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  1. Twins Game Recap (9/16): Berrios tosses a strong 7.1 innings

    Box Score
    Starter Jose Berrios: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 69% strikes (65 of 94 pitches)
    Bullpen: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Luis Arraez (3-for-4), Mitch Garver (2-for-3)

    Top 3 WPA: Mitch Garver (.205), Jose Berrios (.204), Luis Arraez (.182)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Jake Cave (-.197), Eddie Rosario (-.109), Sergio Romo (-.002)

    It took Jose Berrios some time to get locked in, resulting in the White Sox taking an early 2-0 lead. The first coming off of a sacrifice fly from Jose Abreu and the second from a Jame McCann home run.

    That lead didn’t last long as the Twins strung some singles together to get runners on base and tie the game up 2-2 after a Jorge Polanco sac fly and a Nelson Cruz single. It was from that point on that Berrios settled in and wouldn’t allow the White Sox to produce any more runs off.

    A Garver RBI double in the fifth and the strangest two-run single by Luis Arraez put the Twins up 5-2 after six innings. That lead backed Berrios as he continued to pitch well with good velocity and made it into the eighth inning before giving way to the bullpen.



    Romo giving up a home run late is depressing but all in all a solid game by the Twins. It was fun watching Marwin play again especially his reaction to the successful pick-off from Berrios.

    The big take away as we look to the postseason is that Berrios is looking more and more like a pitcher who can help lead the team in some big games. And apparently the Twins don't need to hit home runs to win games. Who knew?

    Postgame With Baldelli
    Coming Soon

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

    • Sep 16 2019 08:47 PM
    • by Nate Palmer
  2. Leading Off Podcast With Matt & Cooper: Movin' Me Down the Central

    Link to Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/7FnITrhARBvuOpnJrvO5k6

    Time stamps

    Week in review: 4:45

    Magic number is nine: 15:00

    Jose Berrios: 16:55

    Brusdar Graterol: 20:00

    Buxton done: 25:40

    Dobnak/rotation talk: 33:45

    Jorge Alcala: 47:20

    Injury news: 51:40

    Fan questions: 63:15

    Looking ahead: 82:00

    https://open.spotify...ARBvuOpnJrvO5k6

    Give it a listen and leave a comment on this post or tweet at us what you thought
    Matt: @Matthew_bTwins
    Cooper: Carlson_MnTwins

    • Sep 16 2019 10:15 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  3. Week in Review: Weathering the Storm

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/9 through Sun, 9/15

    ***

    Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 91-58)

    Run Differential Last Week: -1 (Overall: +167)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (5.5 GA)

    Magic Number: 9

    Willians Watch: 3-for-17 with three singles


    It's all hands on deck. When the Twins got news over the weekend that Sam Dyson is likely done for the year, they called up Jorge Alcala to join Brusdar Graterol as inexperienced but high-upside young fireballers in the bullpen. Marcus Diplan was DFA'ed to make room for Alcala.

    Other roster moves from the past week:
    • Byron Buxton was placed on the 60-day IL, officially ending his season. He underwent shoulder labrum surgery, with a 5-6 month recovery timeline that will push right up against 2020 spring training.
    • Ronald Torreyes was added to the 40-man roster in Buxton's stead, and joined the team to replace Ehire Adrianza, who suffered an oblique injury on Thursday that likely ends his season.
    • Kyle Gibson was activated from IL after missing one start, and took the mound on both Thursday and Sunday. You'll find a rundown of his appearances in the Lowlights section below.
    HIGHLIGHTS

    Miguel Sano delivered the decisive blow of the season on Saturday night, launching a tie-breaking grand slam that caused all of Cleveland to (either literally or figuratively) mimic the reaction of Indians reliever Nick Goody:



    Sano added another home run on Sunday – No. 29 on the ledger despite starting his season on May 16th. The slugger appears to be fully past the back soreness that sidelined him early in the week, which is very good news.

    Plenty of other offensive mainstays came through for the Twins in this pivotal week:
    • Jorge Polanco, who had a two-run homer wiped away on Friday night, followed up with another one against Mike Clevinger in the Saturday matinee, a blast which proved decisive in a 2-0 win. For the week, Polanco was 7-for-19 with two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs.
    • Mitch Garver launched his 30th home run on Tuesday night, and the two-run jack was key to a late-rallying victory. He finished 3-for-10 with just one strikeout in his three starts for the week.
    • There's been no real fade from Luis Arraez, who just keeps churning out hits in bunches. Last week he was 9-for-23 with three doubles, pushing his August batting average to .400. Overall, his .344 average leads the major leagues among players with 300+ plate appearances.
    • Eddie Rosario shook off a lengthy slump (.156 average and .418 OPS through the first 11 games of August) and saw his bat come alive over the weekend as he launched three homers in the final two games of the Cleveland series. Getting Eddie hot again as the regular season gives way to the playoffs would be an enormous game-changer, so let's hope he can keep it up.
    Seeing Max Kepler and Jake Cave return to the fold, on Friday and Sunday respectively, was also a very welcome development.

    As nice as the offensive highlights were, none of them matched the Jose Berrios performance on Tuesday night in terms of magnitude. Desperately needing a strong showing to get back on track, Berrios came through with just that, firing seven scoreless innings against a good offense.

    In his best start since the end of July, Berrios pounded the zone with efficiency, issuing only one walk with two hits allowed on minimal hard contact. As a negative, the righty didn't quite seem to have his most dominant stuff, getting only four strikeouts while tying a season-low with four swinging strikes. But obviously he'll take those results as something to build upon.

    As I noted last week, Berrios shook off a late-season slump and finished strong in his final four starts of 2018. Was Tuesday the start of a repeat down the stretch here in 2019? We'll learn more when he takes the mound on Monday night against the White Sox.

    Rising above all the aforementioned highlights last week was the Twins bullpen, which put forth an exquisite effort in Saturday's doubleheader, as nine pitchers combined to hold Cleveland to five total runs. If you count Devin Smeltzer (3 IP, 0 ER in the day game) and Lewis Thorpe (3.1 IP, 5 ER in the nightcap) as starters, the relief corps combined for 11 2/3 shutout innings against Cleveland on Saturday, with 14 strikeouts and zero walks. Flat-out amazing work.

    For the week, the bullpen allowed only 10 earned runs over 24 2/3 frames (3.65 ERA) with nearly all the damage coming in what amounts to garbage time (nine of the ER came against low-rung relievers in losses on Thursday and Sunday). Among the standouts were Taylor Rogers (five strikeouts in 2 2/3 scoreless innings), Brusdar Graterol (four strikeouts in three perfect frames), Trevor May (2 IP, 0 R), Tyler Duffey (2.1 IP, 0 ER), and Zack Littell (3 IP, 0 R).

    The top pieces in this pen are all clicking at the right time. Even with Dyson unavailable, the Twins may well have a bullpen depth advantage over anyone they face in the playoffs, which would prove vital given the shortcomings in the rotation.

    LOWLIGHTS

    Tuesday night gem's from Berrios was a lone bright spot for the rotation. Jake Odorizzi allowed two runs in two innings on Friday night before having the game (and his stats) washed out. Martin Perez looked terrible against Washington on Wednesday, coughing up five runs over five innings in a loss. And Gibson... ohhh, Gibby.

    The Twins are doing whatever tinkering they can to coax their ailing right-hander into some level of effectiveness. They skipped one of his starts before having him take the hill Thursday, hoping extra rest might prove beneficial. Then they called on him out of the bullpen on Sunday, perhaps auditioning him for an altered postseason role. Neither experiment paid any dividends.

    Gibson looked as bad as ever in his start against Washington, yielding eight runs and four walks over 4 2/3 innings. Execution was incredibly inconsistent for the righty, who misfired constantly and gave up two home runs for – surprisingly – the first time in three months.

    Interestingly, the Twins tried bringing Gibson back in relief on Sunday, with just two days rest, and he looked much the same, allowing two hits and a walk while needing 31 pitches to get three outs. Shortly after coming in, the righty gave up a no-doubt two-run blast against Roberto Perez that turned a manageable one-run deficit into an intimidating three runs.

    This is all very distressing. With Michael Pineda out, it's awfully tough to envision a scenario where Gibson isn't counted on for the playoffs in some fairly significant way. While the capability to shut down a good lineup does reside within him, he's offering no glimmers of optimism that he's physically up to realizing it at this time.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    With the magic number down to single digits, focus turns to securing the division officially and gearing up for the ALDS along the way. Expect ample rest for banged-up offensive regulars as the Twins try to nurse their lineup back to health. Fielding a relatively full-strength group will be critical to matching the firepower of a Houston or New York.

    The pitching staff is more of a fluid situation. Here there are actually assessments and evaluations to be made. Presumably Berrios is your Game 1 starter and Odorizzi lines up for Game 2, but then what? Gibson and Perez are pitching with much on the line (not the least of which being their impending free agencies). Unfortunately, the Twins will have no further opportunities to see these hurlers compete against high-quality lineups, so it's gonna be tough to draw any strong conclusions from what happens in the final two weeks.

    Meanwhile, the bullpen hierarchy must become solidified for October. Rocco Baldelli is fortunate to have a lot of good options to work with right now. Who will be left out when the team needs to shave down?

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    With all the minor-league seasons having reached an end, Twins Daily handed out its 2019 awards last week. You can read about the winners below:LOOKING AHEAD

    It's a downhill ride from here on out. Coming off the triumph in Cleveland, Minnesota returns to Target Field for seven games against the White Sox and Royals. Now, I will say: Chicago showed last time around they can't be taken for granted, especially with Lucas Giolito taking the hill on Tuesday. But the Twins should absolutely be able to chip away at that magic number total in the next seven days.

    Cleveland opens with three contests at home against a Detroit team they've gone 15-1 against, then they welcome an eliminated Philadelphia team, so the Twins can't count on getting much help.

    MONDAY, 9/16: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Reynaldo Lopez v. RHP Jose Berrios
    TUESDAY, 9/17: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lucas Giolito v. LHP Martin Perez
    WEDNESDAY, 9/18: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Dylan Covey v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    THURSDAY: 9/19: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Mike Montgomery v. TBD
    FRIDAY, 9/20: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Jakob Junis v. LHP Devin Smeltzer
    SATURDAY, 9/21: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Glenn Sparkman v. RHP Jose Berrios
    SUNDAY, 9/22: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Jorge Lopez v. LHP Martin Perez

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Sep 16 2019 04:19 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  4. Who is the Twins Team MVP?

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

    Max Kepler

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

    Jose Berrios

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

    Nelson Cruz

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

    Taylor Rogers

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

    Jorge Polanco

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

    Mitch Garver

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

    Miguel Sano

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

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

    • Sep 15 2019 04:44 PM
    • by Andrew Thares
  5. The Twins Need Berrios to Step Up Now More Than Ever

    The Twins and their fans have enjoyed one of the best seasons in team history and everyone knows it has largely been due to the historically good lineup. The lineup will be the Twins greatest weapon when October comes, and the Twins really will just be asking for a quality start from their pitchers in order to get a win. The problem with that theory which shouldn’t be that difficult, is that it has not been easy for the starting pitchers to go six innings lately.

    I’m sure you’ve heard everything there is to hear about how the Twins rotation has struggled, but there hasn’t really been much to worry about until the Pineda suspension was announced. With Pineda done for the year, the Twins are down to one consistent starter in Jake Odorizzi. If the Twins enter a playoff series against Houston or New York, having only one starting pitcher who can get the job done isn’t ideal. That is why I believe moving on to the second round of the playoffs relies heavily on how Jose Berrios performs.

    Of course the MLB playoffs are always extremely random. No one team has won consecutive World Series titles since the Yankees in 1999 and 2000 and that is why the baseball playoffs are more fun than watching the Warriors or Patriots win it every year in those other weird sports. Even with the random outcomes that will happen, I don’t like the Twins chances with Jake Odorizzi as their best pitcher.

    The Twins will need the first half Jose Berrios who posted a 3.00 ERA, 4.50 K/BB, 1.11 WHIP and .671 OPS to come back around to finish off the division and take on James Paxton, Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander and match them pitch for pitch. If they get the second half version with his 5.37 ERA and .807 OPS against the Yankees or Astros then it might not be so fun to watch.

    Luckily there has been good news in his most recent starts regarding the velocity that seemingly disappeared on his fastball in August. It has gone back up to a 93.5 MPH average which is just a tick above his best month this season. In June when his velocity was this high, he posted an elite 2.06 ERA and earned himself a trip to the All-Star Game.

    [attachment=13078:JBChart.jpeg]

    Hopefully Berrios is working his way back to being the ace we all know and love because the playoff outlook completely changes if we get All-Star Berrios in game one. With a first place team surrounded by the negativity of the season-ending injury to Buxton, the Pineda suspension, and a flurry of other injuries, we hope Berrios can bring positive vibes back to Twins Territory.

    • Sep 11 2019 06:44 PM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  6. Silver Linings Amid September Storms

    From the big-picture view, one should feel very pleased with the franchise's current state of affairs. This year has undeniably been a success, and for those who suggest that a quick demise in the playoffs would change that, I hope you know how silly it sounds.

    The Twins have already won more games than in any of the past eight seasons. They set the major-league home run record in five months. Minnesota's lineup has put forth a combination of good, great, and historically unprecedented performances. The new coaching staff has been spectacular by any result-based measure, and the front office that assembled it is now routinely mentioned among the game's most sophisticated and advanced.

    In the grand scheme, this has been a phenomenal season and there's no doubt we'll remember it for years to come. But here, with the postseason only weeks away, it's also completely fair for fans to be thinking about the small picture. The right here and right now. Minnesota has put itself in tremendous position with 88 wins and a 5.5 game division lead here on September 9th, but there are a number of negative harbingers clouding the skies at exactly the wrong time.

    The Twins have won two series against teams with .500+ records since the end of June, with one of those coming against a fading Boston team on the brink of elimination. The Michael Pineda suspension is obviously a monumental gut-punch, and leaves the rotation filled with starters who've failed to build up much confidence of late. A medley of key injuries have befallen the position-player core. Things are undeniably trending in a bad direction.

    With that said, here are nine things you should be feeling good about as we gear up for the final three weeks of the schedule.

    1. The Twins have two All-Star starting pitchers.

    It hardly seems relevant right now given the way they (especially Jose Berrios) have pitched since, but he and Jake Odorizzi were among the league's best pitchers over the first three months of the season. And Odorizzi has quietly settled back into a hell of a groove, with a 3.05 ERA and only two home runs allowed over his past eight starts.

    From mid-June into July, Odorizzi was out of sorts, giving up loads of homers and generally struggling to get through five innings. But in recent weeks he's returned to form, and Saturday's effort against Cleveland was one of his finest all year. The ups and downs serve as a reminder of the roller-coaster nature of MLB's marathon season. Which is all the more reason we shouldn't give up on Berrios. He's not so far removed from looking like a frontline ace.

    This seems a good time to mention that in 2018, Berrios went through a similar (albeit less extreme) swoon in the latter half of the summer, but rebounded with a 3.28 ERA and one homer allowed in his final four starts, allowing a .174/.282/.221 slash line. In his final start, he tossed seven innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts against the White Sox.

    Finally, while losing Pineda at this point understandably feels like a grave development, let us not forget that the Twins sprinted to their amazing start in April and May with him as the least trusted member of the rotation. They've shown they can do it without him.

    2. The bullpen is long and strong.

    The present shortcomings of the rotation are made somewhat more palatable by the strength of the bullpen in recent weeks. Yeah, the whole Sam Dyson fiasco sucks, but in spite of it, Minnesota relievers hold the following AL ranks since the trade deadline:

    • 2nd in FIP (3.90)
    • 2nd in WAR (5.8)
    • 2nd in HR/9 (1.19)
    • 3rd in xFIP (4.22)
    • 4th in K/BB (3.26)
    • 5th in SIERA (4.21)

    Taylor Rogers is elite, and is – crucially – getting plenty of rest here in the late stretch of the season. Trevor May is pitching as well as he ever has. Sergio Romo provides a vital veteran infusion. Tyler Duffey has quietly emerged. Brusdar Graterol is here, representing an extremely intriguing wild-card factor. As much as people want to fret about the rotation, we should all recognize the bullpen's astounding (and much-needed) turnaround. We've seen how bullpen depth can come into play during recent playoff runs. The Twins outshine several other playoff-bound clubs in this regard.

    3. Offensive depth is why they're here.

    You don't set MLB records for total home runs, and number of players with 20+ home runs, without widespread contributions, and that's just what the Twins have gotten. While we will know more soon, it seems likely the Twins will have to proceed without the totality of Byron Buxton's impact (and maybe with none of it). Max Kepler is dealing with a worrisome shoulder situation. Nelson Cruz's wrist has begun barking again. Marwin Gonzalez has been sidelined for some time with an abdominal issue. Jake Cave and Miguel Sano are banged up too.

    It's a grim situation in the trainer's room right now, but the Twins still have an awful lot of weapons available even when they're shorthanded. And there is a glimmer of good news on the health front...

    4. They'll likely have the luxury of resting their ailing players down the stretch.

    It would've been nice if the Twins took care of business against Cleveland at Target Field, rather than dropping five of seven in the last two series, to effectively put this thing out of reach. We're not quite there yet. Still, a magic number of 14 with 19 games left to play puts the Twins firmly in the driver's seat, and they're one good week away from being able to essentially coast, with a cakewalk schedule against bottom-dwellers in their final 13 games.

    Rest isn't a cure-all, but it sure helps, and is probably the only potential remedy for ailments like Kepler's sore (but not structurally damaged!) shoulder, or Cruz's wrist, or Sano's back. Thanks to their depth and the diminishing urgency to win, the Twins should be able to practice a lot of caution in the twilight of the season.

    5. Kyle Gibson is capable of dominance.

    The main outcome of Pineda's suspension is that it significantly elevates the importance of Gibson, who's currently sidelined while dealing with his own medical issue. Berrios and Odorizzi were going to slot among the team's top three playoff starters even with Big Mike around. Now, Gibson will likely step back into that picture.

    I can presume, from experience, that this item will be the most controversial of the nine listed here. For whatever reason, many Twins fans seem to harbor an inordinate level of resentment toward the right-hander, who has toiled in this organization for a decade and has finally realized the quality of his stuff after working very hard to do so.

    Yes, Gibson's been rough lately, and inconsistent for much of the season. But this isn't a man wilting mentally in the moment; it's a guy dealing with some truly terrible health-related misfortune. He opened his season coming off an E. coli battle and, as we've now learned, he has been battling ulcerative colitis throughout the summer. This daunting affliction has clearly affected his weight and strength, most recently causing a jarring drop in velocity, and so to me it's impressive he has still managed to post the seventh-highest swinging strike rate among AL starters while vaulting his K-rate to a new career high.

    That speaks to the underlying quality of his raw stuff, which likely ranks as the best in the rotation. When Gibson is truly on his game he can overpower a good lineup. I don't know if we'll see that side of him again this year, in light of the circumstances, but at least the problem has been acknowledged and the team is taking some steps to try and get him right.

    6. Eddie Rosario is lurking.

    It's been a frustrating year for Rosario. He's lost all semblance of plate discipline and as a result he's become a fairly easy out amidst a lineup that offers few. He just keeps swinging more and more frequently out of the zone, and his production has steadily declined as a result.

    But let us not forget: when he's locked in, there might not be anyone more dangerous. He loves big stages and big moments; the three-run blast at Yankee Stadium in the 2017 Wild Card Game lingers as an unforgettable highlight in a mostly forgettable game. He's still got time to turn it on and find his zone again.

    7. The postseason is an unpredictable beast.

    I know it's easy for Twins fans to feel a sense of dread about the playoffs, given the complete lack of success this franchise has experienced in October since 1991. As unfavorable developments stack up, it can be tempting to feel like failure is inevitable in an ALDS tilt against the Astros or Yankees.

    But past letdowns against New York are now irrelevant. They just are. Houston's intimidating rotation guarantees nothing. The Twins are, at the end of the day, a tremendous team, poised to approach or surpass 100 wins with one of the greatest offenses in MLB history. They've shown resilience and tenacity against both the Yankees and Astros this year. This isn't a piranha pack bringing knives to a gunfight. Even if in a weakened state, the Twins are going to have a shot in a short postseason series.

    8. No matter what happens, the playoffs are awesome!

    I've heard people say they'd rather not make the playoffs than get swept out in the first round again. It's an amazing sentiment to me. I get such a deep sense of jealousy when watching postseason action from the outside – a constant reality over the past eight years. This team deserves a spot on the national pedestal, and all the attention and recognition that comes with it. Win or lose, the experience will be important for a young core that figures to mostly stick together for a long time. Which brings me to my final point.

    9. This is only the beginning.

    It's fair to say this is a unique opportunity for the Twins. You can't assume they'll be in this kind of position again next year, or the year after. But from that ol' big-picture view, they really are just getting started. Many key players are under control through multiple prime years to come. Their minor-league system ranks among the league's best. Rocco Baldelli might win Manager of the Year as a rookie skipper, while his first-year pitching coach Wes Johnson already has a solid case as the most impactful in the game. In their third year, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have put forth one of the best teams in franchise history, all while focusing on long-term contention above all. Based on what we've seen, I have immense faith in their ability to build around this core and develop players effectively.

    The future is bright for the Minnesota Twins, no matter what happens in the coming month. That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't feel concerned about the small-picture, and disheartened by this recent string of events. But as I was heartily reminded over the weekend, perspective is important. Taking a step back, Twins fans should be feeling awfully good about where things stand, and even in the short-term, there's more reason for optimism than it may presently seem amidst a storm of bad news.

    • Sep 09 2019 04:39 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  7. Week in Review: Ups and Downs

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/2 through Sun, 9/8

    ***

    Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 88-55)

    Run Differential Last Week: -6 (Overall: +168)

    Standing: 1st Place in the AL Central (5.5 GA)

    Willians Watch: 5-for-14, RBI, R


    HIGHLIGHTS

    Eddie Rosario might have had one of the biggest Twins highlights of the year with his game-saving throw off Boston’s Green Monster. He helped save the game and put the Twins up 6.5 games entering their critical three-game weekend series against the Indians.



    Rosario’s game-saving throw capped off a tremendous road trip for the Twins where the club won eight of 10 games with 104 hits, 63 runs, and 19 home runs. This included breaking the single-season MLB home run record before Minnesota headed home to face Cleveland in a critical three-game set.

    On Friday night, Minnesota ended up falling in extra-innings to the Indians, but one of the coolest moments happened earlier in the game. Carlos Carrasco has been battling leukemia throughout the 2019 campaign and he recently returned to action. When Miguel Sano stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, he tipped his helmet to the pitcher fondly referred to as “Cookie.” Sano would strike out in the at-bat, but it shows that some things are bigger than the game.



    Not knowing his suspension was coming on Saturday, it was impressive to see Michael Pineda in what could be his last time on the Target Field mound. He went six strong innings by allowing one run on four hits and striking out a season-high 10 Cleveland batters. In his last 10 starts (59 1/3 innings), he posted a 2.88 ERA with a 65-to-13 strikeout to walk ratio, but now he’s done for the year.

    LOWLIGHTS

    Pineda’s suspension might be the biggest lowlight in the Twins season, especially since it sounds like he deliberately took the drug without consulting the Twins medical staff. In case you missed it, Pineda took hydrochlorothiazide, a banned diuretic, that he obtained from a close acquaintance. He does become the first MLB player to appeal the suspension and have it reduced from 80 games to 60 games. It was still a crushing blow to Minnesota’s playoff hopes.

    With Pineda out of the picture, Berrios and his recent struggles take on an even bigger importance. Many have been calling for him to get some time off and he had his start pushed back a day last week, but the results weren’t much better. At one point in the game, he retired 11 of 13 batters and this included a web gem play by himself. However, he allowed six earned runs on eight hits (two Mookie Betts home runs) with six strikeouts and three walks. Berrios likely has three more starts before the playoffs and the Twins need to find a solution to what ails him.

    Rosario, a core piece of Minnesota’s line-up, might have provided the biggest defensive play of the week, but he looked lost at the plate with almost no plate discipline. He’s always been a free swinger and that has certainly been the case in recent weeks. Over his last 24 games, he is hitting .235/.252/.392 with 19 strikeouts and three walks. For a player with a career .309 OBP, it’s been tough to watch some of his at-bats, especially his approach at the plate.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    On Saturday, Mitch Garver helped the Twins to victory with two home runs and he also joined the franchise record books. Garver has hit all his homers as a catcher so his 27th and 28th home run moved him past Earl Battey’s 1963 total of 26.



    What Garver has done is truly impressive because of the limited number of games he has played this year. Battey played 147 games during his record-setting season and Garver’s 28 homers have come in a half-time role where he just cracked the 80 games played mark. He added another home run on Sunday, but it came as the designated hitter.

    Minnesota is also closing in on the single-season home run record for catchers in baseball history. Three MLB teams have accumulated 43 homers from the catcher’s position and Minnesota finished play on Sunday with 41 catcher home runs on the year.

    Another record within Minnesota’s reach is the most players in franchise history with 30 or more homers in a season. Right now, Max Kepler and Nelson Cruz have already crossed the 30-homer plateau. Garver is one homer away and Rosario is two short of 30. Sano is also sitting at 27 long balls, so there is a realistic chance for five players to finish with 30 home runs or more.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    Playoffs were the name of the game in the minor leagues as two Twins affiliates, the Kernels and the Blue Wahoos, attempted to advance. Alex Kiriloff and Royce Lewis came up big in Pensacola’s first playoff game, but they can’t play both sides of the ball.



    Kirilloff has been a one-man wrecking crew during postseason play as he homered in the Blue Wahoos’ first four playoff games. The Blue Wahoos pushed Biloxi to a decisive fifth game on Sunday night. Cedar Rapids fell in their first game of the best-of-three Western Division Championship, which means the club needs to roll off two straight wins to advance.

    Check out Sunday’s Minor League Report to see how the clubs fared and if Kirilloff was able to continue his home run streak.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Minnesota will get an off-day on Monday before facing a strong Washington team for three games. Currently, the Nationals hold a three-game lead on the NL’s top Wild Card spot, so they have plenty to play for with the hot Arizona Diamondbacks making a quick move toward the top. Luckily, the Twins will avoid Max Scherzer as he isn’t scheduled to start in the series, but the trio of Sanchez, Strasburg and Corbin will be tough.

    Following the Nationals series, the Twins head to Cleveland for their final three games with the Indians. Cleveland faces off with the Angels for three games and has an off-day on Thursday. If Cleveland were able to sweep Los Angeles and Minnesota lost three to Washington, the division lead could be down to 2.5 games entering next weekend.

    Buckle up, Twins Territory.

    TUESDAY, 9/10: NATIONALS @ TWINS – RHP Anibal Sanchez vs. RHP Jose Berrios
    WEDNESDAY, 9/11: NATIONALS @ TWINS – RHP Stephen Strasburg vs. LHP Martin Perez
    THURSDAY, 9/12: NATIONALS @ TWINS – LHP Patrick Corbin vs. RHP Kyle Gibson
    FRIDAY, 9/13: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Randy Dobnak vs. RHP Aaron Civale
    SATURDAY, 9/14: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Jake Odorizzi vs. RHP Mike Clevinger
    SUNDAY, 9/15: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Jose Berrios vs. RHP Shane Bieber

    Catch Up on Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Sep 09 2019 09:54 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  8. Authorities, Religious Leaders Ask for Perspective When Panicking About Jose Berrios

    “I’m going to use the same voice and same words I use at elementary school programs,” said Hennepin County Emergency Management spokesperson Carolyn Marinan. “Only call 911 in case of emergency. If you lose your math homework, that’s not an emergency. If the water fountain is broken, that’s not an emergency. If Jose Berrios is throwing meat, that’s not an emergency.”

    Some Twins fans dispute this.

    “My taxes pay for 911,” said Tom Hanson, an unemployed Anoka electrician and frequent caller to AM radio stations. “I believe in small government, but If the Twins aren’t going to do something, then maybe first responders should.”

    Meanwhile, local religious leaders want parishioners and citizens of faith to know that, while their prayers for Berrios’ arm are thoughtful, it’s not the Almighty’s fault if he continues to pitch poorly.

    “Whatever your conception of God is, this divine figure is not to credit or blame for a random sports event,” said Stina Kielsmeier-Cook, Digital Communications Specialist for the Collegeville Institute. “Christian, Muslim, Jewish, what have you—all faiths are pretty consistent on this.”

    Hanson has a different view.

    “My third wife was really into this televangelist who said God listens to the prayers of the flock, but the flock needs to support the church, and she sent him a boatload of money,” said the 61-year-old, who’s been blocked by over 1000 verified Twitter accounts. “Turns out he cheated on his wife with her pilates instructor and they fled to New Zealand when he lost all the tithe money on a faith-based cryptocurrency, but she was convinced.

    “The way I see it, God owes us after the Mauer contract.”

    Berrios next turn in the rotation is Tuesday versus the National League Wild Card-leading Washington Nationals.

    • Sep 05 2019 11:43 PM
    • by RandBalls Stu
  9. Twins Game Recap (9/4): Berrios Continues Rough Stretch, Rodriguez Sails

    Box Score
    Berrios: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 64.4% strikes (65 of 101 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

    Home Runs: Rosario (28)
    Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-for-4, HR), Sano (2-for-3, BB), Cron (2-for-3, BB)

    Bottom 3 WPA: Polanco -.106, Cave -.157, Berrios -.228

    Extra Day Doesn’t Help Berrios

    The hope was that Berrios could use the extra day of rest to get back to his dominant self we saw earlier this season, and not the Berrios we saw last month, when he had his worst month of his career since his rookie year in … August. Since his start at the end of July when he threw seven shutout innings, he has given up 23 runs in just 27 innings coming into tonight.

    Berrios is usually pretty good at keeping the ball in the ballpark, in fact he’s giving up just 1.2 home runs per nine innings. This season, the first three innings is where he has surrendered the most with 13. Today, he again struggled early as he gave up two home runs to Mookie Betts in his first two at-bats, in the first two innings, on just two pitches. This year, he has also now given up 10 home runs on the first pitch of an at-bat.

    After a rough start to the game, Berrios was able to turn things around for a few innings. After the second home run by Betts, Berrios retired 11 of the next 13 batters, which was capped off by a very athletic play by Berrios himself.



    Something that Berrios was able to use an extra rest day to his favor was getting his velocity back up. Recently, Berrios’ velocity has been consistently in the low 90s, but tonight it looked back to normal as he topped out at about 95 mph and was normally hanging around 94 mph on his fastball.

    That was about it for good things from Berrios, as he left the game without even recording an out in the sixth inning. Berrios gave up a leadoff single that was followed by a walk and a double to score another run as he left with runners on second and third.

    Eduardo Rodriguez Quiets Twins

    Rodriguez came into tonight's start having given up just three runs in his last 17 1/3 innings, and tonight he continued his success shutting out the Twins offense for seven innings. Rodriguez gave up just five hits while striking out eight batters. Though Rodriguez wasn’t giving up many hits, he issued four walks, but the Twins just couldn’t come through in times of need.

    Rodriguez struck out the side in the top of the first, and picked up his fifth strikeout in the second inning stranding two runners. In the fourth, the Twins got back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, but Cave grounded into a double play. The inning wasn’t over quite yet as Rodriguez walked the next two batters to fill the bases. He got Willians Astudillo to fly out to end the threat with no runs being scored, but four guys reaching base safely.

    In the final three innings, he faced just 11 batters while recording nine outs including two more strikeouts, the final coming against Max Kepler to end the inning, and Rodriguez’s start.

    Bullpen

    Once the Twins' bullpen came into the game, they quieted down the Sox offense. Ryne Harper came in for the first time since being recalled and pitched just two pitches and recorded an out with runners on second and third. Cody Stashak came in with hopes of keeping the runners on the bases. Mookie Betts picked up another RBI with a single scoring the Sox sixth and last run of the game. Stashak picked up the final two outs to end the inning and strand two runners. Stashak picked up a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh before giving way to Brusdar Graterol for his second career outing. After giving up a leadoff walk, Graterol got three straight lineouts to end the inning.

    Postgame With Baldelli


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

    • Sep 05 2019 04:35 AM
    • by AJ Condon
  10. Minnesota’s Ideal Path Through the AL Playoffs

    Avoid the Wild Card Game
    One of the most important steps in having a sustained playoff run is avoiding playing in a coin flip game like each league’s wild-card game. Minnesota fans are well aware of the dangers of this game after seeing the Twins fall to the Yankees back in 2017. New York went on to the ALCS that year and there are some concerns with surviving this style of game.

    In that 2017 AL wild card game, Minnesota started Ervin Santana and then was forced to turn to Jose Berrios as a reliever. If the club had survived, they would have been put in an interesting spot for picking a starter of in Game 1 of the ALDS. Pitching staffs can be taxed in this type of game and there is too much randomness in a win-or-go-home atmosphere.

    The Twins need to make sure they take care of business and win the AL Central.

    Houston Poses a Problem
    If Minnesota is able win the AL Central, the club will qualify for the ALDS for the first time since 2010. Entering play on Wednesday, New York and Houston are separated by less than a game. Minnesota sits four games back so it seems unlikely they could catch either of the front-runners for the league’s top record. This means a first-round series on the road versus one of the league’s top teams.

    There are a couple ways to think about a Houston match-up. Teams are going to have to go through Houston at some point in the playoffs and it might be better seeing their strong starters in a shorter series. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke would get fewer starts over five games than in seven games. This could allow the Twins to steal a game or two and end up with a series victory.

    New York would be the better match-up, but it would be better to face Houston in a shorter series. If a team must take out Houston, do it in the ALDS.

    Big Apple Battle
    Minnesota fans might have a phobia of facing off against the Yankees because of past playoff experience. When the Yankees came to Minneapolis earlier this year, it resulted in an epic back-and-forth series. New York’s pitching staff has flaws, but their offense is certainly on a par with Minnesota’s record-breaking line-up.

    It seems most likely for Houston or New York to take care of any of the wild card teams, but anything can happen in a five-game series. Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Oakland are all in the running for the two AL wild card spots. Any of these three teams would be a better match-up than facing Houston or New York in a seven-game series, but it would take a team coming in hot to take down one of the league’s top foes.

    If Minnesota takes care of Houston in the ALDS, it would be fitting for the club to face-off against the Yankees for the right to represent the AL in the World Series. It would be similar to the Red Sox exorcising their demons against the Yankees on the way to their 2004 title. If Minnesota must beat New York at some point, so why not do it on the biggest possible stage?

    What do you feel is the ideal path for the Twins to make it through the gauntlet of the AL playoffs? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Sep 04 2019 08:53 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  11. Will the Twins Submit To Jake Odorizzi A Qualifying Offer?

    Qualifying Offer Process
    As part of MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can make a one-year “qualifying offer” to a player that has never previously received a qualifying offer and only if that player has been on the team’s roster for the entire season. This means in-season acquisitions are ineligible for a qualifying offer.

    This qualifying offer is worth the mean salary of the 125 highest-paid players in the big leagues. During last off-season, MLB’s qualifying offer was $17.9 million, which was up $500,000 from 2018. Last season, seven players received a qualifying offer and the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only player to accept the offer. In the seven previous offseasons with this system in place, there have been 80 qualifying offers issued, and only six (Brett Anderson, Jeremy Hellickson, Neil Walker, Colby Rasmus, Matt Wieters, and Ryu) have been accepted.

    All-Star First Half
    Odorizzi put together a strong first half of the season to be selected to his first All-Star Game. An injury caused him to miss the game, but it still doesn’t take anything away from what he was able to do in the first half. Plus, it also allowed teammate Jose Berrios to make his second All-Star appearance.

    In 17 first-half starts, Odorizzi posted a 3.15 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP. He added a 96 to 30 strikeout to walk ratio while striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings. This was in a first half where baseballs were flying out of the park at a record rate.

    He won 10 straight decisions from April 17 through July 20. During that stretch, he held opposing batters to a .209/.261/.289 (.550) batting line which helped him post a 1.52 ERA and a 70 to 15 strikeout to walk ratio. He was one of the best pitchers for a good stretch of the first half and he helped the Twins to stretch their lead in the AL Central.

    Second Half Struggle
    It would have been almost impossible for Odorizzi to keep up his first half pace during the second half of the season. His ERA has rose to 4.28 and his WHIP has jumped up to 1.47 in nine games started. He has struck out 49 batters and limited them to 19 walks, but hitters have found a way to get to Odorizzi more regularly in the second half.

    Entering play on Monday, opposing batters are hitting .271/.341/.453 (.794) with 23 extra-base hits. He only allowed 19 extra-base hits in the first half and that was in eight more starts than the second half. According to Baseball Savant, his hard-hit percentage and exit velocity are all near the league average. He has still been able to keep his K% and xBA above league average and that has helped him to be successful. He’s been able to do this with a fastball velocity and fastball spin rate that are below league average.

    Odorizzi might not be the most likely candidate for a qualifying offer, but it might make sense for the Twins to add some rotation stability to next season. He has made $21.45 million through his career so a $18 million payday might be tough for him to reject. He’s never made more than $9.5 million in a season, but will the Twins front office think he is worth the amount invested?

    Should the Twins make a qualifying offer to Odorizzi? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Sep 02 2019 06:11 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  12. Leading Off Podcast With Cooper & Matt: Smooth Sailing Into September

    Podcast: https://open.spotify...RSruflqFUmNCIfw

    Time stamps:

    1:40 Reviewing this successful week

    9:20 Discussing the division lead

    23:00 Rotation struggling

    29:30 Wait...the bullpen is good?

    34:45 injury news (Gibson/Buxton)

    37:20 Fan questions!

    • Which Sept call ups make postseason?
    • How does your playoff rotation look?
    • Predict the 2020 rotation
    • Which Twins player would you spend a day at the fair with?
    58:50 Did Martin Perez do his job?

    69:00 Minor League awards but Matt gets mad at me for having fun

    74:00 Looking ahead

    80:00 Most fun thing to write about this year

    In this link you can find the Spotify audio of the podcast.

    https://open.spotify...RSruflqFUmNCIfw

    Please be sure to let us know what you think, whether it’s a question, you disagree with us, or anything else by commenting on this post or heading over to our Twitter accounts below

    Cooper: Carlson_MnTwins
    Matt: Matthew_bTwins

    • Sep 02 2019 09:01 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  13. Week in Review: Bombs Away

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/26 through Sun, 9/1

    ***

    Record Last Week: 5-1 (Overall: 84-52)

    Run Differential Last Week: +23 (Overall: +174)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (5.5 GA)

    Willians Watch: HE'S BACK!


    Starting next season, September rosters will increase to 28. So for now, the Twins are enjoying their last year of unencumbered freedom by calling up a full complement of reinforcements for the final month.

    Among the expected arrivals are a number of familiar pitchers: Zack Littell, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer. One of those pitchers (probably Smeltzer) will be at least temporarily replacing Kyle Gibson in the rotation, as he was placed on the shelf with ulcerative colitis – apparently it's been bothering him for most of the season, which... ouch. Poor guy.

    The biggest name in the weekend's roster influx is Brusdar Graterol, Minnesota's top pitching prospect who joins much more as an impact infusion than simply a depth plug. He debuted on Sunday, tossing a scoreless ninth with a strikeout while giving up two weakly hit singles. As advertised, Graterol flashed 100 on the radar gun, and he impressed with his location on a few perfectly placed burners on the edges of the zone.



    Next in line for his MLB debut is Ian Miller, the speedy outfielder acquired from Seattle last month. The 27-year-old will serve a very specific purpose: wheels on demand. He had 35 steals on 42 attempts in Triple-A this year and is 243-for-294 in seven minor-league seasons. Definitely a good piece to have, although the Twins are even happier to have their centerpiece blazer back.

    Byron Buxton was activated on Sunday, after having his rehab paused early last week when he felt pain in his shoulder while swinging. He appeared as a defensive replacement late in his first game back. It sounds like he's still not going to be available to hit for the time being, but he can run and play defense so that's positive news. LaMonte Wade Jr., himself activated from a lengthy IL stint, also joins to bolster outfield depth and entered Sunday's game.

    But... I've buried the lede here! Willians Astudillo has finally returned after hitting .325/.372/.500 in nine games at Triple-A. He started at first base on Sunday in his first game back, finishing 1-for-2 with a pair of HBPs.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    How. About. This. Offense.

    By launching 15 more bombas last week, the Twins blasted past the major-league record for home runs in a season, set by the 2018 Yankees at 267. Multiple other teams will eclipse that mark this year, but the Twins got there first. It's an amazing feat on its own, and especially when you consider they accomplished it before the calendar flipped to September.

    That wasn't the only notable slugging record to fall. On Saturday in Detroit, the Twins became the first team in MLB history to have eight different players reach 20 home runs, when Jorge Polanco crossed the milestone on a two-run jack. Back in January I wrote about how, as recently as 2013, the Twins didn't have a SINGLE PLAYER hit 20 home runs. It was clear at the time that this lineup would be fundamentally different from those of the Terry Ryan era. But no one could foreseen a turnaround this drastic.



    Contributing to last week's bash-fest, which saw the lineup churn out 49 runs in six games and carry the team to a 5-1 record despite mostly subpar work from the rotation, were a combination of usual suspects and surprise faces. Let's run through some of the top producers in another monster week for the Bomba Squad:
    • Nelson Cruz: He just continues to rake, and was 12-for-25 last week with a homer and eight RBIs. Despite the ruptured tendon in his wrist, the 39-year-old is starting everyday and producing relentlessly. He's even showing excellent vision at the plate, with three walks against four strikeouts last week.
    • Jonathan Schoop: His late-season emergence is very intriguing. For much of the summer his undeniably strong production has been inflated by garbage-time feasting. But no one could say such a thing about last week, arguably his best of the year. Schoop went 7-for-17, with his three home runs including a key early bomb against Lucas Giolito and a tone-setting three-run shot the following day. Schoop still probably doesn't find his way into an optimal, healthy Twins lineup right now, but he's a great piece to have on hand.
    • C.J. Cron: It sure seems like his thumb is feeling better. The first baseman struggled through a couple months while acknowledging his inflammation, going on the shelf two separate times. But of late he's been finding his stroke. Last week he put on a power-hitting clinic with two homers and three doubles among his seven hits. In five starts, he drove in seven runs.
    • Polanco: Another (relative) recent laggard whose bat is once again heating up. The shortstop delivered a nonstop assault at the plate, going 12-for-24 to nudge his batting average back over .300.
    • Max Kepler: He missed time while nursing a bruised knee but was outstanding while on the field, going 4-for-12 with a homer and two doubles.
    • Mitch Garver: He hit the record-breaking home run on Saturday night, one of two on the day and three on the week for the best power-hitting catcher in franchise history. It still feels very weird and wonderful to write those words.
    • Jake Cave: He saw his batting average – which flirted with .500 in the first three weeks of August – come down to earth a bit as he finished 5-for-23 on the week. But Cave mixed in two homers and a double, as well as a big early two-run single on Sunday.
    In a game that epitomized the all-around contribution that serves as trademark for this historically potent offense, the Twins put up 10 runs on 16 hits in Chicago on Thursday to clinch a sweep despite the absences of banged-up Sano, Kepler, Marwin Gonzalez, and Buxton. Garver was also on the bench. I thought Cave's quote after the game said it all:



    While the offense kept surging, the bullpen continued to assert itself as a strength for the Twins. On the week, relievers combined for 22 1/3 innings, allowing just four earned runs (1.61 ERA) with a 26-to-1 (!) K/BB ratio. Just outstanding work.

    Particular standouts included Trevor May, who struck out eight over three scoreless innings, and Tyler Duffey, who turned in two shutout frames with four strikeouts. These two have quietly turned into overpowering late-inning threats. In August, May allowed just one run in 12 appearances while registering an 18% swinging strike rate. Duffey didn't allow a single run in his 13 appearances while holding opponents to a .167 average.

    On top of the strong performances, the Twins were able to once again reserve Taylor Rogers, who pitched just once all week, just as he did the week prior. Getting their bullpen ace ample rest at this point of the season is a victory in itself.

    LOWLIGHTS

    As fantastically as the Twins have been playing, it becomes slightly harder to enjoy when Jose Berrios – perhaps the team's single most important player as far as postseason advancement is concerned – continues to bottom out. His latest turn counted as an improvement, as he allowed three runs over six innings to qualify for the lowest threshold of a "quality start," but the right-hander was still a far cry from ace form.

    His velocity continues to sputter. His once-sharp command keeps faltering (he was charged with FOUR wild pitches in the start – one more than he had all season coming in). And once again the gas just seemed to run out midway through; Berrios got through four scoreless frames before giving up three runs in the fifth and sixth. All this against a very weak White Sox offense.

    Alas, Berrios now must attempt to put a very ugly month behind him – he posted a 7.57 ERA in five August starts as opponents hit .333/.395/.556 – and turn the page in September. Phenomenal as their offense is, the Twins have little hope of winning a playoff series if they don't have a multiple starters who can keep another elite lineup in check. Right now, Berrios doesn't look capable. He's had his hands full with some of the league's worst offenses.

    That's also true for Gibson, who at one point looked like a credible option to start playoff game No. 2 behind Berrios. For a second straight time on Friday, Gibson faced the AL's worst offense, and for a second straight time the Tigers had his number. This time around, Gibson allowed four runs on 10 hits while laboring through five innings on 107 pitches. Making the long, plodding outing all the more frustrating is that he was pitching with a big lead, having been handed a four-run lead before he even took the mound.

    Much like Berrios, Gibson is experiencing a troubling decline in velocity at a troubling time. His steady emergence as a quality No. 2/3 type, which began around the middle of 2017, was fueled by all-around velo gains throughout his arsenal – perhaps the result of mechanical overhauls he implemented ahead of the '17 campaign.

    As the progressive velocity chart below via Brooks Baseball indicates, Gibson saw a steady ascension throughout his pitch repertoire, starting in late 2017 and carrying over all the way to the middle of 2019. But of late? Yikes.

    [attachment=13038:gibsonvelo1.png]

    That downward dive at the right end is alarming. It is likely that the ulcerative colitis issue, which landed him on the IL Sunday, helps explain Gibson's softened edge. This is a miserable digestive tract affliction that can take a toll on one's overall health, energy, and weight. From knowing people who've dealt with it, I can say it's not always the easiest to treat. But Gibson says he hopes to return after missing just one start.

    The Twins are a great team. They've shown they can slug with any team in the game, and their bullpen is giving us reason to believe – especially with the arrival of Graterol. But it's just really damn hard to win against fellow great teams without high-end starting pitching, and two of Minnesota's best hopes on this front are completely out of whack with the postseason a month away.

    Gibson has arguably the best stuff in the rotation. (His 13.3% swinging strike rate leads all Twins starters and ranks qualified among AL starters.) Berrios is undoubtedly the best overall pitcher in the rotation. Until they find a way to get going again, it's hard to have much confidence in the team making any kind of legitimate run.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    While their primary focus for the next month will obviously be fending off Cleveland and locking up the Central, the Twins will simultaneously be trying to establish a pitching hierarchy for the postseason. That means lining up starters for a potential ALDS, of course, but also identifying the most trustworthy arms for the middle and late innings. Given the current state of their rotation, it's very possible the team will pivot to lean heavily on relievers come October.

    Can Graterol make enough of an impression to warrant a roster spot for the playoffs? I think it's far from a given. Keep in mind he just turned 21 and has thrown only a handful if innings above Double-A. Can May and Duffey continue to distinguish themselves, especially against stronger competition in the next few weeks? Will Rogers look rested or rusty in the action to come after getting a lot of downtime the past couple weeks?

    These are the threads I'm following closely as we roll into the final month.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    On Thursday, Trevor Larnach was named Florida State League Player of the Year, in recognition of his .316/.382/.459 slash line over 84 games in a pitcher-friendly environment where the average hitter sat at .242/.313/.353. Although the FSL shut down early last week, with Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the Sunshine State, Larnach was still playing, having been promoted to Pensacola midway through July. He celebrated the honor by launching a homer in a 3-for-5 night, and has an .830 OPS through 42 games at Double-A, with Pensacola's regular season reaching its end on Monday.

    As the minor-league seasons wind down, attention begins to turn fully toward the big-league roster, which is a lot more populous now than it was two days ago.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Twins fans have been dealing with a strange medley of feelings lately. On the one hand, the Twins are setting records, racing toward their first division title in nine years, and winning a whole lotta games. They're 12-4 in their last five series. They're holding strong.

    On the other hand, they've won only one series against a good team in the past two months. Their rotation looks like a mess even against bottom-dwelling clubs that have all but given up. And now, the difficulty level is about to turn up by several notches. It feels like a reckoning is coming unless Minnesota can rise to the challenge.

    Fenway Park is an extremely difficult place to win when your pitchers are misfiring. If Berrios and Martin Perez can't turn things around quickly the Red Sox series may get ugly. Afterward, the Twins return home for a massively critical three-gamer against Cleveland, perhaps with a chance to bury the dagger.

    It's crunch time.

    MONDAY, 9/2: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Jordan Zimmermann
    TUESDAY, 9/3: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Rick Porcello
    WEDNESDAY, 9/4: TWINS @ RED SOX – TBA v. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
    THURSDAY: 9/5: TWINS @ RED SOX – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Nathan Eovaldi
    FRIDAY, 9/6: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Adam Plutko v. RHP Michael Pineda
    SATURDAY, 9/7: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Aaron Civale v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    SUNDAY, 9/8: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Mike Clevinger v. RHP Jose Berrios

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Sep 02 2019 05:32 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  14. Can the Twins Solve Their Starting Pitching Woes With a Little Extra Rest?

    Take a quick glance at their monthly numbers and just how bad August has been.

    [attachment=13016:BerriosGibsonGraph.png]

    Without diving too deep into the numbers, we can clearly see that both pitchers have hit a wall. Berrios and Gibson both pitched career high innings in 2018, with Berrios going 192 1/3 innings and Gibson reaching 196 2/3 innings and both have been chugging along in 2019. Berrios is clearly having the better year, but Gibson had at least been someone you could count on to get pretty decent results every five days or so. With the postseason looming on the horizon, the Twins will want to do everything they can to get the rotation right.

    While it is normal for pitchers to wear down as the season winds on, both Berrios and Gibson have seen significant decreases in their fastball velocities of late. Berrios’ average four-seam fastball is down to 92.74 mph in August (high of 94.14 mph in April) with his two-seamer down to 91.47 mph (high of 93.4 in June). Gibson is in the same boat as his four-seamer is down to 92.81 mph (high of 94.43 in June) and his two-seamer came in at 92.61 mph (high of 94.11 in June). Since both Gibson and Berrios have good but not elite velocity, losing a tick or two on their fastballs can be quite a detriment to success.

    [attachment=13017:BerriosReleaseSpeed.png]

    [attachment=13018:GibsonReleaseSpeed.png]

    Doubly burdensome is the loss of control that has plagued both Berrios and Gibson. Berrios’ mechanics have been out of whack and he has been working with the Twins staff to try and get back on track. Both pitchers have walk rates pushing 10% in the month of August along with WHIPs that are blush-worthy (1.87 for Berrios and 1.57 for Gibson). Berrios has been unable to get batters to chase, especially his curve ball, which batters are laying off of for the most part and crushing when they make contact.

    [attachment=13019:BerriosSwing.png]

    [attachment=13020:BerriosBarrel.png]
    *Berrios' most recent start against Chicago is not included in the graphs.
    It’s possible that Berrios is tipping his curve ball, which is hopefully something the Twins staff can identify and correct, but that still doesn’t solve the lack of velocity and control.

    Gibson hasn’t fared much better:

    [attachment=13021:GibsonSwingMiss.png]

    [attachment=13022:GibsonwOBA.png]

    The numbers tell us what we already knew but don’t help us fix the problem. However, there is one Twins pitcher who has been fairly consistent and solid over the course of the season. We need look no further than the case of rotation-mate Michael Pineda to find an obvious, but potentially potent solution.

    Unlike with Gibson and Berrios, the Twins have been more careful and deliberate in getting Pineda rest this season. Pineda has twice hit the 10-day IL with somewhat dubious injuries allowing the Twins to limit his innings. Of course, Pineda did not pitch in 2018 because of Tommy John surgery and has an extensive injury history, so the Twins were inclined to limit his innings this year and it has seemed to work well for Pineda. His numbers have improved in the second half as his ERA has gone from 4.56 in the first half to 3.27 in the second and he has maintained his fastball velocity through the year.

    [attachment=13023:Pineda.png]

    Minnesota is entering a stretch run and undoubtedly wants to run their best starters out each game. However, the Twins may benefit in both the long and short term by skipping both Berrios and Gibson in the rotation. Neither have pitched well of late, so while having Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, or even Kohl Stewart pitch in big games down the stretch isn’t all that appealing, they can’t do much worse than what Berrios and Gibson have done in the month of August. More importantly, giving Berrios and Gibson a break may give them a chance to get back some velocity and control and the opportunity to reset mentally as well.

    If the division lead continues to grow with rosters expanding in September, Minnesota may even want to consider a six-man rotation. The Twins have been blessed to have five relatively healthy starters for the course of 2019, but they could all probably use a bit of a break at this point in the season. Pineda (5.43 ERA), Odorizzi (4.76 ERA), and Gibson (5.55 ERA) haven’t pitched well on the normal four-days rest anyway, and with Minnesota not having another scheduled off day until Sept. 9 throwing in a sixth starter could help. With the loss of Jose Ramirez, Corey Kluber’s recent setback in his rehab stint, and Brad Hand’s ineffectiveness of late the Twins may be able to extend their division lead over Cleveland, making it all the easier to get the rotation some extra rest. The Twins could also give the pitchers most likely to be in the postseason rotation more abbreviated starts, pulling them from the game before their pitch counts mount.

    We all know how great the Twins offense has been and fans can feel pretty good about the bullpen going into the postseason, but getting the rotation right is crucial. The Twins don’t have the formidable playoff rotation of say the Houston Astros (who does?), but getting Berrios going is a must if the Twins hope to go anywhere. Gibson might not be as important, but Minnesota will need all the help they can get. Making sure Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, and Marin Perez are as rested as possible can only be a plus.

    After not picking up an additional starter at the trade deadline, the Twins are forced to roll with the pitchers who got them to where they are. While Minnesota doesn’t have anyone’s idea of an ideal postseason rotation, putting the rotation in the best position to succeed by having the starters well-rested is the best the Twins can do at this point. With additional days off in the postseason the Twins will be better able to utilize the bullpen, but all will be for naught if the starters don’t at least keep the offense in the game. Here’s hoping for the best!

    • Aug 30 2019 08:22 PM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  15. Twins Game Recap (8/29): Break Out the Brooms on the South Side

    Box Score
    Berrios: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 62% strikes (63 of 101 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

    Home Runs: Jake Cave (2), C.J. Cron
    Multi-Hit Games: Jorge Polanco (2-for-4), Nelson Cruz (2-for-4), Eddie Rosario (2-for-5), Jake Cave (2-for-5), C.J. Cron (3-for-5), Jonathan Schoop (3-for-4).

    Top 3 WPA: Cron .139, Polanco .103, Cruz .098

    Singles Day in Chicago
    I cannot confirm nor deny the White Sox were having a singles day promotion but it would have been fitting given the way the Minnesota offense opened the game. Their first eight hits were all singles and the Twins scored six runs before recording their first extra-base hit.

    That first extra-base hit came courtesy of Jake Cave when he led off the third inning with a solo home run. C.J. Cron followed suit and blasted another solo shot to give Minnesota back-to-back home runs to open the inning.

    Jake Cave would later add a second home run to his afternoon and C.J. Cron would finish a triple shy of the cycle.

    Quality Start for Berrios
    Jose Berrios has pitched very well for the Twins this year but has struggled over his last four starts. He struggled with command throughout his start today but did a good job limiting the damage and earned only his second quality start over his last five outings.

    With the postseason quickly approaching, it’s important that Berrios is able to get back on track.

    Postgame With Baldelli



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

    • Aug 29 2019 08:39 PM
    • by Andrew Gebo
  16. I Think I Found Out What’s Wrong With Jose Berrios

    Say me for instance, I remember when Adrian Peterson nearly clipped the 2,100 yards or when Jason Zucker beat the Blackhawks in 2013, and conversely when Blair Walsh's epic failure from 27. These were momentous occasions to me personally, and culminated milestones of jubilee and heartbreak with lots and lots of backstory.

    Why is that such an important thing to consider when discussing the plight to Jose Berrios? It’s these disaster moments to fans in a season, where we can get way over our heads and make truly outrageous statements, and during the offseason in retrospect be like -- ”Did I actually say that?”

    He began the season on a pristine pinnacle. Logistically, Jose was exerting his mechanical best in how he was driving through his hips along with his delivery, and keeping his hands back in sync with driving those hips, which was a bad tendency he would commit in his youth.

    Jose GIf 2


    You can in the video how the different the glove placement is imperative to gaining that two to three ticks in velocity to the plate. In hardcore pitching circles they call this the kinetic chain, where the components of one’s mechanics are at an equilibrium, where the joints are in a symphonic harmony, making it all a simplistic, clean, and efficiently repeatable delivery.

    And Berrios looked really good. He proved with the results to bear, and added a new wrinkle into that much anticipated pitch mix, the changeup. In that 2019 opening unveiling we saw the changeup being fruitfully showcased 12.5% of the time, more than his total the previous season (9.1%) and the cumulative average during his very short career (10.7%).

    He wasn’t deliberately delaying his arm speed, and everything in that start was sublime. Pristine. You could say Berrios was perhaps an “ACE” in that start had things not turned sideways and pear-shaped just a handful of months later.

     

    Now fast-forward to today. Fresh (or perhaps rotten) from that second consecutive All-Star appearance, Jose Berrios is showcasing his most agonizing and problematic struggle points of his career. He’s been hittable, hit very hard with declining velocity, and to boot; seemingly single-handedly taking baseball’s third-best offense (in wOBA and wRC+; .348 and 115 respectively) out of critically important games.

    What’s even more frightening? That the strength of the opposition over the past four games has sported a 91 wRC+, with 100 being league average. He’s struggling mightily against bad opponents, compounded with the fact that they shouldn’t be hitting him this hard, period.

    So far, we as all separate pitching expert entities haven’t found the culprit to what hindering subset of pitching statistics is responsible for pruning our Johan of today, devoid of the attributes that made us reminisce of Johan, the great killer of men, sheep, and those brave enough to step into the battered boxes of right and left.

    But jokes aside, what’s really been the inhibitor to Jose’s velocity and coincidentally his release point since his dynamic beginning?

    Let’s zoom into one of his particular starts, this one against the Indians on June 6, as the start to our inquiry.

    In that one start, Berrios didn’t feature the curveball like we have become expect. He would throw a whopping 25.4% changeups, nearly double his career total and triple his season percentage to that point. But something interesting of note lied in that changeup subgrouping.

    In that start he would throw 27 changeups of his entire 107 pitches in those six strong innings. Only one ball was hit harder than 85 mph, and here’s a mapping of those pitch velocities with their extensions metrics.

    Screen Shot 2019 08 25 At 1.19.40 PM


    Notice anything weird? For a guy throwing from an average release point of 6.5 ft away from the pitching rubber, the extensions point were remarkably scattered and the changeup release points also dropped, along with the average pitch velocity.

    Increasing extension would typically incite would velocity, (Josh Hader’s extension would come in mind) and it’s a very peculiar trend into Jose’s portfolio.

    If we critically analyze Jose’s pitching approach further, we wouldn't have anything particularly striking about his movements.

    Berrios has a unique windup, something of another other beast, where he utilizes his windup as a vehicle to increase the movement and velocity of his pitches. Whereas others use their windup as a balancing point or to find their zen, Berrios uses his windup like a stress ball where he curled himself into a ball. He breaks out of the ball in smooth rhythm to swing his front side, lurch the back end and launch the pitch.

    Looking at the progress he’s made since his debut, where his arms and legs need a lot of refinements, he’s made noticeable and encouraging strides. When he was young he would treat his arms and legs as separate mechanism, and he now manages to keep his core in rhythm and not out of motion with his elbows, knees, and front striding foot.

    So nothing abundantly different with the windup, and not that much difference in the general technique with his hand placement, etc.

    Berrios, technically speaking hasn't changed anything with the conducting of his delivery, until Glen Perkins spoke about it during Jose’s latest start. I’m paraphrasing what Roy Smalley said during the game, but here’s what he said:

    “This is what Glen Perkins was talking about in the pregame shows, where (Jose) coils up and then has to uncoil and gets way spun around and his arm either lags or he’s gotta really rush to catch up, and that’s what happens when you spike that curveball ... And just you’ve opened up way to quickly and your arm just whips around.”

    “They are trying to get (Jose) to alter his mechanics a little bit, but he’s very rotational and he gets really turned around and can’t get his arm back through, so when his hips come way around behind him he coils up, and his arm has to speed up to catch up. That’s why you see so many fastballs up and into lefthanders, and spiked breaking balls.”

    Jose Gif 3


    You can see that his windup is almost, where he isn’t riding with the energy generated by his windup as much and through that back heel, that the great Parker Hageman discussed during the offseason as a foundation through building and sustaining velocity. We can see the locked back leg not pulling through, anchored and dragging his weight in a counterproductive direction. It’s slinging and stopping, preventing him from riding through that back leg and pulling in his follow through. It’s a sign of stress and unease to rip through, as young pitching are taught today to rip through with elastic bands at data driven developmental programs. You can see the lazy back leg grappling with the front side and the glove holstered to his side, almost as if he’s more location conscious then ripping the back leg through for the additional ticks of velocity he needs to be at his best.

    This looks more like a fatigue and midseason swoon related dilemma than a mechanics dead-gone disaster, but the velocity problems and mechanical technique are very much redeemable.

     

    Additionally I wanted to dive into more of what’s causing the lower arm slot, and perhaps an aggravator of the lower velocity readings and the dropping of the arm slots.

    Jose Gif 1


    This graphic below shows the release points of all of Jose’s pitches horizontally since the beginning of the season. I postulated the changeup he’s been throwing has played role in why the release point has waned lately, so I consulted with two acute baseball minds to at least minimally come to a conclusion.

    71704182 A046 4E60 8EDF AAF32CA5741D
    Screen Shot 2019 08 25 At 5.26.09 PM


    Through some research and conspiracy thinking, changeups might play a part in cannibalizing fastball velocity. Now take with a grain of salt, but changeup reduces fastball velocity for youth pitchers, and Paul Nyman theorized that an intentionally manipulated change for sink and drop would lead to fastball velocity dropping.

    Coupled with the fact that Jose played with the changeup in the Cleveland start I spoke of, and that his deviation of his velocities are so wide, maybe the changeup is playing with his repertoire and his mechanics. It’s certainly cause for concern given that the more he’s thrown his changeup the more his velocity as dropped.

    I was curious about the changeup possibly curtailing Jose's potential, so I talked with two sources: a Manager of Mechanical Analysis at Driveline Baseball, who also happens to be a former pitching coach, and Michael O'Neal, a former professional pitcher who is now a trainer at Driveline and assistant coach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

    ME: Hey Guys. I was recently diving into a pitcher (Jose Berrios), and just wanted to ask that if ... say a right-hander where to increasingly lower their arm slot, which just so happened to coincide with an increase in spin rate and decrease in velocity, would you say an increase to using a changeup could be a detriment of this?

    I look at some of the side effects of short-arming a changeup (like slinging from the side) and couldn’t find anything, but I did however find that Jose’s changeup spin rate has increased. Do you think that a lowering of the arm slot on a changeup and an increase in spin could lead to decreased velocity? Or perhaps the lowering of arm slot could increase spin in general?

    Michael (Former MLB Player); It depends on the guy, but lowering the arm slot would help to create more sidespin on a changeup, which also would increase horizontal movement on the pitch. Jose’s arm slot might also be more natural for him which could be an increase in spin rate.

    (Driveline Pitching Analysis Expert); Unfortunately you can’t (increase spin on arm slot) when it comes to increasing spin rate. Raw spin rate that is, there is not anything definitive that has been found to increase it outside of the use of foreign substance.

    Michael (Former MLB Player); Me personally, I have the same tendency when I try to “get on top” of my fastball. I laterally trunk-tilt more causing a higher arm slot. This also negatively impacts my spin rate. When I stay taller and don’t tilt so much (unlike what Jose has been doing), my spin rate increases and also causes my arm slot/release point to be lower on the Z axis.

    (Driveline Pitching Analysis Expert); Now increasing true spin is different. Pitchers increase true spin all the time by improving spin efficiency. In terms of a change up you ideally and in most cases want to kill or decrease spin. Most changeups, whether it is a circle change or a split type change are trying to kill total spin, kill lift on the pitch to create separation from the heater and kill velocity. I would have to look at Berrios’ pitch metrics to really tell you anything in regards to arm slot changes or spin total changes. Traditionally a change up is predominantly side spin. The spin direction or spin axis for a righty usually needs to shift in the direction of 3:00. Sometimes pitchers won’t have a good feel for how to do that so they will manipulate theirs arm action or arm slot to try to get there instead of pronating the pitch more to create that side spin. In the case of Berrios and knowing how exceptionally good Wes Johnson is with utilizing Trackman data, I’m sure Wes has him trending in the correct direction at the very least.

    Michael (Former MLB Player); (It) Depends. A laggy arm could be possible, BUT better changeups have a fast arm speed. Also though, his changeup could play close to the 2 seam fastball, so hows his usage on the 2 seam changed?

    So that was the end to this conversation and the article. I hope you enjoyed. As far as what I would expect the Twins to do, we saw earlier in the season when Michael Pineda’s velocity was hitting a rough patch so they placed on the DL. I could conceivably see Rocco buying some time by giving the duo of Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer a start against the lowly White Sox and Tiger on this coming road trip, and perhaps recharge the rotation (Gibson and Odorizzi velocity has been down lately). Wes Johnson in the splendid piece by Dan Hayes of the Athletic during a makeup interview of his sudden unavailability, said something of significance.

    “We’re getting him back on his heel and trying to get him to rotate, get his chest velocity back up,” Johnson said. “It’s not just to get José to survive. We want more of the start against Chicago that he had when he was 94 mph and was dominant. Or even you go to the Miami start when his velocity was down a little bit. The pitch execution was through the roof for seven innings.

    “Our focus isn’t to find a way just to get this guy through. We have to try to get him better every time he goes out.”

    Which again corroborates with what Wes has done with biomechanics velocity induction. If you want to read more, I would encourage you to read this.

    Please Follow me @Sabir

    • Aug 26 2019 10:20 AM
    • by Sabir Aden
  17. Week in Review: Trouble at Home

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/19 through Sun, 8/25

    ***

    Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 79-51)

    Run Differential Last Week: +7 (Overall: +151)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.5 GA)

    Willians Watch: 7-for-19 (.368) at AAA


    Willians Astudillo moved his rehab up to Triple-A, where he continued to rake with seven hits in four games. He mixed in at catcher, third base and right field for Rochester, and should be back in Minnesota by the end of next weekend.

    In more objectively important injury recovery news, Byron Buxton went through a full complement of baseball activities on Friday without a hitch, and opened up his own rehab stint at Cedar Rapids on Sunday. Starting at DH and batting second, Buxton went 1-for-2 with a walk and a signature hustle double.

    The easiest thing would be for Minnesota to wait until rosters expand next Sunday to activate Buxton. But at the same time, every game is important right now, and he's such a difference-maker. If he looks fully back up to speed early in the week, will they accelerate his timeline and maybe get him back for the Tigers series... or even for Chicago on Tuesday? (Dick Bremer astutely noted in Sunday's broadcast that Cedar Rapids is a short jaunt...)

    Buxton's imminent return, along with news that Cleveland has likely lost Jose Ramirez for the rest of the season with a hamate bone fracture, would seem to bode very well for the Twins. But of course, they have to go out and capitalize on the opportunities thrown their way.

    In a quiet week for transactions, the only other move worth mentioning is that Ryne Harper was optioned to Triple-A on Saturday, coming off another lackluster performance against the Tigers. Cody Stashak is back (Zack Littell was not an option since he went down less than 10 days ago). Harper was arguably Minnesota's second-best reliever in the first half, but hitters have gotten wise to his two-pitch mix, leading to a 7.36 ERA in August. He'll likely be back in September.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    When the Twins made their biggest offseason splash by signing Nelson Cruz, we all naturally wondered: Can he maintain the elite power production that's been his norm, or will age start taking a toll and limiting him?

    The answer, as it turns out: yes and yes.

    Cruz has already sat out more games this year than any of the past five, held back from interleague action and nagged persistently by a wrist that might've healed more cooperatively in his younger days. But when on the field, the 39-year-old has played through his barking wrist with unbelievable effectiveness – especially in his return to action last week off a stunningly short absence.

    Showing no ill effect from a ruptured tendon, Cruz swung the stick like a man possessed at Target Field, piling up five extra-base hits and seven RBIs amidst a 9-for-27 week hat featured some epic exit velocities. Despite losing 28 games to a pair of IL stints, the veteran slugger remains on pace to exceed 40 home runs and 100 RBIs.



    Leading the offensive charge alongside Cruz last week was one now-customary name – Miguel Sano, who clubbed three homers and drove in seven across six games – and a more unexpected one: Jake Cave (or "Caveman," in the parlance of Player's Weekend).

    Buxton's injury opened a window of opportunity for Cave, and the outfielder has lunged through it with vigor. Aided by more regular playing time, Cave has seen his OPS climb rapidly during the month of August, and last week he was at his best, belting three home runs and two doubles while raising his seasonal slash line to .278/.378/.460, including .423/.492/.769 since the All-Star break. His monster production hasn't been coming cheaply.



    Cave is showing that his solid work as a rookie last year, and his outright dominance of Triple-A this year, were not flukes. His bat has been a boon for the Twins lineup this month with others absent or lagging. It's hard to see him getting a ton of action once Buxton returns, but he's proven himself as a solid backup and pinch-hitting option.

    Also enjoying nice weeks offensively: Jorge Polanco (two homers and a double), Max Kepler (two homers and two doubles, propelling him past the 35-HR milestone), and Eddie Rosario (5-for-12 against Chicago before sitting out the Detroit series with a hamstring strain).

    On the pitching side, the biggest positive was Trevor May continuing to build on his excellent August. Looking confident and more than capable, the right-hander logged 2 1/3 scoreless innings across three appearances, striking out two and walking none. After a very rough stretch in July, followed by a bit of a mental break courtesy of Rocco Baldelli, May has re-emerged as the powerful late-inning weapon Minnesota needs him to be. He threw 30 of 41 pitches (73%) for strikes last week.

    LOWLIGHTS

    Alarms are loudly blaring in the starting rotation. Jose Berrios continues to grind through start after start, minus the velocity, command, and consistency that fueled his All-Star first half.

    Facing the lowest-scoring offense in baseball on Friday, Berrios was handed an early lead, but he gave it up on a crippling grand slam in a game where he was disturbingly hittable. By the time he was lifted with one out in the sixth, he'd allowed five runs on 10 hits and two walks, pushing his ERA up to a season-high 3.53. Just a monumentally disappointing performance against a pitifully bad Tigers lineup.

    It marked the sixth time in nine starts since the beginning of July that Berrios was unable to complete six innings, a feat he accomplished in all but two of his 17 outings through June. Sagging velocity continues to take a toll on him, as he and his coaches continue to search for answers.



    The Twins are in huge trouble if Berrios can't get back on track. This goes without saying. But it sure doesn't help that his counterparts in the rotation are so very uninspiring right now. Kyle Gibson looked similarly poor against the lowly Tigers on Saturday, coughing up 10 hits and five runs (four earned) over 5 1/3 innings. Earlier in the week he gave up five runs against a White Sox offense that isn't much better than Detroit's (third-to-last among AL teams in runs and OPS). Those same Sox touched up Jake Odorizzi for four runs on eight hits over five frames on Wednesday.

    The rotation contributed just one quality start all week – when Martin Perez held Detroit to two runs over six innings on Sunday. At home, in this stage of the season, against this caliber of competition, that's just not acceptable. Skeptical Twins fans and national onlookers will rightfully be dubious of the club's ability to make any real noise until they demonstrate they can suppress even pedestrian lineups.

    Minnesota isn't going to be able to outslug opponents on command. Pressure is mounting on Wes Johnson, Jeremy Hefner, and the Twins starting pitchers to turn things around, with the erstwhile ace Berrios ranking as the utmost priority.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    He's not going to be a magical elixir for this rotation's afflictions, but Buxton's return will provide a big boost for the pitchers. He's arguably the most valuable defender in baseball and he changes games, although Kepler and Cave deserve credit for their solid glovework in the interim.

    Fans await Buck's activation with bated breath, but regardless of what happens there, the Twins will be receiving a huge influx next Sunday when rosters expand for September. The front office will almost certainly be upping bullpen depth by recalling a handful of arms that have helped them already this year – the likes of Littell, Harper, Kohl Stewart, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak, etc. Rehabbing righty Trevor Hildenberger is another likely candidate, with intriguing impact potential. Fernando Romero might not be in the plans, which is sad but fair.

    And then there are other potentially impactful additions that are not yet on the 40-man roster, such as the two we'll lead off with below.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    Settling in at the highest level of the minors following their recent promotions, Brusdar Graterol and Jorge Alcala are acclimating very quickly. Graterol threw two scoreless innings in his Rochester debut on Wednesday, then followed with another clean appearance (1.1 IP) on Saturday. He already has International League hitters out of sorts (and turns 21 on Monday, so give him a shout on Twitter!).



    Alcala's first week at Triple-A also went smoothly, as he tossed four shutout innings across three appearances, striking out five and – importantly – walking only one. I mentioned here last week that the Ryan Pressly trade was starting to turn around for the Twins, with Alcala positioning himself to help the MLB bullpen and Gilberto Celestino going on a complete tear at Cedar Rapids. Well, now Celestino too has moved up a level. He joined Fort Myers on Wednesday and is 7-for-17 with four doubles through his first four games with the Miracle.

    Incidentally, Pressly underwent knee surgery last week and will miss the next 4-to-6 weeks for the Astros.

    That isn't the only midseason trade from 2018 paying dividends. Jhoan Duran was dazzling in his sixth start at Double-A on Friday, carrying a no-no into the late innings before finishing with two hits allowed and 11 strikeouts in eight shutout frames. According to the data at Baseball Reference (and this seems too absurd to be true), Duran threw 58 of 68 pitches for strikes and induced THIRTY-ONE swings and misses. Even if those numbers are stretched, it was one of the most dominating performances you'll see from a pitcher all year.

    Although not to the same extent as Graterol and Alcala, Duran is a sleeper candidate to help the needy big-league staff before this year is over.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    They didn't make hay at home following a 5-1 road trip, but now the Twins will travel again for a repeat of the past week's match-ups, with redemption on the mind. Last Wednesday, Chicago's Lucas Giolito threw the best start of his career against Minnesota, and on Friday Detroit's journeyman mediocrity Drew VerHagen unleashed an out-of-nowhere burst of dominance with 11 strikeouts. Can the Twins exact some revenge in hostile territory, where they've been so comfortable all year long?

    Cleveland, reeling from the news of Ramirez's loss and a gut-punch loss on Sunday, opens its week with the Tigers (ugh) but then travels to Tampa for a series with the Rays. Opportunity knocks once again.

    TUESDAY, 8/27: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Lucas Giolito
    WEDNESDAY, 8/28: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Ross Detwiler
    THURSDAY: 8/29: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Dylan Cease
    FRIDAY, 8/30: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Drew VerHagen
    SATURDAY, 8/31: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Edwin Jackson
    SUNDAY, 9/1: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Matthew Boyd

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    Game 125 | CWS 6, MIN 4: Twins Unable to Mount Comeback, Drop Series Opener 6-4
    Game 126 | MIN 14, CWS 4: Cruz Leads Twins Offensive Explosion
    Game 127 | CWS 4, MIN 0: Giolito Throws Complete Game as Sox Take Series
    Game 128 | DET 9, MIN 6: Berríos, Bullpen Can’t Hold Baseball’s Worst Offense
    Game 129 | MIN 8, DET 5: Sano 3-Run Bomba, Bullpen Boost Twins to Victory
    Game 130 | MIN 7, DET 4: Pérez Impresses, Twins Beat Detroit for Series Win

    • Aug 25 2019 07:17 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  18. Twins Game Recap (8/23): Berríos, Bullpen Can’t Hold Baseball’s Worst Offense

    Box Score
    Berríos: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 70.9% strikes (66 of 93 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

    Home Runs: Sanó, 2 (25), Cave, 2 (4)
    Multi-Hit Games: Sanó (2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Cave (2-for-2, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB), Castro (2-for-4)

    Top 3 WPA: Cave .134, Sanó .106, May .042
    Bottom 3 WPA: Berríos -.357, Kepler -.122, Romo -.101

    The Twins missed out on a great opportunity. They were facing the league’s least productive offense and somehow they were out-hit 17 to 9. The Tigers are also the seventh worst pitching staff in baseball in total strikeouts, but they managed to strike out Twins batters 14 times, including 11 for the starter Drew VerHagen. With the loss and the Cleveland win, the Twins lead atop of the Central now shrinks to two and a half games.

    All Eyes on La Makina
    Everybody is still looking for answers as to why José Berríos (La Makina, "The Machine") is having such an abysmal month of August. Earlier this week Ted Schwerzler put together a list of some weird numbers from his season, to help us investigate. The fact is, the version of Berríos we have witnessed in his previous three starts of the month just wasn't the real him. Tonight, he had the chance to shake off the worst month of his career since his rookie season.

    However, things didn’t start as smoothly as one would think they would against the team with the worst record in baseball. In the first two innings of action, he gave up three hits and walked former Twin Niko Goodrum. He managed to strand all runners, though.

    In support of their ace, the bats started working early. They manufactured the game’s first run in the first, after a single by Jorge Polanco (Chulo, “Pretty Boy”), followed by a Nelson Cruz (Boomstick) double, which was absolutely crushed: the ball left his bat at 115.1 mph--only his fifth hardest-hit ball of the season.

    On the second pitch of the home half of the second, the ball was smoked again. Miguel Sanó (Boquetón, “Large Mouth”) clobbered a hanging slider from VerHagen, good for 109.9 mph. That was his 24th of the season.



    Stay hot, Caveman!
    While Berríos stabilized a bit, allowing only a couple of runners to reach in the following three innings, he got some more run support. Since being called up for the fourth time this year, to replace an injured Byron Buxton, Jake Cave (Caveman) is making the most of it. This month, he’s the only Twin not named Nelson Cruz to be hitting above .400. Before this game, he was averaging .405 since August 3, when he got called up. He crushed his third dinger of the year in the fifth, to make it 3-0 Twins.



    Cave would also make his presence felt on defense later in the game, when he robbed Miguel Cabrera of an RBI-extra base hit in the eighth, with a beautiful leaping grab near the warning track.

    ‘August Berríos’ strikes again
    Five shutout innings, which weren’t brilliant, of course, and we all thought José was finally getting rid of the funk. We were wrong. Three straight hits to open the sixth put Detroit on the board. After Berríos gave up a one-out walk that loaded the bases, Ronny Rodriguez made him pay, hitting a grand slam to give the Tigers their first lead of the night, 5-3.

    With that home run, Berríos has now allowed 20 earned runs this August, which is already the second most he’s allowed in any month of his career. The only time he’s given up more than that, 21, was in (surprise, surprise) August 2016. It’s not time to jump to any conclusions, but if Wes Johnson and the coaching staff don’t figure out in the next few weeks what’s wrong with Berríos, this version of him is bound to be crushed in October.

    Bullpen can’t stop the bleeding either
    Detroit never actually stopped hitting and scoring. Tyler Duffey (The Doof) and Trevor May (IAMTREVORMAY) managed to keep the game within reach after taking over from Berríos in the sixth and the seventh. But the same thing didn’t happen in the final two innings. Sergio Romo (El Mechón, “The Frosted Tips” or “The Padlock”) and Ryne Harper (Harp) allowed three hits and two earned runs each.

    Harper’s outing was even more harmful to the Twins, because Miguel Sanó hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, making it a two-run game, 7-5. But Detroit responded immediately and made it a four-run game in the ninth. Just like Sanó, Cave also went on to record his first multi-HR game of the season, hitting a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth. With the four homers, the Twins now have 248 on the year, 20 short of the MLB record.

    Postgame With Baldelli


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

    • Aug 24 2019 07:13 AM
    • by Thieres Rabelo
  19. Ranking Minnesota Twins’ Players Weekend Nicknames

    According to MLB.com, “Each home team will decide which color -- black or white -- it will wear for the weekend, which means we could have some road teams wearing white for a change. Pitchers on teams wearing white will wear black caps to ensure umpires and batters have clear visibility of each pitch.”

    Even with the black and white uniforms, fans get excited about players getting to pick their nickname for the back. Here’s the not so definitive ranking of this year’s Twins nicknames.

    28. Willians Astudillo: "ASTUDILLO"
    Fans at the game will have on La Tortuga shirts. Heck, the Twins even had a theme night in honor of his nickname earlier this year. He’s still on rehab assignment, so he likely won’t participate this weekend. Still, he was the only player on the team not to use a nickname and HE HAS A NICKNAME!

    27-18.
    All of these players used some variation of their first or last name.
    Byron Buxton: "BUCK"
    Jason Castro: "STRO"
    C.J. Cron: "CRONY"
    Kyle Gibson: "GIBBY"
    Marwin Gonzalez: "GONZO"
    Ryne Harper: "HARP"
    Zack Littell: "LIT"
    Jake Odorizzi: "ODO"
    Michael Pineda: "BIG MIKE"
    Eddie Rosario: “EDISTO”

    17. Sergio Romo: "EL MECHÓN"
    16. Jonathan Schoop: "MAMBA"
    15. Jake Cave: "CAVEMAN"
    14. Sam Dyson: "RED FINGER"
    Romo used the song “El Mechon” as his entrance music back with the Giants and he has stuck with it. Schoop is a fan of the NBA and more specifically of Kobe Bryant. It’s a fun way to honor an all-time basketball star. Cave is using a connection to his last name, but I get a kick out of the Caveman nickname. If he keeps hitting, it might be time for him to get his own shirt. With a thick red beard, it’s easy to see why Dyson would associate with the color red. However, he doesn’t have a story for the nickname so that knocks him down on the list.

    13. Jorge Polanco: "CHULO"
    12. Ehire Adrianza: "GUARENERO"
    11. Martin Perez: “EL DE LAS MATAS”
    Polanco’s friends and family know him as “pretty boy” after his uncle started calling him that. Adrianza is from Venezuela and this is a way for him to honor his hometown of Guarenas. Like Adrianza, Perez wanted to honor the city where he was born, and he has previously used “EL DE GUANARE.” This year he is referencing the town where he grew up.

    10. Miguel Sano: "BOQUETÓN"
    9. Jose Berrios: "LA MAKINA"
    As a player growing up in the Dominican, Sano was known for being a talker. That’s why he goes by the nickname that translates to “large mouth.” For anyone who has watched Berrios on social media, it’s clear to see why he was called “The Machine.” There’s actually a misspelling in his nickname, but Berrios did it intentionally. “Machine” translates to “maquina,” but Berrios wanted a K in his nickname for the strikeouts he tends to rack up.

    8. Nelson Cruz: "BOOMSTICK"
    7. Tyler Duffey: "THE DOOF"
    6. Max Kepler: "RÓŻYCKI"
    Cruz got the name as part of a video game commercial for MLB 2K10 and it has stuck with him over the last decade as he has morphed into one of the best power hitters in the game. He’s closing in on 400 home runs and the Twins have adopted the Boomstick model with him in the line-up this season. MLB.com named Duffey as having Minnesota’s best Players’ Weekend nickname, but there were so many more options. The name actually comes from Latin American teammates not being able to pronounce “Duff.” Few may know it, but Kepler’s full last name is Kepler-Rozycki. His mother’s last name is Kepler and his father’s last name is Rozycki. One weekend a year, he is able to honor his father with the name on the back of his jersey.

    5. Mitch Garver: "GARV SAUCE"
    Garver’s nickname stretches all the way back to high school and he has embraced the title. He uses it on social media and there are even “Garv Sauce” shirts to be purchased. It also helps that his sauce has been particularly hot this season as he has turned into an offensive power at the plate.

    4. Trevor May: "IAMTREVORMAY"
    Player’s Weekend is about the player’s showing what they are passionate about. May is known for being an eSports streamer on Twitch.tv and he uses “IAMTREVORMAY” as his handle. I think it’s a great way for him to combine the two things he loves, baseball and gaming.

    3. Taylor Rogers: "LEFTY PIECE"
    Rogers doesn’t have much of a personality on the mound, so it’s nice to see him going outside of his comfort zone and using a nickname. For much of the season, he’s been the lone left-handed reliever on the Twins roster, so when the coaches call to the bullpen, there’s only one player that can answer to “lefty piece.”

    2. Devin Smeltzer: "#CATCHCANCERLOOKING"
    Part of the larger story in Smeltzer’s life was his survival from childhood cancer. Fans can buy Catch Cancer Looking shirts and his nickname this weekend is a great way to spread his message. He might not be on the roster for the weekend, but it certainly a great choice by the rookie.

    1. Luis Arraez: "LA REGADERA"
    Arraez is in the midst of a tremendous season where he could get consideration for the AL Rookie of the Year. He’s stolen the hearts of Twins fans, but before he made it to Minnesota, he was making his mark in the Venezuelan Winter League. His nickname meaning “The Sprinkler” was given to him by Venezuelan fans. It seems like the perfect name for the type of hitter he has shown to be in a Twins uniform.

    Who would be at the top of your list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Aug 23 2019 04:06 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  20. 7 Weird Stats About Jose Berrios’ Season

    This season has been the best yet for Berrios in the big leagues. He was named to his second straight All-Star Game (despite some unnecessary finagling) and has posted strong tallies across the board. What he hasn’t done though, is maintain a consistent level of dominance required to take that next step and claim the title of “ace,” coveted by many and held by few.

    Viewing the year in small snapshots provides plenty of interesting talking points. Here are a few of the interesting outliers already in the books.

    1. Better but Maybe Worse

    Through 25 starts Berrios has posted a 3.37 ERA which is a career low by nearly 0.5 runs. Beyond the surface though, we find a 3.92 FIP (in line with the 3.90 2018 mark) and a bit gaudier 4.43 xFIP (compared to 3.89 in 2018). In terms of regression, we could see more before the dust settles. The 8.4 H/9 is a full-season career worst, and the HR/9 has risen after giving up 7 in his past eight starts. The long ball is harder to control in 2019 than ever before, and for a guy with a short stature the downward plane on each pitch is less advantageous.

    2. Oh Whiff Have You Forsaken Me

    Last season Berrios reached the 200-strikeout mark for the first time in his career. Pitching 192.1 innings he tallied a K/9 of 9.5. Owning a minor league career 9.6 K/9, something above 9.0 at the big leagues would be a great outcome for who has always expected to be a strikeout pitcher. In 157.2 IP this season, Berrios has just 150 strikeouts which breaks down to an 8.6 K/9. That’s the exact same ratio he posted in 2017 across 145.2 IP while turning in a 3.89 ERA. Major league baseball is on pace to set another record in strikeouts this season, but Jose hasn’t yet been the benefactor of that trend.

    3. Wins Will Ever Matter

    The short answer is no, and the longer answer is heck no. Even still, the Twins are in the midst of a nearly 100-win campaign and Jose has exactly 10 wins through 25 turns. Despite posting a better ERA than both Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson, each of his counterparts trump him in the wins category. The 2017 Twins won just 83 games and made the wild card game during the last week of the season. Berrios made 26 appearances (25 starts) and won 14 games that year. Now he should make something like seven more turns in the regular season, and conceivably could finish with 17 wins and a new career high, but that would throw the pace and ratio all out of whack on furthering the idea that pitcher wins are fickle and dumb.

    4. Bruising Body Blows

    You may have heard that the Athletics' Khris Davis is a fan of the .247 batting average (though he’s going to be stretched to make it five consecutive years this season). What you probably didn’t know is that Jose Berrios has a small run of his own going. After leading the big leagues in HBP during 2017, he totaled the same number (13) a year ago. In 2019 he’s plunked eight opponents, which puts him on pace for just 10 when all is said and done. There’s nothing wrong with pitching inside, and the two-seam action on his secondary fastball has been a main culprit in getting in on hitters in the past. If we’re going for a trifecta here though, knuckles and gluteus maximus’ (maximi?) will need to be on the lookout.

    5. Bump it With the Booty

    Much has been made down the stretch about Jose Berrios and his fastball velocity. Having pumped 95 and 96 mph at times, he’s worked more in the 91-93 mph range as the summer has worn on. His overall velocity is just a tad off at 93.4 mph (93.8 mph in 2018), but there was a clear decline to start August. Wes Johnson has been noted as a velocity guru, and much of a pitcher’s strength comes from sitting back in his hips and driving with your butt. There could be mechanical issues going on, or it could be nothing more than wear and tear. Fangraphs had three starts from July 31 to Aug 11 in which Jose averaged 90.8, 91.8, and 91.7 mph on his fastball. His last outing against the Rangers was back up to 93.0 mph and that’s virtually where he’s sat all year. We’ll see where it goes from here.

    6. An Emerging Offering

    Zack Pierce wrote a piece for The Athletic back in March that highlighted the emergence of Jose Berrios’ changeup. The Twins starter was fresh off a 10-strikeout Opening Day performance against the Cleveland Indians. Fast forward to today and the pitch has been thrown a career high 14.9% of the time. Over a 5% increase from 2018, Berrios has utilized an offering once perfected by Minnesota starter Johan Santana. Needing something to pair with the fastball/curveball combo, Berrios has gotten 2.1% of his 11% swinging strike rate from the offering. Nearly 20% from an offering not intended to fool or overpower, it’s an admirable step in the right direction.

    7. Summer Sorrows Show Sun on Horizon

    For whatever reason Jose Berrios and his repertoire is not a fan of August. Over the course of his career he owns a 5.92 ERA across 19 starts during the month. His K/9 remains strong but the WHIP gets ugly and things go awry. With an 8.44 ERA (mainly due to the worst start of his career) during three starts this month, the trend has continued. Thankfully he’ll make just two more starts before the calendar turns, and both come against the hapless Detroit Tigers. September has generally represented a reprieve (4.77 ERA), and even if that’s because of watered down competition, getting right for the postseason should be the lone remaining focus.

    • Aug 22 2019 02:50 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  21. Leading Off Podcast With Cooper And Matt: The Twins Stand Alone (Again)

    Click this link to go to the Spotify playlist!
    https://open.spotify...ZQk2Vb_T2VzxwxQ

    1:30 Reviewing the 5-1 week

    11:00 Michael Pineda/Who is the Twins #1?

    15:40 Jose Berrios

    21:30 Bullpen still a concern?

    29:30 Jorge Polanco/Ehire Adrianza

    36:50 Nelson Cruz injury

    39:20 Fan Questions

    56:15 Martin Perez

    61:30 Minor Leagues

    72:00 looking ahead

    Let us know what you think in the comments, and ask questions if you have any.

    • Aug 19 2019 09:42 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  22. Michael Pineda Will Play a Huge Role During This Division Race

    In case you haven’t noticed, the Twins starting rotation has been a huge area of concern since August began. Jose Berrios has dropped off a bit, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson struggle with consistency and then the number five spot is a fight between Martin Perez and Devin Smeltzer with neither of them doing enough to secure a job. The most consistent and reliable starter recently is Michael Pineda, but he hit the IL as August began and since then the Twins rotation holds a 5.55 ERA, 5.16 FIP, 1.61 HR/9, and 3.94 BB/9.

    Ironically, the Twins lost a key starting pitcher just a couple days after they did not add a starting pitcher at the deadline. That was controversial to some, but that is for a different day. So the Twins came into August fighting for a division, needing all hands on deck, and a few key players, including Pineda, landed on the IL at the worst time.

    People seem to forget this, but Big Mike began the season with four excellent starts before he started to slow down in his first season back from TJ surgery. There was talk about a long term extension before fans wanted to DFA him during his bad period of starts. He was eventually placed on the IL for the first time as a sort of break/precaution to get him some rest. Since his return he had been lights out, holding a 2.95 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 4.4 K/BB, and .662 OPS against. The funny thing is that nobody really started talking about how good he has been until the start before the most recent, his second, IL stint. Michael Pineda had quietly been putting up ace numbers since the start of June.

    A lot of this success has come from his ability to limit walks. He is fourth in the American League with just a 4.4 BB% so keeping guys off the bases has been key for his success. This BB% isn’t even a career high, so maybe he can get even better in that area, which would certainly be impressive.

    With Cleveland steamrolling through every opponent they face at like a .900 winning percentage, the Twins will need Pineda to return from his stint on the IL and get back into the role he had. It seems as if he stabilizes the rotation every fifth day with a guaranteed quality start. He actually has the second most quality starts on the Twins, trailing only Berrios, so he is definitely reliable.

    If the playoffs began today, Pineda would likely be the number two starter for the Twins, taking on Gerrit Cole of the Astros ... that’s scary, but it’s the truth. A playoff rotation of Berrios/Pineda/Odorizzi isn’t flashy but hopefully it could get the job done.

    Overall, the weight on this entire starting staff has only gotten much heavier with the Indians catching the team and no help for the starting staff being added at the deadline. The front office showed they have confidence in this group to get it done in big games this year so let’s see Big Mike step in and prove the Twins are here to stay. The Indians didn’t have to face him in the most recent series, but if they really want to take the division from the Twins then they have to beat the healthy version of the Twins.

    After this season Pineda will become a free agent and you should not be surprised if he returns to the Twins on a short two-year deal. He has become a solid pitcher and with the Twins having only Berrios and Perez under control, expect the team to make a noticeable effort to keep Pineda around.

    Before Pineda was put on the IL the second time, it seemed as if he was getting better with every start. It will be crucial for the Twins division chances if he can come back on that same wave he had been riding. On that note, I wonder what he would look like surfing... back to baseball. Keep in mind this is still his first season after TJ surgery so his innings could be limited. The Twins definitely seem to have a plan in place to keep him around for the long haul this season with scheduled breaks or IL stints for him to rest his arm so hopefully fatigue or major injury do not become concerns.

    He should be returning to this rotation this week so hopefully he can make the group a whole lot more reliable than they have been lately. All five starters will need to contribute if the Twins want to take the division for the first time since 2010, and I expect Michael Pineda to be leading the rotation.

    • Aug 15 2019 06:45 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  23. Jose Berrios and a History of Second Half Swoons

    Second Half Swoons
    Back in 2017, Berrios made 25 starts for the Twins and logged over 140 big league innings for the first time in his career. In the first half, he posted a respectable 3.53 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP. He had a 69 to 19 strikeout to walk ratio along with a 8.7 K/9. As the innings started to mount, he posted a 4.24 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP over his final 15 games. His strikeout rate stayed basically the same, but his walks increased from 2.40 BB/9 to 3.52 BB/9. Batters also saw their OPS increase 74 points in the second half.

    The 2018 campaign saw more of the same from Berrios. He earned his first All-Star selection on the heels of a first half that saw him post a 3.68 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP with 127 strikeouts in 127 1/3 innings. He was limited to 12 starts in the second half and had a 4.15 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. His strikeout rate increased from 9.0 K/9 to 10.4 K/9 but he did this in half as many second-half innings. For the second straight year, batters improved their OPS from .644 in the first half to .703 in the second half.

    In 2019, Berrios has made six second-half starts, and he seems to be trending the same as previous years. After posting a 3.00 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in the first half, his ERA has jumped to 4.21 and his WHIP has increased to 1.27. Like 2018, his second half strikeout rate has increased from a first-half 8.0 K/9 to a second-half 9.9 K/9.

    Velocity Concerns
    Berrios and his fastball velocity have also become one point of discussion among Twins fans. Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman noted on Twitter that one of the biggest differences for Berrios this season is not driving toward home as much. He is more rotational with his rear leg action. This could be something the Twins instructed Berrios to do so that some of his other pitches have more movement.

    Back in 2017, his first full MLB season, Berrios was hitting 95 mph with his fastball over 10% of the time. Flash forward to 2019 and that percentage has dropped to less than 4% of the time.
    [attachment=12956:2017 Berrios Pitches.png]
    [attachment=12957:2019 Berrios Pitches.png]
    Even with the drop in velocity, Berrios is giving up less hard contact and throwing more strikes. His hard hit % was 34.1% last year and he has posted a 31.6 hard hit % in 2019 which is better than the MLB average. His strike percentage is also a career high 71.5% after topping out at 67.9% one year ago. This is also a large improvement from the 59.8 strike percentage he compiled back in 2016.

    Minnesota is only going to go as far as the pitching staff is able to take the team. Berrios is critical to any success this team can have in October so he needs to find a way to end the trend of having second-half swoons.

    Are you concerned about Berrios and his second half performance? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Aug 12 2019 01:25 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  24. Looking Ahead to the Twins Postseason Rotation

    Which four starters should make up the postseason rotation? Should they send Martin Perez to the pen? Is their game-two starter the hot hand in Michael Pineda or All-Star Jake Odorizzi, who has had trouble going deep into ball games? Where does Kyle Gibson fit in? He seems to thrive against weaker opponents while coming up short against playoff caliber teams. Finally, could Devin Smeltzer force his way into the rotation with continued success?

    One thing we do know for certain is that if the Twins do make the postseason, they will be facing teams with winning records. To get an idea of both who belongs in the rotation and a potential pecking-order, it may be worthwhile to check-in on how Minnesota’s starters have fared against some of the better teams in baseball. The following chart shows how Twin’s pitchers have performed against teams with an above .500 record.

    [attachment=12944:Rotation1.png]
    As expected, Jose Berrios is the clear “ace” of this staff. His numbers hold up remarkably well against the better teams and he is able to go deep into ball games. In his most recent start he struggled against the Atlanta Braves (sending his ERA against winning teams from 2.37 to 3.45), but Berrios has generally been at his best while facing the best. His ability to pitch well against good teams bodes well for his chances of pitching successfully in the postseason.

    After Berrios, Pineda looks like he should be the game-two starter. Not only has he been much better in the second half, his overall numbers against tough teams make Pineda appear to be the second best option. Pineda generally doesn’t go deep into his starts, but this is partially to limit the number of pitches he throws since he is coming off of Tommy John surgery. In the postseason it seems reasonable to give Pineda a little longer leash. Pineda is currently on the 10-day IL, but the Twins seem to simply be using this trip to the IL as a chance to get Pineda some extra rest as they did earlier in the season.

    Odorizzi has pitched the most games against winning clubs this season and his overall numbers have been okay. His second half slide is concerning, but it seemed to coincide with a blister injury. He has improved in his last two starts (against Miami and Atlanta) so hopefully he is headed in the right direction. However, Odorizzi has a knack for accumulating high pitch counts even when he is pitching well, so he generally can’t be counted on for more than five or six innings. Still, he seems to be a step above Gibson or Perez.

    Gibson and Perez round out the bottom of the Twins rotation. After joining the rotation early in the season Perez was lights out for the first couple of months but has been fairly disastrous since. Gibson has been up and down throughout the year and as can be seen from his numbers, he really struggles against better competition. Gibson continued to struggle in his most recent start against Cleveland, walking six and giving up five earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings. However, for the time being, it looks like Gibson should probably be the fourth starter with Perez moving to the pen for the postseason. Perez pitched out of the pen for Texas last season, having some success, and also started this season as a reliever.

    Devin Smeltzer is a bit of a wildcard here. His sample size is small, but he has really turned it on against some good teams. He has already pitched against Milwaukee, Cleveland, Texas, and the Yankees with his only hiccup against Cleveland. In his last start he faced off against the Royals (spoiler alert: they won’t be playing October baseball) and pitched six shutout innings (he was facing Cleveland again on the day of this article). There are still a lot of regular season games to be played and it will be interesting whether Smeltzer can avoid regression, assuming he continues to get some big league starts.

    Based on their ability to succeed against good teams, it looks like Minnesota’s rotation should be Berrios-Pineda-Odorizzi-Gibson, with Perez adding another lefty to the pen. If Smeltzer continues to succeed, he could also enter into the mix. Supposing that Perez’s struggles continue as Pineda comes off the IL, it may even be prudent for the Twins to keep Smeltzer in the rotation and get Perez in the bullpen sooner rather than later. This gives Minnesota a chance to get extra looks at Smeltzer as a starter and Perez as a reliever and gives Perez time to adjust to relieving again. The Twins would then have the luxury of adding Gibson to the pen (or having Smelter out of the pen if they stick with Gibson).

    One last factor to consider when constructing the postseason rotation is the ideal amount of rest between starts for each pitcher. The Twins would obviously love to ride Berrios as much as possible and by looking at the numbers we may be able to see the most effective way to structure the rotation. Let’s take a look at how Minnesota’s rotation has performed on four, five, and six days of rest (through Aug. 4th).

    [attachment=12945:BerriosSheet.png]

    Berrios has pitched very well on regular rest and a bit worse when getting an extra day off between starts. This may imply that Berrios doesn’t need as much rest and may be able to pitch with three days of rest if the Twins want to ride him. If not, the Twins can pitch him on the normal rest period of four days (allowing Berrios to stick to his regular routine as much as possible) and juggle the remainder of the rotation around Berrios.

    [attachment=12946:PinedaSheet.png]

    Pineda has pitched much better when given more than four days of rest between starts. He has been most effective with five days between starts.

    [attachment=12948:OdorizziSheet.png]

    Like Pineda, Odorizzi has pitched better with additional rest. He has been almost unhittable in his six starts with six or more days of rest. He recently pitched well against Atlanta on five days of rest.

    [attachment=12949:GibsonSheet.png]

    Gibby’s results with four and more than six days of rest are both pretty ugly and he really struggled in his last start against Cleveland on four days of rest. The numbers are much better with 5 days between starts.

    [attachment=12950:PerezSheet.png]

    Perez’s numbers are pretty bad no matter how much rest he gets. He was bad again against Atlanta and it is hard to imagine Perez making the playoff rotation at this point.

    It is unclear how much stock can be put into these numbers as the sample size is admittedly small, but the extra days off in the postseason could play to Minnesota’s advantage. Berrios is the only pitcher who has thrived on the normal rest period, with Pineda, Odorizzi, and Gibson pitching remarkably better with extra rest. The Twins obviously want to ride Berrios as much as possible, so the Twins can keep Berrios pitching on four days rest (or possibly three) and slot the remaining three starters around Berrios starts, allowing them to generally get five or more days of rest between starts (because of all the days off and Berrios occasionally sliding up).
    If the Twins are able to win the division, their starters should have plenty of rest. The season wraps up on September 29th with the wildcard games being played on the 1st and 2nd and the NLDS Game 1 on the 3rd. The Twins could potentially roll with the following rotation:

    ALDS Game 1 (10/4) – Jose Berrios
    ALDS Game 2 (10/5) – Michael Pineda
    ALDS Game 3 (10/7) – Jake Odorrizi
    Now the Twins have to decide whether to pitch Berrios on three days of rest or wait until the 10th for five days. For the purpose of this exercise let’s suppose the Twins play it safe and give Berrios five days off.
    ALDS Game 4 (10/8) – Kyle Gibson / Devin Smeltzer
    ALDS Game 5 (10/10) – Jose Berrios (5 days rest)

    ALCS Game 1 (10/12) – Michael Pineda (6 days rest)
    ALCS Game 2 (10/13) – Jake Odorrizi (5 days rest)
    ALCS Game 3 (10/15) – Jose Berrios (4 days rest)
    ALCS Game 4 (10/16) – Kyle Gibson / Devin Smeltzer (7 days rest)
    ALCS Game 5 (10/17) – Michael Pineda (4 days rest)
    ALCS Game 6 (10/19) – Jake Odorrizi (5 days rest)
    ALCS Game 7 (10/20) – Jose Berrios (4 days rest)

    The cart has undeniably been put ahead of the horse with this exercise and there are a lot of variables at play. It is unknown how many games each series will take, how far the Twins will go (or more importantly if they will win the division to avoid the wildcard game), or whether the starters will remain healthy.

    Given the Twins historic offense, however, it’s good to know that theoretically our best pitcher is the one who thrives with the least amount of rest and the remainder of the rotation can be afforded the extra rest that furthers their chances of success. Minnesota’s rotation is unlikely to strike fear into their opponent’s hearts, but hopefully they can do enough (along with the bullpen) to afford the offense the opportunity to carry the team.

    • Aug 10 2019 06:41 AM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  25. Perspective Proving Important for Twins Success

    Through May the Twins had compiled an MLB best 38-18 record. Over the course of a full season that’s a 110-win pace which would be the franchise record (102 in 1965) by nearly double-digits. To expect the continuation of that level of dominance over 162 games seemed like a longshot. What it did do however, was set up strong positioning for the stretch run.

    Since June 1st the Twins have played to just a 32-25 record. Obviously, that isn’t the torrid pace that the first three months of the season saw, but that still plays out to a 91-win pace. In 2018, 91 wins would’ve won two different divisions and have been worth of a postseason berth. It’s also representative of a 13-game improvement year over year for Minnesota. If at their worst the Twins play at a 91-win clip this season, I’d imagine Rocco Baldelli would take that any day of the week.

    So, as things have cooled for the big-league club, let’s get out in front of some common misconceptions.

    Beating Good Teams

    All season long there’s been plenty made regarding the Twins record against teams over .500. While this is somewhat of a silly practice given the volatility of records for teams hovering around that midpoint, it’s worth noting Minnesota has held their own against the best. Baldelli’s club has played six different teams that are at least 16 games over .500 (NYY, HOU, CLE, TB, ATL, and OAK). They own a 20-19 record against those clubs who have a combined winning percentage of .604. That winning percentage would be fifth best in baseball, and Minnesota is beating them at over a .500 clip.

    In any sport, the goal is to hold serve with the best teams while cleaning up against the lackluster competition. Minnesota has done exactly that and has far more opportunity to expand on the latter as the calendar closes out the year. 9 games remain with Cleveland (four of which take place this week) and then just 11 games remain with clubs north of the .500 mark (MIL, TEX, BOS, and WAS).

    Starting Rotation Issues

    A point of discontent among fans since the season began, the Twins pitching staff has performed largely above expectations. Martin Perez isn’t close to the pitcher he started the year as, but you can’t discredit what he gave Minnesota from the get-go. Michael Pineda was scoffed at plenty early on, but he’s been one of the best and most consistent arms in baseball during 2019. This grouping isn’t bolstered just by early season performance either. Only eight different pitchers have made starts for Minnesota, the fewest in baseball, and the Twins rotation still has the seventh best fWAR since June 1st.

    Pineda and Jose Berrios both have ERA’s south of 3.20 since June 1st, and Kyle Gibson is performing well with a 3.97 mark. Throwing out his nine-run blowup against the Yankees, Jake Odorizzi owns a 3.18 ERA in his last 4 turns and was the ERA leader early in the season. Wanting a starter at the deadline was a fair hope for the front office and fans alike, but with only Marcus Stroman as a realistic option, opportunity was hardly missed by passing on guys like Mike Leake, Tanner Roark, and Jordan Lyles.

    The Competition is Stiff

    There’s no denying that Minnesota should be eyeing up their postseason prospects at this point. They’ll need to finish out the slate strong, but they’re trending towards a berth and a division title. Despite losing two of three at home to Atlanta, run differentials suggest Minnesota may be the superior team. There were clunker pitching performances in the set, but it’s clear the clubs are evenly matched throughout their 25-man rosters.

    It’s not just the Twins looking for answers either. New York has the best record in the American League, and second in baseball. Since June 1st their rotation ranks 26th in baseball. Atlanta leads the NL East by a healthy six game margin, but they have just the 14th best rotation in baseball during that same time period. Neither team made starting acquisitions at the deadline, and Atlanta even parted with an option. You’re going to run into good teams during the postseason, but each one of them will have warts.

    Peaking in May

    After going gangbusters to open 2019 and distance themselves from a disappointing 2018 season, Minnesota has been consistently tied to their start. Getting out of the gates that fast makes it understandable to reference that point, but a mediocre stretch doesn’t trump Minnesota still making their mark.

    Since July 1st the Twins have a 17-13 record, which is a 92-win pace. That would’ve won four of six divisions a season ago and getting into the postseason is the only regular season goal. Record doesn’t matter once you’re there, and the opponent doesn’t care how you’ve arrived in the other dugout. We can break the season into chunks from an evaluation standpoint, but 162 games exist to legitimize trends over a significant period.

    At the end of the day, there’re a few takeaways here. First and foremost, this Twins team is very, very good. They absolutely have deficiencies but so does every team in baseball. Even the Zack Greinke-bolstered Houston Astros have a World Series probability of less than 30%. In a sport where five or seven games can be so closely contested, calling anything a wrap before the final pitch seems foolish.

    Since 2010 the Twins have looked like a lost franchise chasing a competitive window without much luck. Now they are not only well positioned to make waves in 2019, but for multiple years beyond. Reacting to contests without the context of a new game tomorrow or the opportunity that lies ahead is shortsighted. Smart money says there’s lots more winning to come, and the level we soak that in should only further the experience.

    • Aug 08 2019 12:46 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler