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Article: Twins Pitching Success is Not Sustainable

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#1 Tom Froemming

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 06:00 PM

They say ignorance is bliss, and there’s plenty of validity to that statement. You ever want to enjoy a hot dog again? Don’t look up what’s in them or how they're made. And if you want to believe the Twins will have a good pitching staff, you’ll want to stop reading this article.

There’s no questioning the performance of the pitching up to this point, the staff has been nothing short of spectacular despite the familiar personnel. Why?Jason Castro? He’s certainly been a help. Better defense? There’s no doubt that's improved over last year. But, as much as I hate to say it, it’s possible Twins pitchers have also been lucky.

Usually I despise bringing the “L” word into conversation about major league baseball. These are the greatest players in the world; it seems borderline offensive to attribute their successes or failures to chance. But … if there was ever a situation in which to apply that term it may be to the 2017 Minnesota Twins’ pitching staff.

Here are some of the numbers heading into Thursday afternoon’s game:

Twins Starting Pitchers
ERA 3.18 2nd in the AL
FIP 4.20 11th in the AL
xFIP 4.60 13th in the AL

Twins Relief Pitchers
ERA 2.64 4th in the AL
FIP 3.61 9th in the AL
xFIP 3.54 5th in the AL

Overall, the results have been outstanding. The Twins have the best team ERA in the AL at 2.98, which is second-best in all of baseball (Dodgers 2.88). Pretty hard to spin that negative, right? Well, if you take a deeper look into the numbers, as the FIP and xFIP suggest, there are plenty of reasons to believe this has all been a mirage.

Twins pitchers allowed the worst BABIP in the AL last season, .319. This year, they have the lowest mark in the game by 15 points (.233). Only six teams last year surrendered a BABIP under .290, with the Cubs leading the league with a freakishly-low .255 mark.

The improved defense has certainly helped Twins pitchers, but is the 86-point improvement sustainable? They’re still coaxing the least amount of soft contact in the AL (16.6 percent), so it’s not like they’ve done any better at pitching to contact.

The Twins have also managed to leave 79.7 percent of opposing base runners stranded so far. That’s an 11.4 percent increase over 2016. Last season, only five teams had a LOB% above even 75 percent. The 2015 Cardinals eclipsed 79 percent in LOB%, but the last team to accomplish that feat before then was Cleveland in 1968.

It’s also worth noting that the Twins still have the lowest K/9 (6.75) and fifth-lowest K% (18.6) in baseball. Strikeouts aren’t everything, but it’s really difficult to have a good pitching staff without at least average strikeout rates.

Over the past five seasons, teams that finished in the bottom five in K% also finished in the bottom five in ERA 60 percent of the time, and the bottom 10 in ERA 84 percent of the time. The only team to finish bottom five in K% and post an above average ERA over that span was the 2016 Brewers, who finished 13th in ERA.

Again, all those figures are from before the Twins' 6-2 loss to Cleveland this afternoon, in which Ervin Santana had a great start but the bullpen surrendered five runs over three innings.

Depressed yet? Well then let’s go back to the nice shiny numbers. Sustainable or not, the Twins have been pretty good at preventing runs thus far in 2017. See, willful ignorance can be very pleasant.

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#2 Oldgoat_MN

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 06:39 PM

Pressly posts an ERA+ of >100 4 years in a row. Now he's getting rocked.

I think part of the problem is we don't know who to send down. With so many pitchers no one is getting enough time to prove they should not be here. If Molitor doesn't have confidence in them we hardly see them at all. Which means they don't have enough innings to get themselves sent down or DFA'd,

I think we all knew that the pitching was the Achilles heel on this team.

 

Frankly I'm more disappointed in the offense.

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#3 mikelink45

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 06:42 PM

Reality can be so depressing.  The mirage that was the first week created a massive balloon and when it popped the casualties among fans who wanted to believe was devastating.  

This is the same rotation plus Mejia, this is a patchwork bullpen with one FA signing that was not even a closer and we expected what?

 

It was so fun to been over 500.  But now we are three times through the rotation - a magical moment in my assessment and we are have lost the glow.  The bats are weaker than we thought and the arms are delivering what was expected.  

Something needs to happen and a lot of creativity would be welcome.

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#4 Old Twins Cap

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 07:28 PM

Well, of course.Who here thinks the Twins will lead the league in pitching?

 

Not a criticism of this article, which has a nice statistical base, but we all knew that the first week was a ridiculous aberration.

 

So, the Twins regress to the norm, and lose a lot more ballgames.  

 

I think the question becomes, who steps forward and shows long-term potential to pitch above average, and who shows they don't measure up.

 

I mean, that's all that really matters in a year they won't compete.

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#5 bighat

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 08:52 PM

 

 

 

Frankly I'm more disappointed in the offense.

 

Agreed.  The pitching staff (warts and all) has been giving this team a chance to win every game.  We know they're not going to keep this up.  We expected lots of tinkering this year on this staff and we're likely to get our money's worth. 

 

But up until this point, it seems like it's the offense that's been getting lucky.  Being handed 5-run first innings.  Getting a pitcher to walk 6 guys in a row.  Scoring on balks and errors, etc.  Don't get me wrong, I'll take it!  But geez.

 

I love Twins baseball but these last coupla years have been rough! 

 

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#6 Kwak

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 09:06 PM

 

 

 

Frankly I'm more disappointed in the offense.

Amen.

 

 Three easy outs conveniently spaced in the line-up.  A DH whose claim to fame is taking walks!  And  Mauer!  

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#7 killertwinfan

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 05:12 AM

 

Pressly posts an ERA+ of >100 4 years in a row. Now he's getting rocked.

I think part of the problem is we don't know who to send down. With so many pitchers no one is getting enough time to prove they should not be here. If Molitor doesn't have confidence in them we hardly see them at all. Which means they don't have enough innings to get themselves sent down or DFA'd,

I think we all knew that the pitching was the Achilles heel on this team.

 

Frankly I'm more disappointed in the offense.

 

I believe the root cause of this issues with this team is the way Falvey and Molitor came together on this roster.  Falvey got some of his guys in there and Molitor as well. But Molly was open about not liking 13 pitchers, so my guess the roster is tilted in Falvey's favor.  I DO NOT LIKE THIS!  They should have come together on a strategy and built the 25 and 40 man rosters from there. Instead we get a hodge-podge pitching staff, an infield with an offensive tilt, and outfield with a defensive tilt, a light bench and bunch of weird decisions looming.  Nice job boys! If you know what you are doing you sure aren't showing it.  

 

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#8 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 06:55 AM

I believe the root cause of this issues with this team is the way Falvey and Molitor came together on this roster.  Falvey got some of his guys in there and Molitor as well. But Molly was open about not liking 13 pitchers, so my guess the roster is tilted in Falvey's favor.  I DO NOT LIKE THIS!  They should have come together on a strategy and built the 25 and 40 man rosters from there. Instead we get a hodge-podge pitching staff, an infield with an offensive tilt, and outfield with a defensive tilt, a light bench and bunch of weird decisions looming.  Nice job boys! If you know what you are doing you sure aren't showing it.

While I agree with you, I feel we need to give Falvey - Levine more time. At least another year or more before the criticism becomes valid. The first six months of their regime has disappointed me though they were dealt a short hand.
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#9 bighat

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 08:26 AM

I agree with you folks re: Falvey.  This is his team now - he's supposed to be the next Theo Eptstein and we can't expect him to fix this train wreck over night.  

 

I'm MUCH happier that he's in charge right now.  He's watching what's going on, and we'll see some interesting moves at the deadline.  Ryan (who I do respect) was out of his depth with this mess.  I think Molitor has to go for this team to make a turnaround.  

 

The Pohlads' insistence that Molitor stick around was a horrible handcuff for this new regime.  

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#10 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 08:44 AM

 

The Pohlads' insistence that Molitor stick around was a horrible handcuff for this new regime.  

I didn't like the insistence that Molitor stick around. That irked me. The POBO should make that call.

 

On the other hand, given Molitor's apparent willingness to try new things this season, I'm skeptical he's the actual problem. I've actually liked most of Molitor's moves this season, even some of the moves that failed.

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#11 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:21 AM

This team needs to improve it's offense to help its pitching. We will regress to the mean. Hopefully the mean for this group is middle of the pack rather than the bottom, but one thing we know is that it's below where we are now.  

 

How to improve the offense? Two moves to create space leap out - DFA D Santana and drop a pitcher, probably Pressley  going to AAA or Tonkin to the DFA.  Who to bring up? There's the rub. Looking at the Red Wings stats/roster the only ones who stand out are Garver and Paulson. Palka is still striking out 30% + of the time, Reginatto hasn't hit in the past and Hague is 31. Vargas isn't hitting in AAA after not hitting in ST or the WBC so it's hard to reward him now.  My thought would be to bring up Paulson now as the RH IB/Dh/OF and give him his shot until Park is ready to play and lose Santana. Paulson is 29 until October and does have an ok MLB track record (.271/.316./446 (.762) with Colo, decent in 2015, bad in 2016). Garver is a tougher call since he's a C and the two we have are doing well. You don't want to bring up to sit the bench.  If he can play 1B pretty well, he's the other possibility. Sadly, I don't see a lot of other possibilities unless Vargas or Park heat up/get healthy.  

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#12 bighat

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:27 AM

 

I've actually liked most of Molitor's moves this season, even some of the moves that failed.

 

Yeah, I like that he's experimenting with lineups.  Batting Polanco 4th, Kepler 3rd, etc.  I think the on-field talent (or lackthereof) make his decisions look worse than they actually are.  

 

I don't like that Molitor has the personality of a box of Triscuits.  

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#13 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:33 AM

 

Paulson is 29 until October and does have an ok MLB track record (.271/.316./446 (.762) with Colo, decent in 2015, bad in 2016).

Be wary of glancing at any player who posted numbers while wearing a Rockies jersey.

 

In 2015, he posted a 99 OPS+ overall. Decent, right? Well, maybe... or maybe not.

 

Paulsen had just 354 PAs in 2015 so we're already dealing with a moderately small sample size and that sample size becomes even more problematic when you start splitting it.

 

Paulsen had an .847 OPS at home, just .718 on the road.

 

In typical Colorado fashion, part of that was powered by a .293 home batting average and a .258 road batting average.

 

But where things get really confusing is the BABIP: .352 at home, .351 on the road. So, despite Paulsen posting just a .718 road OPS, he used a .351 BABIP to get there. You expect the Colorado BABIP to be high but the fact he posted kinda bad numbers on the road with that BABIP should set off alarm bells.

 

How good was Paulsen in 2015? My answer is "not very". Add in his defense and I don't see him being anything but a liability.

 

As an added bonus, in 2015 Paulsen had an extreme L/R split in favor of RHP (though his career numbers are mixed with an extremely SSS against LHP, the guy has spent his career protected against LHP). The Twins already have a bunch of guys who can hit RHP. They need bats against LHP.

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#14 howieramone2

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:05 AM

 

I believe the root cause of this issues with this team is the way Falvey and Molitor came together on this roster.  Falvey got some of his guys in there and Molitor as well. But Molly was open about not liking 13 pitchers, so my guess the roster is tilted in Falvey's favor.  I DO NOT LIKE THIS!  They should have come together on a strategy and built the 25 and 40 man rosters from there. Instead we get a hodge-podge pitching staff, an infield with an offensive tilt, and outfield with a defensive tilt, a light bench and bunch of weird decisions looming.  Nice job boys! If you know what you are doing you sure aren't showing it.  

They are playing .500 ball, and the pitching and defense are much improved. I didn't expect them to win the World Series in the first 6 months.

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#15 bluechipper

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:09 AM

This team needs to improve it's offense to help its pitching. We will regress to the mean. Hopefully the mean for this group is middle of the pack rather than the bottom, but one thing we know is that it's below where we are now.

How to improve the offense? Two moves to create space leap out - DFA D Santana and drop a pitcher, probably Pressley going to AAA or Tonkin to the DFA. Who to bring up? There's the rub. Looking at the Red Wings stats/roster the only ones who stand out are Garver and Paulson. Palka is still striking out 30% + of the time, Reginatto hasn't hit in the past and Hague is 31. Vargas isn't hitting in AAA after not hitting in ST or the WBC so it's hard to reward him now. My thought would be to bring up Paulson now as the RH IB/Dh/OF and give him his shot until Park is ready to play and lose Santana. Paulson is 29 until October and does have an ok MLB track record (.271/.316./446 (.762) with Colo, decent in 2015, bad in 2016). Garver is a tougher call since he's a C and the two we have are doing well. You don't want to bring up to sit the bench. If he can play 1B pretty well, he's the other possibility. Sadly, I don't see a lot of other possibilities unless Vargas or Park heat up/get healthy.

Yeah no one is worthy of being called up right now.

Edited by bluechipper, 21 April 2017 - 11:12 AM.


#16 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:11 AM

That depresses me about Paulson because it shows just how limited our options really are and it explains the lack of activity by the FO. This information leads me back to where I was a week ago – Adrianza for D Santana and Park for a pitcher, both when healthy and tuned up enough to play. it's too early to call up Vargas or Goodrum since neither even hitting in AAA. The use of a 13 man pitching staff is actually starting to make sense since we don't have a hitter worth bringing to the bigs. 

 

I do disagree with Brock in one sense. We don't just "need bats against LHP", we need bats period. We can't hit RHP right now either.

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#17 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:13 AM

 

Yeah no one is worthy of being called up right now.

You're right, my bad. Yet another fantasy blown.

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#18 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:19 AM

How about this for a lineup change for now:

 

1)  Polanco SS

2)  Dozier 2B

3)  Kepler CF/RF

4)  Sano 3B

5)  Grossman DH/RF

6)  Mauer 1B

7)  Castro/Gimenez  C

8)  Rosario LF

9)  Buxton/Escobar CF/DH

 

When Park or Vargas gets here, he slots in at 5 as the 1B/DH,  everyone slides down one and either Mauer, Grossman, Rosario or the Buxton/Escobar entry sits.  

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#19 Mike Sixel

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:33 AM

 

Yeah no one is worthy of being called up right now.

 

Not only is no hitter worthy, other than Palka and Garver (who, imo, would be limited by position in impact), I'm not sure there is a hitter that even profiles as a good prospect who is in AAA or AA that we could reasonably expect to see this year. Gordon is in AA for the first time, and they'll want to limit his service time, I'd guess. Vielma maybe, but why would he come up if Dozier isn't traded, and is he really a good prospect?

 

Really, there is a serious lack of non-pitchers anywhere near the majors right now.

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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#20 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:38 AM

Yes, it's pretty ugly when you go take a look. The conclusoin I draw is that it really is only Park, Vargas , Garver and maybe Paulson who have any real shot of helping much this year, and I guess Palka if he can stop striking out so much. Time to strap ourselves down fo the long, bumpy ride of watching what we have an hoping it develops. a  

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