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  1. 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
    [attachment=12668:Win612.png]
    (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:
    [attachment=12667:Bullpen612.png]
    Next Game
    Thu vs. SEA, 12:10 pm CT (Pineda-Kikuchi)

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

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    • Jun 13 2019 04:11 AM
    • by AJ Condon
  2. MIN 5, CLE 4: Max Power Against Bauer

    Box Score
    Berrios: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 69.2% strikes (74 of 107 pitches)
    Home Runs: Kepler 3 (15)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (4 for 4, 3 HR, BB)
    WPA of +0.1: Kepler .310; Berrios .229; Rogers .200
    WPA of -0.1: Magill -.193

    [attachment=12630:vs Indians 6-6-2019.PNG]
    (Chart via FanGraphs)

    Kepler got the scoring going on the second pitch of the game when he ended his 0-for-21 streak with a solo shot. This was the third time this season that Kepler hit a first inning leadoff homerun for the Twins.



    Kepler added to the scoring again in the top of the third when he took Trevor Bauer deep for the second time tonight. This time it was on a two-strike slider after Kepler did a good job spoiling a couple good two-strike pitches from Bauer.



    The Twins struck again in the top of the fifth after Kepler leadoff the inning with a walk. Jorge Polanco then grounded into a fielder’s choice before Mitch Garver drove him in from first with an RBI double. In the seventh Kepler struck again for his third home run of the game, giving the Twins a 5-1 lead.



    For his second straight start Jose Berrios had a good outing to get the Twins back on their winning ways after a tough loss. Berrios absolutely shut down the Indians lineup for six plus innings tonight, but made just one mistake to Roberto Perez in the fifth inning that he drove over the wall in the right-center field gap. Berrios had the changeup working especially well, picking up four of his six strikeouts with it. Despite being over a hundred pitches through six innings, Rocco Baldelli left Berrios in to start the seventh. He did a good job getting Jose Ramirez to roll over on a changeup, but Jonathan Schoop bobbled the ball and Ramirez reached, ending the night for Berrios.

    Matt Magill came in to relieve Berrios, hoping to bounce back from his terrible outing on Sunday in Tampa. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be, as he walked Jordan Luplow on four pitches and gave up an RBI single to Tyler Naquin, causing Baldelli to go back to the pen to get Trevor May to get out of the jam. May came in doing his part, allowing just one run to score, on a sac-fly from Roberto Perez, before getting Leoyns Martin and Francisco Lindor to get out of the jam.

    Taylor Rogers came in to start the eighth inning and picked up a two inning save. Rogers looked unhittable getting each of the first five guys he faced out, three of which were via the strikeout. However, he made things interesting after he gave up a two-out home run to Oscar Mercado. Rogers shut the door on the Twins win on the next batter getting Roberto Perez to groundout.

    Postgame with Baldelli



    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:

    [attachment=12631:6-6-2019 vs Indians.PNG]

    Next Three Games
    Fri at DET, 6:10 pm CT (TBD-Boyd)
    Sat at DET, 3:10 pm CT (Gibson-TBD)
    Sun at DET, 12:10 pm CT (Odorizzi-Carpenter)
    Last Game
    CLE 9, MIN 7: Bullpen Crumbles on Night Kimbrel Signs With Cubs

    • Jun 07 2019 06:42 AM
    • by Andrew Thares
  3. MIN 5, TB 3: Twins Rally, Top Rays Late

    Box Score
    Berrios: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 64.6% strikes (64 of 99 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4, 2 2B, BB), Astudillo (2-for-4, HBP), Gonzalez (2-for-4), Schoop (2-for-2, BB, HBP)
    WPA of +0.1: Rosario .263, Astudillo .219, Rogers .212, Schoop .184, Polanco .126
    WPA of -0.1: Sano -.132, Buxton -.166, Kepler -.187
    [attachment=12599:Win53`.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Coming Out Swinging
    After a beat down on Thursday night, the Twins were aggressive in the first inning. Max Kepler, hitting lead off, swung at the first pitch of the game and nearly hit the ceiling in the Trop. Jorge Polanco’s at-bat did not last much longer. He swung at the second pitch and laced a one-out double. Astudillo then drove him home with a single early in the count. The Twins possibly could have scored another run had Astudillo not hesitated rounding third when C.J. Cron hit one off the wall in right center.

    Berrios responded with a quick shut-down bottom of the first inning. It took him less than 10 pitches to retire the side in order — not surprising for a pitcher who’s strike percentage is fourth best in the league.

    Rays Respond
    After a stellar first inning, Berrios struggled with his command at times in the second and third inning. In the second inning, he issued his first walk of the game and that runner crossed the plate on a Kevin Kiermaier home run, which gave the Rays a 2-1 lead.

    Berrios issued another walk in the third inning and once again that runner came across the plate. With runners on first and third, the Rays called for a double steal and ended up stealing a run from the Twins. The run may not have scored had Astudillo held onto the ball, however. A strong throw home from Schoop may have been good enough to beat the runner but Astudillo tried to tag the runner before catching the ball and the runner scored easily.

    Two-Out Rallies are Awesome
    Schoop drew a walk to lead off the fifth inning. He advanced to second on what should have been a double play if not for the Rays having shifted defensive positioning. He ended up standing on second with two away in the inning. Down by two, this was a scoring opportunity the Twins needed to capitalize on and that looked to be in jeopardy with two gone.

    That was until Jorge Polanco stepped up and did what he’s done all year - hit the darn ball. He ripped a one-run double, making the score 3-2. Then it was La Toruga’s opportunity to pick himself up after dropping the ball that allowed the Rays to score their third run. He did not disappoint, singling to left and driving in his second run of the game. Back-to-back two out knocks tied the game at 3-3.

    They did it again in the ninth. They got the bases loaded with two outs essentially for free. Rays pitcher, Diego Castillo, hit Schoop, Polanco was issued an intentional walk following a sacrifice bunt from Buxton. Astudillo fell behind 0-2 but was drilled by a slider and awarded first base, loading them up for Eddie Rosario.

    The Rays went to their bullpen — again — and brought in lefty Adam Kolarek to face to the left-handed hitting Rosario. The move would prove ineffective as Rosario went opposite field and hit a two-run single past the third base bag and gave the Twins a 5-3 lead.



    Quality Start for Berrios
    After battling command issues in the second and third innings Berrios was able to settle in nicely and give the Twins another quality start. His final line was 6 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 K. That is what aces do, they give you a chance to win against other really good teams.

    Rogers Dominates
    Taylor Rogers took over for Berrios with two-out in the sixth inning and the game still tied. His night finished with 2 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 K, 0 ER.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12600:Pen531.png]
    Next Game
    Sat at TB, 12:10 pm CT (Gibson-TBD)

    Last Game
    TB 14, MIN 3: Well … That Just Happened

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    • Jun 01 2019 04:45 AM
    • by Andrew Gebo
  4. Multiple Twins Building All-Star Resumes

    Voting Changes
    Major League Baseball altered their voting process for the 2019 All-Star Game. Two phases of voting will be held, “The Primary” and “The Starters Election.” Fans remain in charge of selecting the All-Star starters, but this new process allows for more fan involvement in an Election Day. All the pitchers and reserve position players will continue to be chosen through Player Ballots and selections from the Commissioner’s Office.

    “The Primary” round of voting opened earlier this week. For 25 days, fans can vote from a ballot of players submitted by the individual clubs. This round concludes on June 21 at 3 pm CST. The Primary round will determine the top-three vote-getters at every position (including nine outfielders). “The Starters Election” will take the top vote getters from “The Primary” and open an all-out voting war. Starting at 11 am CST on June 26, fans will have 28-hours to vote for the starters.

    Sorting Through the Candidates
    Jorge Polanco’s 2019 performance has inserted him in the early MVP discussion. He’s currently tied with Mike Trout for the most WAR among position players. He’s on nearly every American League offensive leaderboard as he ranks in the top-5 in batting average, OBP, hits, total bases, triples, runs created, and extra-base hits. Polanco looks like a smart baseball bet to be one of the club’s representatives.

    Eddie Rosario is another top candidate and he’s clearly a team leader on and off the field. His 17 home runs and 47 RBIs rank him at the top of AL. Besides that, he’s also in the top-10 for slugging %, runs scored, and total bases. The AL outfield is a little tough to crack with players like Mike Trout, George Springer, and Mookie Betts. To beat out these well-known stars, Rosario is going to have to continue to produce.

    The team’s other two outfielders, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton, also rank well in the AL. Kepler is coming off AL Player of the Week honors, but he isn’t as well known outside of Twins Territory. Buxton’s name has been in baseball circles since he was a top amateur and he leads the AL in doubles. Both players will run into the same problem as Rosario; casual fans are going to vote for more well-known players.

    CJ Cron’s 13 home runs are tied for the most among AL first baseman. Defensively, he’s also elevated himself into the Gold Glove conversation. At one point, Mitch Garver looked like the club’s best hitter. However, an ankle injury has him on the DL and he doesn’t appear on the ballot. Jason Castro’s season has also been strong, but Garver looked like Babe Ruth at one point.

    Even though fans don’t vote for pitchers, Minnesota has some strong candidates. Jake Odorizzi already won AL Player of the Week. He has the league’s best ERA and a microscopic 0.99 WHIP. Jose Berrios, Minnesota’s lone 2018 All-Star, has the AL’s best BB/9 average while ranking highly in other areas. Martin Perez’s journey from cast-off reliever to top starter has been one of the team’s best stories. Minnesota’s bullpen is also full of worthy candidates like Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers, and Ryne Harper.

    Could Minnesota wind up with four or more All-Star selections for the first time since 1988? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • May 30 2019 10:30 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  5. MIN 11, CWS 4: Twins Make Home Run History

    Box Score
    Berríos: 6.2 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 75.5% strikes (74 of 98 pitches)
    Home Runs: Rosario (15), Sanó (5), Kepler (11)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (3-for-4, 2B, HR), Rosario (4-for-5, 2B, HR)
    WPA of +0.1: Rosario .270, Kepler .210, Sanó .160, Buxton .100
    WPA of -0.1: Berríos -.120
    [attachment=12573:Win524.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    We don’t know when this Twins offense will slow down, but it’s safe to say that there are no indications that that’s going to happen anytime soon. They lead the league in runs scored, with 300 — a club record — to go with an endless list of offensive stats in which they are the best in baseball. It’s unbelievable.

    Rosario had a four-hit night, including a home run and an RBI single. He leads Minnesota with 15 homers, becoming the sixth Twin in history to hit that many in the first 50 games of the season, the first since Justin Morneau in 2007. Miguel Sanó is sustaining his unexpected good return to the majors. He now has five home runs in seven games.

    Berríos had yet another unusually shaky start. Although his final line showed only one earned run allowed and the defense out on the field made some serious mistakes, the Twins ace was not nearly as dominant as he had been earlier in the season. After posting a 2.53 ERA in the first seven starts, Berrios has pitched to a 5.29 ERA in the last three outings. The bullpen held the White Sox scoreless in 2 1/3 innings of work. Making his season debut after being promoted from Triple-A Rochester earlier on Friday, Zack Littell pitched two clean innings, striking out two.

    Nearly 30,000 fans came to Target Field on Friday night, the first Joe Mauer bobblehead night of the year, to watch the Twins, who not only remain the best team in baseball, but also maintain an eight-game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central. This was only the first of 19 games against the White Sox in the season.

    Story of the game
    After a quick, nine-pitch top of the first from Berríos, Kepler ledoff the bottom of the inning with a double to the corner of the right field, fair by a foot. He was later brought home by a two-out single from Rosario, making it 1-0 Twins.

    But then, Berríos and Minnesota fielders got into trouble. Eloy Jimenez reached to lead off the second, taking advantage of a throwing error from Polanco to first. The ball went over Cron's head. Tim Anderson doubled after another fielding mistake, this time from Gonzalez, playing in the right field. He couldn't catch the line drive coming his way...it hit the tip of his glove and fell on the ground. Yonder Alonso then singled to left field to beat the Twins shift and score the two runners on.

    With two outs, having trouble stopping the bleeding, Berríos hit Charlie Tilson for the second time in the game. Immediately afterward, Yoan Moncada and José Abreu hit back-to-back singles to score two more runs for Chicago, making it 4-1.



    But Chicago’s lead didn’t last long. The Twins put two men on early in the bottom of the second, with Sanó being walked and Schoop being hit by a pitch. Then, Buxton hit his MLB-leading 19th double and plated Sanó. Kepler followed by hitting a sac fly to center field to score Schoop and move Buxton to third, cutting the visitor's lead to one.

    Minnesota retook the lead in bottom of the third. Rosario and Sanó hit back-to-back solo home runs. Those two homers were the 99th and 100th from Minnesota this year, making them the second team in MLB history to reach the 100 homer mark in the first 50 games of the season, along with the 1999 Seattle Mariners (who hit 102).

    After Berríos allowed two men on, but was then saved by a double play in the top of the fourth, Minnesota went on to score three more runs in the bottom of the inning. Kepler hit a blast to center field for his 11th homer of the year and Gonzalez doubled to score Polanco, who had been walked before him. After a pitching change from Chicago, Rosario got his third hit of the night, to bring in Gonzalez, making it 8-4 Minnesota. All of this after two outs.

    The Twins never slowed down. After a uneventful top of the fifth for Berríos, Sanó (walk) and Schoop (double) got on, only to be brought home by Kepler’s third hit of the night, a two-out single to right that scored both runners, putting Minnesota in double digits. At this moment, Chicago was already using its second pitcher in relief of starter Reynaldo Lopez. Nothing seemed to work against this Twin lineup.

    Berríos kept shaking off his bad second inning, pitching his first 1-2-3 inning of the game in the top of the sixth, totaling only 83 pitches. The offense kept pushing, with Rosario smashing a double off the right field wall and Cron reaching on a hit-by- pitch, but for the first time on the night, they had a scoreless inning.

    Minnesota scored again in the bottom of the seventh. Jason Castro, who was having a quiet night, led off the inning with a double against Brazilian reliever Thyago Vieira. He was brought home when Kepler hit a line drive to right field, scoring the eleventh run of the game for Minnesota. Littell came in and pitched two scoreless innings, in the eighth and ninth, to secure the win. He didn’t give up any hits or walks, while punching out two batters.


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:[attachment=12574:Pen524.png]

    Next Game
    Sat vs. CHW, 1:10 pm CT (Gibson-Banuelos)

    Last Game
    MIN 16, LAA 7: Twins Slug 8 More Home Runs, Sweep Angels

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  6. LAA 5, MIN 4: More Missed Opportunities

    Box Score
    Berrios: 5.2 IP, 12 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 62.4% strikes (63 of 101 pitches)
    Home Runs: Polanco (8), Gonzalez (4)
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-5, HR), Rosario (2-for-4)
    WPA of +0.1: Astudillo .178, Gonzalez .110
    WPA of -0.1: Kepler -.117, Buxton -.171, Garver -.182, Castro -.210, Berrios -.332
    [attachment=12506:Win513.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Neither pitcher looked good early on, as Jose Berrios and Tyler Skaggs combined to throw 121 pitches through the first three innings. In the fourth inning, Berrios matched his season high in hits allowed (eight) and recorded his first ground ball double play of the season when he got Shohei Ohtani to ground into a 4-6-3 on a 3-0 pitch to end the inning.

    Worst Start of the Year for Berrios
    The struggles for Berrios didn’t end after he induced the fourth inning double play. In the fifth inning, a replay challenge ruled Andrelton Simmons was safe on a stolen base and he later scored on a seeing-eye ground ball from Albert Pujols. Jose also served up two home runs, the first to Shohei Ohtani in the third inning and the second to Tommy La Stella in the sixth.

    After allowing two base runners following the La Stella home run, Berrios' night was cut short after 5 2/3 innings. For the first time this season, Jose was pulled prior to completing six innings. He surrendered 12 hits and allowed five earned runs with only three strikeouts on 101 pitches. Simply put, he did not look like his usual self tonight.

    Resilient Twins Offense Strikes Again
    The Angels weren’t the only ones having fun at the plate. Thanks to a pair of two-run home runs from Jorge Polanco and Marwin Gonzalez, the Twins tied the score at four apiece in the bottom of the fifth inning. If not for having an Angel in the outfield, it very well could have been three home runs for the Twins but Garver’s blast came up just short of the flower beds in left and instead landed in the outfielders glove.

    Coming Up Just Short
    The bullpen kept the Twins alive, keeping the Angels off the board over three plus innings. A double from La Tortuga to lead off the eight showed promise of another late inning rally but the offense fell short and were unable to drive him in.

    With the top of the order due up in the ninth, the Twins had one last chance to come from behind. Unfortunately it didn't go their way. They were retired in order and for only the third time this year the Twins dropped back to back games.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12507:Bullpen513.png]
    Next Three Games
    Tue vs. LAA, 6:40 pm CT (Gibson-Pena)
    Wed vs. LAA, 12:10 pm CT (Odorizzi-Cahill)
    Thu at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (TBD)

    Last Game
    DET 5, MIN 3: We Have a Problem

    • May 13 2019 09:33 PM
    • by Andrew Gebo
  7. Week in Review: Firing On All Cylinders

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/6 through Sun, 5/12

    ***

    Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 25-14)

    Run Differential Last Week: +26 (Overall: +51)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (4.0 GA)

    Willians Watch: 1-for-5 last week (Season AVG: .315)


    Willians Astudillo is back! He was activated from the disabled list on Sunday and batted leadoff in his return. Meanwhile, Tyler Duffey (called up for Saturday's doubleheader) and Fernando Romero were sent back to Triple-A over the weekend. It's unfortunate because both have shown some nice signs (especially Romero, firing four scoreless innings with a 15% swinging strike rate in his past four appearances), but both will see more chances soon enough.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    As we reach the quarterpole in the MLB season, Minnesota has two players creating legitimate noise as MVP candidates.

    The case for Jorge Polanco thus far is easy to see. After another stellar week (11-for-26 with two home runs and three doubles), Polanco is hitting .324/.393/.607 ranks second only to Mike Trout in the AL with 2.1 WAR. Polanco's K/BB ratio is among the best in the league and he's hitting for incredible power. Best of all, he's doing it as a SHORTSTOP who holds his own defensively.

    It's a little tougher to make an MVP-pace argument for Mitch Garver, mainly because his playing time doesn't quite stack up. Splitting reps in a three-way catcher committee, Garver has fewer than half the plate appearances of Polanco. Yet in that time, he has produced more home runs (8 to 7) and nearly the same RBI total (16 to 17).

    We keep waiting for his seemingly unsustainable start to slow down, but week after week, Garver stays on fire. This last one was no exception: he went 6-for-13 with two more homers and six walks. Among American League players with 75+ PA, no one has a higher OPS than Garver (1.214).



    There's little doubt the catcher is going to cool off at some point – maybe in a big way – but that's no knock against him. There's just no credible reason to believe he can keep up this Barry Bonds impression for long. But Garver has erased any semblance of doubt surrounding the legitimacy of his bat, while showing clear improvement behind the plate as well. And it's nice to know that should he fall into a slump, the Twins have Jason Castro (4-for-7 with two home runs last week, and slugging 1.000 in his past nine games) and Astudillo bringing his .870 OPS off the Injured List on Sunday.

    If you could lump all of Minnesota's catchers into one player (Masians Castrudiller?), he'd be the runaway MVP frontrunner without question.

    Those backstops continue linking up with Twins starting pitchers to produce amazing results. On Tuesday, Jose Berrios fired seven shutout innings in Toronto to pick up his sixth win and seventh quality start in eight turns. He's completed six or more innings in every outing. Fresh off earning Player of the Week honors, Jake Odorizzi extended his scoreless streak to 20 innings on Friday with seven near-perfect frames against the Tigers. Martin Perez was excellent in his first turn (7 IP, 0 R vs. TOR) and solid in his second (5 IP, 3 R vs. DET). He has a 2.13 ERA in six starts for the Twins.

    Even the previous rotation laggards are starting to join the fun. Kyle Gibson struck out 11 and notched 19 swinging strikes in a dominant showing versus Toronto on Wednesday. Suddenly he's got a 2.25 ERA and 28-to-3 K/BB ratio over 24 innings in his past four starts, resembling the overpowering force he was for much of last year. Michael Pineda still doesn't look all that sharp, but he logged a quality start on Saturday with three runs allowed over six innings. In 39 frames, Pineda has struck out 35 and walked nine. Egregious home run rate aside, there's plenty of underlying positivity in his early output coming off Tommy John surgery.

    A couple other strong performances from the past week worth highlighting:
    • C.J. Cron, who'd been one of the lineup's weakest producers, turned that around in a big way with a pair of four-hit games and three homers. He now has nine bombs in the books, which is more than his predecessor at first base (Joe Mauer) managed in either of the past two seasons.
    • Ryne Harper chipped in three more clean outings, allowing only one hit in 3 2/3 with a walk and four strikeouts. The 30-year-old rookie has made 15 appearances this year, and 14 have been scoreless. What a wonderful story.
    LOWLIGHTS

    Last week in this space, I expressed some concern over Trevor Hildenberger and his sudden vulnerability, noting that his usage had dissipated as his results had taken a downward turn. Seven days later, those concerns are only louder. He coughed up two runs on three hits in one inning against Detroit on Saturday, and then did the same on Sunday, this time with a more costly impact (his two runs allowed were the difference in the game).

    Throughout most of April, Hildenberger appeared to have re-established himself as one of Minnesota's most reliable late-inning arms, but now he has fallen right back into the rut that plagued his second half in 2018. In his past seven appearances Hildy has surrendered 10 earned runs on 14 hits in six frames. He's a complete mess, and the Twins can't afford to stick with him much longer at this rate. The 28-year-old does have options left, so a move to Triple-A is in play.

    On the bright side, there really aren't any other poor performances worth calling out from the past week – a huge credit to the comprehensively high-quality play we continue to see from this roster.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    For a third straight week, Miguel Sano is grabbing out attention. First he was preparing to start his rehab stint, then it was officially underway, and now he's on the verge of wrapping it up. Sano moved up to Class-AAA Rochester over the weekend after a brief stay at Pensacola. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first game for the Red Wings, but bounced back with a 2-for-4 effort (plus a walk) on Sunday.

    Barring any setbacks, I suspect we'll see Sano recalled during the coming week. It'll be interesting to see who's moved to make room. The likeliest candidate seems to be Ehire Adrianza, who's been woefully unproductive. Then again, maybe the issue takes care of itself, as Nelson Cruz could be headed for the shelf with a wrist injury that knocked him out of Sunday's game.

    At this moment, I'm even more curious about another Triple-A rehab stint. Reliever Addison Reed is on the road back after missing the first month with a "left thumb injury," and has looked utterly terrible in Triple-A, just as he did in spring training, and just as he did for much of last summer. In three appearances for Rochester, he has coughed up four runs on eight hits over three innings of work, striking out two of 17 batters faced.

    Where to go from here? There's no way the Twins can add Reed back to the roster. Stashing him on IL for a month with a vague non-throwing hand issue was already a bit of a stretch, but now they're running out of places to hide him. It's unfortunate, because a peak-level Reed would be such a huge difference-maker for this Minnesota bullpen, but that player is clearly long gone. At this point I think the Twins have no choice but to cut their losses and designate him for assignment, eating millions in remaining salary. For now, Reed still has a couple weeks left in his rehab window.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    On July 31st of last year, the Twins traded longtime stalwart Brian Dozier to the Dodgers, in exchange for what appeared to be a modest return. Dozier was trudging through a disappointing season, slashing just .227/.307/.405 for Minnesota, and was just two months from free agency. The Twins had no hope of prying any top prospects, but they procured a couple of intriguing pieces from LA in outfielder Luke Raley and left-hander Devin Smeltzer.

    Well, Dozier's struggles only worsened down the stretch as he batted .182/.300/.350 over 47 games and barely saw any time in the postseason. Over the winter, he signed a one-year deal with the Nationals, but in Washington it's been much of the same: Dozier's slash line sits at .197/.301/.331 through 38 games. (His Twins replacement at second, Jonathan Schoop, is at .276/.324/.504.)

    Meanwhile, Raley is mashing at Rochester, where he's 14-for-33 in the month of May and sporting a .299/.364/.542 line overall. He's still not going to sprout up on any top prospect lists but the 24-year-old lefty swinger is solidifying himself as viable MLB-ready depth. In Triple-A, he's mostly played right field with a little center mixed in.

    Smeltzer is an even more compelling case. There was no significant buzz around him as a middling southpaw coming out of the Dodgers system, but ever since joining the Twins organization he has been completely lights-out. In 42 innings at Double-A, between the end of last year and the start of this one, he posted a 1.29 ERA and 49-to-5 K/BB ratio. He moved up Rochester at the beginning of May and has somehow gotten better, hurling 15 shutout innings with only seven hits allowed.

    I'm not sure what to make of him. You watch the guy pitch and you aren't wowed by his velocity or stuff, but the superlative results are eye-popping, and he's doing it consistently at the highest levels of the minors. Smeltzer, 23, isn't currently on the 40-man roster, but is putting himself in line to get a chance when the need arises.

    One more pitching note from the minors: Brusdar Graterol was in the middle of another stellar outing on Wednesday, with 5 1/3 scoreless innings logged, when he was pulled from the game due to an apparent injury. This understandably caused instant panic to sweep through Twins Territory, but Darren Wolfson of KSTP swooped in quickly with a relieving report:



    Assuming this optimism proves valid, it looks like the Twins dodged a bullet with their top pitching prospect, who has held opponents to a .168 average through his first 38 innings at Double-A.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Another seven-game week lies ahead, with the Twins first hosting Trout and the Angels, then traveling to Seattle for four games against the Mariners.

    MONDAY, 5/13: ANGELS @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Skaggs v. RHP Jose Berrios
    TUESDAY, 5/14: ANGELS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Kyle Gibson
    WEDNESDAY, 5/15: ANGELS @ TWINS – RHP Trevor Cahill v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    THURSDAY, 5/16: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Erik Swanson
    FRIDAY, 5/17: TWINS @ MARINERS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Felix Hernandez
    SATURDAY, 5/18: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Marco Gonzales
    SUNDAY, 5/19: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP Yusei Kikuchi

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • May 12 2019 06:53 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  8. MIN 3, TOR 0: Berrios Hurls Gem, Twins Get Second Straight Shutout

    Box Score
    Berrios: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 70.6% strikes (65 of 92 pitches)
    Home Runs: Mitch Garver (7)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-5, 2B), Garver (3-3, HR)
    WPA of +0.1: Berrios .418, Garver .235
    WPA of -0.1: Cruz -.168, Schoop -.114

    [attachment=12481:vs Blue Jays 5-7-2019.PNG]

    (Chart via FanGraphs)

    After a couple of starts in a row where Jose Berrios struggled to command his curveball, he seemed to rediscover his feel for the pitch tonight as he picked up four of his five strikeouts with that pitch. Overall, Blue Jays hitters combined for a 32% whiff rate, and were 1-for-13 against Berrios’ curveball. Berrios' start marked the eighteenth consecutive game where the Twins starting pitcher managed to go at least five innings.

    The Twins got off to an early lead, when they used two singles and two walks to push a run across in the first, but they failed to take advantage of what could have been a much bigger inning. There wasn’t much action again until the sixth inning, when Eddie Rosario led off the inning with a much needed bloop single, followed by a Mitch Garver blast to the upper deck in left field to give the Twins a 3-0 lead.



    The game did get a little interesting in the bottom of the ninth when the Blue Jays got runners on the corners with two outs, bringing the tying run in Billy McKinney to the plate. However, Taylor Rogers was able to get him to ground out to first baseman Marwin Gonzales, and secure his fourth save of the season.

    During the third inning, the Fox Sports North broadcast has Twins General Manager Thad Levine on to talk about things ranging from Miguel Sano’s comeback, to Nelson Cruz’s leadership, to the success of the Twins starting rotation so far this year. Here is a little tidbit of that conversation.



    Postgame with Baldelli



    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:

    [attachment=12482:5-7-2019 vs Blue Jays.PNG]

    Next Three Games
    Wed at TOR, 6:07 pm CT (Gibson-Thornton)
    Fri vs DET, 7:10 pm CT (TBD-Ross)
    Sat vs DET, 1:10 pm CT (TBD-TBD)

    Last Game
    MIN 8, TOR 0: Perez Impresses, Bats Bounce Stroman Early

    • May 08 2019 05:53 AM
    • by Andrew Thares
  9. Aggressiveness in a New Area for Twins

    As of Tuesday, Wes Johnson’s staff is sending first-pitch strikes into the zone at a 62.1% rate. That’s ninth in all of baseball, and fourth in the American League. Right now, the major league average sits at 60.6%, and it’s a far cry from where this team has been previously. A year ago, Minnesota’s first-pitch strike percentage was 58.4% (28th), with preceding years sitting at 60.5% (13th), and 60.0% (16th).

    Getting the ball into the zone early doesn’t create a benefit in and of itself, but it allows for an increased opportunity to gain the upper hand. Trailing only the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota has given opposing batters fits with 0-2 counts showing up 29.4% of the time. Putting the pitcher in a dominant position nearly one-third of the time, the opportunity to force chase swings or generate less than ideal contact only rises.

    Often, good pitchers aren’t giving away at-bats either. In 2018 Minnesota’s staff turned in 91 four-pitch walks. That was the ninth-worst mark in baseball, and certainly did no favors for a group that needed to avoid extra baserunners at all costs. Through their 33 games in 2019 the Twins have allowed just 13 four-pitch walks, fifth lowest in baseball.

    Throwing more strikes, and more early strikes also, isn’t going to transform pitchers into strikeout stalwarts. Right now, Baldelli’s group owns the 19th-best strikeout rate in baseball. That says they can't easily put the ball past opposing hitters, and it’s evidence that that’s not the strength of this group. What we should see though, is the results be reflective of lackluster chances for the opposing batters. That has played out.

    Batted balls off Twins pitches have resulted in soft contact exactly one-fifth of the time. Exit velocities in the soft contact realm are the easiest to convert into outs, and Minnesota is getting the fourth most chances at them in all of baseball. As would also be expected, the 36.8% hard-hit rate ranks well, checking in at the 10th lowest in the sport. As pitchers get ahead, batters are forced to react as opposed to dictating the action at the plate. Regardless of who’s on the mound, being in a position of control helps to heighten the effectiveness of each offering.

    While this isn’t an exercise you may want to undertake before making sure you’ve got the correct ratios down, Minnesota has flipped the script on a long-time mantra for the organization. Pitch to contact is predicated on getting ground ball outs and allowing your fielders to do the work. Right now, the Twins' 39.5% ground ball rate is third lowest in all of baseball. If they were allowing hard hit balls, and getting behind in counts, that would be a recipe for disaster. Instead, this group is giving up the fifth-lowest HR/FB rate because it’s a perfect storm for dominance.

    Over the winter, and really since this front office has taken over, the emphasis has been on overhauling processes and putting people in place to drive quality results at the highest level. Most notably this offseason things took shape on the pitching mound, and that’s helped to drive a results that include getting ahead early, throwing strikes often, and generating weak popups that become immediate outs.

    In a strikeout-driven league, the Minnesota Twins have a stable of starters that include just one pitcher (Jake Odorizzi) with a current K/9 over 9.0. I’d imagine Jose Berrios will push this total to two by the end of the season, but the reality is that this group isn’t relying on dominance by way of the K. Pitching to their strengths, Johnson has his starters working ahead and dictating the action. When and if the strikeouts do pop up in any given game, it only raises the effectiveness of the blueprint up another notch.

    We are at a place where the sample size is not substantial relative to a full season, but ignoring the current merits would be a foolish proposition as well. Minnesota is challenging opposing batters, forcing their hand, and benefiting from it. The plan is working right now, and there’s no sign of an impending slow down.

    • May 07 2019 04:18 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  10. Minnesota's Rotation: Better than Advertised?

    Gibson’s Pending Free Agency
    Kyle Gibson is a free agent at season’s end. Don’t shout that too loud in Twins circles. The man Minnesota took ahead of Mike Trout is headed for free agency and he might just be coming into his own. Among qualifying pitchers, only Jose Berrios ranked higher on the team in WAR for last season. His xFIP was just 0.02 points away from the team’s top pitcher.

    So far this season, there were some rough starts to begin the year. He didn’t pitch more than 5.1 innings in his first three appearances. He also allowed three runs or more during that stretch. In his two start since then, he has averaged 6.5 innings pitched while limiting opponents to three earned runs. He’s struck out twelve during that span and largely kept the ball in the park with one home run

    Odorizzi’s Mirage
    Jake Odorizzi was unbelievable against the Astros on Monday. He was certainly lucky the Twins picked him up in a close game. That’s far from the norm for the team’s middle of the rotation starter. In his first season with Minnesota, he posted a 4.49 ERA with more walks and runs allowed than the majority of the league. The Twins continued to start him, but he soaked up losses while the Twins struggled in the middle of the season.

    As this season has progressed, he dominated Cleveland with 11 strikeouts in six innings. His start against Toronto was also strong as he pitched into the sixth and allowed one run on six hits. He’s faced Houston in his last two appearances. During that time, he’s limited one of the AL’s best offenses to two runs on 12 hits over 12 2/3 innings.

    Perez’s Wild Card
    Martin Perez was certainly a wild card when the Twins signed him. He hadn’t had much success in Texas, but the front office saw something in him. To start the year, Perez was used in a piggy-backing role, so he was used for less than four innings in his first three appearances. Since joining the rotation, Perez has certainly looked like more than a wild card.

    In his first four starts, he has pitched 26 innings while limiting opponents to six earned runs on 23 hits. He has posted an 18 to 5 strikeout to walk ratio over this stretch. Batters are hitting .242 against him with a .632 OPS. Granted two of his four starts have been against Baltimore, but he certainly held his own against Houston on Wednesday night.

    What are your thoughts on the rotation so far? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • May 02 2019 09:05 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  11. MIN 9, BAL 2: Quality from Berrios, Quantity from the Bats

    Box Score
    Berrios: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 69.3% strikes (70 of 101 pitches)
    Home Runs: Cron (5), Kepler 2 (6), Gonzalez (2), Castro (2)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-4, 2 HR), Cruz (2-for-4, 2B), Cron (2-for-4, HR)
    WPA of +0.1: Cron .254, Cruz .131
    WPA of -0.1: Schoop -.149
    [attachment=12439:Win427.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Berrios appeared to have a hard time commanding pretty much anything but his four-seam fastball today. He had been using his curveball 37.6% of the time coming into today, but went to that pitch less than half as often, just 17 times among his 101 pitches.

    We saw more changeups than usual, but Berrios seemed to be using that more as a show-me pitch. Coming into today, the most he had thrown that pitch in any outing was 13 times. This afternoon, Jose went to the change 23 times. Here’s the location on those pitches:
    [attachment=12441:BerriosChange.png]
    There were a lot more uncompetitive pitches than we’ve seen from Berrios in any start so far this season, but he and Jason Castro made it work. Berrios entered this game with a very strong 66.2 strike percentage, which would represent a career high. He pounded the zone even harder today, throwing nearly 70% of his pitches for strikes.

    Even though the changeup wasn’t exactly there, it still helped on an afternoon in which Berrios was forced to feature the four-seamer. He struck out eight, did not walk a batter and still got 13 swinging strikes.

    I think we’re seeing an evolution in 2019. Berrios appears to be a guy who’s learning to make adjustments on the fly and how to properly shift the game plan when something isn’t there. That should go a long way toward him becoming a little less streaky.

    Despite the quality start, Berrios exited this game with the Twins trailing 2-1. In the bottom of the sixth, however, C.J. Cron ripped a two-run homer 113.4 mph to put the Twins on top.


    Max Kepler added a two-run home run of his own in the bottom of the seventh. As if that wasn’t enough, the Twins clobbered three more home runs in the eighth — a solo shot from Marwin Gonzalez, a two-run blast from Jason Castro and Kepler’s second tater of the afternoon.

    The Twins now have six batters on pace to hit more than 30 home runs this season. It’s obviously early, but that’s a hell of a fun stat.

    Trevor May struck out two in a perfect seventh inning, Taylor Rogers gave up a hit but also struck out three batters in a scoreless eighth and Adalberto Mejia turned in a scoreless ninth inning.

    Willians Astudillo got another start out in right field. He appeared to tweak a muscle tagging up from third base on a sacrifice fly and exited this game after three innings. Astudillo is expected to be placed on the injured list with a corresponding move coming tomorrow.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12440:Bullpen427.png]
    Next Three Games
    Sun vs. BAL, 1:10 pm CT (Gibson-Bundy)
    Mon vs. HOU, 6:40 pm CT (TBD)
    Tue vs. HOUT, 6:40 pm CT (TBD)

    Last Game
    MIN 6, BAL 1: Sticking to the Formula

    • Apr 27 2019 10:10 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  12. MIN 6, DET 4: Berrios Figures It Out, Bullpen Barely Hangs On

    Box Score
    Berrios: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 67.3% strikes
    Home Runs: Cron (1), Rosario (3)
    Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (3-for-4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R), Polanco (2-for-4), Cruz (2-for-4, R), Garver (2-for-3, 2 2B, BB, R), Buxton (2-for-4, 2B, RBI)
    WPA of +0.1: Hildenberger .283, Rogers .172, Cron .153, Berrios .142, Rosario .131, Buxton .103
    WPA of -0.1: Schoop -.111, May -.175, Parker -.204
    [attachment=12395:Win414.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Berrios pitched to Jason Castro in all three of his previous starts coming into today. That combo seemed to make a lot of sense, as Berrios entered today’s game with a 4.56 ERA in 71 innings pitched to Garver, a full run higher than his ERA with Castro (he’s only pitched 18 2/3 innings to Willians Astudillo).

    The Berrios-Garver duo got off to a bit of a rocky start, but there was no harm done. It took Berrios 27 pitches to get through the first inning, but the Tigers were held scoreless. They weren’t as lucky in the second, as Berrios gave up a double to Ronny Rodriguez, then a two-run homer to Gordon Beckham.

    Regardless of any pitch calling or receiving elements, Berrios just didn’t look especially sharp early on after having six days off. His command of his offspeed pitches was nowhere near as good as it had been in his previous starts so far this season. He had been using his curveball a ton, increasing his usage of that offering from 30.4% last year to 42.9% so far this year, but that pitch wasn’t worthy of being featured as such today.

    That lack of command didn’t show up in the box score, as his control was good enough to where he only walked one batter and hit another, but he was not spotting those offspeed pitches. But they figured it out.

    Berrios (and Garver) decreased the dependency on that curveball and instead went to more sinkers today. Jose had been throwing that pitch 16.4% of the time so far this year, but threw the sinker 26 times today among his 98 pitches.

    The result seemed to be that Berrios’ four-seam fastball really played up. Berrios got 14 swinging strikes, nine of which came on the four-seamer. That’s very unusual, as Berrios typically gets a much higher percentage of swings and misses on his offspeed offerings.

    Berrios didn’t get a single swinging strike on a four-seam fastball in his last start against the Phillies, he got just one in his start before that at Kansas City and three on Opening Day against Cleveland. Add it all up, and Berrios had just four swinging strikes on 87 four-seam fastballs heading into today (4.6%). He had nine on just 35 four-seamers this afternoon (25.7%).

    Assessing what’s working, what isn’t and making proper adjustments is typically a collaboration between the pitcher and the catcher. You may have some input from coaches between innings, but all the adjustments made on the fly are between those two guys on the field. It’s still very much worth monitoring how Berrios and Garver work together going forward, as I think we all expect those two to be playing together for quite some time, but it was a very encouraging afternoon.

    Below you can see all the balls and called strikes for Berrios. We’ve had some fun analyzing and discussing these charts, which come from MLB’s StatCast data via Baseball Savant. It’s sort of like a work of art in that not everyone will see the same thing, and I always like to point out the top and bottom of the strike zone isn’t the same for every batter, but to my eyes Garver had a very good afternoon, especially by his standards. He also smothered several balls in the dirt with runners on in the eighth and ninth innings.
    [attachment=12394:GarverChart.png]
    Garver was a force at the plate once again, something you’d have to figure the pitching staff also appreciates. He was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a walk. That puts him up to 11-for-22 on the season with three home runs and three doubles.

    Garver, C.J. Cron and Byron Buxton all hit two balls in excess of 105 mph. Altogether, the Twins combined for nine balls hit at a 105 mph exit velocity or harder. Cron’s first homer as a Twin was an absolute laser beam.


    The Twins also played excellent defense today. Jorge Polanco made a web gem and Cron had several beautiful scoops, but nothing beats this great catch made by Buxton as he crashed into the wall.

    The Twins led 6-2 heading into the eighth inning, but things got a little hairy with the bullpen. Trevor May ran into trouble, the Tigers managed to score two runs in the eighth, but Taylor Rogers ended up pitching out of a jam, leaving the bases loaded.

    Blake Parker came out for the ninth to attempt to record his fourth save as a Twin. He had a bit of an adventure in picking up the save on Saturday and his career ERA on zero days rest is 5.18, so there was plenty of reason for anxiety.

    Parker gave up a leadoff infield single on a hot grounder Polanco couldn’t quite handle. Parker walked the next batter, putting the game-tying run on base with no outs for Miguel Cabrera. Anxiety level rising.

    Parker fell behind Cabrera 3-1 — teetering on a panic attack now — but battled back to strike him out. A nine-pitch battle with Christin Stewart followed, Parker walked him and was done for the day after needing 29 pitches to record one out.

    Trevor Hildenberger came in and struck out the next two batters to strand the bases loaded and earn his first save of the season, the ninth of his career. After inheriting 25 runners in 73 appearances last year, Hildenberger has already inherited 14 runners in just eight games this season. His resurgence has been invaluable to the Twins’ bullpen thus far.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12393:Bullpen414.png]
    Next Three Games
    Mon vs. TOR, 6:40 pm CT (Perez-Shoemaker)
    Tue vs. TOR, 6:40 pm CT (Gibson-Sanchez)
    Wed vs. TOR, 6:40 pm CT (Odorizzi-Thornton)

    Last Game
    MIN 4, DET 3: Bats Quiet, Bullpen Hangs On

    • Apr 14 2019 07:28 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  13. PHI 2, MIN 1: Kepler Stays Hot, Hoskins Pops Deciding Homer

    Box Score
    Berrios: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 65.3% strikes (64 of 98)
    Home Runs: Kepler (3)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-4, HR), Gonzalez (2-for-4)
    WPA of +0.1: Kepler .130
    WPA of -0.1: Schoop -.120, Cron -.126
    [attachment=12373:Win47.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    This game got off to a tremendous start for the Twins, as Kepler homered for the third straight game. This was Kepler’s eighth game of 2019, it took him 10 games last season to reach three homers, 32 games in 2017 and 33 in ‘16. So trending in the right direction.


    It was also apparent early that Jose Berrios had his good stuff working once again. Berrios carried a shutout into the sixth inning, but it’s going to be tough for anybody to keep this Phillies lineup down for long.

    Berrios walked Andrew McCutchen to lead off the sixth inning, managed to retire both Jean Segura and Bryce Harper, but gave up a two-run home run to Rhys Hoskins to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead. It was a good pitch, a curveball down and away on the corner, and Hoskins didn’t even appear to put all that great of a swing on it, but that’s a strong dude.

    Berrios leaned a bit more on his offspeed pitches in his first two starts of the year and really went curveball crazy this afternoon. He deployed that pitch 51 times today among the 98 pitches he threw. That’s pretty bonkers, considering Jose threw that curveball 30.4 percent of the time last season. It’ll be interesting to follow his use of that pitch going forward.

    The Twins only had one other really strong scoring chance. Marwin Gonzalez hit a leadoff single in the fourth inning, advanced to second on a ground out and tried to score from there on an Ehire Adrianza single. McCutchen made a beautiful play, throwing a strike to home plate, and Gonzalez was tagged out by inches.

    It’s too bad the Twins couldn’t muster any offense after the Kepler leadoff homer, but all in all I’d have to say this was an encouraging series for the Twins. Friday night was ugly, but they were able to hang tough against a formidable Phillies team otherwise. That bodes well for a team that gets to face the AL Central in nearly half of their games.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12374:Bullpen47.png]
    Next Three Games
    Tue at NYM, 6:10 pm CT (Gibson-deGrom)
    Wed at NYM, 6:10 pm CT (Odorizzi-Syndergaard)
    Fri vs. DET, 7:10 pm CT (TBD)

    Last Game
    MIN 6, PHI 2: Twins Find Power Stroke, Slug 3 Homers in Victory

    More From Twins Daily
    Twins Minor League Report (4/6): And on the Third Day, There Was Baseball
    The 12 Stages of Willians Astudillo Fandom

    • Apr 07 2019 06:03 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  14. MIN 5, KC 4 (10 Innings): Cruz Steps Up

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Berrios: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 68.6% strikes

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-4, 2 BB), Polanco (2-for-5, 2B, BB), Cruz (2-for-5, 2B, BB), Cron (2-for-5, 2B)

    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Cruz .605, Polanco .225, Parker .209, Hildenberger .114
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Schoop -.127, Gonzalez -.185, Rogers -.194
    [attachment=12354:Win42.png]

    There was some controversy in the top of the 10th inning over the foul ball call, but in the end it appeared the correct call was made. That didn’t stop one of the Kaufman faithful from chanting “we want robots, we want robots” which I got a kick out of.

    Nelson Cruz hit a line drive toward third base that landed just a few feet before the bag. The third base ump called it fair, which appeared to result in an inning-ending ground out, but the home plate ump called it foul.

    Given a second chance, Cruz delivered an RBI single to score Willians Astudillo from second base. Speaking of second chances, Blake Parker got the job done in his second opportunity with the Twins, picking up the save.

    Scoring Struggles
    The Twins had a man at second and no outs in the sixth inning and did not score. They loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh and did not score. They also got their leadoff man on in the eighth, but somehow came away with zero runs in all three of those innings.

    After all those offensive struggles from the Twins, this happened:



    The Twins made it look like scoring was so hard, Adalberto Mondesi made it look so easy. Not Byron Buxton’s best moment there, by the way. He was finished out that inning but did not return for the ninth due to an apparent back injury. Buxton was to be re-evaluated after the game as a precaution. That inside-the-park home run ended Taylor Rogers’ scoreless inning streak at 28 2/3 innings.

    Strikeout Surge Ends
    The Royals are nowhere near as successful as they were during their recent World Series runs, but some of the same formulas remain. The speed is still there, and they still field a lineup that excels at putting the ball in play. Jose Berrios didn’t get his first strikeout until the fifth inning and only racked up four Ks altogether, ending the insane strikeout binge the staff had been on.

    While he wasn’t as overpowering, Berrios did a nice job of throwing strikes and avoided the one thing you really can’t afford to do against these Royals: Issue walks. It took him only 86 pitches to complete seven innings and once again relied on a heavy dose of offspeed stuff, throwing 32 curveballs and 10 changeups.

    A couple of the Twins, on the other hand, had all sorts of trouble making contact. Both Marwin Gonzalez and Buxton struck out three times. Gonzalez went down swinging in both of those crushing sixth and seventh innings.

    The Rosie Run
    There are all sorts of fun new advanced metrics and it can seem like we measure everything in modern baseball … because we do. You can learn about them, the same way you can learn to bet, but I want to focus on a particular one with which you may not be familiar.

    There’s a stat called UBR, Ultimate Baserunning, which can be found on FanGraphs. It attempts to pin a value on a player’s contributions on the basepaths outside of just what they do in terms of stolen base attempts.

    Eddie Rosario established a knack for picking up extra bases his rookie year, ranking seventh in all of baseball in UBR. He was in the top 25 in 2016 but then some of his risks started to backfire in 2017 and he fell outside the top 100 in that metric.

    Rosario really seemed to adjust nicely, developing a better feel for when to go for it and when to ease up. He ended up with the best UBR rating of his career, which was also fifth in all of baseball.

    Tonight, that skill came in incredibly handy. Rosario scored the Twins’ first run of the night, coming all the way from first base on a broken-bat single to left-center field.



    After opening the season 0-for-14, Rosario also broke through with a go-ahead RBI single in the top of the ninth inning. He advanced to second on a ball in the dirt in a bang-bang play at the bag, because of course he did.

    Cron’s Defense
    When the Twins signed Nelson Cruz it meant C.J. Cron was going to have to get the lion’s share of his playing time at first base. While that is his natural position, Cron spent the majority of his breakout 2018 season as Tampa Bay’s designated hitter.

    While the defensive metrics were very positive, Cron ranked fourth among first basemen in defensive runs saved, Twins fans have come to expect excellent play from the position. From Joe Mauer to Justin Morneau to Doug Mientkiewicz, the Twins have had a stretch of sterling scoopers over there.

    Cron’s made a solid first impression, though there isn’t much defense going on when your pitchers strike out 13 batters a game, but he really shined tonight. Cron made several nice scoops, some to secure outs, others to keep the ball in front of him and prevent the speedy Royals from gaining extra bases.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12353:Bullpen42.png]

    Next Three Games
    Wed at KC, 12:15 pm CT
    Fri at PHI, 6:05 pm CT
    Sat at PHI, 1:05 pm CT

    Last Game
    MIN 9, CLE 3: Twins Take Series Behind Pineda, Tortuga

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    • Apr 03 2019 10:22 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  15. Three Catcher Conundrum

    There seems to be three different options when it comes to rotating through this trio of catchers. Each one has its own benefits and downfalls. Let’s examine each one.

    Strict Rotation
    Using a strict rotation might be the pattern Baldelli will follow to start the season. Jason Castro got the Opening Day start. This made sense because he was a left-handed hitter and Corey Kluber, a right-handed pitcher, was starting for Cleveland. Castro was also the more veteran catcher and he was returning to the field for the first time since the knee injury that cost him all of last season.

    On Saturday, Mitch Garver, a righty, got the start. He was facing a right-handed pitcher in Trevor Bauer. On paper, it might seem like this isn’t a good match-up, since it would be a righty vs. righty scenario. However, Garver batted .288/.352/.454 against righties last season. To put that in perspective, his OPS versus right-handed pitchers was 177 points higher compared to when he stepped in against lefties.

    Sunday saw Willians Astudillo make his first start. He went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and two RBI. He also made a tremendous defensive play when he was backing up a play in foul territory. This means Castro will sit for a minimum of the end of Thursday until Tuesday’s series opener in Kansas City.

    If Baldelli is going to rotate through players, these early season off-days are going to make it tough for the catchers to get into a rhythm at the plate.

    Play Matchups
    A natural platoon seems to form with Garver being a right-handed hitter and Castro being a left-handed hitter. Baldelli could play the natural match-ups but this would put Castro on the field far more than Garver. As mentioned above, that might not always be the best option since Garver has some reverse splits. Garver is actually better than Castro at hitting right-handed pitching.

    For his career, Castro has hit .241/.326/.412 against righties. His OPS against lefties is 171 points lower. While a strict rotation might make some sense, Garver needs to be in the line-up against lefties. Garver doesn’t destroy the ball against lefties (.629 OPS), but his numbers are better than Castro's.

    Astudillo has been unreal at making contact during his big-league tenure. Through just over 100 plate appearances, he is hitting .368/.386/.547 with 10 extra-base hits. He also doesn’t have much of a platoon split. His OPS is .949 against righties (67 at-bats) and .893 against lefties (28 at-bats).

    Personal Catchers for Starters
    Some team’s like for a pitcher and a catcher to build rapport with each other. It certainly seemed like Castro was working well with Berrios. Berrios might have been able to make any catcher look good during Thursday’s game. If the Twins keep rotating catchers, Castro would catch Berrios and Garver would continue to catch Odorizzi. Astudillo caught the Pineda/Perez combo on Sunday. Gibson has yet to make a start, but it seems likely for Garver to catch him in the second game of the Royals series.

    Pitchers can get comfortable when the same catcher is working with them behind the plate. It seems likely that a personal catcher could be a luxury, but it seems unnecessary at baseball’s highest level. All of these players are professionals and have worked with a multitude of battery combinations throughout their playing careers. A personal catching system might naturally form from the catching rotation but it’s not a necessity.

    Castro’s contract expires at season’s end. Garver is coming off a strong 2018 campaign and he can’t reach free agency until 2024. Minnesota needs to see if Garver can be the team’s long-term solution behind the plate. As the season progresses, the team could continue with a rotation or ride the hot bat. Hopefully, Garver is taking the reins and showing he is ready to take the next step.

    If you were in the manager’s chair, how would you approach the catching situation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Apr 01 2019 04:25 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  16. Week in Review: Opening Salvos

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 3/25 through Sun, 3/31

    ***

    Record Last Week: 2-1 (Overall: 2-1)

    Run Differential Last Week: +7 (Overall: +7)

    Standing: Tied for 1st Place in AL Central


    HIGHLIGHTS

    The powered-up Twins pitching staff is already on display, setting a new franchise record with 39 strikeouts through their first three games.

    On Thursday and Saturday, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi became the second starting duo in history to open a season with back-to-back double-digit strikeout totals. The feat was only previously accomplished by Arizona's Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001 – arguably the greatest SP tandem in major-league history. No biggie.

    On Sunday, Michael Pineda and Martin Perez piggybacked for 11 strikeouts over 7 2/3 combined innings, continuing the run of rotation dominance against a diminished Cleveland lineup (sans Francisco Lindor).

    You can knock the quality of the opposition, but I would respond with two points:

    1) There's nothing misleading about the results this group achieved. Everyone looked fantastic. Berrios unleashed a barrage of filthy breaking balls and mixed in an upgraded changeup. Odorizzi was changing speeds and eye levels expertly. Pineda pounded the zone with heavy stuff. Perez constantly worked inside with the same 95-97 MPH heat he was flashing in spring training. There was no smoke-and-mirrors behind this magic.

    And, 2) The Indians aren't THAT beat-up. They're missing their best hitter in Lindor, yes, but fellow absentee Jason Kipnis hasn't been a factor in recent years. I mean, the fact that Tyler Naquin and Jake Bauers were Cleveland's #3 hitters in this series is really quite stunning. The qualitative difference between these two offenses was starkly apparent.

    One of the most interesting aspects of this Twins team coming into the season, from my view, was the legitimately high-powered starting corps, which has come along so far since five years ago. In total, the four starters combined for 47 swinging strikes on 310 pitches, a remarkable 15.1% whiff rate. For context, only three qualified MLB starters induced swinging strikes at a higher percentage in 2018: Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Carlos Carrasco (who the Twins knocked around in Sunday's series finale).

    Meanwhile, the bullpen was effective for the most part. Rocco Baldelli rotated through all six of his relievers and got scoreless appearances from five of them, with Taylor Rogers going twice and looking particularly crisp.

    So, early returns on new pitching coach Wes Johnson and his staff are resoundingly positive.

    The offense was mostly quiet in the opening series, facing the unenviable assignments of Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer in the season's first two games. Both enter this campaign as Cy Young frontrunners, and each looked the part in helping hold Minnesota's potent lineup to three runs on six hits through 18 innings.

    But Nelson Cruz made an impact in all three games as the Twins' new #3 hitter. He set up Marwin Gonzalez' game-winning hit on Thursday with a leadoff single in the seventh against Kluber. He drove in Minnesota's lone run on Saturday with some impressive bat-handling against Bauer. And he keyed the offense's breakout on Sunday by going 3-for-5 with the club's first home run of the year.

    The other most noteworthy performer was Byron Buxton. Fears of a post-spring drought quickly disappeared as he went 4-for-10 with three doubles and only two strikeouts in his first series. Last year, his third double came on May 12th. In 2017, he didn't get his fourth hit until almost two weeks into the season.

    It's certainly a modest benchmark but this is easily the best start of Buxton's career. Seeing him fired up and pumping his fists at second on Sunday after delivering a key two-run double – with two outs, on an 0-2 count – was the most invigorating sight for me on a weekend that offered plenty to choose from in that regard.

    LOWLIGHTS

    There wasn't a whole lot to dislike in these first three games. The Twins won two of them in fairly convincing fashion, and fell short by one run in the other. The final inning of that loss provides the only real fodder for grievances.

    Blake Parker was the only Twins pitcher to struggle in the entire series, and it wasn't because he got hit hard. The Arkansas native simply could not find any semblance of control in the chilly weather on Saturday. Carlos Santana singled, then moved from first to third on a pair of wild pitches. Parker walked Hanley Ramirez and fell behind Greg Allen 2-0 before allowing a sacrifice fly to deep center.

    The outing was uglier to watch than it looks on paper: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB. All things considered, if that's your most disastrous pitching performance in a series you can feel pretty good.

    And the Twins were well positioned to get that run back in the bottom half. Buxton led off against Cleveland closer Brad Hand with a wind-aided "double" to the shallow outfield. Baldelli then curiously elected not to use a pinch-hitter for Max Kepler, despite Hand's record of pure dominance against lefty swingers.



    Kepler struck out, and the rally went on to fall short. Presumably, Baldelli is just trying to show confidence in his core guys, but turning to a contact machine like Willians Astudillo in that spot – speedy runner on second, no outs, deepest bench the Twins will have all year – seemed like such an obvious call that it was surprising not to see it from the ostensibly analytical thinker. Will loyalty outweigh logic in the future? Something to watch.

    In general, Kepler is off to a slow start, as is fellow corner outfielder Eddie Rosario (combined 1-for-22), but there's no reason to worry about either.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    There's only one active Twins pitcher we haven't seen yet. It's kind of crazy that the rotation showed such incredible swing-and-miss proficiency in the opening series without its reigning whiff leader.

    Kyle Gibson spent his spring trying to regain strength and weight following a nasty winter bout with E. coli. He admitted after his last exhibition start – an ugly clunker against the Red Sox – that he still wasn't quite back to where he ideally wanted to be. So it's not surprising to see the Twins giving him as much time as they possibly can; Gibson's first start will come after Berrios takes his second turn on Tuesday in Kansas City.

    How will he look? Gibson's success last year was fueled by career-high velocity, so any sapped voltage might have a material impact. But if he's mostly back to form, this rotation has a chance to start generating some real enthusiasm in short order.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    Minor-league games haven't started yet, and in fact official rosters for the affiliates haven't even been announced yet. But that will all come this week, with Minor League Opening Day on Thursday.

    Make sure you stay tuned into Twins Daily for unparalleled coverage of the team's system and prospects. I'll be recapping the most noteworthy developments in this space each Sunday night, but the day-to-day minor-league coverage on this site is beyond robust and comprehensive. Thanks in advance to all of the people who work hard to make it possible: Seth, Cody, Tom, Steve, Ted, Matt... can't wait to read all of your reports this summer.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Following a successful home kickoff, the Twins embark on a seven-game road trip with four off days sprinkled in. Baldelli will have a deep bench and rested bullpen as he tours through two National League parks, starting with Philadelphia next weekend.

    TUESDAY, 4/2: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Brad Keller
    WEDNESDAY, 4/3: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Homer Bailey
    FRIDAY, 4/5: TWINS @ PHILLIES – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Nick Pivetta
    SATURDAY, 4/6: TWINS @ PHILLIES – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Jake Arrieta
    SUNDAY, 4/7: TWINS @ PHILLIES – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Zach Eflin

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Apr 01 2019 09:35 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  17. MIN 2, CLE 0: Berrios Dominates, Sets Twins Opening Day Record for Ks

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Berrios: 7.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 69.8% strikes
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: None
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Berrios .497, Gonzalez .253, Rogers .115
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Kepler -.102, Rosario -.109

    [attachment=12339:Chart328.png]

    It’s worth mentioning that this was a reunion of Berrios and catcher Jason Castro. The veteran catcher called for an unusual amount of off-speed pitches from Jose today. Berrios threw 37 curveballs (38.5 percent) and 12 changeups (12.5 percent). Last season, he only went to those offerings 30.4 and 9.1 percent of the time, respectively. It turned out to be a very good game plan.

    This was the first time the Twins shutout their opponent on Opening Day since 1970.



    Berrios was excellent. Really. But anything he could do, unfortunately, Kluber could do better. It was a scoreless tie in a game played at a blistering pace up until the bottom of the seventh inning.

    One of the big storylines of spring was on how poorly Marwin Gonzalez looked at the plate. In his first game as a Twin, Gonzalez broke up Kluber’s perfect game with a walk in the fifth inning, then broke the scoreless tie with a two-run double in the seventh.

    That run-scoring seventh was started by a Nelson Cruz leadoff single followed by a one-out, broken-bat single by C.J. Cron. Marwin’s big hit gave the new faces a nice first impression at Target Field.



    One of the other big questions of the offseason was how the bullpen was going to work out. Today, Taylor Rogers came in to record the final out of the eighth inning and stayed in to pick up his third career save. He struck out three of the four batters he faced.



    What about Byron Buxton? In the sixth inning, he got ahead 2-0 and laced a double 113.4 mph for the Twins’ first hit of the season.



    It would have been pretty difficult to expect a much better Opening Day than that.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:

    [attachment=12340:Bullpen328.png]

    Next Three Games
    SAT vs. CLE, 1:10 pm CT
    SUN vs. CLE, 1:10 pm CT
    TUE at KCR, 7:15 pm CT

    And One More Thing ...

    • Mar 29 2019 05:59 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  18. Opening Day Stream Of Consciousness

    However, with those funds, they chose to focus on adding some right-handed power bats. CJ Cron was DFAd by the cost-conscious Rays despite hitting 30 homers in 2018 and only having about a $5 million price tag for 2019. The Twins claimed Cron and happily paid him.

    The Twins also quickly scooped up Jonathan Schoop who had been non-tendered by the Brewers after joining them in a late-season trade from the Orioles. Schoop began the 2018 season hurt and really just struggled the entire season. But in 2017, he received a lot of MVP votes and ws an All-Star. The powerful second baseman is still just 27 years old.

    Next, the Twins outbid several teams to sign slugger Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal with an option for 2020. Cruz has been one of the most prolific power hitters in the game over the past decade and at 38 years old, he should have a couple more strong years in him. Over the last five seasons, his 37 home runs in 2018 was the fewest he’s hit.

    And then as spring training started, the Twins added Marwin Gonzalez to the roster with a two-year contract. The versatile Gonzalez can play all around the diamond and provide average, or slightly above average, offense. The versatility immediately proved valuable when Miguel Sano’s leg injury required another procedure and will cost him the first four-to-six weeks of the season.

    The offense has a chance to be really good. Without really even stretching reality, one could picture a scenario where eight Twins hitters reach 20 home runs in 2018. 200 home runs could almost be an expectation and the team’s record of 225 homers (set in 1963) could be matched.

    And yes, the team is also very likely to set some strikeout records as well.

    The Twins added right-handed pitcher Blake Parker this offseason. He had been non-tendered by the Angels despite being pretty good the last couple of years. He had a terrific, breakout season in 2017 as a 32-year-old. He was reliable for the Angels again in 2018 without quite as strong peripheral numbers. If you’re looking for predictions, I think that Parker will lead the Twins in saves in 2019.

    Twins fans were less than enthusiastic when the Twins announced the signing of Martin Perez. The 27-year-old free agent was long a top prospect with the Rangers who never quite met the potential many assigned to him. Many, likely including Twins GM Thad Levine who was the assistant GM in Texas as Perez climbed the ranks and reached the big leagues. In 2018, he posted a 6.22 ERA in 2018, though he missed a lot of time early in the season with an injury. Twins fans are now at least intrigued by Perez as he flashed a fastball in the 95-97 range throughout spring training and pitched well. Well enough to earn the fifth starter job. Could Perez be 2019s Anibal Sanchez?

    Could the Twins have done more to help bolster their pitching staff? Certainly they could have, and as spring training played out, it looks like maybe they should have. Addison Reed, Matt Magill and Gabriel Moya are all beginning the season on the Injured List. Fernando Romero is beginning the season in AAA Rochester.

    While free agent relievers are a complete crap shoot, one can’t help but wonder how much more confident the fan base might be had they invested in one or two of the many available veteran relievers who got $6 to $10 million for a year or two.

    Of course, we need to look no further than Addison Reed for a reminder of the reality of signing relievers. Reed came into the 2018 season as one of the most reliable relievers in the game of baseball. Consistently good for years, and as important, healthy. In fact, he was still just 29-years-old. That was about as safe as it gets when it comes to signing free agent relievers. Yet, two months into the season, Reed started struggling from overuse (in 2018 but also in previous seasons) and was hurt.

    But to illustrate the you-never-know reality of relief pitcher free agency, Ryne Harper became the story of spring training. He put up Matt Maloney (circa 2013) numbers for the Twins this spring. Maybe more important, he showcased a couple of breaking balls that had hitters completely off balance, even if they knew it was coming. Harper signed with the Twins before the 2018 season. He pitched great in AA Chattanooga last year, earning a spot on the Southern League All Star team. He struggled to an ERA over 5 in 26 games with AAA Rochester. Who knows? He could be the next Matt Maloney, or he could become the next Blake Parker and simply be a late bloomer.

    The Twins will hope to see Taylor Rogers continue what he did in 2018 when he became one of the best, most reliable left-handed relievers in all of baseball. Trevor May ended 2018 really strong and despite some ups and downs in spring will be one of the keys to the Twins bullpen. And despite the move to the bullpen and some spring training struggles, Twins fans should feel really good about the potential Fernando Romero will bring to the Twins bullpen at some point in 2019.

    The Twins also were able to work out a couple of long-term contracts with players that they believe can be part of a core over the next half-decade, or longer. The Twins and Max Kepler agreed on a five-year, $35 million contractwith a couple of option years. The also reached terms with Jorge Polanco on a five year, $25 million contract with a couple of option years.

    Unfortunately, at least at this point, they have not been able to reach a long-term agreement with All-Star and Opening Day starter Jose Berrios or with outfielder Eddie Rosario. Rosario is entering his first season under an arbitration deal while Berrios will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason. So there is certainly time, and there does seem to be mutual interest in a long-term relationship.

    Kyle Gibson figured things out late in the 2017 season and carried it into the 2018 season when he put together the best, most consistent season of his career. He will be a free agent following the season. There were reports that the Twins did talk to him about extending him, but again, sides were unable to reach an agreement.

    Last offseason, the Twins signed Michael Pineda to a two-year, $10 million contract. Last year, they paid him $2 million just to rehab from Tommy John surgery. He was set to make a return to the mound in September, but a knee injury required surgery. But he is healthy now and throwing hard and showing that strong sinker. Twins fans should feel really good about his potential.

    There is a theme to the 2019 season and that is hoping for guys to return to their 2017 form. Along with Pineda, Jake Odorizzi having a solid 2019 season after struggling through much of 2018 will be very important to the Twins hopes. He has to show he can get through six innings most times out.

    But the featured story of the Return To 2017 Form narrative that we have this year is Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.

    Miguel Sano put in the work after his demotion last year. He carried that into the offseason. He lost some weight and remained very strong. His efforts allowed him the ability to get some at-bats in the Dominican Winter League where his team won a championship… where he was injured in a fluke accident during the team’s celebration. You know that story and we know that he will miss the first four to six weeks of the season. But Twins fans should remain hopeful that all the work he has put in will prove fruitful and that he can return to the All Star form he was playing at in 2017 before his leg injury.

    No one can question the work ethic or desire of Byron Buxton to be great. In the offseason, he worked really hard to become a better player. Whether it was motivation from not being called up in September, or just an internal fortitude that Buxton is known for, he put in the effort. He gained 21 pounds of muscle without losing any speed. He had a strong, solid spring training. And while we all know that spring training stats mean very little, he again put together much better at-bats. And if he can hit something like .250 and get on base 31-32% of the time and continue to show the power that he has, all while playing elite defense, that is a remarkably valuable player. That’s what he did from May 2017 through the end of that season. And that’s why he received MVP votes that year. Last year was a lost year due to injuries. The key for Buxton is to be healthy and play. And getting off to a good start would help too.

    The Twins have a talented team. They may have to out-slug opponents at times, but they have a lineup that is capable of that. They are likely going to need to make some transactions throughout the course of the season, but the team does have some quality depth that will start the season in Rochester.

    In 2018, prospects such as Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves and Zack Littell came up for their MLB debuts. Frankly, they each took some lumps. The hope is that each learned a little something from those experiences and their offseason work and preparation will make them more ready when they are summoned in 2019. Let’s not forget about the debut season of Jose Berrios in 2016 when he went 3-7 with an 8.02 ERA. I’m not saying to expect those three prospects to jump up to Berrios' All-Star form, but each of them has shown enough to think that he has potential be be a decent MLB pitcher, and we should see that in 2019. And Lewis Thorpe is waiting in the wings for his opportunity as well.

    On the hitting side, LaMonte Wade had a strong showing in spring training again. He struggled some in his AAA debut last year, but he is a guy that can help at all three outfield positions, if needed. In the infield, Ronald Torreyes, who has been really good for the Yankees in a utility role the last three years, will start the season in Rochester, ready when needed. And the Twins were able to bring back infielder Adam Rosales after releasing him at the end of spring training. So there is depth.

    There may not be a lot of MLB-ready depth behind the plate in Rochester, though Tomas Telis has spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues. However, the Twins have their catcher depth. Jason Castro had his best season in four years for the Twins in 2017, but he missed most of 2018 with a knee injury. He returns which is a positive for the Twins and their pitching staff. Mitch Garver was thrust into more playing time because of the injury and over time he earned even more time behind the plate and he improved. He spent the offseason really focused on his defense. He can certainly hit. And Willians Astudillo is just fine as the team’s third catcher, who can also play some third base. And he can stand at several other positions as well. Most important, he can hit.

    There certainly are some questions. The Twins are starting the season with 11 pitchers, but they will certainly add another bullpen arm in a couple of weeks when they first need their fifth starter. They start the season with a five-man bench which includes Tyler Austinwho is out of options. As we know, these things tend to figure themselves out, but what happens with that roster spot at the time will prove very interesting.

    And I am very interested in how the changes in the coaching staff and with the manager will alter the Twins game. Wes Johnsonhas already seemingly had a positive effect on several pitchers. Known for helping guys add velocity, we have already seen that. But there is more going on behind the scenes that we may or may find out about. He’s very positive which certainly can’t be negative.

    Bullpen management was something that Twins fans complained about during the Ron Gardenhire years, and then again through the Paul Molitor years. It’s likely that it would have been something we complained about in the Tom Kelly years too had social media been a thing then.

    How will Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson run the bullpen? What will it look like if it is something that we don’t complain about? Molitor was often accused of over-using the guys that were reliable. I mean, thinking about that, it’s an understandable offense. Having a deeper bullpen with more reliable arms in it would certainly help so that pitchers don’t get over-used. Will Baldelli and Johnson be able and willing to put somewhat less reliable guys into more high-leverage situations? It may cost them in the short-term, but it may benefit them in the long-term (both with keeping top arms more fresh and developing other arms into high-leverage guys). What does a well-run bullpen look like? And do the Twins currently have the arms to make Baldelli’s potential decisions look right?

    Will Baldelli be a speed guy and ask for more stolen bases? Will he use hit-and-runs? From observing spring and even in minor league spring training, it sure appeared that the organization believes in running more. But will that happen in the big leagues?

    Baldelli has the analytical background, but he has chosen to focus his managerial style on communication and relationship building. And that’s great. It will be interesting to see how that plays out over 162 games. I think it’s a good thing, but we will see what happens when the Twins go through some struggles, which every team will over the course of the long season.

    I’m also very curious to see how Baldelli is with umpires. My assumption is that he may be even more laid back than Paul Molitor, which I know will both some Twins fans who believe that a “fire in the belly” is an important trait for a manager. Frankly, with replay, there just aren’t a lot of opportunities for a good, old-fashioned argument anymore.

    All right, this stream of consciousness is coming to an end. I think I’ve rambled long enough. But in summary, I am very excited to get the season started. I do think this is a very talented team. I do think they have the talent to compete with Cleveland or at least for a return to the Wild Card game. I am excited to see which players will take a big step forward in their 2019 season (Kepler!). I think that as important as Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano may be to the Twins 2019 season, that Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda could possibly have a bigger role in framing the Twins 2019 storyline.

    Again, Happy Opening Day, and let’s enjoy and hope for a great 2019 Twins Season!

    • Mar 28 2019 11:08 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  19. Questions Remain on Opening Day

    How will the bullpen be used?
    New manager Rocco Baldelli is the first MLB manager born in the 1980’s. His playing career was cut short, so he has been on the fast-track to his current position. He comes from the Tampa Bay organization that was the first to regularly use the opener strategy. It seems likely for the club to utilize this as just one in-game tactic this season.

    Baldelli hasn’t named a closer this season and that might be a purposefully strategy. Minnesota doesn’t have a “proven closer” on the roster. Twins coaches will be able to analyze match-ups and put pitchers in situations to succeed. Every relief arm will need to be ready to come into the game at any given point. Fans will have to wait and see how this strategy plays out.

    Can the young core take the next step?
    Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios were two of the most valuable players on the Twins last season. Now they need some help from the other young core players. Max Kepler is going to be given the opportunity to lead-off this season, even though he has never batted in that spot at the big-league level. He seemed to make some strides in the right direction last season. Can he flourish as the team’s lead-off man?

    Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are also entering a critical season. Both players struggled through most of last season. Reports were that Sano’s off-season regimen had him in great physical condition. A fluke injury during a winter league celebration means he will start the year on the IL. Buxton had a huge spring and seems poised for a break-out campaign. Is he ready to become the team’s next superstar?

    With Joe Mauer gone, who takes over as the face of the franchise?
    Veteran slugger Nelson Cruz was brought in to serve as a leader in the clubhouse, but he’s only on a short-term contract. Heck, Target Field already has a two-foot long hot dog named after him. Even with his presence, it will be key for a young player take over as the face of the franchise.

    Jose Berrios was an All-Star last season and he will make his first Opening Day start. On multiple platforms, I have discussed how I think he can take an even bigger step this season. He has a chance to finish in the top 5 in the AL Cy Young voting at season’s end. However, he only pitches every fifth day. Someone like Byron Buxton needs to be the face of the franchise. Buxton can impact every level of the game and it might be his time.

    Do the Twins have enough pitching?
    Twins fans are always clamoring for more pitching. This off-season Minnesota added the likes of Martin Perez to the back of the rotation and Blake Parker will get some important bullpen innings. Neither one of these players will exactly make fans get overly excited, so there are other parts of the staff to examine.

    Non-roster invitee Ryne Harper made the team out of spring training. He was tremendous this spring and the 30-year old will finally get an opportunity to make his big-league debut. Other than that, the Twins are hoping players from last year’s roster can adjust to new bullpen roles. Trevor May will be relied on in the late innings. Former top prospect Fernando Romero will start the year in Rochester to try to find his spot in the bullpen.

    No team can have too much pitching and there are some questions about Minnesota’s depth to start the year.

    What do you think about these questions as Opening Day begins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Mar 28 2019 04:43 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  20. Heels of Change: Focus on Biomechanics Leads Twins to Increased Velo

    In some regard Johnson’s emphasis on getting into the heel feels like this year’s thing. When Neil Allen first arrived with the Twins as the new pitching coach in 2015, he spent all spring convincing pitchers they needed to throw more changeups. Twins pitchers talked about the importance of throwing changeups to same-sided hitters or throwing them back-to-back. More changeups was Allen’s thing.

    How did that work out? The team’s changeup usage rate rose a bit but the results didn’t follow suit. Through Allen’s tenure, the Twins held a 4.58 staff ERA, 26th out of the 30 clubs.

    Johnson’s message, however, is one that concerns a pitcher’s entire foundation. Embracing it can be career-changing.

    When you ask him to elaborate on what makes this seemingly minor portion of the entire delivery such a critical component, Wes Johnson’s face lights up and he goes into his full biomechanical spiel.

    “We know that hip speed is a function of velocity and command as well,” Johnson begins in his upbeat southern accent. “And hip speed is generated through your glutes and we’re just trying to activate the glute medius. We’re trying to get the glute med to activate first instead of your quadricep because when a guy’s quadricep activates first, his hip speed goes down. So we’re just trying to activate the glute to get the hips to rotate faster to get command and-or velocity, whichever one.”

    If that was too technical, Kyle Gibson later offered an abridged explanation: “The goal is to use the big muscles in your legs.”

    It’s fairly basic. Pitchers who drive off of their toes first are not maximizing their velocity potential.

    Johnson admits that the concept isn’t for pitchers to actually drive off their heel, it’s to get them over the middle of their foot more. Cueing them to over-exaggerate and focus on the heel puts them in better position. When pitchers drive off their toes, they not only leave some MPHs on the table, they tend to have more inconsistent direction to home plate, wreaking havoc on their command as well.

    His reputation as a collegiate pitching coach is sterling and that was built on a velocity increase system he created. While with Dallas Baptist University, Johnson would take pitchers who were throwing in the upper 80s and have them reaching mid-90s within a couple of years. It happened again at Mississippi State and again at Arkansas. Johnson found that when more emphasis was placed on the lower half, velocity followed.

    Just like he did with his college athletes, when he was first hired by the Twins, Johnson said he spent days studying his pitchers to see who could use some adjustments. “I watched too much video. My wife is probably wondering what I was doing all offseason,” he says with a laugh. But the preparation from him and the rest of the Twins’ coaching staff allowed Johnson to have conversations with pitchers when they reported.

    “Wes has come in and this is his first spring training in professional baseball. I don’t take that lightly, I don’t think anybody should,” remarked manager Rocco Baldelli. “That is not the easiest of tasks to just come in and take control, as the pitching coach, of your staff. He put in a ton of work this offseason to lay the groundwork to be able to come in here and not just function but do some really nice things.”

    Being able to function as the new pitching coach is a bit easier when one of the veteran leaders of the staff is a big proponent of Johnson’s practices.

    Gibson is very familiar with these principles. Before the 2017 season, Gibson spent time at the Florida Baseball Ranch, retooling his mechanics with owner Randy Sullivan. Johnson, who had spent years working with Sullivan and other baseball outsiders, had a hand in creating the Durathro system which Gibson used to overhaul his arm action. But it was changing his lower half movements that sparked something for the right-hander, notably using Johnson’s cue of driving off his heel versus his toe.

    “I stepped across my body more in 2015 and 2016 and the only way you step across your body is by going off your toe,” says Gibson. “I wasn’t working on my direction when I was going through the Florida Baseball Ranch [arm] stuff but as soon as you get on your heel, and push off your heel, your direction to home plate gets more straight.”

    Like Johnson, Gibson is an avid film-watcher. He says he can quickly spot the flaws in himself and others from shots on the center field camera.

    “TV is a pretty good angle because you can see where a guy’s knee is,” Gibson says. “As soon as your knee gets over your toe, you’re pushing off your toe more. If your butt sits back and your toe stays behind your knee then obviously the kinetic chain is saying that you are more into your glute, more into your backside.”

    Gibson transformed his mechanics, engaging his lower half more, activating those “big muscles” in his legs.



    Gibson unlocked some additional heat but he also felt like he was able to locate all of his pitches better as he drove toward home plate compared to when he was stepping across his body. By the second half of 2017, when the new arm path and lower-half mechanics began to feel natural for Gibson, his career turned a corner.

    His body direction is what helped him against left-handed opponents in 2018. Previously he rarely went inside to lefties. From 2013 through 2016, he threw on the inner-third of the zone to left-handers just 30% of the time, opting to stay on the outer-third (49%). In 2018, no longer cutting himself off mechanically, Gibson attacked inside to lefties (48%) to great success.

    Johnson said coming into camp, he and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner had spent endless hours creating individual plans for the entire staff at the major-league level. He knew that if he presented video evidence and data, players would respond favorably to the adjustments.

    “We talk to them about the biomechanics side of it and what you’re seeing, and tell them why you are doing something which, to me, is the biggest factor because if we’re just coming in and saying ‘you gotta stay on your heel longer’ that’s crazy,” says Johnson. “We need to tell them why we are doing it and the success rate and show them video and show them guys who have had success doing it.”

    Gibson’s success helped the conversation move forward with other players. He convinced Jake Odorizzi to visit the Florida Baseball Ranch this offseason. Kohl Stewart also made a visit. There’s also Martin Perez, who witnessed a spike in velocity at the end of 2018. Johnson said the message they gave Perez was to get in his heel more and move more athletically. His velocity has been consistently up at 95-97 all spring.

    In addition to established pitchers like Gibson and Perez, Johnson and Hefner want to infuse the concept to pitchers who are currently on the fringe, hoping to stick in the big leagues, such as Chase De Jong.

    The 25-year-old De Jong has 47 major-league innings to his name. A former second-round draft pick, De Jong’s career has stalled at the Triple-A level. He doesn’t possess the high velocity normally seen by modern pitchers – averaging sub-90 on his four-seamer – and he has walked a few too many hitters (19 batters in 47 innings). Still, De Jong represents an arm the Twins would like to maximize.

    “They showed me in the video they said, hey, you’re doing this and it’s causing this,” De Jong explains. “[Staying on the heel] is the minor mechanical critique he’s made with me. I feel like it’s helped me stay strong on my backside and, directionally, it has helped with my lines tremendously.”

    Johnson agreed with De Jong’s assessment.

    “I look at [De Jong] and you look at that and when he’s been really good it’s his direction,” says Johnson. “He may have seen a one mile an hour tick in velocity so it wasn’t a ton for him but his direction and command was really good.”

    “Sometimes in pitching you can chase symptoms,” De Jong acknowledges. “You’re leaking out front, you’re doing this, you’re doing that, but when you actually get to the root of the problem and address that and just focus on that, the other stuff fixes because that’s what was causing it.”

    Similar to what Gibson went through in 2017, De Jong recognizes that implementing a new feel into his mechanics isn’t something that will produce results overnight. After all, his first foray this spring was rough. De Jong will start the 2019 season in Rochester, hoping to lock in the new movement patterns and eventually contribute with the Twins this summer. He will be joined at the Twins’ top affiliate with Stephen Gonsalves, another pitcher trying to incorporate Johnson’s cues.

    Johnson uses Gonsalves as an example of how the process isn’t a straight line. In one outing this spring Gonsalves saw hit velocity tick upward. In the next, it went back down.

    “You wish that it happened overnight but it doesn’t. It’s a process,” admits Johnson. “So you’ll see a bit of that rollercoaster wave action with those guys where you’ll see a little spike in velocity and then the next time it will flatten out, then spike but it’s because they are learning how to do it.”

    And that is Johnson’s biggest point: It’s a process.

    There is no guarantee of immediate success with any of the pitchers. While Gibson may have been able to advance his career through these methods, it did take him a little over half a season to feel comfortable. Many of the pitchers attempting to incorporate the new biomechanics may not see the consistent results for another season or two.

    That being said, if Johnson’s collegiate track record is any indication, the Twins should see that velo clout soon enough.

    • Mar 25 2019 04:33 AM
    • by Parker Hageman
  21. Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher

    Projected Starters: Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, Martin Perez

    Depth: Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Zack Littell, Chase De Jong
    Prospects: Brusdar Graterol, Jhoan Duran, Lewis Thorpe, Blayne Enlow, Gonsalves

    THE GOOD

    It's been a long time since the Twins have boasted this kind of quality atop their rotation. Berrios and Gibson each ranked among the top 15 American League starters in WAR last year (per FanGraphs), and both are poised to sustain their excellence on the backing of legitimate high-powered stuff.

    Their respective bursts of brilliance were balanced by stretches of steady solidness, leading to overall results that were well above average. And each proved admirably durable, answering the call every fifth day and setting new career highs for workload while tossing almost 200 innings apiece.

    A pair of stallions fronting the rotation is nice obviously, but it's not unprecedented for the modern Twins. Two years ago they had Berrios breaking out alongside Ervin Santana. Going back a little further, to the last playoff team, Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano presented a memorable pairing.

    But what the Twins lacked in both those instances was a viable third horse. In Pineda, they might finally have one. After rehabbing him from Tommy John surgery in 2018, the Twins are now looking to cash in on their $10 million investment from a year ago. When healthy, Pineda is a big bad man pumping mid-90s heat from a 6-foot-7 frame, piling up whiffs and strikeouts at rates that overshadow Berrios or Gibson.

    The back part of the rotation is less distinguished, but not without intrigue. Odorizzi averaged a strikeout per inning last year and was perfectly serviceable in his worst MLB season. He's playing for a contract at age 29. Perez seemed like a low-wattage pickup but is raising eyebrows with mid-90s heat (and strong results) in spring camp.

    Even when accentuating their positives, we must acknowledge the uncertainty with players like Pineda and Perez, which is why depth looms large. And while you can knock the dearth of established credentials in Minnesota's second starter tier, the reality is that this inexperience is a necessary evil.

    If calamity strikes the Twins rotation, it's a sign the season is probably not headed anywhere meaningful. In that scenario, the team needs to get extended looks at pitchers like Gonsalves, Stewart, Mejia and Littell. These are all respectable talents with strong minor-league résumés, ready for their MLB shots. While contention is a hopeful aspiration for Minnesota this year, the absolute imperative is to gain more clarity around what they have going forward, especially in a rotation that is almost totally undefined after 2019.

    And these guys are no scrubs. Each of them offers his own legitimate level of promise, especially with an innovative new pitching coach on hand. Stewart is a former top draft pick with sinking stuff as heavy as any hurler you'll find. Gonsalves has a 2.46 ERA in the minors and is catching eyes with increased velocity this spring. Mejia has looked capable in every MLB stint. Littell pitched his way to a big-league debut at age 22. Thorpe, who has yet to get his first chance in the majors, is another prospect with real upside who's close.

    I can't remember the Twins ever having this degree of first-level depth. If multiple injuries strike the rotation there is certainly no assurance this starting corps will fare well, but there will at least be value in giving starts to the replacements.

    THE BAD

    Unless Berrios or Gibson take a step forward, there's no real ace in this deck. The Twins are lacking compared to pretty much every other contender when it comes to a #1 starter. One of their highest-ceiling options is evidently out of the picture for 2019, with Fernando Romero billed for the bullpen. Even the best-case scenarios for guys like Stewart and Mejia and Gonsalves slate them more as middle-of-rotation guys than frontliners.

    It wouldn't be stunning to see Berrios or Gibson (or even Pineda) graduate to that top tier of starters, but there's no tangible reason to expect it. And realistically, the Twins probably shouldn't be counting on much from Pineda or Perez, given their recent histories. You might lump Odorizzi into that group also.

    Their extended mix of starting pitchers is respectable, and very possibly the best Minnesota has carried into a season since the division title days. But it's not flashy or fierce, relative to those clubs the Twins are trying to pass – namely the Indians, who project as vastly superior.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    Among players lined up for the Opening Day rotation, only one (Berrios) is under team control after this year. The Twins have an option on Perez, which could prove sneaky beneficial given that he's only 27 and throwing as well in camp as ever, but we're talking about a guy who posted a 6.22 ERA last year.

    If none of the expiring contracts (Gibson, Pineda, Odorizzi) prove worth extending, and no one emerges from the crop of borderline Triple-A arms, the Twins will find themselves searching for pitching answers via the free agent and trade markets that they steadfastly eschewed this past winter.

    So the long-term outlook here is somewhat questionable. But for the immediate future, this team has no shortage of worthwhile arms to trot out for starts.

    You've gotta really lean toward the bright side to see a unit that's anything more than average, but if the offense holds up its end, maybe that's all the Twins need.

    ***


    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Catcher
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: First Base
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Second Base
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Third Base
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Shortstop
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Left Field
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Center Field
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Right Field
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Designated Hitter

    • Mar 17 2019 09:23 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  22. Mailbag: Adding Keuchel, Opening Day Rotation, Angry Fans


    Dallas Keuchel would be a strong addition to the Twins rotation, but I don’t think it is going to happen. I truly don’t understand why he is still a free agent. Houston’s front office knows him the best, but they haven’t bitten the bullet on adding him back to staff. There must be more to the Keuchel situation. There are some health and durability concerns about Keuchel, especially if he wants a long-term deal.

    He’s only 31 and he has a Cy Young, four Gold Gloves, and two All-Star appearances. He’s not going to pitch the same way he did in 2015, his Cy Young year, but he could be a nice number two or three pitcher on a contending team. At this point, it seems like his agent might be waiting for a key injury to a starting pitcher to drive up the Keuchel cost.


    When it comes to the final rotation order, some of the pieces are already decided. Jose Berrios has been named the team’s Opening Day starter. It seems likely that weather will impact some of the team’s early season games and the club wouldn’t need a fifth starter for the first couple of weeks.

    Behind Berrios, Kyle Gibson seems like a logical number two pitcher. From there, things get murky. Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, and Martin Perez are the next three in line for starting spots. Odorizzi got crushed in his last Grapefruit League start but he might have been working on some specific pitches. Perez has some experience in relief so he could start the year in the bullpen. A couple more rough starts and Odorizzi could switch places with Perez.

    Twins Opening Day Rotation
    • Jose Berrios
    • Kyle Gibson
    • Michael Pineda
    • Jake Odorizzi
    • Martin Perez (begins in the bullpen)

    Minnesota has focused on power this offseason, but I don’t think it is enough to reach the 350-home run mark. Last year, the Yankees hit 267 home runs and that was the most in big league history. Minnesota ranked 23rd with 166 home runs. Only five teams in MLB history have hit over 250 home runs and that might have been what you meant.

    With Minnesota’s revamped line-up, I believe the club can crack the 200-home run mark. This would put them near the top-10 in the league. Most of the Opening Day line-up should have the potential to hit 20 home runs or more. Also, Nelson Cruz certainly helps any club’s home run total.


    In the last week, the Twins announced some family friendly pricing on items at concession stands in Target Field. Unfortunately, there are only two stands with these family friendly prices. Target Field still lets fans bring in any outside food that they want as long as it is in an appropriate container. I took advantage of this policy multiple times when I lived in the Twin Cities.

    Unfortunately, I think Twitter allows fans to be negative when it isn’t necessary. People can hide behind their computer screens or their phones and complain about things that don’t have that much of an impact on them. The Twins made an effort to lower prices at Target Field. They didn’t have to do it. If you don’t want to wait in the lines, bring in your own food or go to a more expensive stand.

    I love the food options at Target Field. I only make it to a couple games per year so I’m going to buy the food I want and pay full price.

    What do you think about this week’s questions? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Mar 11 2019 08:46 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  23. Still Free: LHP Dallas Keuchel

    Should the Twins be interested in signing free agent lefty Dallas Keuchel? What factors should go into that decision?

    What Should The Front Office Like

    When healthy, innings pitched:

    Three times in the last five years, Keuchel has made at least 29 starts and threw at least 200 innings.

    Control/Command:

    Keuchel has pitched in seven major-league seasons. He has typically not hurt himself by issuing walks. In his past six seasons, he has walked no more than 3.0 batters per nine innings and averaged just 2.5 walks per nine innings.

    2015 Cy Young

    In 2015, Keuchel went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA. He received 22 of the 30 first-place votes for AL Cy Young Award. He also pitched in a career-high 232 innings.

    Four Gold Gloves

    Keuchel also fields his position well. He has been awarded the American League Gold Glove in four of the last five seasons. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson are both very good athletes who field their position well.

    What Should Scare The Front Office

    Already 31

    Keuchel turned 31 years old on January 1st. On its own, that is not a big deal. However, it would certainly be a deterrent to a four or five year deal.

    Lack of Velocity

    Keuchel rarely touches 90 mph with his fastball. But as you can see from the chart below, it’s not like his velocity has diminished. He has never thrown hard.



    Health

    I have already and will again write the all-important phrase “if healthy.” That’s obviously an unknown and can’t be predicted with exact science (yet?). But Keuchel has had a variety of issues physically. He acknowledged after the 2016 season that he fought shoulder pain the whole year. He had a minor foot injury that cost him some time. He also had a neck injury.

    Draft Pick Compensation

    The Astros made a Qualifying Offer to Keuchel, so the team that signs him will have to give up a draft pick.


    What Signing Him Would Do For the Twins

    There is little question that, assuming Keuchel is healthy, he would improve the Twins rotation. Essentially Keuchel would take a spot in the Twins rotation and either Martin Perez or Michael Pineda would be moved to the bullpen.

    That’s not to say that Keuchel would fit in as the Twins fifth starter. But I also think it’s important to realize that he is not an ace, by any means. He would be a 2/3 in the Twins rotation. His 2018 numbers were very similar to those of Kyle Gibson. Again, assuming health, that would give the Twins a pretty solid 1-2-3 in their rotation for a potential playoff rotation with Odorizzi, Pineda and Perez (and all that minor league depth) getting their opportunities.


    Length of Ideal Contract

    To be honest, I would prefer a one-year deal between the Twins and Keuchel. Frankly, the (lack of) velocity scares me. If he loses another tick or two in velocity or if he loses even a little bit of command, his productivity could drop dramatically, and quickly.

    However, if he’s going to sign just a one-year deal, why wouldn’t he return to the Astros? Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are their top two starters. They added Wade Miley this offseason via free agency. Top prospect Forrest Whitley is likely close. Lance McCullers will miss the full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock could return to their rotation as well.

    Would you be willing to give Keuchel a second year? I probably would, especially because the Twins don’t have a lot of funds tied up on 2020 yet. But a third year? No, thank you. And a fourth year? Just no.


    Why Might Keuchel Have Interest in the Twins

    Keuchel has won and experienced a lot of success. He will want to be part of a team that has a chance to compete for a playoff spot. The Twins certainly fit that category. Keuchel certainly has seen the moves that the Twins have made this offseason. They added Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, CJ Cron and Keuchel’s long-time teammate Marwin Gonzalez. The lineup also includes several mid-20s players who he knows have the potential to add even more offense.

    Keuchel’s best years came with Jason Castro as his catcher in Houston. He also has to look at the Twins outfield and know that hits turn into outs, especially when Byron Buxton is out there.

    Like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel is represented by Scott Boras. Boras and the Twins front office seem to have a solid working relationship, and top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff are also Boras clients.


    What Would be a Reasonable Offer at this Point

    So, with all of that in mind, I think the following offers would be fair:

    Ideally, I would prefer a one-year, make-good contract. One year, $16 million.

    I would guess that Boras and Keuchel would like to get a second guaranteed season (and probably a third and fourth too), again, similar to the Gonzalez contract. So how about Two Years, $30 million deal?


    Summary

    As you read earlier in the week, LaVelle Neal wrote that the Twins will not sign Keuchel (or Kimbrel) unless something drastic changes. There are enough red flags around Keuchel that the Twins (and clearly most MLB teams) have shied away. Personally, I agree with that assessment.

    For a guy who rarely touches 90 mph with his fastball, Dallas Keuchel has put together a really strong free agent resume with his work in Houston the past six seasons. However, some of his peripheral numbers, understandably, could give teams reason for pause. Clearly they have.

    The Twins are currently about $12 million below where they started the 2018 season, so the proposed deals above would put them just over those numbers.

    The front office has to ask themselves which they prefer:
    • A 31 year old lefty with no velocity but a great track record of success.
    • A 27 year old lefty who is hitting 95-97 mph this spring but whose numbers have never matched his stuff.
    Note that if the Twins signed Keuchel, Perez wouldn’t be lost, just moved to the bullpen.

    What makes sense to you?

    • Mar 07 2019 06:46 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  24. Report From The Fort: Measure What Matters

    "E coli can just wreck your system," Twins starter Kyle Gibson told reporters after his first spring training outing.

    Gibson was likely referring to his insides but his system for getting ready for the season was also disrupted some. He struggled to maintain weight and said his legs were a bit shaky yet his results in his first outing looked like mid-season form.

    "Now it’s just about getting the endurance back and keep working on the leg strength and keep gaining the weight back."


    Asked how he felt about the performance of his slider, Gibson demurred.

    “I’m not really a guy who has a mutually exclusive that I can go out there and throw 80 times and get a swing and miss on 40,” he said. True, a 50% swinging strike rate would be ridiculous but in 2018, Gibson’s slider held a 27.3% swinging strike rate -- bested only by Patrick Corbin and Carlos Carrasco. In short it’s a wicked weapon.

    Gibson said that his secondary pitches performance are contingent on being able to spot his fastball.

    “When my fastball’s located well inside to a lefty it makes [my slider] better and when my fastball’s located well inside to a righty it makes my changeup better.”


    ***


    The Twins announced today that Jose Berrios’ will be the opening day starter, which will make him the youngest Twins Opening Day starter since Brad Radke in 1997. Radke won 20 games that season -- or 29% of the team’s total wins that year.

    ***


    Johan Santana was in camp today, observing minor league bullpens. According to one Twins official, Santana, who lives in the Fort Myers area, has offered his services to the organization and may spend more time with the prospects during the summer.


    ***


    The souped-up bullpen session included some additional elements beyond just a catcher. The Twins had hitters standing in the box -- giving them the added benefit of tracking pitches -- and brought in umpires to call balls and strikes. They also have Rapsodo 2.0 devices capturing all of the velocity and spin.


    Twins catching coordinator, Tanner Swanson, told me that the umpires serve a dual purpose for improving the catchers as well. With the human element umpiring, the organization can compare how well their backstops are at framing when cross-referenced against the Rapsodo data.

    In essence, the Twins are optimizing even the most mundane practices.

    ***


    Speaking of optimizing practices, the Twins believe they have trimmed a lot of fat off their daily workouts.

    MLB Network did an excellent inside profile on how Derek Shelton and the Twins have streamlined and refocused their daily routines in camp, trying to be more efficient.

    Gibson observed that one area that has been de-emphasized is time spent on defensive bunt coverage.

    “Bunting has obviously become less and less prevalent in the game so we didn’t have to focus as much on bunt plays or stuff like that,” he said.

    The Twins still practice it, to be sure, but since peaking at 2,878 attempts in 2012 over the last eight seasons, attempts were down to 1,810. It was determined that the player’s time would be better served working on other portions of the game.

    ***


    Unlike Sunday afternoon where the added velocity of Martin Perez and Jose Berrios, reliever Addison Reed struggled to crack 90 in his second outing of the spring. Reed had elbow impingement in 2018 which may have brought his average velocity down to 90.3 after hitting 92.3 in 2017.

    Baldelli wasn’t necessarily concerned over the results.

    “Addison is also a veteran pitcher as well. So you definitely balance knowing that he, probably more than anyone else here, knows how to prepare for a major league season.”

    That doesn’t mean that the staff won’t continue to help him make adjustments.

    “Wes or Hef, regardless whether a guy is a veteran or not, we do breakdown all the outings and we spend time on them and locate a couple of things we talk about.”

    ***

    Nelson Cruz is reportedly scheduled to make his first spring training game appearance. The big man put on a power display during live BP on the backfield and Baldelli hinted that his presence in the lineup could come as early as Thursday of this week.

    • Mar 04 2019 09:29 PM
    • by Parker Hageman
  25. BREAKING: Jose Berrios Named Twins Opening Day Starter

    Twins manager Rocco Baldellli said the team informed Berrios on Monday morning.

    "Truthfully, we were all very happy to give him that news," Baldelli said. "I also think he was very happy to hear it. He’s earned it. He’s a wonderful guy and I was happy to see him so excited."

    Baldelli revealed a little of the decision-making process, saying that he conferred with his coaching staff.

    "Our staff did spend some time talking about it. Just to make sure to hear different opinions," he said, "but in this instance there wasn’t a ton of discussions. Basically everybody was happy for him."

    Berrios, who will be 24 years old when the season starts, will be the Twins' youngest Opening Day starter since Brad Radke in 1997.

    • Mar 04 2019 03:42 PM
    • by Parker Hageman