jonathan Schoop at Texas (8/16/19) 0.31 WPA

    Schoop entered this game in the midst of what is likely the largest slump of his career. The Rangers had taken the lead in the previous half inning, but Schoop put the Twins back on top with this two-run blast. The Twins would go on to win this game 4-3.



    9. Miguel Sano at Angels (5/20/19) 0.34 WPA

    Sano’s second home run of the season was definitely a big one. The Twins were up 1-0 throughout the whole game but the Angels came back in the bottom of the seventh and tied it. Luckily, Miguel Sano came up clutch and smoked this two-run bomb that would lead to a 3-1 win.


    8. Miguel Sano vs Detroit (8/24/19) 0.35 WPA

    This fifth inning blast from Sano gave the Twins a commanding 6-4 lead after being down 4-1 in a game the Twins couldn’t afford to lose. It came during a period where Sano was just insanely productive at the plate and that continued here.


    7. Mitch Garver vs Kansas City (6/14/19) 0.37 WPA

    The Mitch Garver clutch two-run bomb against the Royals is definitely one of the most memorable homers this season. The late inning drama in a game tied at zero, followed by a crowd-exploding home run to take the lead and later win the game is something everyone will remember.



    6. Miguel Sano vs Atlanta (8/5/19) 0.43 WPA

    This walk-off bomb from the Twins slugger was easily one of the most dramatic and exciting wins of the season. Playing against an elite Atlanta team, this was the perfect way to begin the series. This pinch -it blast is one of the most memorable homers this season.


    5. Max Kepler vs Boston (6/18/19) 0.43 WPA

    This home run came in one of the craziest and longest games in Twins history. First of all, Max didn’t get an at bat until the eighth inning because he was subbed into the game. He tied the game in the eighth and then hit this clutch home run in the 13th inning. He would go on to provide the walkoff single in the 17th inning.


    4. Byron Buxton vs Seattle (6/12/19) 0.45 WPA

    Byron Buxton had the entire state of Minnesota cheering for him for like 15 minutes after this huge home run. The Twins would eventually go on to lose, but we’re going to ignore that. Just remember how much fun you were having when this home run was hit to cap off a huge comeback.


    3. Eddie Rosario vs Oakland (7/18/19) 0.46 WPA

    Rosario pinch hit for a struggling Jake Cave and did what Eddie Rosario loves to do. The Twins were down 3-1 against a great Oakland bullpen and with one swing of the bat, Rosario put the Twins on top for good.


    2. Miguel Sano vs New York (7/23/19) 0.52 WPA

    If you are just a neutral fan, this was probably the greatest game you’ve ever seen. Constant lead changes, clutch hits and huge home runs, finished off by what could finish as the catch of the season. In the late innings, Sano crushed a memorable two -run blast that temporarily had Twins fans ecstatic.


    1. Marwin Gonzalez at Milwaukee (8/13/19) 0.59 WPA

    Finally, the most meaningful home run out of this historic season so far was the Gonzo bomb off the elite reliever Josh Hader. The Twins held a lead all the way to the seventh inning, but Ryne Harper gave up a few runs and Hader was in for the two-inning save. Unfortunately for him, he was facing the bomba squad. After a Rosario double and Sano walk, Gonzalez came up with a chance to take the lead and did this….


    Those are the ten most meaningful home runs this season in terms of win probability added. All of them so much fun, and yet we aren’t even at the most fun part of the season. Watch out MLB, the Twins are headed for the playoffs. Which home run was your favorite? Discuss in the comments!

    • Aug 31 2019 08:25 PM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  16. Twins Game Recap (8/30): Bats Back Up Gibson, Twins Win 6th Straight

    Box Score
    Gibson: 5.0 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 69.1% strikes (74 of 107 pitches)
    Bullpen: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

    Home Runs: Cron (23)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-5, RBI), Polanco (3-for-4), Cruz (3-for-4, 2 RBI), Rosario (2-for-5, 3 RBI), Cron (2-for-5, HR, 3 RBI)

    Top 3 WPA: Polanco .125, Kepler .113, Cron .104

    The Tigers put up a fight early, as Gibson got off to a slow start, but the Twins scored in four of the first five innings. Despite not being as sharp as he’s been during the first half of the season, Gibby was the winning pitcher for the second consecutive start, which happened for only the second time since June 1. August was the month he posted his worst ERA of the season, 6.11. He finished his outing on a positive note, however, retiring 11 of the last 13 men he faced.

    This was the eighth consecutive win for the Twins on the road, matching a club record set in 2006. At 83-51, the Twins are 32 games above .500 for the first time since September 22, 2010. That’s also the third time in the past nine years that Minnesota reached that many wins in a season. The club is now on pace to win 100 games, something that happened only one other time in Minnesota Twins history (1965, 102 wins). With the Cleveland loss in Tampa, the Twins now have a four-and-a-half game lead over the Indians, their largest since July 16.

    Offense bails Gibson slippery beginning
    Gibson was given a 4-0 lead before he took the mound. The Twins started out aggressively and hitting three straight singles after getting a leadoff walk. They had a three-run lead before the Tigers recorded an out. Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario and Luis Arráez each batted in a run, while Miguel Sanó reached on a fielder’s choice.

    Gibby allowed two runs on five hits in a 35-pitch first inning. Three of the seven batters he faced produced at-bats of at least six pitches.

    Fortunately, small ball kept working for the Twins, as Max Kepler doubled to bring home another leadoff walk in Jason Castro and he later scored on a Cruz sacrifice fly. Minnesota regained a four-run lead, winning 6-2 after two.

    But again, the Tigers gained some ground in the third. Gibson allowed three straight hits to start the inning, two of those being doubles, and Detroit scored another run. With runners on the corners, he managed to catch a break, inducing an inning-ending ground ball double play.

    Twins take advantage of sloppy Tiger defense
    Minnesota scored two more runs in the third, with a little help from the Detroit defense. The Twins loaded the bases with one out after outfielders Victor Reyes and Harold Castro got under a C.J. Cron pop up but couldn’t make the catch. That was when Ron Gardenhire pulled the plug on starter Edwin Jackson. Reliever Matt Hall couldn’t take care of the inherited runners. Jake Cave grounded out to score Arráez and Castro scored on a passed ball to make it 8-3.

    Meanwhile, Gibson picked up the pace a little bit and pitched his first 1-2-3 inning. To make things easier, he got more run support, as the offense slugged its way to a four-run fourth highlighted by a three-run homer from Cron to make it 12-3 Minnesota.



    Bullpen cools things down
    The Tigers responded in the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo home run from John Hicks. Gibby handed over the game to the bullpen in the sixth inning and it couldn’t have been in better hands. Coming into this game with the most fWAR in baseball in the previous seven days (0.8), the Twins relievers took care of business. Tyler Duffey and Trevor May were simply lights-out, with Duffey coming up just short of an immaculate inning (nine strikes on ten pitches).

    Sam Dyson allowed a solo homer to Ronny Rodriguez in the eighth inning before Sergio Romo closed the books in the ninth. Twins relievers combined for eight strikeouts, one more than the entire Tigers team. Eddie Rosario helped the cause with an RBI single in the eighth.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Aug 31 2019 05:10 AM
    • by Thieres Rabelo
  17. Stop Throwing the Twins Fastballs

    Isn’t Every Team Good Against Fastballs?
    Minnesota is head and shoulders above the crowd when it comes to fastballs and looking at pitch type linear weights in relation to that pitch (wFB). According to FanGraphs, this linear weight “attempts to answer the question, ‘How well has a batter/pitcher performed against/using a certain pitch?’” Over the course of a season, this allows us to see which pitch a hitter performed best against.

    As a team, the Twins have the highest wFB in all of baseball and it isn’t even close. The Dodgers and the Yankees are in a close battle for second place but Minnesota’s 100.6 wFB is almost 30 points higher. Since Target Field opened in 2010, the Twins wFB is the tenth highest compiled by a club and there are still 30+ games to add to their total.

    When looking at the players responsible for Minnesota’s wFB production, there are some of the usual suspects. Nelson Cruz (23.7 wFB), Mitch Garver (16.4), Max Kepler (13.9), and Miguel Sano (13.1) all sit at the top of the team’s leaderboard. Jason Castro and Jorge Polanco are tied for fifth with 9.4 wFB. One surprise might be Luis Arraez and his 7.1 wFB since he has under 250 plate appearances at the big-league level.

    Facing Big Time Heat
    Minnesota also isn’t just getting away with hitting mediocre fastballs from subpar teams in the American League, because they have some of the best numbers among clubs when facing 97+ mph this year. The Twins have the best batting average, slugging percentage, and AB per XBH.


    Make sure not to pass on the message but opposing pitchers and coaching staffs must not have caught on to Minnesota’s fastball tendencies. Through this weekend’s games, the Twins have seen fastballs in 26.4% of their at-bats while the MLB average is 22.0%. Mitch Garver (34.2 FB%), Miguel Sano (32.6%), Jason Castro (31.1%), Eddie Rosario (30.4%) and Max Kepler (30.1%) are all seeing fastballs at least a third of the time. The Twins also have five other regular players with a FB% above the league average.

    In the Zone
    Since Minnesota continues to see fastballs, it’s important that players don’t go out of the zone to chase pitches. The Twins have the fourth best Z-Swing% in all of baseball which takes the swings a team has inside the zone and divides it by pitches inside the zone. Besides swinging at pitches in the zone, Minnesota is also making a high rate of contact on those same pitches. So far this year, the Twins rank eighth in Z-Contact% with only a couple playoff-caliber teams ranked higher than them.

    Statcast also gives a glimpse into how successful Twins batters have been at making consistent contact. Among players with at least 100 batted ball events, Minnesota has four players in the top-8 for barrels per plate appearance percentage (Brls/PA %). Nelson Cruz leads all of baseball with a 13.8 Brls/PA % and Jason Castro also sits in the top-5 (11.2%). Castro entered play on Monday higher on the leaderboard than Mike Trout. Miguel Sano and CJ Cron round out the top-8.

    Many of the hitters mentioned above are having their best professional season and credit needs to be given to the coaching staff. Keeping James Rowson as hitting coach has certainly been one of Minnesota’s most important off-season moves. However, a hitting coach can only do so much.

    To be successful in October, Minnesota’s offense is going to have to pick up some of the slack from the pitching staff. If opposing pitchers continue to relay on their fastball, Twins’ hitters are going to make them pay.

    Why do you think the Twins are so successful against the fastball? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Aug 26 2019 02:17 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  18. Twins Game Recap (8/24): Sano 3-Run Bomba, Bullpen Boost Twins to Victory

    Box Score
    Gibson: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 62.1% strikes (59 of 95 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

    Home Runs: Kepler (35), Sano (26), Cave (5)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (3-for-5, 2B, HR), Cave (2-for-3, 2B, HR, BB)

    Top 3 WPA: Sano .308, Cave .213, Kepler .177

    All’s well that ends well, but the Twins were not having a very encouraging showing through the first handful of innings tonight. There was plenty of traffic on the bases for Detroit and the Twins made several mishaps in the field, though were only charged with one official error.

    Right when worries of the Twins dropping a home series to the Tigers started to creep in, everything flipped. The Twins had a five-run fifth inning capped by a mammoth Sano bomba.



    Kyle Gibson went only 5 1/3 innings, but luckily the bullpen was up to the task of holding on. Sam Dyson allowed an inherited runner to score, but he recorded the next five outs. Sergio Romo allowed the first two runners of the eighth inning to reach before picking up a huge strikeout.

    At that point, Rocco Baldelli decided there would be no more messing around. He brought in a very well-rested Taylor Rogers to cover the final five outs. Rogers didn’t allow a baserunner, struck out three batters and threw 17 of his 23 pitches for strikes (73.9%).

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Aug 24 2019 09:22 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  19. 6 Players Who Have Contributed Most to the Twins Winning Ways in 2019

    While many players have undoubtedly contributed to the Twins success, today we will look at the players who have done the most to help the Twins win. This is obviously subjective in nature, but to be as objective as possible we will use win probability added (WPA) to gauge which players have most increased the Twins ability to win ball games.

    WPA is simply the difference in win expectancy between the start and end of each play that occurs in a game. So when Nelson Cruz stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game against the White Sox with the score even at three apiece, the Twins had a 59.4% win expectancy. Cruz went on to double in two runs and the Twins win expectancy rose to 81.4%, an increase of 22%. Therefore, Cruz is credited with +.220 WPA on the play (and the pitcher is docked the same amount). WPA is cumulative, so the difference in WPA after each play is either added or subtracted from the hitter/pitcher and it builds up throughout the game and season (the winning team gains .500 WPA between its players, while the loser subtracts .500).

    The nice thing about WPA is that it is a contextual statistic. In the aforementioned game where Cruz doubled in two runs with in the fifth inning, C.J. Cron also doubled with the bases juiced in the eighth inning, except Cron was able to clear the bases so he picked up an extra RBI. However, Cron’s base-clearing double came with the Twins already up 8-4 and a 98.8% win expectancy. With the Twins lead growing to 11-4, the expectancy went up to 99.9%, so Cron only gained .011 of WPA. Cruz’s double came in a big moment, greatly increasing the Twins chances to pick up the victory, and he was rewarded accordingly.

    Before we move on, there are a few caveats with using WPA to determine how much a player helped the team win. All defensive plays either help or hurt the pitcher, so a fielder’s defensive efforts do not contribute to their WPA. This obviously diminishes the value of someone like Byron Buxton (who brings extraordinary value to the Twins as their center fielder) while increasing the value of Nelson Cruz. Also, WPA generally varies greatly for individual players from season to season and it is not a great predictor of future success. Good players tend to be good independent of the context and wins above replacement (WAR) is a better way to value a player overall. With that said, the top three MLB players in WPA in 2019 are Christian Yelich (6.40), Mike Trout (5.42), and Cody Bellinger (5.24) who are arguably having the three best individual seasons in baseball (also the top three in bWAR, though not in the same order).

    Now that we have that out of the way, here are the Twins top six performers according to WPA:

    6. Jorge Polanco – 1.43 WPA
    Polanco has been one of the handful of younger core players to take a great leap forward in 2019. Offensively, Polanco has been very impressive, slashing.295/.358/.496 with a wRC+ of 121. He is tied for second on the team with 3.5 fWAR and the team friendly extension that he signed in the offseason (5yr, 25.75M with two club options) is looking like a real steal for the Twins. Polanco hasn’t been quite as good in the second half and his defense has looked rather shaky of late (he’s made some highlight-reel plays but botched several routine ones) but there is no doubt that he has been a big part of Minnesota’s success.

    5. Luiz Arraez – 1.53 WPA

    Anyone who has watched Arraez play cannot possibly deny his value in big moments. The rookie seems unshakable, working MLB pitchers into deep pitch counts and ending many of those battles with huge hits or walks. The 22-year-old didn’t make his MLB debut until May 18th and has only played in 61 games, making his inclusion on this list all the more impressive. Arraez has been good for 1.5 bWAR, hitting .341/.408/.445 with a wRC+ of 128. Like Polanco, Arraez seems somewhat limited defensively, but the two are quite the up-the-middle tandem offensively.

    4. Jake Odorrizi – 1.69 WPA

    Most Twins fans would probably guess Jose Berrios if they knew that only one starting pitcher would be included in this list, but it is Odorrizi coming in at number four (Berrios just missed with a 1.39 WPA). Odorrizi has been much improved in 2019. He was named to the all-star team and he leads the Twins rotation in K/9 (9.41), HR/9 (1.03) and has been the best Twins starter in stranding base runners (76.7% LOB %). Odorizzi trails only Jose Berrios amongst Twins starters in fWAR (3.5 to 2.8) and has the rotation’s best FIP at 3.78. Odorizzi becomes a free agent at the end of the season and it will be interesting to see if Minnesota tries to resign him.

    3. Taylor Rogers – 1.80 WPA

    While Odorrizi may be somewhat of a surprise as the top starter on the list, to expect any reliever other than Taylor Rogers to be the sole bullpen representative would be lunacy. Rogers has struggled a bit in the second half after being lights out prior to the All-Star break, but the Twins have been able to get their star reliever some more rest of late. Rogers forms a formidable late-inning trio with Minnesota’s trade-deadline acquisitions, Sergio Romo (2.04 WPA) and Sam Dyson (1.47 WPA). On the year Rogers has pitched to a 2.59 ERA (2.83 FIP), has stranded 86.8 % of base runners, and has accumulated a 1.7 bWAR.

    2. Nelson Cruz – 2.43 WPA

    Nelson Cruz will go down as one of, if not the best-ever Twins free agent signing. The now 39-year-old has been nothing short of amazing. He is currently hitting .303/.389/.662 with a wRC+ of 168. Cruz has been absolutely on fire in the second half hitting 17 home runs in 28 games (244 wRC+) and has shown no signs of rust since returning from his wrist injury. Cruz’s veteran presence has been noted in the clubhouse and his dedicated work ethic has undoubtedly had a positive effect on his younger teammates. But most importantly, he has been one of the best hitters in the MLB. Cruz is tied with Polanco and Berrios for second on the team with 3.5 bWAR despite being a DH and only playing in 90 games.

    1. Max Kepler – 2.53 WPA

    Of all the Twins young core players, perhaps none have taken as big of a step forward as Max Kepler has this year. After showing flashes but not quite reaching his potential in his first three seasons with Minnesota, Max Kepler leads the team in both WPA and bWAR (3.9). Kepler has hit plenty of big homers when the Twins needed a boost and leads the team with 34 long balls in 2019. Kepler and Cruz (33 HRs) both have a good chance of reaching 40 this year. Although it doesn’t show up in his WPA, Kepler has been great in right field and has provided invaluable depth in center while filling in for the oft-injured Bryon Buxton. Like Polanco, the Twins were able to extend Kepler for cheap (5yr, 35M with one club option) and he has paid the Twins back with interest by hitting .256/.337/.537 with a 123 wRC+. Kepler has hit leadoff when the team faces right-handed pitching and hasn’t buckled under the pressure. Kepler’s BABIP is just .241, so if it ever normalizes, watch out.

    Overall, it is encouraging to see that so many of the Twins younger players have been able to shine when it mattered the most. There will be plenty of big moments to come as the Twins look to hold off the Cleveland Indians and win the AL Central for the first time since 2010.

    What do you think? Which players were included or excluded from the list who you thought would make it? Who do you think has done the most to contribute to the Twins winning ways in 2019?

    • Aug 23 2019 04:12 PM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  20. Getting Defensive

    The Twins defense has been a topic in the second half, particularly in the infield. So I thought it might be fun to take a look at how the Twins stack up by this metric in its most recent analysis (through games of August 18th).

    Catcher

    Unfortunately for today’s article, there is a game- or innings-played minimum in this analysis, so the Twins don’t have a player at these positions that qualify. Regarding that Rafael Palmiero Gold Glove, this would have been nice back then!

    I think that the Twins feel good about their defense behind the plate. Jason Castro may not be quite what he was in previous years, but he’s still strong. And by all accounts, Mitch Garver has vastly improved his defense, specifically his ability to present pitches. While we can probably agree that their time split has probably helped keep them both fresh throughout the season, it means that neither qualifies for this.

    Pitchers

    I have always thought that Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson are terrific defensive players. I think both show good range and athleticism. I still believe that, even if this data shows both in the bottom four in the AL, separated only by Lance Lynn.

    However, it also shows that Martin Perez is second on the list, behind only Mike Leake of the Mariners.

    First Base

    CJ Cron comes in at 1.0. I don’t know and won’t take the time to figure out exactly what that means or how it’s calculated. However, it’s a positive number which means he could be considered average or a little better than average.

    I think that’s fair. He got a lot of credit for some scooping early in the season. He hasn’t picked as many of late, but I generally think he’s more than adequate at the position. And, I think we can all acknowledge that he’s not A’s first baseman Matt Olson with the glove.

    Second Base

    Jonathan Schoop comes in at a -2.1 SDI, so again, a little bit below average. That ranks ninth of qualifying second baseman. I think we can all agree that his arm is plus-plus. His range may not be real great as he’s easily the biggest player on this list. Of course, in the last month, Schoop has lost much of his playing time to Luis Arraez.

    Third Base

    And, I don’t think any of us have any thought that Miguel Sano would rank terribly high among defensive third baseman. It would be nice to see what his numbers would look like though.

    Meanwhile, Marwin Gonzalez does show up on the list at 5.1 SDI. Sano has played 66 games at third base. Marwin Gonzalez has played 40 games at third base. In other words, Gonzalez’s numbers must include his time all over the diamond. But, frankly, that makes his 5.1, a decent amount to the positive, even more impressive.

    Shortstop

    Jorge Polanco has certainly struggled in the field the last couple of weeks, but until that point, his defense went generally unnoticed, which is a good thing. His SDI is -0.3, which would say that he’s been about average in 2019. I fact, he fits in at seventh out of 12 AL shortstops.

    Old Friend Niko Goodrum of the Detroit Tigers ranks third at 4.0 SDI.

    Right Field

    Max Kepler is tremendous in right field, and good in center field. He comes in at 6.1 SDI, second among AL right fielders behind only Red Sox Mookie Betts (8.9).

    While Betts will likely win another Gold Glove, Kepler absolutely should be a finalist and get serious consideration. I’m sure having 34 homers already and playing on a winning team help his case.

    Center Field

    Despite missing a decent amount of time this season, Byron Buxton’s 8.9 SDI ranks atop the list of 14 American League center fielders. In fact, Rays OF Kevin Keirmaier ranks second at 6.3 SDI and recently-released Billy Hamilton is third at 5.7.

    In fact, Buxton’s 8.9 SDI ranks fourth among all AL players, regardless of position. He ranks behind only A’s 3B Matt Chapman (13.0), Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez (11.9) and Rays SS Willy Adames (9.9).

    Left Field

    Saving the best for last? No, but saving the most interesting - at least to me - for last.

    Eddie Rosario’s defense has been a bit of a roller coaster throughout his career, and even in the 2019 season there have been plenty of ups and downs.

    Rosario posts a -2.4 SDI, so again, below zero. But what does that mean? He ranks fifth of ten qualifying left fielders. Only two AL left fielders have a positive SDI, and Royals Alex Gordon has a 0.2 SDI. So, I feel fairly comfortable saying that Rosario’s defense this year hasn’t been good, but it isn’t terrible.

    But to the big story… The top defensive left fielder according to the SABR Defensive Index is Oakland A’s Robbie Grossman. And not just by a little bit. Grossman has a 5.8 SDI, well ahead of Gordon’s 0.2.

    So what do we make of that? Does it completely ruin any value that SDI has in your mind? Does it mean that Grossman is actually playing really good defense in 2019? Truly, I don’t know how to read that, and don’t want to read into it. But it is statistical, analytical, based on the same information that every other left fielder is evaluated by.

    So, what do you think?

    It feels like - aside from the Grossman thing - this data kind of verifies what we probably thought of the Twins defensive play in 2019. It verifies that Byron Buxton is amazing and that Max Kepler is really good. Marwin Gonzalez has provided defensive value wherever he’s played. Beyond that, there are several very average defenders, and despite his recent struggles, Polanco has been OK for most of the year.

    What else do you see from this data?

    • Aug 23 2019 03:34 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  21. Twins Game Recap (8/16): Twins Prevail Behind Clutch Schoop HR, Great Bullpen Performance

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 59.6% strikes (59 of 99 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

    Home Runs: Kepler (33), Schoop (17)
    Multi-Hit Games: Gonzalez (3-for-4), Adrianza (2-for-4)

    Top 3 WPA: Schoop .288, Romo .230, Rogers .155
    Bottom 3 WPA: Cron -.115, Polanco -.113, Garver -.098

    Cleveland dropped the second game of their series against the Yankees in New York, which brings the Twins lead to a game and a half atop of the AL Central. That’s the highest advantage the Twins have since Aug. 7, as they now own a 74-48 record, still the fourth best in baseball.

    Unlike the series opener, it took Minnesota a bit longer to get on the board. After throwing a 26-pitch, but scoreless, first inning, Mike Minor managed to keep the Twins scoreless until the fourth, but they took advantage of a Rougned Odor error, who dropped a Miguel Sanó routine pop-up. Right on the first pitch after that, Max Kepler homered to right field, to give Minnesota a two-run lead.

    Wunderboy keeps adding accomplishments to his career year. This was his 33rd home run of the season, which moved him closer to the single season record for a Twins outfielder, as informed by our Twins Daily own Ted Schwerzler. He also moved the Twins a bit closer to the all-time single season home run record. All with this bomb:



    Odorizzi continues to bounce back
    After the worst month of his career after his rookie season (7.43 ERA this July), Jake Odorizzi continues to show signs of recovery. He couldn’t hold on to the one-run lead he took into the sixth, but he was one out short of a quality start. After tonight, he is now posting a 2.07 ERA in three August starts and 1.95 if you count his last July start, against the Marlins. His improvement brings Twins fans a little more optimism for a playoff run, since he’s starting to look much more like the All-Star he was during the first half of the season--in a much needed time.

    Other than a rare wild pitch during the fourth inning (only his second as a Twin), he basically didn’t have big problems in his first five innings of the game, allowing the Rangers to score only one run on three hits. But Texas got to him during the sixth and made him pay after he allowed a leadoff double and a two-out walk. Nomar Mazara became the last batter he faced, as he hit a two-out double to deep center field, giving the home team its first lead in the series. But that wouldn’t last very long.

    The unlikely hero
    Batting only .217 in his previous 15 games coming into tonight and having hit his last homer in Jul. 28,, I guess it’s hard to say many people envisioned Jonathan Schoop being the one to push Minnesota toward the win. But that’s the magic with this year’s Twins. The Bombas simply won’t stop. He crushed a 2-2 changeup over the plate, following a Marwin Gonzalez single and the Twins retook the lead.



    Other than hopefully providing Schoop’s season with a sparkle he’s been looking for in the past two months, that home run was the 238th for the Twins this year and they now need 30 to break the Yankees single-season record established last year. Minnesota is on pace to hit 316 this year.

    The bullpen takes care of business
    When Odorizzi gave up that lead-blowing double in the sixth, Tyler Duffey was called to put out the fire. He struck out Odor to end the inning and started a very efficient night for the Twins ‘pen. Sam Dyson recorded his third consecutive scoreless outing for Minnesota. He did get some help from the defense, which turned an inning- ending double play after he allowed two runners to reach.

    In his first appearance since giving up a tenth inning grand slam on Sunday, Taylor Rogers came into the game in the eighth and also held the Rangers scoreless. When most people thought he would come back to record another six-out save, Baldelli decided to bring in Sergio Romo and he also got the job done, earning his 20th save of the year.

    Hats off to Margo
    Despite the colder than usual night from the offense, Marwin Gonzalez simply refuses to cool down. After a four-hit night on Thursday, Margo led Minnesota with three hits on the night and he’s now batting .404 since the start of the Atlanta series.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Aug 17 2019 05:12 AM
    • by Thieres Rabelo
  22. "Unwritten Rule" Gets Max Kepler Hit By A Pitch



    It’s an interesting sequence. As color commentator Roy Smalley noted, there is no way Twins manager Rocco Baldelli gave Cave the green light on that pitch. It looks like first base coach Tommy Watkins said something to Cave when he reached first base, and Cave immediately seems to gesture towards the pitcher that he is sorry, and made a mistake.

    The Rangers pitcher (to his credit, I suppose?) threw the pitch at rib level at Kepler, but it was a 93 mph fastball. Hopefully this act of vengeance puts an end to any ill-will regarding Cave’s brain cramp. (And I hope Cave bought Kepler a big steak, possibly to soak on top of the bruise.)

    I’d sure love to hear what everyone thinks of the unwritten rule, and the apparent retaliation. Would your opinion be any different if a Twins pitcher was the retaliating pitcher?

    • Aug 16 2019 03:05 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  23. Defensive Dive Highlights Twins Fall

    Back in July I penned an article here at Twins Daily about the improvement no one was talking about. Bad defensive teams had become synonymous with the Minnesota Twins in recent history and seeing them take such a significant step forward was beyond noteworthy. Through July 11 Minnesota had the fourth best defensive fWAR in baseball and trailed only the Kansas City Royals in the American League. They were also fourth in DRS and second in UZR. At that point I defined it simply by saying the Twins were, as a whole, playing “Gold Glove Caliber defense.”

    The biggest boost for the Twins could be felt up the middle. Mitch Garver had taken significant strides forward, while Jorge Polanco was now an above average shortstop, and the tandem of Byron Buxton and Max Kepler rounded out the best outfield the sport had to offer. Evaluating defensive metrics in a small sample is an extremely difficult ask, and it’s the full season that gives us the clearer picture. The shifting numbers tells us something has fallen out of whack however, and it starts with these up-the-middle pieces.

    Garver is still performing admirably behind the plate. He’s made such considerable strides on defense that he’s now arguably the best all-around catcher in baseball, and the Twins have definitely felt that boost. On defense though, that’s where the good news ends for Minnesota.

    Since July, Polanco has lost 3 DRS and dropped 1.2 UZR on the season. In just a month’s sample, that’s a considerable movement. He’s also part of an infield responsible for the most errors in baseball, and the arm accuracy has become a massive problem. At shortstop there was always concern whether the strength would be there to get the ball across the diamond. Having changed arm slots and working with different tweaks, things have gotten substantially worse as the season has worn on. Polanco has become more adept with his glove, but it’s the post-fielding process that creates a very negative effect on balls in play.



    It isn’t just Polanco in the dirt either. Miguel Sano has the ninth most throwing errors in baseball with 8, and despite a career best -1 DRS, his -2.9 UZR is a career worst and further highlights the stretch he feels from a range perspective playing the hot corner. On the other side of the diamond C.J. Cron leads baseball with five drops, and although he’s fielding suboptimal offerings from his fielders, he hasn’t been otherworldly on his own merits. The -2.7 UZR is trending toward a career worst and the very good early season performance has long been missed.

    Byron Buxton doesn’t create a significant cascade effect in the infield, but his defense is solely missed in the grass. Max Kepler once had a 10 DRS roughly a month ago and has slumped all the way back to just 5 DRS on the season. A good to great right fielder, Kepler is stretched in center. He gets better jumps than Buxton does, but there’s no number of strong routes that can make up for the speed deficiency. Add in that moving Kepler means more of Marwin Gonzalez (who is OK) or Jake Cave (who is not) in right field, and you’ve effectively taken the best outfield and turned it into a mediocre-at-best group.

    Since that initial writing Buxton has played in just nine games for the Twins. He’s out with a shoulder dislocation and it doesn’t seem like his return is imminent. Defense is commonly referred to as something that shouldn’t slump, and it’s largely effort based. That’s not to suggest the Twins are tanking in their responsibilities, but there’s also not been evidence of guys picking up the slack. Both the infield and outfield need to find avenues to make the weaknesses more muted. While putting up runs will wipe away some miscues, you can’t give opponents too many additional opportunities.

    In a matter of a month the Twins have dropped nine spots in the overall defensive rankings, five spots in terms of DRS, and 12 in UZR. If that isn’t cause for concern, I don’t know what is. There’s been plenty of things that have ailed this club since their amazing start, but if they aren’t going to add runs throughout games, they can’t be finding ways to give them back either. Baldelli and his field staff must find a way to position and work through these deficiencies, and changes must be implemented sooner rather than later.
    A throwing error compounded with a seeing eye single was what led to their latest defeat, and more of that will be on the way if the issues aren’t rectified soon.

    • Aug 15 2019 10:40 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  24. Constructing a Lineup for the Home Stretch

    With the emergence of super utility players like Luis Arraez and Ehire Adrianza as well as the help of veteran super utility Marwin Gonzalez the Twins have been able to maintain their historically potent offense. These players have been invaluable as the team has been dealing with key injuries to Buxton and C.J. Cron and slumping hitters like Jonathan Schoop and Jorge Polanco.

    Twins versus right-handed pitcher without Buxton and Cruz
    1. Luis Arraez, 2B
    Since the start of August, Luis Arraez has been the regular second basemen with Jonathan Schoop starting every fourth game or so. As previously mentioned, the emergence of Arraez has been a huge development for the Twins and with a .415 OBP versus right-handed pitching I’d like to see him in the leadoff spot as a table setter.

    2. Jorge Polanco, SS
    Polanco has been mashing from the left side of the plate all season with a .917 OPS. You could easily switch him and Kepler, but Polanco gets on base a little more and shows a little less power.

    3. Max Kepler, CF
    Buxton being out for the foreseeable future makes Max our everyday center fielder where he has been an above average fielder. As you can probably tell from my lineup construction so far, I’ve never understood having a guy known for hitting home runs (i.e. Dozier and Kepler) batting lead off. As referenced above, him and Polanco could be switched as their numbers are very similar against right handed pitching but Kepler provides a little more pop which I want from a three hitter.

    4. Mitch Garver, DH/C
    It’s time for Mitch to get as many as bats as he can and with Nelson Cruz out this may be the perfect opportunity for him. Get this, Garver has the fifth best OPS (1.146) of hitters with at least 100 at-bats when men are on base. This guy needs to be in the middle of the order on a daily basis even with Cruz healthy.

    5. Jason Castro, C/DH
    Castro is in the midst of one of the best years of career but is being overshadowed by the guy he is sharing time with behind the plate. Nonetheless, with a .903 OPS versus righties he’s my pick to bat fifth. Once Cruz is healthy, there is still room for him in the line up and see you’ll see me mention later.

    6. Miguel Sano, 3B
    Since lowering his hands and getting used to the adjustment in late June/early July, Sano has been on fire. As a right-handed hitter he has more success against lefties, but since July 1st he has a .854 OPS against righties.

    7. Eddie Rosario, LF
    As has been noted many times as of late, Rosario has been struggling mightily at the plate since the All-Star Break specifically by chasing pitches out of the strike zone. It’s time for him to be reeled in a little bit and put lower in the line up.

    8. Ehire Adrianza, RF
    Although a small sample (15.0 innings), Adrianza is the Twins second best right fielder based on his UZR while Marwin has been the worst by a long shot. He’s also a slightly better hitter versus right-handed pitching than Marwin.

    9. C.J. Cron, 1B
    C.J. Cron has been a nice addition to the club but hasn’t been great against right-handed pitching. I don’t mean to be a broken record, but I’d love to see Garver to get some reps at first to get his bat in the line up. Surprisingly, C.J. has been a below average first basemen defensively so it could be a net positive to get a better hitter some time.

    The Twins have one of the best lineups in baseball against right-handed pitching and oddly enough that lineup gets stronger with the return of two right-handed hitters in Cruz and Buxton. When Buxton returns Adrianza will undoubtedly lose some playing time. When Cruz returns I’d love to see Garver get some time at first so we can keep his bat in the line up. Cruz DH’s in the three-hole followed by Kepler (CF/RF), Garver (1B), Castro ©, etc.

    Twins versus left-handed pitcher without Buxton and Cruz
    1. Luis Arraez, DH
    See what I said above except replace his .411 OBP with a .441 OBP versus lefties. He’s not quite as good as a second basemen as Schoop so I slid in him into the DH spot. Once Cruz is healthy, then Arraez should be your second basemen.

    2. Mitch Garver, C
    Can you tell him I huge fan of “Garv Sauce”? Polanco and Kepler really struggle against lefties so you’ll see them further down in the line up. As good as Garver has been against righties he’s even better against southpaws. He’s the far better hitter in this scenario than Castro.

    3. Miguel Sano, 3B
    As has always been the case, Sano’s has the traditional split where he has more success as right-handed batter facing a left-handed pitcher. You’ve seen the reflect in Baldelli’s lineup construction of late as well.

    4. C.J. Cron, 1B
    Despite his defense, Cron is one of the better Twins hitters versus left-handed pitching so he should be in the lineup.

    5. Ehire Adrianza, RF
    He’s been one of the better hitters against southpaws this year and although doesn’t have the typical power of a five hitter he could restart the line up as he as an OBP of .400 and OPS of .926 against lefties.

    6. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
    With the absence of Cruz and Buxton, the Twins lineup thins out pretty quickly against left-handed pitching. Schoop has actually been pretty solid against lefties this year and still should get semi-regular at-bats as a power threat in this lineup. He’s rated as a slightly better defender than Arraez which is why I have him getting the start in the field. Once Cruz is healthy, then you might get Schoop some playing time against lefties to keep him engaged and fresh.

    7. Max Kepler, CF
    As a lefty facing left-handed pitching, Kepler has the 18th-best hitter in baseball of players who have over 100 at-bats. So although he’s much better against righties, comparatively, he’s actually pretty good.

    8. Eddie Rosario, LF
    Creating a line up isn’t always about just stats. Statistically speaking, Marwin Gonazlez should be the play here as he is the better player both offensively and defensively. Whether we like it or not, Players have egos and feelings and I don’t think Rosario would take it too well if he started being platooned with Gonzalez against lefties.

    9. Jorge Polanco, SS
    Statistically, Jorge is our worst hitter against left-handed pitching even when you take his hot start into consideration. In fact, once Buxton is healthy you could argue starting Adrianza or Gonzalez in place of Polanco against left-handed pitching. Adrianza would be a major downgrade defensively and Gonzalez, in a very small 9.0 inning sample, would be an upgrade. That said, like Rosario, he might not take too kindly to sitting out against lefties.

    Things look vastly different without Buxton and Cruz in the line up. If and when they are healthy again in 2019, that will make our v. LHP line up significantly stronger but will also force Baldelli to make some tough decisions specifically in regards to Polanco and Rosario. In all reality, I think Adrianza and Schoop are the two guys that lose playing time once Buxton and Cruz are healthy.

    What do your lineups look like? Is worrying about the egos and feelings of your players something you consider when constructing a line up? Debate it out in the comments!

    • Aug 14 2019 05:00 PM
    • by Matthew Lenz