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  1. Twins Game Recap (7/13): Series Clinched Behind Big Performances From Kepler, Cave

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 60.7% strikes (54 of 89 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

    Home Runs: Kepler 2 (23), Cave (2)
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (3-for-5), Kepler (2-for-5, 2 HR), Cave (2-for-3, 2B, HR, BB), Arraez (2-for-5)

    Top 3 WPA: Cave .210, Odorizzi .153, Harper .141

    Jake Odorizzi made his first start since a blister sent him to the injured list. He had an excellent first half, earning him All-Star honors, but he had actually been struggling prior to the injury.

    In his final four starts, Odorizzi gave up 16 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings pitched (7.85 ERA). That being the case, I was pretty anxious to see how he looked tonight. It wasn’t among his best performances of the season, but he made pitches when he had to and ended up limiting Cleveland to just one run on three hits over 5 1/3 innings.

    Odorizzi ran into some trouble in the sixth, hitting the leadoff batter then issuing a two-out walk. Luckily Ryne Harper came in and retired Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis to end the threat.

    It was helpful the lineup gave Odorizzi some breathing room. Max Kepler homered in his first two at-bats, meaning he went deep off Trevor Bauer in five consecutive plate appearances. He hit three home runs against Bauer in Cleveland on June 6.

    Kepler has actually faced Bauer more than any other pitcher over his career. He entered tonight with a .324/.378/.647 line against him (1.025 OPS). Pretty amazing to see that kind of ownage of such a good pitcher.

    Jake Cave also homered off Bauer and provided a big two-run double in the eighth inning to give the Twins, who were only holding a one-run advantage at that point, some wiggle room.

    The Twins played some nice defense, as they turned a couple double plays and Byron Buxton made an outstanding catch to take a hit away in the eighth inning.

    Buxton finished out the rest of the eighth inning, but did not come out to play defense in the ninth. Similar to last night’s game, the Twins faced some adversity. Bauer struck out 11 batters in his six innings, and the Cleveland staff combined for 15 Ks. Jonathan Schoop had a particularly rough night, striking out three times and leaving five men on base. And, again, this was a 3-2 game heading into the eighth inning. The Twins have had to fight for these two victories.

    With this win, the Twins have extended their lead back up to 7.5 games in the division. Jose Berrios will take the mound tomorrow afternoon and hope to put an exclamation point on what's already been a statement series for the Twins.

    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.

    • Jul 13 2019 09:18 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  2. The 5 Biggest Twins Surprises at the All-Star Break

    1. Twins catchers lead the American League in OPS... by a mile.

    Minnesota's backstop position, fueled primarily by the production of Mitch Garver and Jason Castro, has yielded a .913 OPS through 89 games. That's 41 points higher than second-place Seattle, and 111 higher than the third-place White Sox. Twins catchers lead all counterparts with 24 home runs.

    This, to me, is the runaway winner for most surprising twist of the 2019 campaign. Back in the spring we were viewing this unit as a relative question mark, with Garver trying to back up a solid (concussion-punctuated) rookie campaign, and Castro coming off major knee surgery at 31. It's almost unfortunate that Castro's remarkably resurgent season – his current .860 OPS exceeds his previous career-best of .835, set when he was a 26-year-old All-Star back in 2013 – has been overshadowed by the theatrics of Garver, who's already almost doubled his rookie home run total in just 44 games. Not only has Garver been an all-around beast, rocking a .984 OPS that ranks 10th among MLB hitters with 150+ PA, but he's been incredibly clutch, slashing .417/.475/.778 with RISP, and his defensive improvements have been staggering.

    2. Jake Odorizzi has allowed only 10 home runs.

    He hasn't been the best in the rotation at limiting the long ball; Martin Perez has given up only seven. But that's always been a strength for the groundballing left-hander. Odorizzi has always been an extreme fly ball pitcher and, by the time Minnesota acquired him, it appeared his susceptibility to the home run might derail his career. In 2016, he gave up 29 homers in 188 2/3 innings (1.4 HR/9) and in 2017 he surrendered 30 in 143 1/3 innings (1.9 HR/9).

    This year, Odorizzi has given up just 10 home runs in 88 2/3 innings, good for a 1.0 HR/9 rate. And that's AFTER allowing six in his past four starts. That Odorizzi has managed an above-average HR rate while giving up the most fly balls of any starter in the league (50.9%), in an era where balls are flying out of the park like never before, is completely bonkers. Consider that Justin Verlander, who will start Tuesday night's All-Star Game for the AL, has already given up 26 bombs at the break. His previous career high is 30. (He's uh... none too happy about this.)

    Odorizzi's proclivity for keeping it in the yard seems plainly unsustainable from a statistical standpoint, and maybe it is. Perhaps his recent flare-up is a sign of what's to come in the second half. But I will point out two things: 1) He's been dealing with a blister lately, and 2) His stinginess extends back beyond this year, to the bulk of 2018. Odorizzi allowed only six homers in 20 starts after June 1st last year. Add those innings to this year's sample and he's surrendered just 16 bombs in his last 190 innings, all while yielding a constant stream of fly balls in the most homer-happy era in MLB history. Nuts.

    3. Ryne. Freaking. Harper.

    I can't believe it's taken me this long to get to him, but that just speaks to the ridiculous nature of the two accomplishments above. Harper has been nothing short of a godsend and, all things considered, one of the best Twins signings in memory. At a time where the team desperately needed right-handed relief help (especially because, unbeknownst to them, they'd be getting almost nothing collectively from Addison Reed, Trevor Hildenberger and Fernando Romero), the front office landed an absolute stud in the form of a 30-year-old minor-league signing, with zero major-league experience.

    Harper has been fantastic from any perspective. His 2.92 ERA and 1.05 WHIP are pristine, as is the 38-to-8 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. Major-league batters are slashing just .223/.267/.353 against him, and this is all with his numbers being negatively skewed by a June outing where he gave up three runs in the 18th inning because Rocco Baldelli was forced to call on him for a third straight day.

    This is an instance of self-scouting more than anything, as the Twins had Harper all last year in the minors. But they deserve plenty of credit for bringing him back, giving him a spring training invite, and believing in the validity of his stellar Grapefruit League results. His final appearance before the break, in which he notched a career-high four strikeouts with seven swings-and-misses on 15 pitches, looked to be an emphatic statement that his amazing first half was no flash in the pan.

    4. Luis Arraez has all but locked up the second base job for 2020.

    Coming into this season, Arraez was more of a fun novelty than legitimate prospect. He didn't make our preseason Top 20 Prospects list, appearing instead as an honorable mention, because the general sentiment was that – despite his undeniably amazing contact skills and lovable scrappiness – he lacked the power and athleticism to be an impact guy at the next level. Arraez has spent his entire season proving us all wrong.

    In 54 games between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit .344/.409/.401. And it's a little tough to envision him going back down, given his .393/.453/.524 line in 95 plate appearances with the Twins. Despite having turned 22 in April, he looks mature beyond his years at the plate, swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone than any Minnesota batter other than Garver, with a lower whiff rate than even Willians Astudillo. As a result, he's drawn more walks than strikeouts, and he sprays liners all over the field.

    In other words, there's been nothing artificial about Arraez's instant success, although obviously he's not gonna be a .400 hitter. And the sudden emergence of a hinting power – he has two home runs with the Twins, after totaling six in 367 minor-league games – suggests that further upside may be lurking. As a point of comparison, the previous tenant at second base, Brian Dozier, was hitting zero home runs in 58 games at rookie ball when he was the same age as Arraez is now. As we've seen time and time again, pop tends to come on late. It wouldn't take much to turn Arraez – who was on basically no one's radar four months ago – into a young MLB star.

    With Jonathan Schoop due for a free agency after the season, I'm thinking Minnesota's plans are all but set for next year at second.

    5. Byron Buxton is striking out at lower rate than the MLB average.

    For years, we all dreamed about how fun it would be if Buxton – someway, somehow – could turn himself into a contact hitter, fully weaponizing that elite speed by putting the ball in play at a high clip. Sadly, the notion seemed to be just that: a dream, of the pipy variety. In parts of four previous MLB seasons, Buxton had posted the following strikeout percentages: 31.9%, 35.6%, 29.4%, 30.0%. From 2015 through 2018, his K-rate was seventh-highest out of 287 hitters to make 1,000+ PA in the majors.

    It seemed the best realistic hope was a modest decrease, into the solidly higher-than-average range. This still could've easily made Buxton a star (he gained MVP votes with a 29.4% K-rate in 2017). Instead, he has completely remade himself at the plate, cutting down on whiffs to a drastic degree with only 59 strikeouts in 260 plate appearances. That's a 22.7% rate – fractionally lower than the big-league average of 22.8%.

    As a guy who lifts the ball at a higher rate than anyone else on the team, and has otherworldly speed, I'd expect a higher BABIP for Buxton than his current .302. Which is to say I think there's more in the tank, even though he's been tremendous as is, with an .816 OPS and 24 doubles at the break. As long as he can stay healthy, I believe Buxton will be the team's top MVP contender without question by year's end.


    I've obviously left plenty of other surprises on the table. Jorge Polanco is an All-Star. Max Kepler has already set a career high in home runs (this one wasn't THAT surprising to me). Ehire Adrianza has raked. Eddie Rosario is on pace for 36 homers and 109 RBIs. Eight different players are on pace for more than 3.4 fWAR, which was Rosario's final mark last year when we named him team MVP.

    What positive developments have caught you off-guard in the first half? Sound off in the comments.

    • Jul 09 2019 04:28 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  3. TEX 4, MIN 1: Quiet Bats Can’t Back Up Great Pitching

    Box Score
    Smeltzer: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 64.6% strikes (42 of 59 pitches)
    Rest of Staff: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 12 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Garver (2-5), Sanó (2-3, R)

    Top 3 WPA: May .288, Harper .170, Smeltzer .117
    Bottom 3 WPA: Mejia -.462, Kepler -.194, Gonzalez -.169

    After scoring a total of 23 runs in the first two games of this series, the Twins really struggled to put runs on the board Sunday, before a crowd of 35,495. They were unable to score more than one run against a Ranger pitching staff which didn’t have a single pitcher with more than three innings of work in the game. Texas out-hit Minnesota 10-8 and the Twins went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

    The Openers and Smeltzer
    Gibson pitched only one inning and didn't have the smoothest of starts. He had a long, 26-pitch inning (only 14 strikes), struggling with his command. He pitched to the top five Rangers batters, as Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Gallo reached safely, but he managed to strand both. José Leclerc, the Rangers opener, also allowed to men to reach, but he managed to close the inning with 15 pitches. He came back to pitch the second, but didn’t last long.

    Smeltzer took advantage of Gibson’s outing and cruised past the bottom half of the Texas lineup in the second with only twelve pitches. He went on to have an uneventful game, pitching into the sixth. He never pitched himself into any jams, as the Rangers never had more than one man on at any point of his outing. They did tie the game in the fourth, with Joey Gallo leading off the inning with a double and then being scored by former Twin Danny Santana a couple of batters later.

    Sanó, Buxton Definitely Back on Track
    Not too long ago we were all discussing what was wrong with Miguel Sanó, as he was slumping really hard. He then he decided he was through with that and decided to catch on fire. He came into this game slashing .348/.423/.739 (1.162) in the past seven games and he did not slow down. After smacking a single in the second inning he scored the first run of the game, crossing the plate on a Byron Buxtton triple

    Similar to Miggy, Buxton went through a rough funk since coming back from the IL. In the first five games back he went 1-for-16. But he started to regain confidence in the first game of this Texas series and came into the game hitting 3-for-9 with three runs batted in. He started this game reaching safely twice, once with the RBI-triple in the second and one on a fielder’s choice in the fourth. On that play, he nearly scored Sanó again after Miggy had walked to reach for the second time, but he (Sano) was thrown out at home.

    The Twins bullpen continued its impressive recent stretch, in spite of the loss. Adalberto Mejía gave up the winning home run to Odor in the 11th, but Minnesota relievers still hold a 3.08 ERA since June 14, which ranks third best in the majors. That is, of course, considering that technically all innings pitched after Gibson’s departure will count as bullpen stats.

    The Twins get to the All-Star break with a 56-33 record. That’s the most wins the Twins have gotten before the All-Star break since 1969. They now hold a five-and-a- half game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central, but the Indians won their sixth in a row today, as they swept the Reds, reaching the 50-win mark.

    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.

    • Jul 07 2019 08:46 PM
    • by Thieres Rabelo
  4. MIN 7, TEX 4: Pineda, Rogers Lead Twins Over Rangers

    Box Score
    Pineda: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 61.5% strikes (59 of 96 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

    Home Runs: Gonzalez (10)
    Multi-Hit Games: Castro (2-for-3, 2B), Polanco (2-for-4)

    Top 3 WPA: Pineda .220, Rogers .182, Buxton .118

    Starting Strong in the 2nd, Nailing the Coffin in the 8th
    It was in the second inning, when the Twins drew first blood against recently converted starting pitcher Jesse Chavez. It began with a stinging double by our Man on Fire Luis Arraez, followed by a stellar plate appearance by Miguel Sano producing a walk, then a short pop-up to the infield by LaMonte Wade and then a Johnathon Schoop walk that loaded the bases for Jason Castro with nobody out. A sac fly that produced an astoundingly impressive overthrow by Joey Gallo set the stage for our Moment of the Day.

    It was that two-run single by Byron Buxton that gave the Twins the lead for good.

    Shaky Bullpen Lately
    In the top of the seventh, there was a notable comment that deeply resonated with me, and perhaps should resonate more with Tyler Duffey himself. On the FSN broadcast, newly minted booth color commentator Tim Laudner mentioned that Tyler Duffey, “took a page out of the book of Jake Odorizzi”, namely how his fastball has become a strength from a weakness.

    Well, maybe I have some criticism on how the Twins have been unleashing that animal in Tyler Duffey.

    It was in the seventh inning that provided the first nervous murmur at Target Field with an announced crowd of 36,969, when left-handed hitting Willy Calhoun torched a hanging slider, the fourth of that sequence to momentarily startle the crowd.

    Throughout the season we’ve been noticing a trend in how the starting pitchers pitch in the best way to conduce success. In other words, putting yourself in the best position to succeed.

    How often this season have we seen Jose Berrios, Martin Perez and Jake Oddorizzi vary their breaking ball distributions to gravitate to the results they desire.

    Now bear with me, this might be hard to understand. But below here is a rolling distribution of Jose Berrios and Martin Perez’s rolling breaking ball usage by K%:



    This might be one of the points of practice that pitching coordinator Wes Johnson and company are hammering home. Ride with what you feel is getting the best results (in this case weak contact and Ks), not what should be your best pitch.

    This is not to say that Taylor Rogers was beyond straight filth today. I mean my goodness, flawless seven outs turned, five strikeouts and topping out at 97 mph! He truly reminded me of peak Andrew Miller

    Well, Duffey faltered again, it may be interesting to note this and see if Tyler does rely on his newly improved fastball above the zone in high-leverage situations. It seemed abundantly clear that the Texas hitters were ambushing Duffey in anticipation of fastball usage in two-strike situations.

    Adding to the Injured List
    While Micheal Pineda was lights out in arguably his best performance (from a stuff standpoint) at Target Field, he did serve his only cookie of the day when Elvis Andrus belted a shot into the Twins bullpen that barely cleared the wall in right. It was then that LaMonte Wade collided with the wall in right, and dislocated his right thumb, according to this report….

    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.

    • Jul 06 2019 08:58 PM
    • by Sabir Aden
  5. 4th of July Fireworks: A Look Back at the 10 Longest Twins Home Runs of 2019

    Check out some of these moonshots! Make sure to add your own ooohs and ahhhhs while watching this highlight reel.

    Here's some more info on the taters included in that video are below.

    10. Max Kepler and Miguel Sano (tied)
    Kepler: 438 ft., 112.3 mph exit velocity
    April 26 off Alex Cobb at Target Field

    Sano: 438 ft., 113.2 mph exit velocity
    May 23 off Matt Harvey at Angel Stadium

    9. Jason Castro
    443 ft., 108.5 mph
    May 11 off Spencer Turnbull at Target Field

    8. Jason Castro
    443 ft., 110.1 mph exit velocity
    April 27 off Jimmy Yacabonis at Target Field

    7. Nelson Cruz
    445 ft., 108.3 mph exit velocity
    June 6 off Blaine Hardy at Comerica Park

    6. C.J. Cron
    453 ft., 114.3 mph exit velocity
    May 16 off Erik Swanson at T-Mobile Park

    5. Miguel Sano
    454 ft., 108.9 mph exit velocity
    May 23 off Matt Harvey at Angel Stadium

    4. Byron Buxton
    454 ft., 111.0 mph exit velocity
    June 5 off Tyler Olson at Progressive Field

    3. Jonathan Schoop
    465 ft., 108.1 mph exit velocity
    May 1 off Collin McHugh at Target Field

    2. Jonathan Schoop
    467 ft., 110.4 mph exit velocity
    May 23 off Matt Harvey at Angel Stadium

    1. Nelson Cruz
    469 ft., 112.4 mph exit velocity
    June 29 off Jose Ruiz at Guaranteed Rate Field

    Here’s to more fireworks from our favorite firecrackers. Have a happy and safe 4th of July everybody!

    • Jul 04 2019 11:45 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  6. MIN 4, OAK 3: Twins Refuse to Lose Three in a Row

    Box Score
    Starter: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 55.9% strikes (57 of 102 pitches)
    Bullpen: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K

    Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (11)
    Multi-Hit Games: Garver (2-6), Arraez (3-5)

    WPA of +0.1: Harper .104, Duffey .135, Polanco .137, Schoop .181, Rogers .195, Garver .265, Parker .269, Arraez .295
    WPA of -0.1: Gibson -.110, Buxton -.117, Cron -.175,Sano -.311, Adrianza -.391

    Twins’ Late Comeback
    After not getting a baserunner until there were two outs in the fifth inning, the Twins were able to put together a little comeback to tie the game late and ultimately win the game. The comeback started by getting three singles off Fiers in the sixth to grab their first run of the game. The two outs that followed were balls that almost drove in another run, but a nice play by Laureano and a blooper by Cron ended the threat.

    The Twins got into the Athletic’s bullpen in the seventh, and were able to score a run right away thanks to an error by Barretto on the throw to first base. Polanco was able to tie the game on a two-out solo shot in the eighth.

    The Twins were able to take advantage of a pair of one-out walks in the twelfth and took the lead with a go-ahead single by Mitch Garver on a full-count. He delivered a single into left field, and the speedy Byron Buxton was able to hustle around third and score. They failed to extend their lead with the bases loaded and one out on a nice place by Chapman at third to get a double play to end the inning.

    Lights Out Bullpen
    The bullpen came into the game with a 3-2 deficit and made it possible for the Twins to fight back. They have been very solid in the games of late, and continued their success tonight. They threw a combined six shutout innings while only allowing four hits.

    Blake Parker dug himself into the biggest hole for the bullpen in the tenth with two lead-off walks, but thanks to Sano’s defense, no runs were scored. He worked around those walks and had a relatively easy 11th inning.

    Taylor Rogers made this game interesting in the 12th, though it wasn’t completely on him. The inning started on an error by Schoop and was very close to becoming a problem. But, Profar tried to extend his single into a double on the throw to third, and the Twins were able to get him out after a challenge and were left with a runner on third with two outs. Rogers was able to close the game out with a strikeout and he picked up his 11th save of the year.

    Gibson’s Mistake
    Gibson had a relatively good start tonight, but his one mistake will be the talking point of his start. This mistake came in the second inning after an error by Cron and a walk to lead off the inning. What followed was an at-bat that almost decided the game, and was the first hit by the Athletics, a three-run home run by Laureano.

    His struggles came with not being able to find the strike zone early in the count. Out of the 26 batters he faced, he got a first-pitch strike on only 13 of the batters. He had to work behind in the count and was chasing batters throughout the night, which led to the four walks he gave up.

    After the second inning, Gibson settled in for the most part. He didn’t have any 1-2-3 innings after the first, but was able to keep the score the same as he left it after the second. Even after having a rough couple of innings, Gibson was able to finish six innings. Gibson also had two double plays turned behind him.

    Gibson was able to pick up the no-decision with some mid-late inning runs that were capped by a Jorge Polanco solo shot in eighth.

    Fiers Brings Trouble
    Mike Fiers came into tonight’s game allowing no more than two runs in five of his last six starts. Tonight, he had a perfect game going into the fifth, and didn’t give up a baserunner until Sano hit a double with two outs in the fifth that ultimately led to nothing. He managed to throw 68 percent of his pitches as strikes as well as getting ahead of 14 out of the 23 batters he faced with a first-pitch strike.

    The Twins were able to scare Fiers out of the game after they got three hits in the sixth, which led to their first run, and a single to lead off the seventh. He finished with only five hits and one earned run while striking out four and giving no free bases. He set the Athletics for a chance to win the series, but the Twins’ offense had different plans.

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

    • Jul 04 2019 04:50 AM
    • by AJ Condon
  7. Week in Review: Becoming Whole at the Halfway Point

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/24 through Sun, 6/30


    Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 53-30)

    Run Differential Last Week: +6 (Overall: +113)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (8.0 GA)

    Willians Watch: Back on the Injured List :(

    Willians Astudillo opened his week with a three-hit game that included this nifty catch in RF foul territory, but his hearty effort on that play proved costly. Astudillo went 0-for-4 the following night and was then placed on IL due to oblique soreness, apparently stemming from his run-in with the wall.

    The Twins also lost Eddie Rosario, who sprained his left ankle while turning first on Wednesday and will miss at least the next week. It's a shame because he was heating up again – 6-for-7 through his first two games last week – and his visible frustration upon sustaining the injury appeared to reflect this.

    It wasn't all bad news, though. Rosario is a big loss but it doesn't appear he'll be gone long (in fact, the team hesitated to even place him on the IL). The Twins crucially got back Byron Buxton and Marwin Gonzalez, who were both activated on Saturday, and Ehire Adrianza, activated a day earlier.

    Some other noteworthy roster moves from last week:
    • LaMonte Wade Jr. was called up briefly in the middle of the week with the Twins needing extra bodies in the outfield, and started on Friday (he reached once in two PAs, on an HBP, before being replaced by a pinch hitter in the seventh), but he was optioned alongside Jake Cave in order to make room for Buxton and Gonzalez.
    • Zack Littell was also optioned back to Triple-A, though not through any fault of his own (he threw four scoreless innings during his latest stint). The Twins simply needed more arms after burning through everyone in an 18-inning marathon loss to Tampa on Thursday. Prospect Lewis Thorpe was called up to replace Littell, and you can read about his sterling MLB debut in the Highlights below.
    • The Twins signed 36-year-old free agent reliever Carlos Torres, who'd recently been designated for assignment by Detroit, to a minor-league deal. He reported to Class-AAA Rochester. They also returned infielder Ronald Torreyes from the restircted list, making room on the 40-man roster by DFA-ing lefty reliever Gabriel Moya, who cleared waivers and returned to Rochester.

    On Friday, fan-selected starters for the All-Star teams were officially revealed, and we learned the American League lineup will feature one Twin: Jorge Polanco at shortstop. He won't be alone in representing the Twins, but Polanco's a fitting frontman, leading the team in WAR thanks to his steady work at shortstop and tremendously consistent production atop the lineup. Polanco had a fairly pedestrian week at the plate (7-for-27) but he also drew three walks and scored seven runs. The fact this counts as a down week for him says it all.

    Joining him on the All-Star roster is Jake Odorizzi, who surrendered two bombs on Wednesday against Tampa and has generally looked shakier in recent starts, but is still pacing the American Leagues with 10 while holding down a shiny 2.73 ERA.

    That's it for Twins All-Stars, for now. It seems pretty outrageous for a team that leads baseball in scoring and OPS to have only one representative among the AL's starters or reserves, but here we are.

    The good news is that we'll certainly see a few more players added to the roster, as a result of injuries and withdrawals, and the Twins have plenty of players near the top of the queue: Rosario, Max Kepler, Jose Berrios, and Taylor Rogers, to name a few.

    Missed time prevented Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver from getting legitimate consideration as All-Stars, but they've both made strong cases while on the field. Last week was no different; Cruz went 10-for-23 with three home runs and 10 RBIs games, while Garver delivered an impressive three-hit game against Tampa on Tuesday, launching his 12th home run.

    It was an interesting week for Miguel Sano. In three games at home against Tampa, he went 1-for-13 with six strikeouts, extending a brutal slump that dated back to mid-June. Then, once he arrived in Chicago, he snapped right back into the dominant form we saw initially upon his return, blasting three homers and plating six runs in two starts, then entering with a clutch pinch-hit RBI single on Sunday. He struck out only once in 10 plate appearances, with two walks.

    Certainly an encouraging rebound, and one that was evidently driven by some mechanical changes involving hand positioning. Parker had written about this very issue last week, at the height of Sano's struggles. Credit goes to Miguel and Minnesota's hitting coaches for actualizing these adjustments; we'll see if they stick.

    As a final note on the offense, hitting machine Luis Arraez continued to do his thing, collecting six hits in 17 at-bats. The rookie's average stands at .426.

    On Sunday, Thorpe was able to make his first major-league start, on account of Kyle Gibson throwing a relief inning during Thursday's 18-inning affair, and thus having his scheduled turn pushed back to Wednesday. The young left-hander was absolutely sensational. Over his five innings, he allowed only two runs (both coming on an Yoan Moncada home run) while notching seven strikeouts and 11 swinging strikes. He continually worked ahead in counts and showed a stunning ability to execute while undoubtedly battling some serious nerves. Like Devin Smeltzer before him, Thorpe solidified himself as a quality rookie depth piece for the rotation.

    Elsewhere in that unit, Michael Pineda took another nice step, hurling six innings of one-run ball against the White Sox on Friday. The big righty struck out eight while walking one. He finishes June with a 25-to-4 K/BB ratio and 3.58 ERA. Most importantly: he quietly allowed just one home run, after coughing up 14 in his first 11 starts.

    Martin Perez provided his own promising flash from the back half of the starting corps, putting forth his best performance since early May against the Rays on Thursday. In seven innings he allowed just two runs with six strikeouts and one walk. Notably, per Brooks Baseball data, his improved outcome coincided with a return to leaning on the cutter, along with a reduction in sinker usage:


    In the bullpen, Taylor Rogers once again starred, appearing twice and retiring all seven batters faced. He wraps June with an 11-to-1 K/BB ratio and only four hits allowed in 11 1/3 innings, continuing to reaffirm himself as one of the game's best relievers. And credit is also due to Matt Magill, who himself tossed five scoreless frames after a serious rough patch.


    While Garver continues to be an offensive force, his catching counterpart Jason Castro has seen his early-season success dwindle. Last week he managed three singles in 12 at-bats, and for the month of June he slashed just .191/.240/.277 with one homer and one double. He saw his OPS plummet by 150 points as a result.

    Now, Castro's current mark (.782) remains plenty respectable for a catcher, but his regression has dashed the notion of two elite offensive players sharing time behind the plate for Minnesota.

    C.J. Cron's All-Star campaign at first base fell short, and meanwhile, his lengthy hot streak faded into a major cooldown. After putting up a .963 OPS with eight home runs in May, Cron followed with stellar production through the first three weeks of June. But last week, while starting every game, he went just 5-for-28 with seven strikeouts, zero walks, and zero extra-base hits.

    Also finding himself in a bit of a drought is Jonathan Schoop, who went 4-for-24 with eight strikeouts on the week.

    A few downspells here and there are to be expected. The Twins offense in general has come back to Earth in recent weeks, but remains a powerhouse to be reckoned with. As long as they continue to have multiple guys clicking simultaneously, as they have at all times, Minnesota's going to be okay in the run-scoring department.

    Blake Parker seems to have his swing-and-miss stuff back, which is a plus – after inducing just six whiffs through his first eight June appearances (4% SwStr), Parker has since induced 10 in his past four appearances (14% SwStr). Last week he tallied four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings of work, but it still wasn't pretty as he yielded five hits, including his fifth home run of the month. Two years ago, when at his best, Parker allowed only seven home runs total.


    We're still waiting to see how the Twins will address their needy bullpen through high-impact acquisitions (a task that will be harder than many wish to believe), but for now it's about closely tracking how the team's lower-scale additions and internal options are progressing.

    Torres coughed up a two-run homer in his debut for the Red Wings on Thursday. Cody Allen debuted at Single-A for the Miracle on Saturday, tossing a clean scoreless inning with a strikeout, but he reportedly topped out at 91 MPH. (Two years ago, when he was last an outstanding MLB reliever, Allen averaged 94.3 on his fastball.) Fernando Romero and Trevor Hildenberger are both on IL at Rochester.

    His may not have the same name recognition as those above, nor is he on the 40-man roster as of yet, but Cody Stashak is really emerging as a name to watch. After he posted a 40-to-5 K/BB ratio in Pensacola over the first two months, Minnesota looked past his 4.76 ERA and promoted the 25-year-old righty to Triple-A and he has responded by decimating the highest level of minor-league competition. After striking out six in 2 2/3 innings last week, he now has a 19-to-1 K/BB ratio and 2.25 ERA through 12 innings with Rochester. I suspect we'll get a look at him in the bigs before the summer's over.


    Acquired from the Yankees during the offseason, Torreyes spent much of the first half away from the team for reasons that weren't made public. He was activated from the restricted list last week and after a brief stint at Fort Myers, returned to Rochester with a bang on Friday, launching two home runs against Pawtucket. Torreyes followed with a three-hit game on Saturday and delivered a two-run single in his AB on Sunday. He adds another piece of credible depth to Minnesota's infield picture, albeit one made less critical by the play of Adrianza and Arraez.


    Hate those late-night West Coast games that linger past midnight on weekdays? Then I've got good news for you: the Twins will be playing their last such set in Oakland during the first half of this week. You might find it easier to stay up and watch the second game on Wednesday, with a holiday and afternoon contest coming on Thursday. Afterwards, the Twins finish out the unofficial first half with three home tilts against Texas.

    TUESDAY, 7/2: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Daniel Mengden
    WEDNESDAY, 7/3: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Tanner Anderson
    THURSDAY, 7/4: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Mike Fiers
    FRIDAY, 7/5: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Jesse Chavez v. RHP Jose Berrios
    SATURDAY, 7/6: RANGERS @ TWINS – LHP Mike Minor v. RHP Michael Pineda
    SUNDAY, 7/7: RANGERS @ TWINS – RHP Ariel Jurado v. RHP Jake Odorizzi

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Jul 01 2019 09:51 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  8. CHW 4, MIN 3: Twins Lose Rubber Match to White Sox After Another Long Day of Baseball

    Box Score
    Thorpe: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 67.1% strikes (47 of 70 pitches)
    Bullpen (Duffey, Morin, Magill) : 3.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

    Home Runs: Nelson Cruz (16)
    Multi-Hit Games: None

    Top 3 WPA: Garver (.222), Magill (.073), Cruz (.042)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Gonzalez (-.215), Buxton (-.136), Arraez (-.115)

    Lewis Thorpe Debuts
    Who knows what the final line for Lewis Thorpe would have looked like if it wasn’t for mother nature ending his debut after five spectacular innings and only 70 pitches. All afternoon Thorpe was dotting the edge of the strike zone with his fastball and slider to the tune of a 20.0% swinging strike rate on those two pitches, which accounted for strike three on six of his seven strikeouts.

    Even on Moncada’s two-run home run he hit the spot Garver gave him, but unfortunately Moncada loves the ball low and away as a left handed hitter where he has slugged .571 in 2019, per Brooks Baseball. Other than that blip, which was really Garver’s blip, Thorpe was lights out showing a mastery of his pitches and allowing the defense to help him any time a runner reached base.

    Offense Sputters Against All-Star Starter
    Lucas Giolito, who has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, was effective and efficient against one of the most potent offenses in baseball allowing only one baserunner and striking out four over five innings. Of course it helped that the starting lineup was missing a few “non all-stars” like Eddie Rosario (IL) and Max Kepler (knee/rest) as well as Miguel Sano (though Sano did come in as a pinch hitter late in the game). Deservedly, Giolito was named an All-Star right as the game was getting back underway.

    Twins Hit Bullpen Hard But Cannot Overcome Deficit
    Many on Twitter viewed the rain delay as a good thing, as it meant the end of the road for Giolito and that proved to be true as the Twins came out hitting the ball hard. Nothing came to fruition in the top of the sixth despite three hard hits, but they were able to put three on the board in the seventh thanks to a Nelson Cruz two-run home run and a Sano pinch-hit RBI single.

    Unfortunately, in the bottom half of the sixth inning Tyler Duffey got roughed up allowing four consecutive singles and two earned runs before being relieved by Mike Morin who got the last two outs of the innings while stranding two runners. Magill followed Morin in the bottom of the seventh and eighth, striking out three while only allowing one hit and hitting upper-90’s on the radar gun with his fastball, which is an interesting and possibly significantly development. The Twins continued to put good wood on the ball in the eighth and ninth, but were unable to score, specifically with Garver in scoring position with only one out in the final frame.

    Other tidbits:

    -Odorizzi was named an All-Star. He will join Jorge Polanco as the only Twins representatives ... for now.
    -As mentioned above, Magill’s fastball topped out at 98 miles per hour multiple times today while it has an average velocity of 95.7 miles per hour.
    -Buxton's highlight grab in the bottom of the fourth had a xBA (expected batting average) of .670 and a catch probability of five percent.
    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.

    • Jun 30 2019 10:02 PM
    • by Matthew Lenz
  9. MIN 10, CHW 3: Twins Hit 5 Homers, Kepler Reaches New Career High

    Box Score
    Pineda: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 71.6% strikes (63 of 88 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

    Home Runs: Kepler 2 (21), Cruz 2 (15), Sano (12)
    Multi-Hit Games: Cruz (4-for-5, 2 HR, 2B), Kepler (2-for-5, 2 HR), Polanco (2-for-4, BB), Castro (2-for-4)

    Top 3 WPA: Pineda .229, Cruz .223, Kepler .086
    Bottom 3 WPA: Buxton -.086, Gonzalez -.049, Cron -.048

    Kepler’s first homer came off White Sox starter Ivan Nova, the second came against left-handed reliever Josh Osich. That’s Max’s fifth home run off a left-handed pitcher already this season. He entered 2019 with nine homers off southpaws in his entire career.

    The Twins grabbed a lead in the top of the first inning thanks to a Nelson Cruz two-run homer, but it appeared for a moment Michael Pineda was going to cough up the lead right away in the bottom of the inning. Pineda loaded the bases before recording his first out of the game, but managed to limit Chicago to just one run in the first.

    After that, Pineda dominated. He struck out eight batters in his six innings, getting 15 swinging strikes on his 88 pitches. He topped out at 95.6 mph, and his four seamer averaged 93.8 mph. He came into today’s game averaging 92.4 mph on that pitch so far this season.

    While some of Pineda’s overall numbers aren’t outstanding, he’s given up three or fewer earned runs in 12 of his 16 starts now. Both his performance and his velocity are trending in the right direction.

    Speaking of guys trending in the right direction, after blasting a pair of homers last night, Miguel Sano hit another homer and drew a walk this afternoon. He now has 12 home runs in just 33 games so far this season.

    Cruz added his second homer of the game in the ninth inning, giving the Twins another five-homer game. Boomstick was a beast today, going 4-for-5 while driving in five runs.

    Return of the Mack (and Marwin)
    Prior to today’s game, both Byron Buxton and Marwin Gonzalez were activated off the IL. Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade headed back to Rochester to make room on the roster. Buxton was 0-for-4 while Gonzalez went 1-for-5.

    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.

    • Jun 29 2019 06:02 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  10. SEA 9, MIN 6: Bullpen, Errors Spoil Buxton’s Dramatic Homer

    Box Score
    Berrios: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 66.4% strikes (71 of 107 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

    Home Runs: Gonzalez (8), Kepler (16), Buxton (9)
    Multi-Hit Games: Garver (2-for-4), Gonzalez (2-for-4, HR), Sano (2-for-4, 2B)

    WPA of +0.1: Buxton .351, Gonzalez .296, Berrios .208
    WPA of -0.1: Polanco -.104, Rosario -.132, Kepler -.138, Cron -.152, Parker -.239, May -.241, Duffey -.455
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Errors Open the Game
    The Minnesota Twins were charged with five errors in tonight’s game, and all of them came in the final three innings. Four out of the five errors actually resulted in runs being scored.

    C.J. Cron was responsible for the first error in the eighth inning when he misjudged a ground ball that slipped by him into right field. One run was scored on that play, but it was followed by a three-run home run to put the Mariners up by five.

    The Twins’ late rally was overlooked after three more errors by the Twins’ defense in the 10th inning. The first one hurt the most as the Twins played the situation perfectly with runners on second and third and one out.

    Tyler Duffey was able to get Mallex Smith to ground right to Cron at first, but Mitch Garver tried to apply the tag at home before he had caught the ball allowing the go-ahead run to score.

    The next one was probably a worse play by Sano, as he couldn’t field a ground ball to his left and came up blindly firing over to first and put the ball into the stands. Two more runs came around and just like that, the Twins were down three runs.

    Late Inning Push
    One of the best offenses in the league was held quiet through six innings. Not to worry Twins’ fans, the “Run Bunch” always comes alive at some point of the game, sometimes you just have to wait.

    It all started in the seventh inning when Marwin Gonzalez went deep to tie the game and save Jose Berrios from potentially picking up a loss. That was followed by another home run and a couple of hits against former Twins pitcher Tommy Milone in the eighth inning to keep it close.

    Miguel Sano got the ninth started with a single and Byron Buxton demolished a ball to tie the game and send it to extra innings.

    Pitcher Duel
    Berrios had a shaky start to tonight’s game as a Mariner runner reached third base in the first four innings. Berrios was able to work out of the jam in each of those innings to keep the runner from crossing the plate. He was able to strand six runners, with five of them being in scoring position. The Mariners were able to get only one run on Berrios with a solo shot by Vogelbach in the sixth on a hanging changeup.

    Berrios closed out tonight’s game barely over an ERA of three, sitting at 3.01, but unfortunately, picked up a no-decision with the Twins’ lineup nowhere to be seen in the first six innings. Berrios was also one pitch away from an immaculate inning in the fifth.

    Tommy Milone, former Twins pitcher from 2014-16, was able to keep the Twins’ offense quiet through six innings. He struggled late in his outing and ended up giving up three runs, and a start to the Twins’ push.

    His success came from getting ahead early and his changeup that Twins’ batters just couldn’t figure out. He struck out six batters using his changeup for the final strike in all of them. He also faced 22 batters and got 17 first pitch strikes.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Game
    Thu vs. SEA, 12:10 pm CT (Pineda-Kikuchi)

    Last Game
    MIN 6, SEA 5: Comeback Victory Capped By Trevor May Save

    More from Twins Daily
    Do the Twins Have the Best Bottom of the Order Ever?
    Baseball and the Slow Death of Chewing Tobacco
    Why Miguel Sano's Strikeouts Are Not a Problem

    • Jun 13 2019 04:11 AM
    • by AJ Condon
  11. Baseball and the Slow Death of Chewing Tobacco

    Slow Change, a Baseball Tradition
    College baseball banned smokeless tobacco in 1990 and the minor leagues quickly followed suit in 1993. Over the last 26 years, Major League Baseball has only made gradual changes to their chewing tobacco policies.

    As part of the 2012 collective bargaining agreement, the league banned players from carrying tobacco packages or tin in their pockets at any time when the ballpark was open to fans. They also couldn’t use it as part of pregame or postgame interviews.

    MLB took it one step further with the 2016 collective bargaining agreement by banning smokeless tobacco for all new major league players. Players already in the big leagues were grandfathered in under this rule so they would still be able to use smokeless tobacco. In 2015, a study found that 37% of MLB players and coaches used smokeless tobacco. This total is almost six times higher than the national average for males (6.4%).

    Many cities and states across the country have put in place laws to ban smokeless tobacco in public places. As of June, smokeless tobacco is now banned in over half of major-league stadiums. Minnesota is not one of the 16 stadiums to be included in the ban.
    Minnesota’s Clubhouse
    Almost all current members of the Minnesota Twins were big leaguers in 2016 so they would be grandfathered in under the current collective bargaining agreement. As recently as 2016, legislation in Minnesota was introduced to ban the use of tobacco at Target Field and CHS Field.

    “In general, Major League Baseball and the Twins are supportive of legislative efforts and any efforts to ban smokeless tobacco,” Twins president Dave St. Peter told the Pioneer Press. “It’s long been baseball’s position that it’s something we’d like to get out of our game.”

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been clear on the league’s stance when it comes to chewing tobacco. “For many years we’ve been clear about baseball’s stance on smokeless tobacco,” Manfred said. “It’s banned in the minor leagues. We have proposed on a number of occasions a similar ban at the big-league level. We’ve not been able to negotiate it.”

    In 2014, Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn tragically passed away at age 54 from salivary-gland cancer. At the time, some players swore off using chewing tobacco for their own health and families. That still hasn’t stopped current players. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, two players the Twins are supposed to build around, have both been known smokeless tobacco users. There are no doubt other players on the team that have a similar addiction.

    More cities and states will take action in the years ahead. Fewer players will be grandfathered under the current collective bargaining agreement. Chewing tobacco, a baseball staple, is dying a slow death, but thankfully it might not be part of the baseball world future generations will know.

    Should baseball do more about chewing tobacco? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Jun 13 2019 07:23 AM
    • by Cody Christie
    • Jun 09 2019 07:44 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  12. Week in Review: Holding Steady

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/3 through Sun, 6/9


    Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 43-21)

    Run Differential Last Week: +3 (Overall: +112)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (10.5 GA)

    Willians Watch: So Long, Old Friend :-(

    We must begin this week's roster rundown on a somber note:
    • Willians Astudillo has been optioned to Triple-A. This isn't necessarily sad from a competitive standpoint – Astudillo's been the weakest hitter on the team for some time now, and his demotion is well justified with an empty .190 average since the start of May – but if you're like me, you enjoy watching the guy play, interact with teammates, and generally go about his business on the field. He probably won't be gone for too long, as he's already raking down in Rochester (he's 6-for-8 through two games).
    • Called up to replace Astudillo on the roster was right-handed reliever Ryan Eades, who made his major-league debut on Saturday and threw very well in two scoreless frames.
    • The Twins also optioned Devin Smeltzer, who impressed during his two starts, and activated Michael Pineda to start Friday night's game in Detroit.

    In the wake of a scorching late-May hot streak, Max Kepler went cold as the calendar flipped, coming up hitless in five games. Then, with the Twins facing a sweep on Thursday in Cleveland, he exploded for three home runs, carrying Minnesota to a 5-4 victory while finishing 4-for-4 with a walk. It'll go down as one of the best offensive performances by a big-leaguer this season.

    This seems to be the M.O. for Minnesota's lineup: sleeping giants who don't stay asleep for long. Mitch Garver was mostly quiet in his first few games off the Injured List, and had a really tough series in Cleveland with seven strikeouts in 10 plate appearances, but he came alive in Detroit, going 4-for-9 with a homer and four RBIs in two games. Nelson Cruz, another recent reentry from IL, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his return on Tuesday, then homered in each of his next four games. Eddie Rosario was 2-for-16 on the week before going 3-for-6 with a mammoth homer on Sunday.

    This is all to say we probably shouldn't make much of mini-slumps from the likes of Jonathan Schoop (1-for-15 last week and batting .125 in June). He has the luxury of taking a little nap while the rest of the offense powers on, and will almost surely be awakening soon.

    One guy who doesn't seem to have much let-up in him is Byron Buxton. Every week, and every night, he manages to make a special impact. His past five games brought more of the same: production (6-for-17 with two homers and a double), spectacular defense made to look ordinary, and baserunning prowess that almost defies belief:

    The Twins currently have two players drawing credible buzz as MVP contenders – Rosario and Jorge Polanco – but I have a strong feeling that by year's end, Buxton will be at the head of the pack. He's only starting to find his next gear. Buxton's success has become so normalized, you probably didn't even notice that the former whiff-machine has struck out only four times in 28 June PAs. His 23% K-rate for the season is down nearly 10 points from his 32% MLB mark prior, and almost exactly at league average.

    In the rotation, Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios have been as good as any 1-2 tandem in the game. On Sunday, Odorizzi was magnificent as usual, spinning six innings of one-run ball. He struck out eight while picking up his ninth consecutive victory and lowering his ERA (slightly) to 1.92. Berrios delivered his own strong outing three days earlier, holding the Indians to two runs over six frames.

    The Twins are 11-2 with Berrios on the mound and have won 10 straight games started by Odorizzi.


    On the same day we learned that coveted free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel was signing with the Chicago Cubs, Blake Parker blew up in Cleveland, coughing up three runs to turn a lead into a deficit in one of Minnesota's most crushing losses of the year. The timing was no doubt painful. Though I personally believe the Twins were wise to stick to their guns on Kimbrel, this bullpen needs help.

    This is not a new sentiment, but it's becoming clearer than ever as Parker's surprisingly spotless start gives way to hardcore regression. Wednesday marked the third time in his past four appearances allowing multiple runs, and then on Friday he navigated an anxiety-inducing save that saw him walk two batters and bring the tying run to the plate. There's no trusting the guy right now.

    In fact, the bullpen at large has suddenly become rather untrustworthy. Matt Magill has seen his own charmed run of unexpected excellence fly off the rails, almost exactly in unison with Parker. Joining the team late after a season-opening IL stint, Magill was convincingly dominant through 14 appearances, posting a 1.35 ERA and 18-to-5 K/BB ratio in 13.1 IP while unleashing upper-90s fastballs and upper-80s sliders. The coaching staff's belief in the former minor-league journeyman was being richly rewarded. But in his past three outings, the bottom has fallen out. In 1 2/3 innings, he has allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 10 hits and three walks. In the space of a week, his ERA spiked from 1.35 to 6.60, and just like that, he might be on the brink of a DFA.

    The problem is that there aren't a ton of options on hand to replace him. We'll chat more about that below in the Trending Storyline section.

    Trust is also diminishing in starter Martin Perez, whose magic has gone completely amiss. Wednesday's outing wasn't as disastrous as the previous dud, and poor defense played a role, but Perez was not good in Cleveland, allowing five runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings. The lefty posted season-lows in strikeouts (1) and swinging strikes (4). He has issued multiple walks in seven straight starts and has a 7-to-8 K/BB ratio in his past three.


    The bullpen is a mess. It's starting to unravel at the seams with Parker and Magill melting down. Mike Morin and Tyler Duffey may have similar reckonings awaiting. Trevor May is, for whatever reason, seeing very sporadic usage (he's appeared three times in the past 14 days). Taylor Rogers has pretty much been a one-man band and this tweet from AG sorta sums that up:

    The Twins leaned on Rogers for a 34-pitch, two-inning save on Thursday, and that's the type of thing they obviously need to avoid. So, the club needs some relief help. And as we've covered, Kimbrel is off the table. What to do?

    The trade market will become a central focus in the coming weeks, and I do believe there are going to be ample opportunities out there. Unlike with Kimbrel, here the Twins have real leverage: a system filled with intriguing prospects, and a bevy of non-contending teams looking to reload their farms.

    There's no need to wait until the July 31st deadline to make a move. But here's the thing: Minnesota does have the luxury of a double-digit lead in the standings. Granted, they'll want to win as many games as they can to best position themselves for October, but they aren't fending off anyone in the division. Four of their remaining six series this month are against the Mariners, Royals and White Sox. There's no REAL urgency.

    As they take a measured approach to the trade market, the Twins can test a few things out internally and work to optimize its existing pieces. The latest to audition is Eades, and he looked promising in his first action (although, to be fair, so did Austin Adams and Zack Littell).

    Speaking of Littell: After this demotion last week, I opined that he has "a much better chance than the [other Triple-A call-ups who've gotten shelled] of becoming a true bullpen asset. I wonder if the Twins will start letting him develop in that capacity at Rochester."

    Sure enough, his three appearances since heading down have all been in relief, and he's looked damn good, allowing just one hit (a solo homer) in 5 2/3 innings with one walk and eight strikeouts.

    It wouldn't stun me if Eades or Littell eventually settles in as a worthy middle relief option. I like that the Twins are experimenting. But it's unfortunate their other internal options are still flailing. Trevor Hildenberger has an 8.44 ERA and 1.88 WHIP in Rochester. Fernando Romero has been woefully underwhelming as well (opponents hitting .310/.388/.500 in 15 innings since he was optioned). Jorge Alcala, the hard-throwing 23-year-old acquired in last year's Ryan Pressly trade, has been wholly unimpressive at Double-A where he sports a 5.25 ERA.

    If the Twins want to find a difference-maker for their pen from within, it's probably going to take some creativity. Maybe trying out Smeltzer in a relief role? Or how about fellow Triple-A southpaw Lewis Thorpe, who's tacked up a 25-to-3 K/BB ratio in his last four starts, while averaging fewer than five innings per turn? Looks perfectly suited for a shot at relieving.


    The 2019 MLB Draft took place last week, and saw the Twins add a batch of new young talent heavy on college bats. Their three first-day selections:

    • No. 13 Overall: Keoni Cavaco, INF – Fast-rising prep star out of California who was barely on anyone's radar six months ago. Premium athlete with a high-upside bat who's played shortstop but is likely to end up at third base. Ted posted a Q&A with the Cavaco if you'd like to learn more about him.
    • No. 39 Overall: Matt Wallner, OF – Collegiate slugger out of Southern Mississippi. Wallner will be especially easy for locals to root for because he's a Forest Lake native who was named Minnesota's Mr. Baseball in 2016.
    • No. 54 Overall: Matt Canterino, RHP – The 6-foot-3 righty posted gaudy strikeout numbers at Rice University, unleashing an overpowering fastball/curve combo. His delivery and lack of a changeup suggest some reliever risk, but he's poised to rise quickly.
    You can learn about the full breadth of Minnesota's latest draft class in Andrew's in-depth recap.

    Elsewhere in the Twins' system last week:

    Jhoan Duran turned in his third straight gem for Fort Myers, holding Jupiter to one run over seven innings. Acquired from Arizona in the Eduardo Escobar trade last summer, Duran pitched extremely well after coming over, and drew considerable buzz in camp this spring. His first seven starts at High-A weren't stellar but over his past three the numbers are astounding: 20 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 26 K.

    The 21-year-old right-hander is starring for the Miracle alongside fellow righty Jordan Balazovic, our Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May who continues to dazzle here in June. In his latest turn on Thursday, he fanned seven over 5 2/3 frames of one-run ball, lowering his ERA to 2.03 in six starts with Fort Myers. Despite Brusdar Graterol's continuing absence (no word on his ailing right shoulder), the Twins have some good things cookin' with arms in the minors.

    On the hitting side, we covered Trevor Larnach last week and he keeps mashing (10-for-27 last week), but one other guy we need to be paying attention to is Brent Rooker. The 24-year-old shook off his own slow start at Triple-A and has been on a tear since returning from the IL at the beginning of June, batting .433 with 11 RBIs through nine games. Perhaps most importantly, he has an 11-to-8 K/BB ratio during that span, after striking out 43 times with only six walks through his first 97 plate appearances.

    Rooker has a rep as a smart hitter who handles adversity and makes adjustments. We're seeing that once again, and now he has nowhere else to graduate to but the majors.


    Smooth sailing ahead. The Twins have gone a combined 5-1 against Seattle and Kansas City on the road, and now they'll welcome both last-place clubs to Target Field for three games apiece. It'd be disappointing (though hardly panic-inducing) to see Minnesota win fewer than four this next week.

    TUESDAY, 6/11: MARINERS @ TWINS – RHP Mike Leake v. LHP Martin Perez
    WEDNESDAY, 6/12: MARINERS @ TWINS – LHP Tommy Milone v. RHP Jose Berrios
    THURSDAY, 6/13: MARINERS @ TWINS – LHP Marco Gonzales v. RHP Michael Pineda
    FRIDAY, 6/14: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brad Keller v. RHP Kyle Gibson
    SATURDAY, 6/15: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Glenn Sparkman v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    SUNDAY, 6/16: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Jakob Junis v. LHP Martin Perez

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Jun 09 2019 08:14 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  13. MIN 12, DET 2: No Motown Blues for the Minnesota Twins

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 70.7% strikes (70 of 99 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

    Home Runs: Cruz (11), Sano (6), Buxton (8), Rosario (19)
    Multi-Hit Games: Cruz (3-for-6, HR), Rosario (3-for-6, HR), Cron (2-for-5, 2B), Sano (2-for-5, HR), Adrianza (2-for-3, 2B, BB), Buxton (2-for-5, HR)

    WPA of +0.1: Cruz .125, Garver .111
    WPA of -0.1: None
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Scoring Comes Early
    Early run support was one of the FSN broadcast keys to victory and Minnesota did exactly that. Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver jumped on Detroit pitcher Ryan Carpenter before most fans had time to find their seats. A single from Polanco and a double from Garver scored the Twins first run on only the fourth pitch of the game. The first inning scoring did not stop there.

    With Garver standing on second and nobody out, Nelson Cruz stepped into the box and quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole. He battled back to even the count at 2-2 before blasting a high fastball over the left field wall, giving Minnesota a 3-0 lead and marking the fourth consecutive game in which Nelson Cruz has homered.

    The fourth inning would also prove to be advantageous for Minnesota. Miguel Sano led off the inning with a solo blast to right center. Adrianza followed with a single, then advanced to third when Buxton singled through a wide-open shifted infield. The table was set for Polanco, with runners on the corners and nobody out. Polanco lifted a sacrifice fly, scoring Adrianza. Mitch Garver walked, moving Buxton into scoring position. Now it was time for Eddie Rosario to join the fun and get his first knock of the series and he did exactly that, singling to center field and scoring Buxton.

    The RBI single from Rosario was the end of the line for the Detroit starter. Our old pal Austin Adams was next in line to be abused by the red hot Minnesota offense. With two runners in scoring position and two outs, C.J. Cron doubled off the wall in right field, scoring both runners and giving the Twins a five-run fourth inning. By the time the fourth inning was over, every starter in the Twins lineup had recorded a hit.

    The early offensive output should come as no surprise. Minnesota has entered the fifth inning with a lead 42 times and have trailed going into the fifth only 16 times. Another way of saying that is they have entered the fifth inning with a lead in 65% of their games. Minnesota has also crushed left-handed pitching to the tune of .300/.366/.506 and an .872 OPS, which makes them the best in the league when facing left-handed pitching.

    Let The Good Times Roll
    The Minnesota offense did not cool off after their early onslaught of runs. They added another run in the fifth, thanks to an RBI single from Nelson Cruz. In the sixth inning, Adrianza reached base for the third time, after being hit by a pitch. He would also cross home plate for the third time, following the two-run home run from Buxton - his eighth of the year. Eddie Rosario launched his 19th of the season with a solo blast in the seventh inning.

    The home runs from Buxton and Rosario were the 124th and 125th of the season for Minnesota, tying the franchise record for home runs before the All-Star break.

    Bold prediction: The 2019 Minnesota Twins will set a new franchise record for team home runs before the All-Star break. You can quote me on that.

    Signed, Sealed, Delivered
    Not even Stevie Wonder could stop Jake Odorizzi and the Minnesota Twins. The 12 runs scored by the offense would certainly be more than enough run support for the American League ERA leader, Jake Odorizzi.

    Jake turned in another quality start and bolstered his case for being the AL starter in the All-Star Game as well as the front-runner for the AL Cy Young. His final line was: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K. He lowered his season ERA to 1.91.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Game
    Tue vs. SEA, 7:10 pm CT (Perez-Leake)

    Last Game
    DET 9, MIN 3: Third Out Eludes Gibson, Eades Debuts

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    • Jun 09 2019 08:04 PM
    • by Andrew Gebo
  14. CLE 9, MIN 7: Bullpen Crumbles on Night Kimbrel Signs With Cubs

    Box Score
    Perez: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 60.9% strikes (56 of 92 pitches)
    Home Runs: Buxton (7), Cruz (8), Polanco (10)
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4, HR)
    WPA of +0.1: Buxton .191, Polanco .156
    WPA of -0.1: Sano -.137, Perez -.218, Parker -.500
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    The Twins held a 6-5 lead through six innings, but rain caused this game to be delayed more than an hour and a half. The Twins scratched across an insurance run once play resumed, but Blake Parker was ready to play his role in throwing gasoline on what was already a hot talking point across Twins Territory.

    I don’t know that you’ll find a Twins fan or baseball analyst who believes the Twins bullpen is fine as it’s currently constructed. So for Kimbrel to sign and Parker to give up three runs to blow the lead within a matter of hours is only going to increase the attention paid to that storyline.

    Parker gave up a two-run homer to Jordan Luplow and a solo shot to Roberto Perez. Just for good measure, Tyler Duffey gave up a solo homer to Francisco Lindor in the eighth.

    It’s worth mentioning that the Twins came into tonight 34-2 when holding a lead entering the seventh inning. Things like this haven’t happened all that often this year, it’s just that we’ve all been expecting doom for so long that it feels like they have.

    Perez Struggles Again
    Martin Perez entered this start having posted a 5.59 ERA over his previous four outings. His last time out against Tampa Bay was particularly ugly, as he gave up six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.

    Perez opened his evening by walking the leadoff man, Francisco Lindor, on four pitches. The Twins lineup was making noise again tonight, creating plenty of breathing room, but Perez wasn’t sharp once again tonight.

    There were a few bad-luck, seeing-eye singles mixed in, but Perez struggled to find the strike zone. When he did, he didn’t miss many bats. He threw only 60.9 percent of his pitches for strikes and got just four swinging strikes on his 92 pitches. That’s the fewest swings and misses he’s had in an outing this season, which is particularly striking because he had four appearances of fewer than four innings coming into tonight (he started the year in the bullpen, remember?).

    It was a bit of a sloppy game for the Twins. Perez and Jason Castro had some troubles, accounting for both a wild pitch and a passed ball. Also, Miguel Sano committed his second error of the season. Only two of the five runs Perez gave up were earned. Still, he was given a 5-1 lead at one point and could not seal the deal.

    Cleveland Pen Battles Through Trying Times
    This appeared to be a tough matchup for Cleveland from the get-go. Carlos Carrasco was placed in the IL due to a blood condition, resulting in the team being forced to go with a bullpen game.

    As if that wasn’t a challenge enough, I imagine the rain delay didn’t help things. They used seven pitchers tonight. Momentum isn’t something that can be quantified, but for Cleveland to win this game under these circumstances has to have injected some swagger into that clubhouse.

    The Good Stuff
    It wasn’t all bad. The Twins lineup was out there hitting bombas again. Byron Buxton absolutely obliterated an 0-2 pitch for a three-run homer.

    The lineup also combined to go 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position and five of the Twins’ run were scored with two outs.

    Trevor May made things interesting in the sixth, but he got out of it unscathed and struck out a pair of batters. He was averaging 96.1 mph with his four seamer tonight. He had been sitting at 94.8 mph with that pitch coming into this evening.

    But who am I kidding? You’re a Minnesota sports fan. You’re only here to cry in your beer (or coffee, depending on when you’re reading this) and lament about not being able to have nice things. That’s OK, we’re all here for you, lol.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Game
    Thu at CLE, 6:10 pm CT (Berrios-Bauer)

    Last Game
    CLE 5, MIN 2: Twins Can’t Figure Out Bieber, Lindor Lifts Cleveland

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    • Jun 06 2019 05:49 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  15. Week in Review: Test Passed in Tampa

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/27 through Sun, 6/2


    Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 40-18)

    Run Differential Last Week: -2 (Overall: +109)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (11.5 GA)

    Willians Watch: 4-for-17 last week (Season AVG: .260)

    Before we get started, a few roster updates:
    • On Tuesday, Minnesota placed Michael Pineda on the Injured List with right knee tendinitis and called up Devin Smeltzer from Triple-A. You can read about his stunning debut in the Highlights section below. It sounds like the plan is for Smeltzer to start again on Tuesday in Cleveland, although the Twins could get by with four starters until next weekend, when Pineda's eligible to return.
    • Zack Littell was optioned back to Triple-A on Sunday to make room for Mitch Garver, who surpassed all expectations with a speedy return from his ankle sprain suffered on May 14th and batted leadoff in his first game back.
    • The Twins sent Luis Arraez back to the minors, making room for Nelson Cruz to return on Tuesday after a two-game rehab stint at Fort Myers.

    In February, when the Twins signed Jorge Polanco to a contract extension that can keep him in Minnesota through 2025 at controlled costs, it looked like a savvy move to lock up a quality regular for the long haul. Now, he's leading the best team in baseball as an MVP candidate at age 25.

    Polanco missed Thursday's game with a bout of illness (and the Twins incidentally got routed), but showed no signs of being under the weather while on the field. In five games, he went 8-for-22 with three doubles and four RBIs. It's not just the gaudy overall offensive numbers – a league-leading .338 average and the best OPS among MLB shortstops at .989 – that impress me so about Polanco. It's the smaller things he's bringing to the table, like coming through with sac flies and squeeze bunts in big spots, and showing much more sharpness defensively. He continually solidifies himself as a championship building block.

    Fellow 25-year-old Byron Buxton is doing the same. His outstanding week (6-for-16 with two homers, a triple and six RBIs) was highlighted by perhaps his best game of the season on Sunday. The finale in Tampa saw Buxton at his most dynamic, impacting and disrupting in so many different ways. He hit, collecting a single and a double in four at-bats. He ran wild, moving from first-to-third on a pickoff attempt gone awry in the fifth, then scoring easily on a three-foot bunt by Polanco. And in center field, he did this:

    When he racked up 18 doubles and just one home run in his first 38 games, it stood to reason that Buxton's ratio would balance out a little as more of his drives started landing over the fence. That's exactly what's happened; since May 15th, he has five homers and just two doubles in 17 games. It all adds up to a hefty .517 slugging percentage for Buck, who entered this season with a .387 career mark.

    Ehire Adrianza didn't play a ton last week, collecting four hits in his nine plate appearances, but I feel his extended run of offensive production is worth calling out. It isn't as noticeable since he's not a regular, and is always relegated to the bottom of the lineup, but Adrianza has been on fire the past several weeks. Since seeing his batting average drop to .120 after a stretch of 22 hitless plate appearances in early May, the utilityman has batted .432 with a 1191 OPS in his last 16 games. Toss in the turnaround of Marwin Gonzalez, who's batting .302 since the start of May, and the Twins have turned two early laggards into assets. This helps explain why the offense has kept chugging merrily along in the absence of Garver and Cruz.

    Also on cruise control is Jake Odorizzi, who rattled off six more scoreless innings on Sunday in his finest effort yet. It's now customary for the right-hander to blank his opponents – he's allowed zero runs in six of his past seven starts – but he was especially transcendent against a tough Rays offense on the road. Odorizzi piled up whiffs with a high-octane fastball, touching 95 as late as the sixth inning. In six scoreless innings, he struck out nine and induced 21 swinging strikes (nearly all with the heater). Pure dominance.

    Through 12 starts, Odorizzi has eight wins and an AL-best 1.96 ERA. He's not just getting fat off easy opponents, either; he's beaten Houston (twice), the Yankees in New York, and now the Rays in Tampa. As we head into June, he is the Cy Young frontrunner.

    Somehow, Odorizzi's gem on Sunday wasn't the rotation's most memorable moment from last week. That'd have to be Smeltzer's out-of-nowhere dazzling debut on Tuesday. Minnesota's move to place Pineda on the IL and insert the 23-year-old left-hander, who started catching our attention early this year, was unexpected but worked out brilliantly.

    Smeltzer was masterful, pounding the zone with an incredible 77% strikes and notching seven Ks over six shutout frames. Milwaukee's lineup was totally out of sorts. I can't say for sure if there was an element of gamesmanship involved with the Twins announcing this move so abruptly, but it'd fit their M.O., and the lack of advance scouting on Smeltzer certainly did seem to show.

    More flexing from a front office that managed to acquire Smeltzer from the Dodgers as a toss-in for two months of Brian Dozier last summer.


    After showing remarkable consistency through his first eight starts, Martin Perez finally ran into his first dud on Thursday, when the Rays jumped all over him for six runs in a third inning he failed to escape. The left-hander has a history of shaky control, and it's reared its head of late as he's walked 10 hitters over 14 1/3 innings in his past three starts. The Rays were just not biting on his inside cutters, disarming him of what's been a hugely reliable weapon up to this point.

    Perez's replacement in the game fared no better. Littell, making his second appearance for the Twins this year, was plastered for eight runs on 10 hits, putting the game completely out of reach, but to his credit he gave the team some length by throwing 4 1/3 innings. This preserved the bullpen for tighter contests that followed.

    We've seen several other pitchers endure complete drubbings shortly after arriving from Triple-A (Chase De Jong, Andrew Vasquez, Austin Adams). Like those before him, Littell was sent out in short order. But I do think we'll see him again sooner rather than later, because he's got a much better chance than the others of becoming a true bullpen asset. I wonder if the Twins will start letting him develop in that capacity at Rochester.

    All in all, it wasn't an encouraging week for the Minnesota bullpen. A rare lapse from Taylor Rogers cost the Twins in Monday's loss to Milwaukee, with Orlando Arcia's two-run bomb against him proving decisive. Rogers oddly gave up another long home run the following night, but bounced back with two excellent outings in Tampa.

    Matt Magill struggled badly on Sunday, coughing up five runs (four earned) while recording just two outs as the Rays surged back from a large deficit. Blake Parker gave up four runs and two homers in three appearances, after allowing just two runs and one homer total in the first eight weeks. Trevor May pitched once all week but continued to have a hard time throwing strikes.


    On Monday, the 2019 MLB Draft will get underway. The Twins will select 13th overall. You can learn about names that may be available to them in the first round – as well as all the other top talent in this year's class (including a player at No. 1 who "could be one of the best prospects to enter the draft in the last five years") in the excellent rankings Andrew Thares has put together here at Twins Daily:
    We'll have the most comprehensive Twins draft coverage anywhere, so make sure to check in frequently on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as Minnesota adds a fresh wave of prospects to the system.

    Of course, the passing of the draft also means it's open season on Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel. Will the Twins strike on either pitcher as their rotation and bullpen show signs of wobbling?


    While Minnesota's top two position-player prospects – Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff – have yet to really hit their strides offensively, the team's first-round draft pick from a year ago is heating up. It strangely took Trevor Larnach more than a month to hit his first home run, but he enjoyed a blistering May, slashing .371/.456/.619 with 10 doubles and four bombs. He ended the month with a bang, going 9-for-13 with six RBIs in his final three games, and is off to a nice start in June after launching his fifth home run of the season on Sunday.

    Over the weekend, we handed out our monthly Twins Daily minor-league awards.
    • Minor League Hitter of the Month: Lewin Diaz. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.3 million in 2013, Diaz oozed power potential with his big, projectable frame. But through his first five years as a pro, the on-field pop just never emerged, and he faded from prospect relevance. His monster month of May (.317/.351/.702 with 10 home runs in 26 games) puts him back squarely on the map as a potential late bloomer.
    • Minor League Pitcher of the Month: Jordan Balazovic. With Brusdar Graterol sidelined by a shoulder problem, Balazovic is the arm to watch in Minnesota's system right now. After moving up from Cedar Rapids to Fort Myers at the beginning of May, he posted a 2.13 ERA and 35-to-5 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings, holding opponents to a .140/.211/.163 line. He could join Graterol as another 20-year-old in the Pensacola rotation before summer's end.

    The Twins and Indians haven't faced one another since the first series of the season. Things have... changed a bit since then:

    The Twins roll into Progressive Field as prohibitive division favorites, riding high after an invigorating series win, and they have a chance to further crush Cleveland's dwindling hopes. The Indians are limping into this one below .500 after dropping three of four against a White Sox team the Twins thoroughly dismantled last weekend. It's early June, but Cleveland has gotta be in all-out desperation mode. They cannot afford to lose this series.

    TUESDAY, 6/4: TWINS @ INDIANS – LHP Devin Smeltzer v. RHP Shane Bieber
    WEDNESDAY, 6/5: TWINS @ INDIANS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Carlos Carrasco
    THURSDAY, 6/6: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Trevor Bauer
    FRIDAY, 6/7: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP Matthew Boyd
    SATURDAY, 6/8: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. TBD
    SUNDAY, 6/9: TWINS @ TIGERS – TBD v. LHP Ryan Carpenter

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Jun 03 2019 08:25 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  16. MIN 9, TB 7: Odorizzi Shines In Tampa Return

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 68.5% strikes (74 of 108 pitches)
    Home Runs: Schoop (11)
    Multi-Hit Games: Sano (3-for-3, 2 2B, BB), Polanco (2-for-4), Cron (2-for-4, 2B), Buxton (2-for-4, 2B)
    WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi .220, Buxton .134, Sano .133, Garver .119
    WPA of -0.1: Harper -.116
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Quality Start for Odorizzi
    Odorizzi looked great today even though his pitch count was a bit high. He ended up with six strong innings and averaged 18 pitches per inning for a total of 108 pitches. For reference, an average of 15 or less per inning is ideal. This was his third start with at least nine strikeouts this season.

    Gettin’ Saucy
    Mitch Garver, aka Garv Sauce, was back in the lineup today for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain on May 14. He got an early test on his sprained ankle when he led off the game with a soft ground ball hit to the infield. Garver appeared to be fully recovered as he sprinted down the line and was safe thanks to an error by the third baseman.

    We didn’t have to wait very long for Mitch to impact the game with his bat the way he was doing so consistently before the injury. In his second at-bat there were runners on second and third with one out. Mitch laced an RBI single to left, scoring Miguel Sano from third. Hitting the ball is generally a good thing but in this case the ball was too hard and Byron Buxton was unable to score. Luckily for the Twins, they had the league's best hitter in Jorge Polanco up next and he drove in Buxton with a sac fly, giving the Twins an early 2-0 lead.

    26 and Counting
    Entering today’s contest, the Twins had set a franchise record for 25 consecutive games scoring at least three runs. In the fourth inning they made it 26 consecutive games. Sano hit a double to left field scoring Marwin Gonzalez. It could have been a better inning had Sano not been thrown out trying to advance to third.

    Feeling Like a Million Bux
    Byron Buxton continues to emerge as the superstar he was projected to be while rising through the minor league system. His elite defense and improved hitting impacted the game early on.

    In the third inning he hit an opposite field double which advanced Sano to third and set the table for Garver and Polanco to drive in the first two runs of the game. In the bottom of the same inning he once again reminded us how elite he is in center field — not that any of us needed reminding, however.

    With a runner on first and one out in the inning Buxton made a spectacular catch sprinting full speed and crashing into the wall. He quickly spun around and fired a 97 mph strike the length of a football field to double up the runner at first and end the inning.

    Scoring Runs is Contagious
    The top of the fifth inning was yet another strong inning for the Twins offense. Buxton got it started when he singled, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error from the Rays first baseman. He later scored on a squeeze bunt from Polanco giving the Twins a 3-0 lead.

    The Twins would then load up the bases when Garver was hit by a pitch and Rosario drew a walk. There were ducks on the pond when C.J. Cron stepped up to hit with the bases loaded and two outs. Cron got a pitch to hit and did just that when he roped a bases-clearing double to left field and broke the game open, giving the Twins a 7-0 lead.

    Jonathan Schoop provided two very key insurance runs in the eight when he blasted a two-out, two-run home run to left field giving the Twins a 9-5 lead.

    Bullpen Struggles
    The game was turned over to the bullpen with a seven run lead but that changed quickly. Matt Magill loaded the bases and the Rays went on to score five runs in the seventh. They tacked on another two runs in the eight with a two-run home run off Blake Parker.

    Postgame With Garver

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Game
    Tue at CLE, 6:10 pm CT (Smeltzer-Bieber)

    Last Game
    MIN 6, TB 2: Marwin Carries May Success Into June, Helps Lead Twins Over Rays

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    • Jun 02 2019 06:16 PM
    • by Andrew Gebo
  17. MIN 6, TB 2: Marwin Carries May Success Into June, Helps Lead Twins Over Rays

    Box Score
    Gibson: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 67.0% strikes (59 of 88 pitches)
    Home Runs: Gonzalez (6), Buxton (6)
    Multi-Hit Games: Castro (3-for-4, 2B), Gonzalez (2-for-5, 2B, HR), Buxton (2-for-3, HR, BB), Rosario (2-for-4, BB)
    WPA of +0.1: Gonzalez .168, Gibson .151, Polanco .125, Castro .107
    WPA of -0.1: None
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Gonzalez, who hit .299/.370/.443 (.814 OPS) in May, had a go-ahead RBI double and a solo home run today. He also had a flyout that had an exit velocity of 99 mph and traveled 379 feet. Marwin accounted for three of the five longest balls hit in today’s game, those three balls traveling a combined 1,201 feet.

    Gonzalez has played a different position each game of this series so far. He’s moved across the diamond, going from third base Thursday to shortstop last night to first base this afternoon. He contributed there, as well, making a few nice scoops and stretches.

    The Twins’ bullpen, subject of constant nitpickery, was also solid today. That unit combined to cover the final four innings of this game, and the only run they surrendered was on a 67.4 mph Ryne Harper curveball below the zone that Christian Arroyo somehow muscled out for his first homer of the year.

    Tampa Bay starter Yonny Chirinos was nasty early on, but the Twins seemed to figure him out as the game progressed. They were having a tough time with Chirinos’ slider in particular, but he left one up on an 0-2 count to Byron Buxton in the fourth inning that resulted in an RBI single. Buxton also hit a solo homer with two strikes off reliever Hunter Wood in the sixth inning.

    Chirinos ended up with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings and got 19 swinging strikes on his 91 pitches. Even with that nastiness, the Twins lineup was able to get nine hits off him.

    Kyle Gibson had basically the opposite experience. He wasn’t overpowering Tampa Bay, but he managed to make pitches when he really needed to.

    After the Twins took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third inning, it was starting to feel like Gibson might unravel in the bottom of that frame. He labored through, requiring 28 pitches to get through it, but he managed to hold the Rays off the board and stranded the bases loaded.

    Gibson followed that grind of an inning up with a quick 1-2-3 fourth inning that required just 10 pitches. He ran into some more trouble in the fifth, but pitched around a leadoff single. In his five innings, the Rays were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position against Gibson and stranded seven runners on base. The only run he gave up was unearned.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Game
    Sun at TB, 12:10 pm CT (Odorizzi-TBD)

    Last Game
    MIN 5, TB 3: Twins Rally, Top Rays Late

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    • Jun 01 2019 05:50 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  18. Twins' Offense Having a Barrel of Fun

    Barrel of Fun
    Entering play on Tuesday, Minnesota ranks as the top team when it comes to barreling up the ball. Minnesota has barreled up the ball on 2.0 % of pitches. Atlanta is Minnesota’s closest competition in the barrel department with a 1.7% total. The big-league average is 1.35%. No other AL Central teams rank in the top 15 and Cleveland has the fifth worst total in all of baseball.
    [attachment=12554:Barrels by Club.png]
    Catcher Power
    It’s no secret that Minnesota’s catchers have been producing at quite the rate to start the year. Neither Jason Castro or Mitch Garver qualify for the league leader in Barrel % but they are both near the top on the Twins leaderboard. When it comes to Barrel %, Castro’s 26.7% mark is nearly 10% higher than the second place Twins player, Nelson Cruz. Garver is tied with C.J. Cron for third on the team with a 16.9% Barrel %.

    Barreling up the ball also shows up in some of the catcher’s other StatCast data. Castro and Garver only trail Cruz when it comes to average exit velocity. Castro’s 92.9 exit velocity ranks as the 18th best in all of baseball. Garver is 0.9 mph behind Castro which is good for 41st overall. Also, Castro only trails the recently activated Miguel Sano in Hard Hit %.

    Team Effort
    Minnesota’s catchers have been strong, but other players have also helped the team’s early offensive output. Cruz has been a prolific power hitter for most of the last decade and that trend has continued in a Twins uniform. He has the seventh best exit velocity in all of baseball and he has the AL’s fifth best average. Cruz’s 17.2 Barrel % is in the top 5% of the league and he ranks in the top 2% when it comes to xwOBAcon.

    CJ Cron has also been a pleasant surprise in the Twins line-up. Cron ranks in the top 15 in barrels per plate appearance, which places him in the top 7% of the league in Barrel %. Since both catchers don’t qualify currently, Cron only trails Cruz on the team’s Barrel % leaderboard.

    Byron Buxton is another player getting a lot of attention and Parker did a great job of analyzing his swing yesterday. From 2016-2018, Buxton’s exit velocity averaged near 85 mph. This season he has increased to 91.5 mph. Last year, his hard hit % was 27.0 and this year he has jumped to 42.5. One of Buxton’s biggest jumps is in Barrel %. He was at a very low 1.6% and he has improved to 9.4% this season.

    Overall, Minnesota ranks in the top 1% in the league in relation to Barrel %, XSLG, XWOBA. They rank in the top 3% in xWOBAcon and WOBA. Also, the team ranks in the top 7% in WOBAcon.

    Can the Twins keep up this pace? How will more Miguel Sano impact the numbers? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • May 22 2019 06:14 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  19. Let’s Talk About Byron Buxton’s Swing

    This spring, as Buxton strolled into camp with a new swing, he proudly proclaimed -- channeling his inner Frank Sinatra -- that he did it his way.

    “It’s my swing, my thought process, my thinking, everything with my swing now is me,” he told Dan Hayes of The Athletic. “I didn’t go to no hitting coach, I didn’t go work out with nobody, I worked out by myself, I hit by myself and that’s where it’s going to stay.”

    Whether Buxton made all the changes alone, applied some direction from James Rowson and other coaches on staff, had secretly hired a team of tech nerds to design an algorithm that would lead to the world’s most optimal mechanics, or has a magic hitting cow that whispers tips from outside the cage, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Buxton has truly unlocked something.

    There’s undoubtedly been an ebb and flow surrounding Byron Buxton and whether he has FOUND IT offensively dating back to the end of 2016 when he hit 9 home runs in September after returning with a massive leg kick in his swing.

    (That’s good!)

    But, while still using the leg kick, he lost whatever IT was in early 2017.

    (That’s bad.)

    But then he found IT again later that season after much soul-searching and Molitor prodding to ditch the leg kick.

    (That’s good.)

    Then it turns out he broke a big toe, hurt his wrist and everything else in 2018 and couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat.

    (Can I go now?)

    Based on that track record, proclaiming that he has FOUND IT is going to be met with skepticism. While that is a natural human emotion, what follows is granular swing biomechanics that should confirm that Byron Buxton has indeed FOUND IT again -- and possibly for good this time.

    As previously mentioned, these changes are not as obvious as his leg kick-no leg kick on again/off-again Ross-and-Rachel relationship. That said, there are several adaptations in Buxton’s swing that stand out as significant drivers for his early season statistical success.

    The first driver was creating a stretch point in his swing prior to the launch.

    As noted this spring, Buxton adjusted his mechanics to create separation from his top half and lower half. Previously Buxton would step and swing in one motion. It was a constant drift forward which denied him time to recognize a pitch as well as build tension. Now, when he steps forward, his hands go back and hold for a nanosecond. This creates resistance. This move helps reduce slack in his midsection, giving him a rubber band effect between his hands and his front leg. There’s stored tension in his abdomen at his launch point that helps connect the energy in his lower and upper half.

    Look at Buxton at the launch point last year versus this year:

    Not long after I posted this video in March, the Star Tribune’s Lavelle Neal scoffed at me in a Fort Myers bar. There’s no way that does much of anything he told me. Beside, he said, you can’t even see much of a difference. It’s hard to argue with the Mayor of Fort Myers but I did my best explaining why that was important.

    True, this may seem like a minor change but the ability to generate power is contingent on utilizing all the muscles. Buxton added mass this offseason but that alone won’t create pop if the swing is not optimized. This year, by gaining that tension point, he has applied more force which has led to an increase in his exit velocity from 86.8 to 92.4. In his overall pool of batted balls, in 2018, 29 percent of his balls in play were hit 95+ mph compared to 46 percent so far this year.

    The second driver relates to his ability to lift the ball.

    In 2018 Buxton had an average launch angle of 10.7 degrees. With a below average launch angle, it is no surprise that he maintained a ground ball rate of 49 percent. Since the beginning of his major league career, Buxton has had a ground ball rate of over 40 percent each season. If he were to take steps forward in his career and put up numbers that were more super unicorn of him, he would need to hit the ball hard in the air.

    So far this year, he has had a ground ball rate of under 30 percent.

    Over the last few years, as more players have tried to change their swings to join the fly ball revolution, the common refrain from ball guy announcers is that those players are DROPPING THEIR BACK SHOULDERS and using LAUNCH ANGLE SWINGS. To be sure, there’s no such thing as a LAUNCH ANGLE SWING at least no more than there is a VELOCITY THROW for pitcher. So what can players do to increase their aerial assault without being accused of swinging for the fences?

    One of the biggest factors in creating more elevation for Buxton has been his ability to keep from rolling his top hand right after contact.

    If you watch his 2018 swing, you will often see patterns that resemble a tennis swing that imparts top spin on the ball as his wrists prematurely roll over. Comparatively this year’s swing he is over exaggerating the follow through to keep his wrists from breaking -- Buxton gets extension in his swing as he moves the bat forward at the pitcher rather than pulling around immediately.


    This is another angle showing how well he keeps from rolling:


    The results have been that Buxton has hit more balls in the air this year (17 degree launch angle coupled with just a 26 percent ground ball rate).

    [attachment=12535:Buxton Grounders.png]

    There’s another driver that has also allowed Buxton to remain flexible in his swing and that is creating space.

    [attachment=12534:Buxton Front Arm.png]

    In 2018 Buxton demonstrated the tendency to keep his lead arm close to his chest at contact, leaving little space and, with it, lost some adjustability. Pitchers would frequently blow Buxton up with velocity on the inner third with the center fielder unable to get the barrel to the part of the zone once he started his swing. However, if you start with spacing, hitters are more able to adapt to pitches in other areas of the zone. Now, rotating his shoulders and arms as one big triangle, Buxton has spacing between his chest. This provides a better connected swing that goes beyond just arms and hands, an ability to adjust as well as allows the barrel to stay on plane longer, according to the Twins’ minor league hitting coordinator Pete Fatse.


    In summation, Buxton is creating more power by creating a stretch point and harnessing tension in his midsection. He’s generating more line drives and fly balls but extending his swing through the contact point and not rolling over. And last, he’s added spacing in his swing that gives him some adjustability to conquer either side of the plate.

    Buxton’s career has been a strange one. He is supremely talented but has not established a long enough stretch of performing at the elite level to match his prospect status. If he can stay healthy and avoid crashing into too many walls or teammates, Byron Buxton of 2019 could finally live up to everyone’s expectation.

    • May 20 2019 06:18 AM
    • by Parker Hageman
  20. Week in Review: Offensive Onslaught

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/13 through Sun, 5/19


    Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 30-16)

    Run Differential Last Week: +23 (Overall: +74)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (4.5 GA)

    Willians Watch: 3-for-18 last week (Season AVG: .278)

    Quite a few roster moves to recap from the past week, so here's a rundown:
    • The Twins wanted to keep Tyler Duffey around as an extra reliever, so at the beginning of the week they optioned Jake Cave and recalled him.
    • Mitch Garver made a game-saving play on Tuesday night, blocking the plate beautifully to prevent Shohei Ohtani from scoring with the tying run, but the collision at home took a toll. Luckily, it sounds like Garver and the Twins dodged a bullet – his scary-looking leg injury was diagnosed as a high ankle sprain instead of something more serious – but he was placed on IL and will miss a few weeks at least.
    • Called up to take his place was Miguel Sano, who made his season debut on Thursday night in Seattle and started all four games against the Mariners.
    • Meanwhile, Trevor Hildenberger finally ran out of chances. After allowing multiple runs for the sixth time in eight appearances on Wednesday, nearly costing the Twins a game they should have comfortably won, he was demoted to Rochester. Taking his place is right-hander Austin Adams, a minor-league signing from the winter who'd posted a 28-to-6 K/BB ratio in Triple-A while flinging mid-90s heat.
    • To make room on the 40-man roster, Minnesota designated Addison Reed for assignment. While rehabbing in the minors, Reed had continued to look terrible, so the Twins had little choice but to pull the plug on their free agent bust and eat his remaining salary. It's a real shame because the team could really use Reed at some semblance of his full capacity right now.
    • With Nelson Cruz's wrist healing more slowly than expected, the Twins elected to place him on IL and called up infielder Luis Arraez.
    Whew. Okay, on to dissecting another highly successful week for your Minnesota Twins:


    I don't even know where to start. I truly don't. The Twins have played great baseball all season but they took it to another level against the Mariners, with a comprehensive clobbering that featured contributions from just about everyone. No Garver? No Cruz? No problem. Minnesota still blew up for 40 runs on 11 homers over four games at T-Mobile Field, in one of the most astounding offensive series I've ever seen from a Twins team.

    C.J. Cron was among those leading the way. After a quiet series against the Angels at Target Field (1-for-10), he went wild in Seattle, where he was 8-for-18 with three home runs and six RBIs in four games. Not long ago, Cron was one of the few laggards in this lineup, entering May with an OPS barely north of .700, but he's raised that mark by 150 points with a prodigious power outburst this month.

    Also aiding in the bash-fest was Byron Buxton, who went 7-for-26 on the week with three bombs, including a grand slam on Saturday night. The #9 hitter drove in 11 runs over the course of seven games. His presence at the bottom of Minnesota's order is one major element in its intimidation factor.

    There's just nowhere for opposing pitchers to find cover from the onslaught. Marwin Gonzalez was a reliable soft spot early on, but he's completely turned it around in May, where he's slashing .355/.429/.500. Last week, Gonzalez went 8-for-23 (.348) while playing four different positions. Jason Castro launched two more homers and has now gone deep in five of his eight May starts. Jonathan Schoop sent two over the fence on Saturday night and is rocking an .823 OPS overall. Eddie Rosario has slowed down his feverish HR pace a bit, but is back in rake-mode nonetheless, going 10-for-26 over the past week.

    And now, the Twins have Sano again. He tallied a pair of doubles in his season debut on Thursday, then picked up his first home run on Saturday night. It's far too soon to say the slugger is "back" – he struck out eight times with one walk against the M's, and had a few very ugly ABs – but with almost everyone else on the offense clicking, the Twins can afford to be patient.


    It was, quietly, a less stellar week for the rotation, with a few starters beginning slipping up a bit. Most notable among that group is Jose Berrios, who coughed up five runs on 12 hits against the Angels on Monday, and then couldn't get through five frames in Minnesota's blowout over the M's on Saturday. I'm not too worried yet; he's still throwing strikes and was rattling off qualities starts before this rough patch.

    Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson were unspectacular, though far from terrible. Overall, Twins starters posted a 5.05 ERA over the course of the week, and, well, a couple things:

    1. It says a lot about the relative quality of this group that we can view their week as a noticeable negative. Last year Twins starters had a 4.50 ERA for the season.

    2. Minnesota still went 5-2 even with the lack of standout work from starters. This team was built to win games on the strength of its offense and that's just what they did.

    Pretty much the only position player not to join the hitting parade was Willians Astudillo. He went 3-for-18 in five games, extending a slump that's seen him bat .222 in 67 PA since his huge first three games of the season. This visual shared by Ted does a good job illustrating the core problem plaguing La Tortuga at the plate – he's playing right into the hands of opposing pitchers:

    I love his aggressiveness as a general trait, but Astudillo has gotta start finding some better pitches to hit. He's too often going after offerings that are nearly impossible to drive, and as a result his hard-hit percentage is (by far) the lowest among Twins hitters at 22.9%.


    It's pretty easy to hide bullpen question marks when you're launching six home runs and taking 10-run leads after a few innings, but that won't keep happening forever. Right now, the Twins' relief corps is crowded with minor-league journeymen. Ryne Harper, Mike Morin, Matt Magill and the newly promoted Adams all came to Minnesota on non-guaranteed contracts.

    To their credit, these guys have all pitched pretty well – especially Harper, who continues to confound MLB hitters with his slow, bending curveballs. Duffey is another guy who looked like an also-ran at the outset of the season but is making his case as an asset. With a pumped-up fastball in the mid-90s, he's been nasty at times, though the long ball proneness remains troubling.

    As well as these relievers are throwing, the bullpen still has the feel of a ticking time bomb. The absence of Hildenberger, who was an essential fireman in April, will be felt, and sadly it doesn't look likely he'll be back soon. In his first appearance at Triple-A on Friday, he coughed up four runs in one inning, so there are clearly some serious issues to work through. Fernando Romero is pitching in Rochester alongside Hildenberger, and hasn't been very sharp in his three appearances since heading back down.

    The indefinite absence of those two, along with the release of Reed, removes three key pieces from Minnesota's planned late-inning mix. It's just really hard to imagine the Twins can get by filling that void with unestablished minor-league vets all summer long, even if it's been working out to this point. The question is whether they'll be proactive in addressing the issue, or wait until leaks start to spring.


    You've gotta feel for Nick Gordon. This is a huge year for him as he seeks to rebound from a brutal 2018 campaign that tanked his stock. He missed the first month due to a stomach issue, then came back at the start of May and raked over eight games, batting .353 with an .889 OPS, but last week he found himself back on IL with a left adductor strain. Hopefully he can make it back soon and continue his redemption tour.

    Meanwhile, it was an interesting week for Minnesota's #1 prospect. On Thursday, Royce Lewis lined a drive off the top of the wall in a game against Bradenton, and chided himself by pulling into second base with a few push-ups. The Marauders were not too pleased. They threw at him in his next AB, and multiple ejections followed:

    A few things stand out to be me in this footage. I'm very impressed by how the umpire handled it, standing tough as Bradenton's manager berated him with an embarrassing temper tantrum. I'm also impressed by how Lewis composed himself, standing quietly in the batter's box throughout the ordeal, waiting for his next pitch. Impressed, but not surprised. Lewis is one of the highest-character guys you'll come across on a ball field, which is why it's so bizarre to me that anyone would perceive his playful antics as anything malicious.

    Anyway, Royce came out the next night and belted his first home run of the season in his first AB:

    The 19-year-old shortstop is still slashing just .236/.311/.342 overall, but he's picking it up after a slow start.

    His teammate Jordan Balazovic, has no such slow start to shake off. The right-hander was masterful in four starts at Cedar Rapids before moving up to Fort Myers, where he has been annihilating the competition. In two starts last week (Monday and Sunday) he struck out 20 batters over 10 innings, pushing his K/BB ratio to 30-to-4 in 17 innings with the Miracle.

    In our preseason Twins prospect rankings, I noted that "Balazovic was an honorable mention for us, failing to make our Top 20 cut, but I'm wondering if that'll look silly a year from now." Turns out it only took about six weeks. From my view, he's currently the organization's second-best pitching prospect behind Brusdar Graterol, who has a 1.93 ERA through nine starts at Double-A.


    The Twins are 5-2 in their current run against AL West opponents, and they'll look to finish strong with another three-gamer against the Angels, this time in Anaheim. (More late night baseball for ya!) After a well-deserved day off on Thursday, Minnesota returns home to face the White Sox for the first time this year. The pitching matchups for that series look quite tantalizing on paper.

    MONDAY, 5/20: TWINS @ ANGELS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. TBD
    TUESDAY, 5/21: TWINS @ ANGELS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Trevor Cahill
    WEDNESDAY, 5/22: TWINS @ ANGELS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Matt Harvey
    FRIDAY, 5/24: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Reynaldo Lopez v. RHP Jose Berrios
    SATURDAY, 5/25: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – LHP Manny Banuelos v. RHP Kyle Gibson
    SUNDAY, 5/26: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Dylan Covey v. RHP Jake Odorizzi

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • May 19 2019 06:20 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  21. SEA 7, MIN 4: Sweepless in Seattle

    Box Score
    Gibson: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 64.8% strikes (59 of 91 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (4-for-5)
    WPA of +0.1: Polanco .252
    WPA of -0.1: Cron -.168, May -.171, Gibson -.301
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Buxton Hitting 9th
    There is not much to gripe about when a team is playing this well. The early season success indicates Rocco Baldelli has pushed all the right buttons. However, having Buxton continue to hit ninth, especially in a matchup like today's, is perplexing.

    Slightly more than a quarter of the way through the season, Buxton is leading all ninth-place hitters in hits (39) and home runs (4). Byron has also been the Twins' second-best hitter when facing left-handed pitching. Going into the game, he was hitting .400/.444/.640 with a 1.089 OPS, second only to CJ Cron, who has crushed lefties to the tune of .393/.438/.964 and a 1.402 OPS.

    Those numbers alone are not indicative of a number nine hitter. It becomes even more perplexing when considering today’s lineup featured Ehire Adrianza, and Luis Arraez making his first big league start. Both of who were slotted higher than Buxton in the lineup. Byron has been enjoying the breakout season we have all been waiting for, so this very well could be a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    Buxton went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts, but also drew a walk and scored a run. There wasn't much offense to speak of for the Twins. Lead off man Jorge Polanco had four of the team's seven hits, all of which were singles.

    Trading Zeros Early
    While the Saturday night game featured a lot of early offense, Sunday proved to be quite the opposite. Neither team pushed a run across through the first three innings. The only real threat came in the top of the third, when the Twins had the bases loaded and two outs with C.J. Cron at the plate. He was unable to drive in a run, adding to the Twins struggles with two outs and runners in scoring position.

    Offense Wakes Up
    Finally, in the bottom of the fourth, the Mariners drew first blood. With back-to-back doubles from Edwin Encarnacion and Domingo Santana, they took an early 1-0 lead. Much like they have done all year, the Twins responded immediately.

    Following back-to-back walks to open the fifth, Polanco dropped down a beautiful bunt and a throwing error by the pitcher allowed a run to score, tying the game at 1-1. Like we’ve come to expect, the Twins did not stop there. Buxton scored on a weak chopper back to the pitcher off the bat of Jonathan Schoop and the Twins added a third run of the inning thanks to an error by the Mariners shortstop, J.P. Crawford. Perhaps most impressively, they scored three runs in one inning without hitting a home run.

    Much like they did to Berrios on Saturday, the Mariners feasted on Kyle Gibson in the fifth inning. After surrendering a leadoff double, it looked like Gibson was about to wiggle out of the jam with two quick outs. Mitch Haniger had other ideas, however, as he blasted a two-run home run to tie the game at three. The very next batter, Daniel Vogelbach, launched a solo home run, giving the Mariners a 4-3 lead.

    7th-Inning Stretch
    The Mariners were able to stretch their lead to 7-3 in the bottom of the seventh. Trevor May retired the first two batters he faced, but then appeared to lose control of the zone. He issued a pair of two-out walks, fell behind Edwin Encarnacion and gave up a three-run blast.

    Closing It Out
    The Twins offense showed a little life in the ninth. They managed to get two runners on and a one-out single from Polanco drove in a run. With Schoop representing the tying run, he flew out to deep right field and that was the ballgame.

    A sweep would have been ideal, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being upset with a 3-1 record in a four-game road series. The flight to Los Angeles will likely still be a happy one.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Three Games
    Mon at LAA, 9:07 pm CT (Odorizzi-Pena)
    Tue at LAA, 9:07 pm CT (Pineda-Cahill)
    Wed at LAA, 8:07 pm CT (Perez-Harvey)

    Last Game
    MIN 18, SEA 4: Sharks Eat Mariners

    • May 19 2019 06:13 PM
    • by Andrew Gebo
  22. MIN 18, SEA 4: Sharks Eat Mariners

    Box Score
    Berrios: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 66.7% strikes (70 of 105 pitches)
    Home Runs: Cron 2 (12), Buxton (4), Sano (1), Schoop 2 (8)
    Multi-Hit Games: Schoop (3-for-5, 2 HR), Gonzalez (3-for-5, 2B), Rosario (3-for-6), Cron 3-for-6, 2B, 2 HR), Buxton (2-for-4, HR)
    WPA of +0.1: Buxton .194, Cron .144
    WPA of -0.1: None
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    I’ve run out of superlatives, so let’s cut the fluff and get right to the numbers. The Twins won their fifth straight game and are 30-15. They scored 18 runs. They hit six more home runs. No team in baseball has scored more or hit more home runs than the Twins.

    This is reality, right? I’m not dreaming, am I? Somebody pinch me.

    At this point, there really is no need to get cute about trying to analyze the Twins’ season so far. Just look at the standings. Just look at the leader boards.

    I honestly don’t even know what to say at this point. This team is insane. They are grinding Seattle into dust so far this series, outscoring them 36-11 through three games. They’ve done all this without Nelson Cruz or Mitch Garver.

    C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop each hit two home runs, Byron Buxton hit a grand slam and Miguel Sano hit his first homer of the season. The sharks combined for 19 hits, 10 of which went for extra bases. They also went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position and drew six walks.

    Despite being spotted a 15-0 lead, Jose Berrios slogged through this start tonight. Berrios was removed from this game after giving up four runs in the fifth inning. He went only 4 2/3 innings, and it took him 105 pitches to get that far. But Berrios still threw a good amount of strikes, did not walk a batter and only gave up one extra-base hit.

    Of the 16 balls in play the Mariners hit off Berrios, eight went for hits. I wouldn’t expect a .500 BABIP to be sustainable. It was a weird start. Jose also had a near exact split between all four of his pitches. He threw 28 two seamers, 27 curveballs, 26 four seamers and 24 changeups, per Baseball Savant. That’s the most changeups he’s thrown in a start this year.

    Luis Arraez made his major league debut. He took over at shortstop, moved over to second base where he made a fine diving stop and went 1-for-2 with a double at the plate. Here’s a link to a spotlight I did on him yesterday at the site that includes some video.

    Austin Adams made his Twins debut and first MLB appearance since 2016. He topped out at 97.5 mph and his slider hit 89.5 mph. If you were wondering why Derek Falvey likes this guy, well there you go. Adams gave up one hit and struck out four batters in two scoreless innings.

    Postgame With Buxton and Sano

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Three Games
    Sun at SEA, 3:10 pm CT (Gibson-Kikuchi)
    Mon at LAA, 9:07 pm CT (TBD)
    Tue at LAA, 9:07 pm CT (TBD)

    Last Game
    MIN 7, SEA 1: Venezuelan Night in Seattle

    • May 19 2019 05:52 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  23. MIN 11, SEA 6: Total System Failure (for the Other Guys)

    Box Score
    Pineda: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 70.3% strikes (64 of 91 pitches)
    Home Runs: Castro (7), Kepler (9), Cron (10), Buxton (3)
    Multi-Hit Games: Cron (4-for-5, HR), Rosario (3-for-5), Polanco (2-for-5), Sano (2-for-5, 2 2B), Buxton (2-for-5, HR)
    WPA of +0.1: Castro .151, Cron .129
    WPA of -0.1: None
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Seattle was one of just two teams who have hit more home runs that the Twins so far this season. Both teams lived up to their early-season reputations. Jason Castro opened the scoring in the third inning with a solo home run. That gave him seven homers in his first 62 plate appearances on the year at that point. Insane.

    I pointed out on Twitter before the game how Max Kepler had been struggling and suggested it may be time to slide him down in the order. He had a .476 OPS in May entering this game. So, of course, he hit his ninth home run in the third inning, another solo shot.

    In the fourth inning, C.J. Cron hit what should be counted as something more than just a home run. He obliterated a fastball 453 feet into the upper deck. The exit velocity was 114.3 mph. This was already his 10th home run, and while so many others have been low laser beams, this one was a tall, majestic blast.

    Byron Buxton added another homer in the fourth, a three-run blast, for his third of the season. He’s been on fire, coming into this game with a .326/.392/.565 line so far in May.

    Pineda Pounds the Zone
    The Mariners hit three homers of their own. Michael Pineda did exactly what you’d want a starting pitcher to do when spotted an eight-run lead. He went into strike-throwing mode, but that aggressiveness led to a couple of those home runs. Solo home runs in blowouts don’t matter much, but bailing out what’s been a busy bullpen most definitely does.

    After the bats broke out that big lead, Pineda threw over 72% of his pitches for strikes. He ended up needing just 91 pitches to complete seven innings, giving a bit of a beat up bullpen a much-needed break. Pineda got 16 swinging strikes, struck out six batters, did not issue a walk and only got into one three-ball count.

    Sano’s Return
    Tonight marked the 2019 season debut for Miguel Sano. He hit seventh and played third base. C.J. Cron was the DH (still no Nelson Cruz) while Marwin Gonzalez handled first base, so they could have very easily worked things out to not have Miguel in the field. It seems like a good sign that they wanted him out there.

    Anyway, Sano got a slider right over the heart of the plate in his first at-bat but grounded out to third base. He did not miss in his second at-bat, he hit a fastball 103.4 mph to left field for a double. By the third time Sano came up, the Twins had already built a 9-1 lead. He hit into a bases-loaded, inning-ending ground out. Once again, it was a very good pitch to hit.

    Sano faced old friend Anthony Swarzak in his fourth at-bat. After fouling off the first two pitches, Sano struck out on a checked swing. All three pitches were sliders. He added a second double in his final at-bat of the night, driving in a run to pad the Twins’ lead.

    So the final line for Sano was 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, an RBI and a strikeout. He also looked good on his lone defensive chance of the evening.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Three Games
    Fri at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (Perez-Gonsales)
    Sat at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (Berrios-LeBlanc)
    Sun at SEA, 3:10 pm CT (Gibson-Kikuchi)

    Last Game
    MIN 8, LAA 7: Twins Squeak Out Victory

    • May 17 2019 04:16 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  24. Buxton a Star in Center and 9th

    First let’s look at that production. In his first 306 games with Minnesota, Byron owned a .230/.285/.387 slash line. He tallied just 44 doubles and while owning some seriously ugly strikeout numbers. Fast forward to 2019 and the Georgia native owns a .278/.336/.500 line across 39 games, has tallied an MLB leading 18 doubles, and has displayed an improved plate discipline.

    Those doubles are where things really get off the ground for Buxton. A slight increase to the hard-hit rate, some positive trends in chase and whiff rate, and a consistent level of contact, nothing really jumps off the page there. Buxton is still spraying the ball to all fields, going to right more often than most points during his career. Instead of making fielders get him out though, he’s avoiding them altogether.

    Launch angle is an often-mocked terminology within baseball but there’s nothing new school about it. Any object put into space from a position of zero movement will have a measurable launch angle. Baseball has simply sought out to find the optimal trajectory when determining flight baths on batted balls. There’s enough research now to suggest that, regardless of speed, putting the ball on the ground and beating it out or hoping for a professional to make an error is a bad plan of action. Having been tinkered with, and presented so many different directives, Buxton is now being himself in 2019 and it’s working.

    As an uber-talented and toolsy prospect the thought that he’d hit was always there. Hitting for power would come, and while he may sacrifice some on the average side, the bat-to-ball skills looked exceptional. Buxton is utilizing that swing to drive the baseball in 2019, as opposed to relying on his speed to carry his bat. A year ago, Buxton’s launch angle on 63 batted balls was just 12.7 degrees. Through 95 instances in 2019 he owns a launch angle of 20.3 degrees. He’s not looking to hit through or around fielders anymore but is instead crushing it over them.

    We come full circle now back to the doubles. Arguably more often than anyone in baseball, Byron will turn a single into an extra base. His speed on the basepaths is what allows him to push for more, and he doesn’t need the traditional gapper to get the job done. Jumping his average exit velocity from 85.7 mph to 91.6 mph, there’s more work for defenders to do in hopes of halting his progress. Lining more than his fair share of baseballs off the wall, the races begin when he steps out of the batter’s box.

    Right now, so much of what Buxton is putting in the air has him winding up at second base. Of his 24 extra-base hits he’s got just two triples and two ding dongs. With the launch angle being what it is, and the batted balls leaving at what they are, 4.1% HR/FB ratio feels all sorts of out of whack. With the weather warming and ball flying throughout the sport, you can expect Buck to put plenty more in the seats.

    I’ve never assumed Byron would be a typical .300 hitter, but the .260-.280 range with some real slugging prowess feels like a good bet. Batting in the nine-hole, Buxton has had ample opportunity to settle in. I like him at the bottom half so his wheels can wreak havoc without being wasted ahead of the boppers. At this point though it’s becoming questionable as to whether his bat is being fully utilized.

    Operating under the rough assumption that Buxton will lose eight times as many opportunities batting at the bottom as opposed to the top, that’s a competitive disadvantage Rocco Baldelli must weigh. Max Kepler has looked good in short stretches, but the .305 OBP isn’t what you’d like to see at the top of the lineup. The German’s expanded ability has come in the form of thump, and the longball is a presence that can be felt in any role.

    Without worrying about how the lineup juggles, moving Byron to the top is becoming more logical than ever. I liked him stopping at sixth before, but his explosion coupled with Kepler’s production makes this an ideal swap. He’s displaying the offensive abilities that added his prospect status, and out in center field he’s as great as he’s even been.

    • May 16 2019 03:42 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler