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  1. Designated Hitter Gets New Wrench for Twins in 2021

    The Star Tribune’s LaVelle E. Neal is hearing that the DH will revert back to an American League only rule in 2021. Despite the success of the change during the 2020 sprint, this is a change that would need to be collectively bargained and will likely need the 2022 CBA to institute it full time. Disappointing as that is for fans not wanting to see pitchers be automatic outs in the National League, the decision has rippling effects for the Twins.



    There’s arguably no bigger decision for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to make this offseason than whether they believe Cruz has more production to dole out. At some point the aging process wins out, and unfortunately, it’s not often a gradual process. If Cruz remains consistent, he’s one of the most feared hitters in baseball. If not, he provides no other value outside of clubhouse leadership, and paying him like a coach would be far more beneficial for the sake of payroll expenditures.

    Thanks to Major League Baseball deciding the National League will go back to pitcher’s hitting for one more year, Nelson Cruz’s free agent suitors have officially been cut in half. All of those National League teams that scrambled to find a DH-bat this year will no longer face that issue in the season ahead. Many of the American League organizations already have that role filled, and that definitely tips the scales in the Twins favor should they want to retain the services of the Dominican star.

    I still think one of the biggest questions in relation to this offseason is where the buck will cease being passed when it comes to a shortage of dollars. If teams are going to decrease payroll across the board, it would only make sense that players would see paydays being muted as well. While the arbitration process is relatively static, that means guys on the free agent market would be forced into dealing with what the market bears, as opposed to what they’d traditionally find as worth.

    In a normal situation Nelson Cruz may command something like $15 million per year with a full boat of 30 teams vying for his services. With less than half of that being the reality, and less dollars to go around as a whole, the avenue for him to return may get a bit clearer.

    Traditionalist or not, it’s disappointing that we’re going to get expanded Postseason and changed rules for extra innings out of this season, but we’ll still see pitchers hitting on a nightly basis despite being well in over their heads. As goofy as that is, maybe it means Minnesota isn’t forced into deciding Brent Rooker is their starting DH out of the gate next season, and if the belief is Nelson can still get it done, having him back would be a must.

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    • Oct 22 2020 01:16 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  2. Twins Could Target the Other Free Agent Starting Pitcher

    The former Blue Jays starter didn’t pitch in 2020, and he used some shrewd maneuvering to benefit himself for 2021. Despite a calf tear during Summer Camp, Stroman had ramped up nearly to the point of return for the New York Mets. Having accumulated just enough time to be eligible for free agency in the upcoming offseason, he opted out of the season citing a “collective family decision.” I’m not at all here to question his motives, but good on him for putting his own situation first in a sport that saw owners look to exploit the talent over and over prior to resumption.

    On the field there’s plenty to unpack with Stroman. He’ll turn 30 in the year ahead and has made a single All-Star Game while generating Cy Young votes just once. He has compiled a career 3.76 ERA and 2019 was arguably his best season as a big leaguer. When healthy Stroman has been an innings eater, and while his career K/9 is just 7.4, he also doesn’t get bit by the long ball or free passes.

    [attachment=16928:Capture.PNG]

    What Stroman brings to the table is a very consistent approach. He doesn’t own a big fastball, and the average velocity hovers around 94 mph. His whiff rates have always been right around 9% and he forces the opposition to chase just under one-third of the time. What you’re going to get is very few barreled balls and a ton of ground ball outs.

    The book on Stroman has read virtually the same for the entirety of his career and it’s why the deal to the Mets made little sense a year ago. New York employed arguably the worst infield in baseball, and predictably Stroman was worse off. He went from a 2.96 ERA and 3.51 FIP with Toronto in 2019 to a 3.77 ERA and 4.15 FIP in the Big Apple. Making sure a pitcher like Marcus is backed by sure handed infielders is imperative.

    Enter the Minnesota Twins and what 2020 saw them do. Josh Donaldson is a massive upgrade defensively at the hot corner, obviously he needs to remain available there. While Jorge Polanco struggled mightily at the plate, he performed adequately in the field. Luis Arraez was better at second base, and Miguel Sano looks entirely passable at first. In totality the Twins were 10th in baseball in defensive fWAR and 3rd when it came to infield outs above average. The entire aforementioned group will be back, and it’s one capable of supporting a ground ball heavy pitcher.

    These aren’t the same Twins instructing arms to generate soft contact and allow batters to put the ball on the ground. That said, being able to do so at a high level as Stroman is, allows Wes Johnson an ability to pull more from the rest of his game. It’s hard to imagine a massive overhaul at age-30, but considering his prime, a velocity and strikeout boost even in a slight manner could have Stroman experiencing new heights.

    2020 saw Stroman awarded a prorated portion of $12 million through arbitration. His 2019 deal checked in at $7.4 million. He’s going to want a long-term deal, and there’s no denying he’s going to get paid. I’d imagine he’ll be more affordable than Bauer however, and that could make the Twins a serious player for his services.

    By all accounts it appears that Stroman has been a good clubhouse guy and someone you’d want to have on your team. He’s worn blue previously, knows the northern weather well, and could be Minnesota’s 2021 version of Kenta Maeda. I’m on board with this acquisition, and you’d be hard pressed to make an argument for their not being a fit.

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    • Oct 20 2020 08:48 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  3. The Payroll Question to Answer for the 2021 Twins

    It’s completely tone deaf to suggest that owning a major league sports franchise is a losing business venture, the reality is that revenues won’t be at their traditional levels in 2020. With no fans in the stands organizations have lost out on lucrative ticket sales, concessions, and other traditional operating dollars. Because of this, the assumption is that payrolls across the league will take a step backwards in 2021. What we don’t know if where the ripple effect will end.

    Free agency and talent acquisition still take place on a competitive market. There are 30 suitors for any one position (as long as the designated hitter remains universal), and varying levels of need and risk factors that come into play. Attempting to land a non-committed player will likely never be as straightforward as a one-way exchange of figures. However, was does reduced cash flow throughout the sport look like, and how does a potential lockout in 2022 impact things further?

    While doing our Offseason Live show focused on the Twins 2021 payroll, the general assumption is some level of decrease. Without knowing the percentage, we are operating in a world of hypotheticals. It is fair to suggest that a non-tender of Eddie Rosario is probably the most logical cost cutting move to make. The next biggest swing comes in the form of a reunion with designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Likely representative of the Twins big splash for 2021, his price tag won’t be cheap. Where things get interesting is when the market starts to bear fruit.

    In a normal scenario a guy like Cruz, coming off the season he had, might be looking at something like $14-16 million per year. He wants a two-year deal, and though that’s a fair ask, he’s still going to be 41 years old. Dealing with a new set of parameters, does the market value for all players take a percentage step backwards in relation to that of the payroll? Say a 20% decrease in year over year spend, does that make Cruz’s new best get something like $11-12 million?

    To me, it’s in that question that we see just how aggressive Minnesota can be in filling their needs. Coming into 2020 with a $140 million commitment, there should be no reason they don’t continue to dole out cash as they supplement a window of opportunity. That can still take place even if it’s in a different form. Maybe they jump from 17th overall in payroll to the top 15. Maybe instead of a 20% cut they only step backwards 10%. Whatever happens, the Twins will need to be ready to pivot and pounce.

    Right now, the goal should be to start making assessments on what virtually every player will make and be worth. Once the first couple of deals have been made, assess and compare. From there you should have a good idea as to how to approach potential fits and keeping in mind a need for aggressiveness should be at the forefront.

    Today we can make determinations on what needs are there, and even predict some of the departures. Understanding how to put the puzzle together when we don’t know how many pieces it is will prove tricky.

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    • Oct 15 2020 10:35 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  4. Minnesota Should Plunder Another Pirates Pitcher

    As a former first round pick, Musgrove is now a part of his third organization. Drafted by the Blue Jays in 2011, he was dealt to the Houston Astros prior to now having spent the bulk of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The career 4.33 ERA doesn’t do much to jump off the page, but as a guy about to enter his age 28 season with two more years of team control, a prime before the breakout could be just the recipe for a strong organization to exploit.

    Since joining the Pirates in 2018 Musgrove has compiled a 4.23 ERA. In those three seasons however, he’s posted FIP’s of 3.58, 3.82, and 3.42, respectively. The strikeout rates have risen each year going from 7.8 in 2018 to 12.5 in what was a muted 2020 season. He’s generally been a guy that’s tough on free passes, middle of the road when it comes to the longball, and relatively difficult to generate base hits.

    [attachment=16282:Musgrove.PNG]

    Taking a look at some of the deeper dive numbers, there’s even more to like with Musgrove. He posted a career best 3.19 xFIP in 2020 while still holding onto a consistent 93 mph average fastball velocity. He gave up a career low 24% hard hit rate this past season and the 48% ground ball rate is plenty productive. Missing barrels is something he’s done often throughout his career and generating a new career high 14.4% whiff rate this season was nice to see as well.

    Musgrove doesn’t rely a ton on deception. In each of his five big league seasons he’s been right around a 33% chase rate. Rather than forcing batters out of the zone, he’s been able to confuse them within it. Despite the rising swinging strike rates, he hasn’t done it as a by-product of his zone profile. Opposing hitters have generated less overall contact and suffered a career worst contact within the strike zone against Musgrove this past season.

    Clearly some of the developments Musgrove has experienced are helping take his game to new heights. Seeing what some of his counterparts have experienced when going to more well-regarded organizations, however, begs the question if there’s not more to be unearthed. Minnesota’s brain trust, and the tutelage of Wes Johnson could be the thing that takes him to the highest level.

    Pitching doesn’t come cheap, and a guy with team control still in arbitration isn’t going to be had for nothing. Expecting the Pirates to continue making the same missteps on the swap front also isn’t a good plan of action. On the basis of its own merit however, finding an amicable deal for both sides is certainly a worthy venture.

    A lot of how Minnesota sets themselves up for 2021 will be reliant upon what internal decisions the organization makes. After all, the 2020 club was very good and simply fell short of even moderate expectations at the worst time. The turnaround in that performance needs to come from within. On the mound though, there’s now some holes and openings that need to be filled. Addressing at least one of them with an arm this good, and a possibility to be even better, would be a great place to start.

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    • Oct 13 2020 09:07 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  5. Time for a Bauer Outage in Minnesota

    The lineup should remain virtually unchanged going into 2021. Eddie Rosario is a prime non-tender candidate given his production and assume cost. Also noting that both Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff appear major league ready, there’s an immediate replacement to be had. If Nelson Cruz is retained, and hopefully only on a reasonable contract, then much of the punch should be back.

    Where Derek Falvey has work to do is on the pitching front. Minnesota was actually very good on the bump each of the past two seasons, but there’s an exodus of sorts that is taking place this winter. Only three of the rotation spots are accounted for, and finding more pitching is the goal of every organization. For a guy familiar with the former Cleveland Indians pitcher, a reunion between Derek and Trevor Bauer makes a lot of sense.

    Here’s the deal though, it’s highly unlikely and that’s because every team in baseball could use Trevor Bauer. He knows that, and every front office around the league knows that. Whether a multi-year deal is struck, or he sticks to his guns as a hired assassin on one-year pacts, the payday is going to come.



    Expected to be named the National League Cy Young winner, Bauer posted a ridiculous 1.73 ERA across 73.0 innings in 2020. He owned a 12.3 K/9 with just a 2.1 BB/9 en route to a 276 ERA+. Arguably no one in the game knows their body better than Bauer knows his, and he’s continued to push the boundaries of what can be expected from him.

    Turning 30 in January, there’s also expected to be plenty of mileage left on his arm. He wants to extract the most from himself in terms of performance and was able to convince the Reds to allow him an opportunity to pitch on just four days rest. Sustaining that throughout a full season would be a throwback of sorts, but he has it down to a science in order to make it work. Those additional trips to the mound would seemingly provide more value to any suitor, especially if only carrying the risk for a single season at a time.

    Circling back to what Minnesota has in front of them, they’re coming off inking the largest free agent contract in history. However, prorated pay in a Covid shortened sprint had the total expense checking in just north of $55 million, or 18th in baseball (and two spots shy of league average). Despite the losses in fan generated revenues this season, the reality is no franchises find themselves in a place of struggle, and especially not a Twins team right in the heart of their competitive window.

    It makes sense for the front office to spend a bit on the bullpen, hand out a nice chunk of change to Nelson Cruz, and maybe find a utility man that requires a little bit more of a monetary commitment. In all of that though, there’s not really an avenue to a significant expense. Minnesota will be up against plenty of competition for Bauer’s services, but handing him a blank check would be ego stroking and potentially enough to get it done.

    This should be great theater to watch unfold, and Twins Daily Women in Baseball participant Rachel Luba is going to have a field day representing her high-profile client. Where the Twins can allow themselves to enter the ring is in saying the top of the staff is yours, write the amount that will get it done.

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    • Oct 08 2020 10:32 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  6. Is it Time to Move on From Nelson Cruz?

    Nelson Cruz has operated as the designated hitter for the Minnesota Twins each of the past two seasons. In 2020 he was playing in his age-39 campaign and turned 40 years old in the midst of it. Looking for a two-year deal on the open market as a free agent, the exceptionally well cared for body will be 42 years old by the time said deal expires. Rocco Baldelli will have a huge hole in his lineup without the Dominican napper, but should the front office look to fill that with someone else?



    You can’t make a case against Cruz without first looking at what he’s provided. His .992 OPS in 2020 was the second-best mark of his career, topped only by the 1.031 total in 2019. He blasted 16 dingers in just 53 games and any concerns about a wrist tendon seem to be all but gone. With the designated hitter expected to remain universal, he’ll have no games in which Minnesota is forced to sit him from the lineup, and he remains dialed into his body and health more than any other athlete can claim.

    So, why wouldn’t the Twins look to bring him back?

    I don’t think there’s a case to be made from a financial sense. After signing Josh Donaldson to a franchise record deal last offseason, and being in the middle of a competitive window, payroll should continue to rise in the years ahead. Even if a Cruz contract goes belly up, there’s hardly an argument to make that the Twins couldn’t simply absorb that hit. Spending for the sake of doing so never makes sense, and it’s why payroll hasn’t been the issue in recent memory. Spending when you’re a contender is such a logical ask, the Twins doing anything but for at least the next couple of years would be worthy of handwringing.

    The only assessment to make when it comes to Nelson Cruz is on the basis of production, and where Father Time ranks in the list of detractors. At some point age is always undefeated, and while David Ortiz experienced a similar final season outburst, there’s hardly a guarantee the production would’ve continued forward. With Cruz, it’s fair to wonder when that time may be coming, and just how steep the decline will be.

    2020 is a difficult year to assess from a statistical landscape given the small sample even considering its entirety. However, it’s still worth wondering if anything can be gleaned from short snippets of the season. Cruz raced out to a really strong start and was pacing the league in homers for a time. As the Postseason push came to a head though, he slowed some. Over his final 20 games Cruz slashed just .265/.383/.426 with three home runs. He didn’t homer in his final 10 games including the playoffs, and that dry spell tied a season long dinger absence. An .809 OPS as a low point in a 162-game stretch would be hardly anything to scoff at, so the hope would be a cold streak rather than a decline.

    What is a bit more troubling is the swing profile that Cruz owned in the season that was. A year ago, Nelson posted an MLB leading 12.5 barrels per plate appearance and had the third highest average exit velocity in the game. His hard-hit rate was 51.5% trailing only Aaron Judge and teammate Miguel Sano. In 2020 Cruz’s barrel rate dropped over three percentage points putting him 27th in baseball. His average exit velo tumbled to 34th in the sport, and his hard-hit rate came in at just 37th (more than a 4% decrease).

    None of the steps backwards represent an untenable path forwards. In and of themselves, they’re respectable numbers that you’d take from anyone in your lineup. What is bothersome is that the slide is relatively steep, and all of them speak to quickness of the lumber through the zone. What Minnesota needs to deduce is whether that’s reflective of normalization after a career year, or a veteran starting to see some signs of age.

    We don’t often see players fall off in a comparable state. While there’s ranges that production wanes, how quickly and how drastically it happens remains individualized. I’d prefer that Minnesota did bring Cruz back, I think the level of familiarity and comfort makes it a good fit. The lineup probably needs more protection around him though, especially given the injury histories of some other key contributors. At some point there will need to be a transition from the Boomstick carrying the load to him being a cog in the wheel. Two years, hopefully with an option on the back half, would be the best-case scenario.

    Nelson Cruz has staved off Father Time for quite a while. He was a late bloomer that has less tread on his tires as well. 500 homers are probably unlikely, but if he sniffs anywhere near that in the next two seasons, whoever he plays for will have gotten more than their money’s worth.

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    • Oct 06 2020 09:21 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  7. Thankful for a Twins Journey Unlike Any Other

    The 2020 Minnesota Twins were arguably the most impressively constructed roster this franchise has ever seen. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine added a premiere talent in Josh Donaldson to an already loaded roster. They tacked on some necessary bullpen pieces, and the developmental aspects of the organization were in place to take this team to new heights.

    Following a record setting 307 home run barrage in 2019, and a win total that nearly took down the franchise record, things were going to be tough to top this time around. My contention was that this team may not win as many games, after all the division had gotten better, but they’d be a stronger unit capable of doing even more damage. I think we can fairly look back and say all of that is true.

    Selfishly baseball provides an out. I find myself pouring hours into Twitter because of the passion this sport drives in me, and the ability that outlet has to connect people. I spend time putting together pieces here at Twins Daily, and my own blog Off the Baggy, because it’s a longform way to share opinions and explain more nuanced analysis. Although it took some very ugly negotiating, and plenty of concessions on both sides, we were given a season this year (even if it was a goofy one).

    It’s not lost on me that baseball, while a job, requires sacrifice from those that play it. All the money in the world, and mind you many of these guys are not millionaires, does not make up for the distance created between families and friends. I can’t begin to fathom what weeks on the road, quarantined in hotels, and having no mental escape from the game felt like. I do know that the Minnesota Twins roster put forth an incredible effort in navigating those circumstances, and I’m thankful to the players and support staff that worked to make 2020 possible.



    While this is just a game to many, I think there’s something to be said in regards to how we connect with it. The goal of MLB is to draw new eyeballs, and that’s one that any diehard should embrace. For those that are already tuned in, having an ability to get lost in a daily occurrence and generate a schedule based around first pitch is something to behold. Losing my dad unexpectedly in a car accident a couple of weeks ago, it was this team, this season, and this sport that allowed for something else to drive emotion.

    As many of you too probably felt, there was a numbness when Carlos Correa launched that ball over the centerfield wall. 18 in a row, completely unfathomable. That this team, that this organization, that we as Minnesota sports fans continue to experience this is a special kind of torture. As unprecedented as that is, I can promise you I’m already counting down the 149 days until Twins baseball returns for the opportunity to allow it all to happen again.

    Baseball is a labor of love. It’s a long season and a grind that culminates in true happiness for just one organization. If we can continue to plan our lives around something this encapsulating for 6 months of the year though, I’ll be on board without question. In a year of complete turmoil and uncertainty, baseball gave us the opposite. This Twins team gave us the opposite. For that, I’m thankful.

    • Oct 01 2020 08:53 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  8. Twins Notebook 9/30: Rebound or Retire

    Yesterday’s Game Recap
    HOU 4, MIN 1: Defensive Lapses, Lack of Offense Lead to Another Twins Loss

    Today
    Twins vs. Astros 12:08pm CDT
    TV Broadcast: ESPN2
    Betting Lines: MIN -149, O/U 8.0

    Twins Starter: Jose Berrios, RHP 4.00 ERA

    In game one Rocco Baldelli went with the guy who emerged as the Twins staff ace. That was intended to be Jose Berrios, but Kenta Maeda came over from the Los Angeles Dodgers and ate his lunch in year one. This was the first season of his career in which the Puerto Rican has taken a step backwards, but as a traditional streaky starter, 12 games of runway were tough to work with.

    Going into his final start of the season Berrios had strung together six outings of mastery. Minnesota went 4-2 in that stretch while Berrios worked to a 4-0 record. He posted a 2.14 ERA and allowed just a .547 OPS against. Looking to ride that momentum into the Postseason, the Cincinnati Reds gave him a bit of a fit in his final outing. Lasting just five innings, he allowed four runs on five hits. The whiffs were there as he punched out seven, but dominance was nowhere to be found.

    [attachment=15907:Berrios.PNG]

    There’s been a bit of everything this season from Berrios. We’ve seen increased fastball velocity, but command has not been as sharp. Stuff has looked great at times, but missing bats has been less frequent. Minnesota got the pitching in game one and the lineup failed. In game two, they’ll need a complete effort if Houston is going to be pushed to game three.

    Astros Starter: Jose Urquidy, RHP 2.73 ERA

    Still working in what amounts to his rookie season, Urquidy has some flashy numbers that aren’t back by anything overpowering. He made just five starts and worked one out shy of 30 innings this season. The ERA is a glowing 2.73, but the FIP is a less positive 4.71. He struck out just 5.2 per nine and limited damage by avoiding free passes.

    It was up in the air as to what Houston would do in game two, also deciding on lefty Framber Valdez. The southpaw piggybacked Greinke in game one however, leaving Urquidy to take the ball. The Twins have struggled mightily against lefties this season, but the expected potency of the group has been missing against righties too.

    [attachment=15908:Urquidy.PNG]

    Urquidy resides just outside of Houston’s top 10 prospects, and it’s because the sum of all parts is better than any one aspect. He’s not a hard thrower, doesn’t miss many bats, and spinning the ball isn’t his thing. He does a good job making you beat him however, and working around trouble isn’t something that phases him. Look for Houston’s Jose to make Minnesota capitalize rather than playing into any of their strengths.

    Twins Lineup



    News & Notes

    - Prior to game one Rocco Baldelli noted he wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Alex Kirilloff make an appearance in this series. As a bopping left-handed bat, that may come into play today against Houston.

    - The matchup in Cleveland turned out to be more bats than pitching as both aces gave up a run. Unfortunately for the Indians it was expected AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber that was beat around a bit, and New York jumped ahead in that series.
    - As the only lower seed favored in their matchup, the White Sox held serve as expected. Moving to 15-0 against lefties this season, Chicago dispersed of rookie Jesus Luzardo. Adam Engel started the scoring and Jose Abreu kept up his hot hitting in 2020.

    See Also
    5 Overreactions to the Twins Game 1 Loss
    4 Head Scratchers for Baldelli Against Astros

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    • Sep 30 2020 09:05 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  9. 4 Head Scratchers for Baldelli Against Astros

    A season ago Baldelli was named American League Manager of the Year. It was warranted. The former star player guided the Twins to a record setting home run total and one of the most successful seasons in Twins history. Often times the award is handed to a guy leading a surprising organization to new heights. In 2020 expectations were lifted, but Baldelli created plenty of confusion.

    The vaunted lineup on paper failed to perform plenty of nights and drawing the infield in during early stretches of games became commonplace. In the biggest game of the season however, four decisions struck me as poor.

    Kenta Maeda is lifted after 5 innings and 91 pitches

    Minnesota had a 1-0 lead at the time, but the only thing going for the Twins in this contest was Maeda. Despite forcing Zack Greinke to work in the 1st inning, no runs were scored with the bases loaded and just one out. The Astros starter then settled in, and Framber Valdez dominated after a shaky first inning of relief. It seemed questionable to assume that one run would be enough to win this one and hoping the bullpen could lock things down for nearly half the game was a big ask.

    After getting both Matt Wisler and Trevor May warm previously, it’d have been nice to see Maeda return for the 6th and at least go one batter at a time. He could’ve been lifted at any point then. Instead the horses of the pen have no all been used while Houston didn’t trot out a single reliever.

    Mitch Garver pinch hits for Ryan Jeffers to start the 7th inning

    It was maybe an aggressive move to start rookie Ryan Jeffers in game one despite just 26 games of action. His .791 OPS and they way he worked behind the plate had earned it, however. Combine that with Garver slumping massively since his IL return and there was nothing about the decision that needed defending. In response to a lefty being on the mound though, Baldelli became convinced that 2019 Garver was who he was calling off the bench. Instead four straight curveballs, each one looked at, was all it too to get Minnesota’s pinch hitter.

    Letting Jeffers hit in that spot was the right move. You started him because of what he’d shown thus far, and he put up exit velocities of 105 and 109 mph earlier in this one. It was a second guessing that was unfounded and made no sense. From here, we get two more problems.

    Alex Avila replaces Mitch Garver defensively in the 8th inning

    Immediately following a poor at bat, Garver is lifted prior to taking the field. Despite being arguably a better receiver than Avila, Baldelli decided the veteran backstop was the play. Of course, there was still another catcher on the roster thanks to the Twins rostering four in this series, but it never was going to make sense for the position to become a revolving door.

    Garver could’ve caught the 8th inning and been more likely to steal strikes. Avila remains on the bench and represents your last true catcher behind the plate.

    Willians Astudillo pinch hits for Alex Avila in the 9th inning

    Now we get to the third cascading effect of the original choice to lift Jeffers. Trailing by three runs in a momentum setting first game, the Twins responded with Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco singling to right field. The batter would represent the tying run with a single out and runners on first and second. The right-handed bats left were Ehire Adrianza and Astudillo. Neither ideal, and the latter had just 16 big league at bats this season. On the very first pitch Astudillo lunged at a bender and hit a routine ground ball to third for the double play.

    The entirety of this move was necessitated because of Rocco’s initial mistake to lift Jeffers. It was in this at bat though that highlighting Astudillo’s negative impact is so simple. He’s not Luis Arraez, and his ability to make contact is quite literally a negative. His chase rate is not good, and neither is the hard-hit percentage. By putting the ball in play, which is his sole intention, you’re more likely to experience a negative result.

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    • Sep 29 2020 06:05 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  10. Twins Notebook 9/25: Hanging on Against the Redlegs

    Today
    Twins vs Tigers 7:10 pm CDT
    Betting Line: MIN -150 O/U 8.5

    Twins Starter: Jose Berrios (5-3) RHP 3.72 ERA

    Jose Berrios will take his final turn of the season for the Twins tonight. After a rough start to the year he’s been on cruise control of late. His last six outings have resulted in a 2.14 ERA with a 37/11 K/BB. Opponents have just a .547 OPS against him during that stretch and five of those outings have come against teams vying for Postseason spots. Interestingly, this will be Berrios’ fifth start against an NL Central team in 2020. He’s 4-0 with a 1.57 ERA and 27/7 K/BB in those contests. This serves as a tune up for game two of the Wild Card round and making sure he can keep things rolling against a playoff bound Reds team would be nice to see.

    Reds Starter: Tyler Mahle (2-2) RHP 3.57 ERA

    Cincinnati’s 25-year-old Mahle is having a breakout season. His 3.57 ERA is a career best, and it’s substantiated by a 3.96 FIP. He’s got an 11.1 K/9, reaching double digits for the first time in his career, and his 1.103 WHIP is well below the career norm. Although he hasn’t been overly dominant at any point this year, Mahle has been extremely consistent. He’s never allowed more than three runs in an outing, and he’s completed at least six innings in four of his eight starts. Shutting down the White Sox in his last time out, Mahle saw the Reds win for the first time when he was on the mound against an AL Central opponent.

    Twins Lineup



    Reds Lineup



    Division Recaptured
    Minnesota comes into tonight leading the AL Central Division by a full game. The Cleveland Indians swept the Chicago White Sox, coming from behind in the final three games, to give the Twins new life. Not holding a tiebreaker over Chicago, Rocco Baldelli’s club will need a win in hand to repeat.

    Postseason in Flux
    Minnesota could finish as high as the two seed and as low as the four seed. They’re looking at opponents such as the Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and Chicago White Sox.

    Postseason Staff Taking Final Turn
    Kenta Maeda threw the last game against Detroit for Minnesota, lining him up to open the Wild Card round. Rocco Baldelli confirmed that was the intention, and Jose Berrios will be penciled in for game two with Michael Pineda slotting behind him after his final outing tomorrow night.

    Around the AL Central
    Cleveland 5, Chicago 4
    Kansas City 8, Detroit 7

    MIN 35-22 +57 run differential
    CWS 34-23 1.0 GB +68
    CLE 33-24 2.0 GB +44
    KC 24-33 11.0 GB -26
    DET 22-33 12.0 GB -67

    • Sep 25 2020 02:04 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  11. Ranking the Twins Postseason Opponents and their Chances

    It’s a bit unfortunate that 2020 has dealt the world the hand it has. On the sports front, and baseball in particular, the year has looked nothing like a traditional schedule. With Minnesota putting together arguably the most talented roster in franchise history, it’s unfortunate we didn’t get to see it perform over a full 162-game slate. What still matters however, is that all that talent is at the disposal of Rocco Baldelli when the games become win-or-go-home.

    The most likely opponents for the Twins in the Wild Card round of the Postseason look to be the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, or Cleveland Indians. We know the field at this point, and there’s no reason Minnesota can’t be excited about facing any of these teams. In reverse order though, here’s how I’ll argue the stack up, from easiest to toughest.

    7. Toronto Blue Jays (Batting 18th Pitching 18th Fielding 18th)

    Somewhat of a surprise team, the Blue Jays have competed in what has been an up and down AL East this season. New York looked like a minor league team depending on which lineup you caught them with, and the Red Sox took ownership of the Orioles doldrums positioning. Toronto doesn’t do anything all that well, but they don’t have any glaring problem areas either. Bo Bichette is a stud, and right now Teoscar Hernandez has assumed the production intended for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Hyun-Jin Ryu has looked the part of the ace he was hoped to be, but they haven’t got much help on the pitching front elsewhere. Ken Giles isn’t coming back either, and the bullpen is plenty beatable.

    6. Houston Astros (Batting 22nd Pitching 11th Fielding 28th)

    What a difference a year makes. Houston was probably always going to be seen as tough despite the fallout from their cheating scandal due to the number of weapons that can hurt you. Their problem is that many of them have been a shell of themselves, and the pitching isn’t there either. Gerrit Cole is gone and Justin Verlander is done. George Springer and Michael Brantley have hit, but Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa have been awful. You can’t let this team beat you, they have the talent to do so, but it isn’t the scary Astros anymore.

    5. Oakland Athletics (Batting 10th Pitching 8th Fielding 3rd)

    Taking the Athletics down a notch was the massive loss of Matt Chapman. He’s a superstar and arguably the best defender in baseball at third base. There’s still thump in their lineup with Matt Olson and Marcus Semien, but one through nine isn’t where they’ll beat you. This team can pitch in the rotation and the bullpen, while converting outs at a high clip defensively. Oakland isn’t a team to take lightly but the +53-run differential and overall win tally seems to be aided by a very mediocre AL West.

    4. Cleveland Indians (Batting 16th Pitching 1st Fielding 2nd)

    By now Twins fans have seen enough of the Indians to know what expectations are. The club can once again pitch, shocker, but they still can’t hit. Jose Ramirez has looked like an AL MVP candidate, but the middle of the order still features a black hole in Carlos Santana. The outfield production is atrocious, and they’ll rely on beating teams in low-scoring affairs. This isn’t a group you want to see in October. Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and company can shut down any lineup. That said, there’s warts here and Minnesota has already handled them to the tune of a 7-3 record in 2020.

    3. Chicago White Sox (Batting 1st Pitching 9th Fielding 9th)

    The rivalry has certainly been renewed, and it doesn’t matter who wins the division, the Southsiders will be coming for Minnesota plenty in the years ahead. The Twins split the season series with Chicago, and while a couple of those contests were lopsided, Rick Renteria’s club has the bats to do plenty of damage on their own. I think this unit is still a year away from settling into their own, but a series going up and down that lineup on a nightly basis would be as tense as it gets. Lucas Giolito is not an arm that has owned the Twins, and the rotation is barren behind him and Keuchel. Still though, it’s the bats that make this club worthy of a no-fly zone.

    2. New York Yankees (Batting 7th Pitching 14th Fielding 13th)

    Going on season numbers for the Yankees are relatively hollow considering the amount of time they were without key players. Now a healthy Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have returned, and all bets are off. Gerrit Cole is an ace in every sense of the word, and Masahiro Tanaka is plenty consistent in his own right. I actually don’t think New York’s rotation is that much better than Minnesota’s but turning to Cole twice in a short series could be the trump card. There are questions as to whether Judge and Stanton have enough at bats to feel comfortable, but both are capable of going off at any time. Throw in Luke Voit and D.J. LeMahieu and you’ve once again got an opponent to avoid.

    1. Tampa Bay Rays (Batting 11th Pitching 10th Fielding 8th)

    Maybe I’m overrating the Rays a bit given the opportunities they had against a more lackluster Yankees lineup, but this feels like the most complete team in the American League. Kevin Cash has this club clicking on all cylinders, and most of the names are guys a national landscape would gloss over. Brandon Lowe is a superstar, while Willy Adames has finally started living up to his potential. Tyler Glasnow is a problem on the mound and Nick Anderson may be the best reliever in baseball. Up and down this roster is a group of guys that constantly embody next man up, and anyone is capable of producing on a nightly basis. It’d be a fun narrative series for the Twins, but not one I’d want to willingly sign up for.

    *Overall ranks based on Fangraphs fWAR totals

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    • Sep 24 2020 01:37 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  12. Yankees Provide Opportunity, Not Fearful History, For Twins

    I feel like I may have written something like this a year ago, but it rings true again today, and Rocco Baldelli’s club certainly has more to build on. Every time the Twins face New York in the playoffs there will be talk about the futility embedded in the matchup. That’s not a team problem however, and it isn’t even an organizational one. The reality is that the Yankees are often good, and they are often in the Postseason. This current group doesn’t care how things went for Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer.

    Short of a colossal collapse from the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota will finish second in the AL Central and host New York in the Postseason. Nash Walker recently penned a great piece as to why it may make sense to welcome the Evil Empire. Beyond that, the only history that matters in 2020 is what can be gleaned from the 2019 sweep. Let’s get into that.

    Where are the bats?

    After setting a Major League record 307 single-season home runs in 2019, the offensive prowess went in the tank when it mattered most. Minnesota pushed across just seven runs in three games during the ALDS, and they led for a grand total of two innings throughout the series. The trio of Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, and Miguel Sano all became nonexistent, while 39-year-old Nelson Cruz failed to produce anything of substance as well.

    In 2020 the offense hasn’t been at all what was expected. Thinking they’d light up the scoreboard every night, it just hasn’t been the case. The Twins have missed significant time from sluggers like Garver and Josh Donaldson, while the lineup hasn’t really clicked for any substantial period of time. Even still the results have shown up in the win column, and capable is a good descriptor for what Minnesota can do on any given day. The Yankees lineup is again daunting, but pitching won’t matter if the Twins can’t score.

    Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

    Going into the Postseason a year ago there were plenty of concerns about the Twins pitching, and it seemed like a lofty task to keep the Yankees in check. Jose Berrios struggled down the stretch, and Randy Dobnak was given the ball in game two as a matchup play instead of Jake Odorizzi. When the dust settled New York had plated 23 runs across three games against the Twins and Minnesota was swept in quick fashion. The bullpen had gone from massive question mark on Opening Day, to becoming a relative force by season’s end. It didn’t factor much as the Twins were behind early and often in these tilts, and any ability from that group was thwarted pretty quickly.

    This season the Twins have gotten great efforts from a handful of guys. Jose Berrios has been rolling through his last six turns, while Kenta Maeda looks worthy of Cy Young votes. Michael Pineda returned and picked up right where he left off, and Rich Hill has rounded into form of late. If Jake Odorizzi’s finger is healed in time for October baseball, he too could provide a lift despite such an unfortunate string of luck in 2020. There are few question marks when it comes to the “who” on Rocco’s staff, and he should feel good about choosing any of them for the “when.”

    Oh, Byron Where Art Thou?

    A shoulder injury ended Byron Buxton’s season in 2019 and it was a crushing blow for the Twins. Their record in games he played was better to a lopsided degree, and his .827 OPS was as much an indicator as to why as his glove was. Max Kepler posted a breakout season defensively, but centerfield wore on him down the stretch and there’s no denying the upgrade Byron brings all over the diamond just by being in the middle of the grass.

    Buxton has missed time in 2020 as well, but his 36-game sample has provided a banner year. Currently he owns an .880 OPS and has swatted 12 homers. His plate discipline could use work still as evidenced by the 29/2 K/BB, but he’s getting off an “A” swing plenty, and he’s making sure to do damage when he connects. Still the fastest man in baseball and one of the game’s best defenders, having him patrolling the outfield against any opponent is an upgrade that can’t be overstated.

    It will never matter to the current collection of players what history has dealt to a franchise, and it shouldn’t. Recent history is something this collection likely wants to overcome however, and each side loaded up with one big new piece. Gerrit Cole was always destined for New York, and Josh Donaldson made a surprise splash in Minnesota. It’s time to tango, and Minnesota is as well positioned as ever.

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    • Sep 22 2020 08:01 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  13. Notebook 9/18: Better Fortunes Across the Windy City

    Yesteday's Game Recap
    CHW 4, MIN 3: Donaldson Ejection Steals the Show, White Sox Take Series
    TODAY
    Twins (31-21) @ Cubs (30-20), 7:15 pm CDT

    Twins Starter: Rich Hill, LHP (2-1, 3.81 ERA)

    Drafted by the Cubs in the 4th round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft, there has to be a sense of home for Mr. Mountain. Despite pitching over 300 innings with Chicago, he’s faced them for a grand total of 13. Six starts in 2020 have generated just a total of 26.0 IP, and while the 3.81 ERA isn’t disastrous by any means, Hill would certainly like more.

    Coming off the surgery this offseason, Hill’s productivity was always going to be a question mark. He’s not at all a stranger to the operating table, but now he’s returning having hit 40 years old. The walks are up, strikeouts are down, and the command looks just a bit off.

    [attachment=15371:Hill.PNG]

    Efficiency is going to need a bit of tweaking if Hill wants to find his way as the veteran option on Minnesota’s Postseason staff. He’s been doing the same type of thing for a long time, and flipping the big bender is an worthy process when all things are clicking.

    Cubs Starter: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (5-4, 3.29 ERA)

    If there’s a right-handed clone of Hill, it’s Hendricks. Another soft tosser built on great offspeed stuff, the Cubs righty has been giving the opposition fits for years. Hendricks did not start the year needing to fend of injury concern and he came out of the gates firing. With a complete game shutout against the Brewers, it would be hard to top that debut performance.

    [attachment=15370:Hendricks.PNG]

    When looking to solve Hendricks the Twins should be keyed in on his two outings against the Cincinnati Reds. Having kept all other opponents to three runs or less, both times the Reds faced him they were able to get the right for five-plus.

    This will be the third start Hendricks makes in 2020 against the American League Central division. He has faced both the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians, winning both of those games while being virtually on cruise control.

    Twins Starting Lineup:
    TBA
    What to Watch for:

    • At the end of yesterday’s game Rocco Baldelli lifted the strong hitting rookie Ryan Jeffers in place of Willians Astudillo. Lineup construction has been a point on contention down the stretch and seeing who contributes, along with how it’s managed through, will be interesting.
    • Byron Buxton is a man on fire. He has six homers in his last 6 starts and has four in his last three games. Had MLB not wiped out his first inside-the-park tally that would go up another digit.
    • The Twins needed to cover three innings of work out of the bullpen yesterday. Sergio Romo blew his first save and scuffled, but Taylor Rogers should be available for Minnesota this evening.
    Around the AL Central
    Chicago White Sox 33-17 (+80 run differential)
    Minnesota Twins 31-21 (+45)
    Cleveland Indians 27-23 (+36)
    Detroit Tigers 21-28 (-63)
    Kansas City Royals 21-29 (-23)

    • Sep 18 2020 12:41 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  14. Gas Pedal Needs to be Pushed for Twins

    Because of the expanded Postseason field in 2020 there has been talk all year alluding to the muted significance behind the regular season. That’s more than a fair argument, although it didn’t stop the trade deadline from being a feeding frenzy. As Minnesota has tread water towards the top of the AL Central for weeks now however, it’s at this point they need to go take what’s theirs.

    Leaving the South Side with anything but a series win was always going to be suboptimal. They’d still be looking up at competition in the standings, and things don’t get easier when venturing across town. Odds will be available on Friday morning, but you can assume that Minnesota will be dogs to David Ross’ Cubs in at least a game or two over the weekend. Wrapping up six days on the road isn’t fun and coming out ready to go will be a must against the Wrigley natives.

    There’s a certain level of understanding that the playoffs and Postseason represent something larger and more impactful. The Twins accomplished virtually everything they could in a regular season last year. In 2020 they want to make October waves and take that next step forward. Managing for that without ramp-up time still seems like somewhat of a foolish venture, however.

    Mitch Garver remains on the Injured List, as does Luis Arraez. Those two both need to get back and in a rhythm before realistically being able to rely on them over the course of a playoff run. Jake Odorizzi looked strong against the White Sox in his return to the mound, but a blister issue still ended his night abruptly. We saw Miguel Sano need to track pitches for weeks prior to settling in, and while both Garver and Arraez have action under their belt, assuming immediate production is probably wishful thinking.

    Before the Twins leave Chicago, they’ll need to turn the tide on this road trip as a whole. Going back home having won the last jaunt away on the season should feel like a massive victory. Baldelli’s club has fared incredibly well within Target Field, and regardless of their ability to host a brief three-game series to kick off the Postseason, they need to be clicking and confident when entering the bubble.

    This Twins team is more than talented enough to make real waves and cause real damage. Baseball is a sport that normalizes over time and repetition, however. Rather than trying to catch lightning in a bottle it’d be great to see this club spark its own luck the rest of the way, reinforcements or otherwise.

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    • Sep 17 2020 12:19 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  15. CHW 6, MIN 2: White-Hot White Sox

    Box Score
    Dobnak: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
    Home Runs: Buxton (9)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Dobnak -.259, Sanó -.103, Jeffers -.079
    Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs):
    [attachment=15293:Winchart.png]

    The Twins got another look at one of the strong young AL Central arms in Dane Dunning. Dunning was an often-overlooked secondary piece in the Adam Eaton and Lucas Giolito trade back in 2016. Dunning went seven strong innings for the White Sox tonight, allowing just two runs (one earned) on just three hits, while striking out seven. With the way Dunning has pitched in his first five starts, he is making a bid for a spot in the White Sox Postseason starting rotation.

    After having his inside-the-park home run in last night’s game taken away, Byron Buxton got redemption leading off the third inning of tonight’s ballgame. This time, there was no doubt as Buxton circled the bases with his usual lightning fast speed.



    That wasn’t the only time Buxton trotted around the basepaths tonight. In the fifth, Buxton reached base with a leadoff single on a liner over the shortstop’s head into centerfield. Buxton was then able to advance all the way to third during the next at-bat, thanks to both a wild pitch followed up by a passed ball. He then came in to score the Twins second run of the game on Ryan Jeffers RBI groundout.

    Randy Dobnak had another rough outing tonight, marking his third rough start in his last four outings. In the first, Dobnak allowed a run on three groundball singles, two of which come with two outs in the inning. He then allowed a couple more baserunners in the second but was able to pitch his way out of the inning without allowing another run to score.

    Dobnak wasn’t as fortunate in the third inning as he was in the second. He began the inning by issuing a walk to Yasmani Grandal before giving up another groundball base hit to Jose Abreu. Jorge Polanco made a nice diving play on the ball, but his rushed throw to second was errant, and allowed Grandal to advance to third. Dobnak was able to strikeout Eloy Jimenez for the first out of the inning, but then gave up a double to James McCann, followed by Luis Robert, and before you know it the White Sox had opened up a 4-1 lead.

    Tyler Clippard came on with one out in the fifth to relieve Randy Dobnak. After pitching out of yet another jam, Clippard came out to pitch the sixth and proceeded to give up a solo home run to Tim Anderson, that extended the White Sox lead to a score of 5-2.

    A big story of tonight’s game was the strike zone that umpire Will Little had behind the plate. It seemed to be all over the place, and more often than not it went against the favor of the Minnesota Twins. After yet another missed call from Little, where he rung up Ryan Jeffers to end the Twins half of the seventh. This led to some unkind words from the Twins dugout that resulted in the ejections of both Rocco Baldelli and Nelson Cruz. If you were unable to watch the game, here is a chart that illustrates the called strikes that the White Sox pitchers received tonight, as you can tell, it was pretty bad.

    [attachment=15295:4353C84C-E26E-4E33-847D-91DF7CC3F2BB.png]

    Jorge Alcala came in to pitch the seventh and eighth innings for the Twins, and aside from a solo home run that he gave up to James McCann in the seventh, it was another impressive outing for Alcala, who is making a strong case for being added to the Twins Postseason roster with his performance of late.

    Lost in everything, Travis Blankenhorn made his MLB debut tonight. After recording outs in his first two at-bats of the evening, he was hit by a pitch in the seventh, before picking up his first career MLB hit with a two-out double in the ninth.

    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    [attachment=15294:Bullpen.png]

    • Sep 15 2020 09:29 PM
    • by Andrew Thares
  16. Twins Problem Solved through Infield Issues

    Although the 2019 roster produced a record setting number of homers, adding Josh Donaldson to the mix this winter seemed like a no-brainer. Sano could slide across the diamond and Minnesota could use some of their available cash flow to lock down a superstar for the immediate future. He brings even more pop to an already potent lineup, but the Gold Glove caliber defense at the hot corner should’ve been expected to make a difference.



    Back in July I tweeted about the impact of Donaldson’s defensive prowess at third. Using 2019 numbers alone, it was surmisable that Rocco Baldelli’s infield corps would take a step forward. The Twins have utilized shifts over 40% of the time this season (up from 35.5% a year ago). Remaining in the top ten across baseball, positioning has helped Minnesota pitchers to take away hits from parts of the field otherwise left vacant.

    It’s hard to discern what impact the inclusion of Donaldson has had in regards to the specific improvements for the rest of his teammates, but it’s worth noting that the longtime Blue Jays slugger has played just 19 games having battled calf issues. Even without him being a constant in the lineup, the Twins infield has gone from being worth -18 outs above average (OAA) to a +5 OAA and 5th best in baseball this year.



    Most notably of all players in the Twins infield is the guy that’s been run out there on a nightly basis. Jorge Polanco looked like a miscast shortstop in the last few seasons, but you can hardly make that claim now. He went from ranking 35th out of 35 in OAA last year to posting a +1 OAA leaving him 14th in 2020.

    There’s no doubt that numbers can bog us down sometimes, and the reality is the games aren’t played on paper. Our eyes don’t deceive us in watching Polanco, however. He’s vastly improved when charging the ball, and area he struggled mightily with a season ago. After posting a -11 OAA in those instances during 2019, the improvement is to the tune of a +3 mark and 14 out improvement.

    Despite having to play so much of the shortened sprint without efforts from Byron Buxton or the aforementioned Donaldson, Minnesota owns the 5th best defensive runs saved mark in baseball. At 21 DRS, they are third in the American League and trail just divisional foes Cleveland and Chicago. A year ago, they were the final team to post a positive DRS and finished 18th overall in the majors.

    What we’ve seen is intentional preparation for regression and an assessment for constant improvement by the front office and coaching staff. Expecting another 300+ home run outburst was unlikely (and even moreso having just 60 games to do it) but finding ways to improve on other weaknesses was a worthy venture.

    Although we’re running out of action in the regular season this lineup hasn’t been consistently healthy and clicking yet. Making sure the defense doesn’t slump in the interim is a controllable pursuit. It’s one the front office set forth to ensure during the winter, and it’s one that Rocco needs to remain on top of into the Postseason.

    This club is far too good to string multiple nights of missed opportunity together. When the floodgates open, the defensive improvements will be there to slam the door.

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    • Sep 15 2020 05:32 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  17. Miguel Sano Shows Process Drives Results

    2020 has been anything but straightforward for sports, and Major League Baseball as a whole. For Miguel Sano, it got even more difficult when his return to the field during Summer Camp was delayed by an asymptomatic COVID-19 positive test result. He was finally ushered back into the action with roughly a week to go before Opening Day, and man did that show.

    13 games into the season, and now playing a new position, Sano had bottomed out with a .111/.149/.356 slash line. He had a 23/2 K/BB and had generated just five extra-base hits in 47 plate appearances. For a guy that hits in the middle of the order and is expected to be an anchoring power bat, that’s about as bad as it gets.
    That was August 9th, and on August 12th I rattled off some thoughts about why he was scuffling. My conclusion was that it was a matter of timing. He was seeing 4.66 pitches per plate appearance, second most in baseball at that point. Despite seeing all of those pitches, he was striking out an astronomical amount and the balls he was putting in play were rather fruitless.



    What became apparent is that his timing wasn’t only off, but he was working through simply setting himself up for future success. Sano strikes out plenty, but he’s anything but an undisciplined hitter. He was taking pitches to get an idea of what he was seeing Pitchers exploited that to the tune of a 74.5% first pitch strike percentage. When he was swinging, the bat path wasn’t ideal as he was still behind, and the negative results followed. Statistics weren’t pretty, but the process here was a plan for something more.

    Hello, we’ve now arrived at that something more. Sano is currently seeing 4.38 pitches per plate appearance which is 8th most in baseball. Instead of all the whiffs though, he’s got a 33/13 K/BB in his last 21 games and owns a .329/.440/.686 slash line. In his last 84 plate appearances he’s generated 15 extra base hits (including five dingers) and has become among baseballs hottest hitters.

    The most drastic difference in the two separate splits are that Miguel Sano has gone from being the hunted to the hunter. Now timing pitches well and settled in, he’s seeing first pitch strikes just 48.8% of the time, down over 25%. Opposing pitchers realize he’s up there and ready to do damage, and it’s forced them to work counts rather than immediately get ahead. When he was working on getting going, Sano was hitting the ball hard over 54% of the time, but now on pitches that too has jumped to a crazy 64.9% hard hit rate. He’s dialed in.

    Another point I touched on in the Twitter thread regarding his timing issues what the bat path and resulting launch angle. Through August 9th Sano had an average launch angle of 27.2 degrees. While it is true that success in baseball relies on elevation, there’s a threshold that a line drive or long fly ball turns into nothing more than a routine pop up, no matter how hard you hit it. Sano has surpassed that mark early on in the season. Since that point he’s generate a 17.2-degree average launch angle which falls right into the green zone of line drive or home run hitter.

    In short, the Twins slugger allowed opposing pitchers to win the battle so he could focus on winning the war. By taking an extra couple of weeks to get his version of Summer Camp in, he sacrificed some early season production in order to capitalize when it mattered most. He’s now timing pitches, and although a streak this hot may not last, it’s a foundation he can be happy with.

    We saw James Rowson break down Sano’s swing and completely rebuild him last year, all at the Major League level. This time, Sano did the process work on his own because it wasn’t a mechanical issue, and he’s reaping the benefits. A younger version of this man likely would’ve relied on his talent alone and fought through it for immediate gain. Now bought into work and sustained success, it’s the same reason why being fat was always a result and never the problem. Miguel Sano is invested in his own success and getting the most out of his career. Even in this shortened season, he saw the bigger picture, and now the opposition is seeing the big flies.

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    • Sep 03 2020 09:22 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  18. Twins Need to Make a Trade with St. Paul

    In a traditional season I expected Minnesota to look for an arm, preferably of the starting category. I wrote about how Trevor Bauer made sense if the Reds made him available, but that would have been a high-risk rental. The only reason I like him is that it was a clear upgrade on their current options. It turned out the only arm of that ilk to move was the Indians Mike Clevinger, and a team-controlled asset from within the division would have come with an astronomical price tag.

    The fact that the Twins didn’t go get a bat, or even another relief arm, is defensible. Byron Buxton returns September 1, with Josh Donaldson set to follow him the next day. Cody Stashak is hopefully around the corner, and maybe even Zack Littell will make his way back. There are big league assets currently on the Injured List that have tickets for September and should still play a key part.
    If there’s an indefensible situation though, it’s not addressing the elephant in the outfield, a right-handed bat.

    Minnesota has one of those ready and waiting in St. Paul, and it’s been past time Brent Rooker was given a shot. Rooker was a 1st round pick back in 2017 and entered pro ball at 22. He’s now 25 and will be 26 this calendar year. He’s not a young prospect by any means, and having played over 250 games on the farm, he isn’t too green anymore either. Rooker spent 65 games with Triple-A Rochester in 2019, and while he missed time due to injury, he posted a .933 OPS. The Twins selected him based on his power bat profile and his 54 minor league home runs have brought the belief to fruition.

    While fans could be clamoring for top 100 prospect Alex Kirilloff, there’s two key differentiators at play with Rooker. First and foremost, he bats right-handed. Minnesota’s outfield is exclusively left-handed without Byron Buxton, and the duo of Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade are more than redundant. Adding to the lineup flexibility, it’s plenty clear a righty is necessary.

    Then there’s also the idea of playing time colliding with development. Kirilloff is a very high ceiling prospect but is just 22 and has yet to play above Double-A (94 games where he had just a .756 OPS). Making sure his bat is completely ready before throwing him to the wolves at the highest level is a must. Kirilloff is also transitioning to more of a first base role and continuing to work through all types of developmental skills is imperative for his long-term success.

    I don’t put any stock in the notion of a guy needing consistent playing time during 2020. Despite the fact that Rooker can spell both corners and routinely see three games per week, the reality is nothing taking place at MLB alternate sites constitutes “real” game action anyways. It’s not as though Rooker or Kirilloff can’t get the same level of drill work in at Target Field. At bats may be a bit more sporadic and travel is thrown in, but opportunity remains relatively consistent.

    There’s no telling whether or not Brent Rooker being promoted would immediately result in a rejuvenation of the Twins run scoring prowess. What he does do is give Rocco Baldelli a righty in the outfield that he’s been hamstrung without, and an opportunity for Minnesota’s front office to tag in a high-level prospect that you’re worried substantially less about a falling floor.

    Soon there will be a time for Alex Kirilloff, but right now is Brent Rooker’s turn. I’ll defend the front office over trusting in their internal talent at the deadline. There’s no defense for failing to utilize it after that. Let the Bulldog out.

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    • Sep 01 2020 09:48 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  19. The Only Starting Pitcher the Twins Should Trade For

    Here’s the deal, Rob Manfred opened the floodgates and is allowing everyone and their dance partner into the Postseason. With a shortened 60-game sprint, there’s not going to be any significant distance between the top and bottom teams (except, well, sorry Pittsburgh). That means that with over 20 games to go teams with poor records aren’t incentivized enough to blow things up. A single hot streak could get you right back in the thick of things.

    Then you also have the added wrinkle of what is being swapped from the contenders. In a traditional year you’d have prospects moving to new homes in favor of proven big-league veterans. This year only players in the 60-man player pool are available to be traded. Guys outside of that group can be included in deals but must be done so as players to be named later or PTBNL. There’s also the reality that while Major League Baseball is making information from alternate sites available to clubs, there’s been no MiLB season and development in 2020 has likely been lackluster at best. Finally, consider that anyone being swapped could choose to opt out on their own volition, and well, we’re dealing with an incredible amount of volatility here.

    Now, back to Trevor Bauer. He’s the guy. Not Johnny Cueto, not Matt Boyd, and certainly not Lance Lynn. No, if the Minnesota Twins are set on bolstering their starting rotation for the Postseason the lone avenue to do so is grabbing an ace in the form of Bauer.

    He’s an impending free agent and currently playing on a prorated portion of a $17.5 million deal. He looks the part of a current National League Cy Young candidate, and he’s nuked 49 batters through his first 32.2 IP in 2020.

    After being largely mediocre for the first six years of his career, Bauer had a coming out party in 2018. He posted a 2.21 ERA and led the league with a 2.44 FIP. The Indians hurler made his first All-Star game and finished 6th in Cy Young voting. A slight step backwards in 2019 paved the way for where we are now. Bauer owns a dazzling 1.65 ERA, league leading 13.5 K/9, and also holds MLB best marks in WHIP (0.735) and H/9 (4.1). He’s always been a high strikeout guy, but command is now better than ever and he’s honed in on his stuff.

    Arguably the most interesting pitcher in baseball, Bauer certainly comes with his quirks. He was someone I misunderstood for a time in Cleveland but have now very much come to appreciate. It’s clear his intention is to grow the game and engage with fans. Through his vlog, media company, and social media outlets, you may learn more about Trevor Bauer the person than you could ever understand about Trevor Bauer the baseball player. On top of that, it’s not an accident he’s a very good pitcher.

    As a Driveline disciple, Bauer works with his stuff as much as anyone in the game. His fastball sits at 93 mph this year, but it’s the spin and movement he puts on it that make him unhittable. He’s a nightly feature on Pitching Ninja peek-ins, and his results light up the Statcast leaderboards. In short, this is the pinnacle of what you seek to acquire or develop on the pitching front.

    [attachment=14810:Bauer.PNG]

    Now let’s throw some water on all of this. The Cincinnati Reds are 11-16, but that’s just two games back in the win column from inclusion as the final Postseason participant in the National League. On top of that, the organization went in hard this offseason signing guys like Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. Those moves weren’t made with the idea of blowing it up just over 30 games into the season.

    If a deal is to be struck, it’s not going to come cheaply. While Bauer is a free agent at the end of the year, and he’s more than made it clear his intention is to go year-by-year the rest of his career, the Reds will want a healthy return right now. Minnesota has significant ammo with top prospects galore at their alternate site, but what price is too steep for a guy that may not be around a few months from now?

    Derek Falvey certainly has a familiar relationship with Bauer given their time together in the Indians organization. Maybe even Twins Daily can broker the deal with Bauer’s agent Rachel Luba having been featured among the Women in Baseball series. No matter what level of comfort however, the uncertainty regarding a move now, and how little value it may provide down the road, should be reason for all parties to pause.

    At the end of the day, Bauer is probably a pipe dream. There’s a reason Cueto is seen as the most likely prize on the starting pitching market. However, if it’s the rotation Minnesota wants to work on, there’s only one way for the organization to take a big step forward. It’s with the guy who plays with drones and mows down the opposition. Plus, the season series with the Royals is done, so we won’t have to worry about him sending anything the rest of the way.



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    • Aug 25 2020 09:35 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  20. The One Player Minnesota Shouldn’t Trade For

    The Minnesota Twins are good. They were expected to come into 2020 and compete as one of the best teams in the sport. That has been true, and teams like that often bolster their positioning prior to the Postseason in an effort to make a run at the World Series. If Minnesota is going to go down that path, and they should, it will likely come in the form of pitching. Going into the year a starter was the presumed acquisition, and it may still be.

    The Texas Rangers are not good, and despite hanging in near .500 at this point, they don’t seem likely to factor in as one of two third place teams playing in October. Assuming they feel the same way, veteran starter Lance Lynn could be on the trade block. He’s 33 years old and signed through the 2021 season at a modest $9.3M next year.

    Besides being on a bad team, there’s a lot to like here. Lynn currently owns a 1.37 ERA through six starts, and he’s sitting down 9.6 per nine innings. He posted a 3.67 ERA across 208 innings in 2019 and topped 10 strikeouts per nine for the first time in his career. Finishing 5th in the Cy Young voting, it’s fair to say that Lynn has been everything for the Rangers that Minnesota thought they were getting when grabbing him off the free agent market in 2018.

    Now we’ve come full circle, Lance Lynn has already been with the Minnesota Twins. It did not go well. Lynn made just 20 starts before being sent to the New York Yankees. It seemed apparent he viewed the deal as a below-market offer that begrudgingly was accepted late into Spring Training. He’s not a small guy normally, but came into camp looking out of shape, and stamina often looked concerning when taking the ball. The results came out to the tune of a 4.77 ERA and 4.4 BB/9 that ultimately contributed to career lows across the board.

    It’s also clear that Lynn isn’t the same pitcher he was in that outlier of a season. His average fastball velocity is higher now than it was when Minnesota signed him, and some of the supporting numbers are better than they’ve ever been. Statcast numbers view him favorably in comparison to his competition across the league, and you absolutely can’t argue with the results.

    Where it breaks down for me in regards to Lynn is what you’ll need to give up, and what you may be getting back into. Maybe it’s somewhat hollow to suggest a team not acquire a guy that previously didn’t work out, but I think there’s some merit to that. It’s not as though there’s been an overhaul in the organizational structure since Lynn was last here. There has been coaching staff changes that could potentially take him to even higher heights, but the bosses that handed him a paycheck deemed subpar still remain in place. Neither side got what they wanted out of the deal, and mentally that likely plays a factor.

    On the basis of baseball merit, Lynn could quite possibly be the best starting asset acquirable at the deadline. His production has been top notch for the past year and a half, and Texas also has him under team control for another season. They should be asking for a nice return and dealing some combination of top prospects for that type of return seems underwhelming.

    Postseason starting pitching isn’t as much about depth as it is having horses. With only three guys truly necessary and a fourth being arguable, the length of the rotation is called more into question. Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill are both proven and capable of being aces of a staff. Jose Berrios still is Minnesota’s internally developed ticket there, and Michael Pineda will be back in due time. For that group to include another member, the argument should be that they’re clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Despite what the numbers may say, I don’t think that’s a case you can make for Lynn.

    It’s anyone’s guess how this trade deadline is going to play out. No one has seen much of what prospects are doing at their alternate sites, and there’s been no actual minor league action to evaluate talent real time. Throw in the wrench that Major League Baseball invited everyone to the end-of-year party and the incentive to sell is minimized. Maybe Minnesota goes the path of adding to their stable of relief arms, but if it’s a starter, I’d shy away from Lynn.

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    • Aug 20 2020 01:04 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  21. Twins Notebook 8/20: Pair of Aces in Different Directions

    YESTERDAY’S GAME RECAP
    MIL 9, MIN 3: Hill Follows Maeda's Gem With a Clunker

    Today:
    Milwaukee @ Minnesota, 6:10 PM CT
    Betting Lines: Minnesota -115, O/U 9.0

    Twins Starter: Jose Berrios, RHP (1-3, 5.92 ERA)
    To say Jose Berrios has been scuffling in 2020 would be putting it lightly. He’s been relatively ineffective, and ultimately inefficient. He’s failed to make it past four innings in two of his five starts, and his longest outing was six innings of one-run ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates. For a staff ace and an Opening Day starter, you need better.

    There’s been plenty written about what may be going wrong thus far. One thing of note is that Berrios has actually experience a career high spike in velocity with his fastball averaging 94.9 mph. His 11.1% whiff rate is near a career high, but the chase rate is down four percent from 2019. He’s dipped five percent on his first pitch strike rate, working from behind nearly 40% of the time. His hard-hit rate is where things are really going awry however, as the Puerto Rican is seeing the ball launched a whopping 49% of the time (33% is his career average).

    [attachment=14681:Berrios.PNG]

    While watching him pitch it’s almost as if the mental makeup has taken a step backwards. Berrios has nibbled the strike zone often in outings, and it looks like he’s unaware of an option to miss bats. The homer has always been somewhat of a bugaboo, and if he’s going to pitch trying not to make mistakes, he’s already behind before the batter steps in. This is a guy the Twins are counting on, and a bulldog performance tonight would go a long ways.

    Brewers Starter: Brandon Woodruff, RHP (1-1, 3.16 ERA)
    Brandon Woodruff is a former top prospect that broke out in a big way during 2019. The Brewers Opening Day starter owned a 3.62 ERA across 121 innings and made his first All-Star team. So far in 2020, he’s followed it up with an encore that remain right on par.

    Through five turns Woodruff is still sitting down over 10 per nine innings, and he’s stingy on walks allowing just 2.5 per nine. His 1.052 WHIP is currently a career best, and his FIP of 3.26 is essentially in line. He’s been a bit more beatable in his last two outings, failing to make it through the fifth inning in either. On the year, his worst start was a three-run outing against the Cubs last time he took the ball.

    [attachment=14682:Woodruff.PNG]

    Milwaukee’s ace has a heavy fastball that’s currently averaging a career best 97.1 mph. Coincidentally he’s using it a career low 30% of the time while turning to his sinker and changeup more often. Right now, he’s one of the best arms in baseball and Minnesota will need to solve him early to come out on top in this one.

    Transactions



    Lineup:


    Other Notes:
    • Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brenammen made a horrific and abhorrent comment on air last night during the Royals game. While presumably thinking he was off air, a hot mic picked him up using a homophobic slur. He has been suspended by the organization. (Twins Daily forum)
    • The Padres continue to slam the Rangers, and while this one wasn't on a 3-0 count, I'd assume Chris Woodward isn't any more thrilled with the result. San Diego is making noise in the National League.
    • We made it just one day where every team was in action for the first time since June 26, Opening Weekend.

    Around the AL Central:
    KCR 4, CIN 0 (F/7 G1)
    CIN 5, KCR 0 (F/7 G2)
    CLE 6, PIT 1
    CWS 5, DET 3

    MIN 16-9 (+33 run differential)
    CLE 15-9 (+29)
    CWS 14-11 (+10)
    DET 9-13 (-25)
    KCR 101-5 (-11)

    • Aug 20 2020 03:13 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  22. Twins Notebook 8/19: Forcing the Brewers to Climb the Mountain

    YESTERDAY’S GAME RECAP
    MIN 4, MIL 3: Kenta Maeda Carries No-No Into 9th Inning; Twins Win In Extras
    Today:
    Milwaukee @ Minnesota, 7:10 PM CT
    Betting Lines: Minnesota -160, O/U 9.5

    Twins Starter: Rich Hill, LHP 1-0 (0.00 ERA)

    In his lone start of 2020 Hill was nothing short of spectacular. He cruised through five innings of work against a good St. Louis Cardinals squad. Throwing 68 pitches, he recorded two strikeouts while walking one and allowing just two hits. Coincidentally that would be the final game for the Cardinals until just a few days ago, and Hill himself is just making a return to the mound tonight.

    Despite having a bottom of the barrel velocity on his fastball, Hill does everything else at an elite level. Because of his ability to spin the bender, Hill has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for quite some time. Yes, he’s 40 years old, and yes, he’s often injured, but when a team has had him on the bump, they can feel pretty confident about their chances.

    [attachment=14661:Hill.PNG]

    Shoulder injuries are certainly tricky for pitchers, and while fatigue isn’t something requiring a procedure, it will be interesting to see what kind of runway Wes Johnson and Rocco Baldelli give him tonight. Minnesota’s bullpen was relatively taxed with the extra-innings affair last night, so getting at least five should be a must.

    Brewers Starter: Brett Anderson, LHP (0-2, 4.91 ERA)
    Much like his fellow starter, Anderson finds himself shelved quite often. Before pitching 176 innings for the Athletics in 2019, the Brewers left last topped 80 innings during a season back in 2015. Unlike Hill, Anderson’s results haven’t been nearly as good when he’s out there.

    At his best Anderson is a control guy that keeps the ball within the strike zone and within the yard. When he gets burned, it’s because the lack of strikeout stuff combined with the propensity for multi-hit games turns into deficits too stark to overcome.

    [attachment=14662:Anderson.PNG]

    Anderson has yet to pitch more the one out into the fifth this season for Milwaukee, and he’s given up two earned runs in each of his three starts. He’s given up a single homer in each of the last two outings, and opponents have generated at least four hits off of him in each of his three turns.

    Lineup:





    Here's how the bullpen is looking heading into tonight's game:
    [attachment=14665:bullpen.png]
    Other Notes:
    • Barring any negative, last-minute, developments, today is the first day since July 26 (Opening Weekend) that Major League Baseball will not be dealing with a COVID-19 related postponement.
    • Pretty exciting prospect matchup between the White Sox and Tigers tonight as Dane Dunning and Casey Mize will both be making their MLB Debuts.
    Around the AL Central:
    CLE 6, PIT 3 (F/10)
    CWS 10, DET 4

    MIN 16-8 (+39 run differential)
    CLE 14-9 (+23)
    CWS 13-11 (+8)
    DET 9-12 (-23)
    KCR 9-14 (-10)

    • Aug 19 2020 05:47 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  23. Paving a Path, Women in Baseball: Marney Gellner

    If you’ve watched Fox Sports North for even a fleeting moment, you know exactly who Marney is. Hailing from North Dakota, she’s tried and true in Twins Territory, and her talents have been endless no matter what the requirement. From “Better Call Mama” to on-field storytelling, Gellner is synonymous with some of the biggest moments on the diamond over the better portion of the last decade.

    While Marney may have broken in as somewhat of a trailblazer, she doesn’t consider herself as such. Although she’s too humble to admit it, because of women like her and Michele Tafoya (who she mentioned looking up to), we have the opportunity to watch future generations get their shot. It’s because of these path pavers that more opportunity for women in baseball, and sports in general even exist.

    So, without further ado, here’s the final conversation of the Women in Baseball series:

    Twins Daily: You’ve been a staple across a handful of sports on Fox Sports North, what makes baseball special for you?

    Marney Gellner: I love the vibe of baseball, sort of the chill. Being outside, summertime, and the whole atmosphere that goes along with it. I played softball growing up, as well as a couple of years in college. I like the nuances of the shift, hit and run, and the strategy of it. Mostly the vibe, though.

    TD: Sideline reporting is often about storytelling, how have you also incorporated the ability to do play-by-play and dive so deeply into all facets of the game?

    MG: I like to think of myself as a Jackie of all trades, master of none. I have definitely not mastered any of it, but I pride myself on being flexible and being able to handle many different roles. It’s a far different preparation depending on what my role for that night is. When I’m doing play-by-by I’m pretty much guiding the whole broadcast and constantly setting up the analyst. In sideline I’m always looking for my opportunity to jump in and sprinkle a little knowledge. Learning how to pick my spots, and what makes a good nugget, definitely took some time to get a feel for. The play-by-play is far more detailed and a constant. The sideline is having fifteen things available and using three per night.

    TD: You’ve been working in sports from the beginning of your career. Was there ever a fear of acceptance being a woman in the industry and how did you seek to separate yourself?

    MG: When I first started it was far rarer to have women working in sports. For some reason, that didn’t really phase me. I didn’t think of myself as anything unique, special, a trailblazer, or any of that, I just knew that I liked sports and that I fit in. I don’t think of myself any differently. I don’t see myself as a female broadcaster, I just see myself as a broadcaster. When I look back, it’s completely different now. The number of women who are in the business now has grown exponentially, and it’s much more common, particularly in the sideline role.

    I still feel like if I make a mistake, and any mistake (a name, stat, etc), I always feel like people are going to think I don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s the only time I feel like gender enters my mind. If I make a mistake, I feel like people will look at me like, “she doesn’t haven a clue, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” That same principle doesn’t seem to apply to males. That’s my perception. If I do make a mistake, I tend to mull it over, let it eat at me a bit, and I get hung up on them a bit.

    TD: As someone who’s become a mainstay in Minnesota sports, what level of pride is there to be blazing a path for other females looking to follow in your shoes?

    MG: Honestly, I don’t have a great idea because I don’t put that thought into it. I think about Michele Tafoya when it comes to a trailblazer. I wrote her a fan letter when I was working at my first job in Bismarck telling her how much I admired her and how good she was. She wrote me back, handwritten, I still have it. To me, she is a trailblazer. She’s worked everything from the Olympics to Monday Night Football. She has reached the highest points, and she did it when almost nobody was doing it. I feel like I’m doing it amongst so many other women, so I don’t think of it as anything unusual or that it stands out. There have been so many that blazed trails, I’m just happy to walk along the trail and maybe pick up a twig here and there. I just don’t put myself in that category.

    TD: What about your career has been most challenging as a female, and how has that changed over time?

    MG: It goes back to making mistakes and needing to prove my knowledge. Proving that I belong, and that I know what I’m talking about. I definitely don’t know everything. I don’t know that I feel like it has changed, but I may put that on myself more than I should. That’s not something I ever want to stop doing either though. I don’t want to get to the point that I feel so comfortable that I get to the point where I’m not worried about making mistakes. I want to have some of that discomfort and insecurity, I just think I have a much more health balance now. I’m much more comfortable and confident. I remember back to when I started with FSN and feeling like I constantly needed to prove it, adding more information than anyone should be putting into a sideline hit because I wanted to make people believe that I belong and deserved the opportunity. I don’t feel like I need to go that far anymore.

    TD: Specifically working with the Twins, what about the organization sets them apart when it comes to inclusion and diversity?

    MG: The Twins have been a great organization. When I have to actually think about it (diversity), and don’t actually notice it, it’s probably a good thing. They haven’t created an environment where there’s a need to discuss that elephant in the room. It’s just a really open, warm, loving, inclusive environment. That’s all I’ve ever known with the Twins. From the point I began working with the Twins back in 2002, it’s all I’ve ever known. No one has ever made me feel like I was a female working in a male’s world and nothing I’ve ever observed whether gender, race, ethnicity, has been that way either. I’ve not heard a bad word about that organization, it’s first class all the way.

    TD: We’re in the midst of an unprecedented season, and there’s sure to be more uncertainty ahead. What are you most excited about with this Twins team? What challenges around covering them through this are you looking forward to embracing?

    MG: The challenge is that my role as a sideline reporter has changed dramatically this season. I would typically spend a lot of time doing interviews directly with players and building relationships through daily conversations. All of that rapport lends to better sideline report, and me being able to get better information. This year I’m not sure if I’ll physically, in the flesh, see anyone. Everything is done over Zoom, and maybe we’ll be able to progress to a distanced face-to-face interview, but we aren’t quite there yet. My sideline role is very different, and it’s morphed into something that will be challenging, but it’s doable. I’m more than willing to figure out how to get the best and most out of it.

    What I’m most looking forward to is just watching this team on a nightly basis. I think our hitting is fantastic, and our lineup is incredibly flexible. Our starting pitching is solid, our bullpen is tremendous, and I think the putting of the pieces all together is going to be fascinating to watch night in and night out. I think that this team can be something special in what has already been an unforgettable baseball season. I can’t wait to watch it unfold.

    Keep up with Marney and all of her endeavors here.

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    • Aug 18 2020 09:55 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  24. How Can the Twins Get Miguel Sano Going?

    First and foremost, it’s worth noting that Sano missed a significant portion of Summer Camp due to a positive COVID-19 test. In an already truncated ramp up, the Twins new first basemen got a muted opportunity to prepare. On top of getting ready at the plate, he was also fine tuning his skills and footwork for a new role. Those could all be classified as excuses, but let’s not negate that the Dominican slugger was behind the eight ball.

    Fast forward to where we are today. Sano has played in 15 games for the Twins and has 56 plate appearances. He’s posted a .137/.214/.412 slash line and owns a 26/5 K/BB ratio. His 46.4% strikeout rate is 10% north of his career average, and the 8.9% walk rate is down nearly 4% from where he was a year ago. Of the seven balls he’s put in play, only one has been a single, with four leaving the yard (I’ll spoil the fun, the other two aren’t triples.)

    Now that we’ve got the bad out of the way, let’s go under the hood. Eno Sarris recently wrote about offense being down across the board at The Athletic. He noted that batters are taking more pitches, likely in an effort to see the ball and work on timing. Swing rates are down early in the count, and guys are trying to lengthen at bats. As Twins Daily’s own Matthew Taylor points out, pitchers have benefitted from this situation in converting substantially more looking strikes and strikeouts.



    For Sano specifically, this is wildly apparent in how he’s being attacked. Last season Miguel got first pitch strikes 56% of the time. That number is all the way up to 71.4% in 2020. In 40 of his 56 plate appearances he’s seen two strikes, and he’s been ahead in the count just 24 times. His hard-hit percentage is a career best 56% and he’s actually generated a career best 95.6 mph average exit velocity. Pitchers know this information too and are exploiting it.

    Right now, Miguel Sano is season more early strikes because pitchers don’t want him to settle in. He’s taking pitches early and has a career low 42.9% swing rate. He’s chasing less than he ever has, but the contact rate is 6% below his career average and the 18% whiff rate is 2% above 2019. Instead of dictating at bats, he’s needing to respond to the scenario he’s been presented. In short, it’s a long game. His goal is likely early season timing for a tradeoff that hopefully results in late season production.

    One other facet that’s currently coming into play, but also relates to his timing and patience, is the resulting launch angle. Sano has a 52% fly ball rate in 2020 and is converting 30% of those into homers. Where there’s a slight issue is that the 10% increase in fly balls from 2019 has dropped the line drive rate down to a career low 12%. He’s still not putting the ball on the ground, which is good, but too many of his fly balls right now are unproductive.



    Last season when he pulverized the baseball Sano owned a 15.9-degree average launch angle. In 2020 it’s an ugly 27.6 degrees. When he previously dropped the line drive rate to 18% in 2018, it coincided with a ground ball rate of 43.8% (a career high). His launch angle in that season swung negative the other way, down to 12.6 degrees. The sweet spot for a player hitting the ball out of the park is something in that 14-17-degree range. By making hard contact with the barrel at that trajectory, you’ll create the most ideal scenario on batted ball events.

    Once again, a microcosm of timing, it can likely be surmised that Sano’s pop up problem comes from both being reactionary and getting settled into the season. It’s not that he’s swinging with an upper cut or intending to be under the ball as much as it is the bat path through the zone and it lagging behind an optimal connection point with the pitch.

    Right now, there should be no reason for concern. Sure, we’re one game shy of having completed 33% of the 2020 season, but everyone was aware this would be an extremely small sample size. When the dust settles on the regular season the goal for Miguel Sano, and all Minnesota Twins hitters, is that they’ve found their groove making them capable of being the lineup most feared by opposing pitchers in the Postseason.

    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
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    • Aug 13 2020 10:03 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  25. Paving a Path, Women in Baseball: Vanessa Lambert

    Lambert has been with Fox Sports North for 14 years now, and she’s been in the Producer role since 2012. Her focus is the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Timberwolves, which means right now she’s got 100% of her attention on one of the best teams in baseball. Working through the challenges of offsite production and given inputs dictated to them on the road, Fox Sports North is bringing Twins fans unprecedented access in an unprecedented season.

    Although you may occasionally hear Dick Bremer or one of his rotating analysts thank her near the end of the game, Vanessa largely flies under the radar. This was a great opportunity to have her step out into the spotlight, share her connection with the game of baseball, and put a focus on a woman that is literally making sure that the show goes on.

    Twins Daily: You produce Twins (and Timberwolves games) for FOX Sports North. What exactly is the role of a producer?

    Vanessa Lambert: This is probably the question I get asked the most about my job – no one seems to know what the heck a producer does. Easiest way to explain it is, I’m kind of like a head coach. I decide what we’re going to do (go to a replay and which angles to roll back, read a promo, knock out a sales element, go to break). The director is kind of like a quarterback, executing everything. It can be crazy and chaotic during a game with plenty of people talking to you at the same time, but that’s what makes this job fun.

    My day starts early – basically I need to have as much done before we get to a ballpark as possible (for a normal 7pm game, we’re at the truck around 1pm). By that time, I need to have talked to the talent about what we’re going to discuss in the open and anything we want to hit on in-game, know what video packs and graphics need to be built, make sure sales elements are covered and planned, have all talent reads ready.

    TD: You went to school for Journalism, was a career path in sports always the goal and how did it transition to more behind the scenes?

    VL: I always wanted to go into sports television. Growing up in Detroit, I was a huge Red Wings and Tigers fan. Not to age myself, but the Wings won a few championships during my middle school & college years. My uncle has worked for ESPN for 20+ years and was on their ‘A’ NHL crew back in the day, so my family would stop by the truck to visit when he was in town. As an influential teenager, I thought, “hey, this might be a fun job”, so I started spending more time in the truck (my mom even let me skip school a couple times).

    I went to Michigan State for college, and my options were either Journalism or Telecommunications. Within the J-School, you could specialize in a specific field, so I chose broadcast. I took all the TV classes but knew I didn’t want to be on-air. Something in production was always my goal.

    TD: While not writing, you're telling stories in what is shown to fans during a telecast. What is most thrilling about this medium and the way you're able to convey it?

    VL: I think what I enjoy most is you never know what’s going to happen in the course of a game…it comes down to reacting to what’s happening in front of you. It truly is a group effort to tell stories and be in sync with a director, graphics, tape ops and on-air talent.

    You can plan as much as you want as far as graphics and video packs, but they may never make the show. You hope what you have ready can support what’s happening during the game and sometimes we can make everyone on the broadcast look like a genius when it works out.

    TD: Specifically, as it relates to baseball, what draws you to this sport and how well do you think women are represented in positions surrounding it?

    VL: I think I’ve always been drawn to baseball, and I blame my mom for that! I spent many nights at Tigers Stadium & Comerica Park watching games with her and keeping score. What I enjoy now is getting the chance to cover a team for an entire season, follow storylines all the way through, and getting to know the players and coaches (outside of this season 😊). They’re normal people just like the rest of us despite being professional athletes.

    I would love to see more women in baseball and sports in general. The sports lifestyle isn’t for everyone – it’s a lot of nights and weekends. Work/life balance can be a challenge (I’m the first to admit I’m not the best at it), and I think that’s why there aren’t as many women in sports. As far as TV, there are only three full-time MLB producers and two in the NBA (that includes me in both categories).

    TD: As a producer you have a great deal of responsibility at Fox Sports North. What hurdles has being a female in the sports industry presented and how have you overcome them?

    VL: I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve had a great support system at work and in my professional life, both men and women. Most of the pressure I’ve felt, I put on myself. I didn’t want people to think I didn’t know anything about sports because I’m a female. I’ve never had any co-workers question my knowledge or ability and I’m definitely treated like one of the “guys.” I’ve caught a few crew members by surprise on the road when they find out I’m the traveling producer, but that’s about it.

    TD: Within your role you've spent a good amount of time focused solely on the Twins. What can you say about the organization and their commitment to diversity?

    VL: The Twins are a great organization to work with overall. They’ve been focused on diversity a lot longer than most companies and organizations (hiring someone to lead their efforts, having Diversity Day at the ballpark for years). They are very involved in the community and making a difference where they can. They also have a few people of color and women in director roles, and the panels they’ve made available to the public this summer have shown that. I think most companies probably feel their diversity and inclusion efforts can be better, especially right now, but I’m very impressed with their efforts.


    TD: We're dealing with arguably the most unique baseball seasons in history. What challenges has that presented and how has the difference provided an opportunity for excitement?

    VL: How much room do I have??? This season has definitely provided us with challenges we never expected to face. The biggest difference is how we produce games. In a normal season, we would travel seven people from FOX for road games and then hire local freelancers in each city to fill the rest of our positions. Now, we’re doing every game from Target Field this season.

    We’re relying on the home broadcast to provide a world feed, and we get one camera in an away ballpark that is dedicated to our show. The majority of what makes the broadcast is not in our control when the team is on the road. We’re talking to someone in the home truck who’s letting us know when replays are coming, who’s up in the bullpen, etc. And they also help us with any video requests we may have.

    And when the Twins are home, we provide the world feed for any visiting team or a national entity doing a side-by-side. MLB set the number of manned cameras and how many broadcast personnel can be in the ballpark for each home game. Because of the world feed concept, we’ve been told to give each team equal coverage.

    Our crew at Target Field is socially distanced…we’re spread out among two production trucks that are networked together. Usually one of the trucks is dedicated to the home show and the second one for the visiting broadcast, but now we have run of both. I’m used to sitting next to a director and now we’re in two separate trucks communicating over headset only.

    I’ve always wanted to cover the Olympics, and now I’m getting a good taste with world feeds. I think some days it adds more stress making sure all of our video and audio feeds from ballparks are correct, but I wouldn’t expect anything different in 2020!

    TD: Round it out with this, what are you most excited about with regards to this Minnesota Twins team and what we hope to see from Major League Baseball in 2020?

    VL: I was very excited about this Twins team in Spring Training – they were a very confident group. I’m happy that we’re FINALLY back playing baseball, but it would’ve been fun to see what they could’ve done over 162 games. Regardless, this sprint of season doesn’t leave much room for error, which makes it exciting. The Twins are posed to have a strong season and hopefully make a playoff run. With so many teams now being eligible for the postseason, I feel like plenty of teams have a chance.

    I’m also a fan of the new rule changes (DHs in both leagues, 7-inning double headers, even runners on 2nd in extra innings)…if you were going to try them out, this was the season to do so. Will be very interesting to see what sticks beyond 2020.

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    • Aug 11 2020 08:58 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler