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Article: Deadline Primer: The State Of The Central

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 09:50 PM

The gradual downturn of the Twins – now just one game above .500 after a poor showing in Houston over the weekend – has been a story in Minnesota, albeit not necessarily a surprising one.

Nationally, the bigger story has been Cleveland's inability to take advantage and pull away in the division.Complacency in Cleveland
After a somewhat slow start, it seemed as though the Indians – prohibitive preseason favorites in the AL Central – were turning the corner in mid-June when they came to Target Field and swept a four-game series from the upstart Twins, ending a five-week run for Minnesota in first-place.

The Indians seemingly should have taken off at that point, but they didn't. When the Twins came into their house the next weekend and swept, with Cleveland managing only two runs in three games against an abysmal pitching staff, it felt like a big missed opportunity to put the pedal to the metal.

Since then, the Indians have gone just 8-8, losing a series at home to the lowly Padres and more recently dropping all three in Oakland against the last-place A's. In Sunday's series finale, Trevor Bauer failed to make it out of the first inning of an eventual 7-3 loss.

Cleveland has plenty of talent but also plenty of problems. Their rotation situation isn't too dissimilar from Minnesota's – strong at the top (Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco), but beleaguered with injuries and poor performance elsewhere. The enigmatic Bauer joins Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar as starters who've been unable to contribute as the Indians hoped.

Meanwhile, the offense hasn't really clicked, and manager Terry Francona has hinted at concerns about bullpen star Andrew Miller experiencing fatigue. The Indians are almost certain to strike as buyers at the deadline, and could easily hit a groove at any time, but it hasn't happened, and we're heading into late July now.

Royals Remaining In The Mix
The Royals looked to be making a charge early this month, winning six of seven and temporarily overtaking second place. But they followed up by losing five of six to the Dodgers and Rangers. These are the kinds of swings you'll see from such a thoroughly mediocre team. KC's lineup has ranked among the league's most ineffective and the arms haven't been good enough to make up for it.

It'll be interesting to see how the Royals operate over the next couple of weeks. They have a number of key players knocking on the door of free agency – most notably Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain – so they really can't straddle the line as buyers or sellers. Many have speculated that GM Dayton Moore will go all-in, efforting to make a final run with this group, but where does that leave them if they come up short? Kansas City's farm system was ranked 25th out of 30 by John Sickels of Minor League Ball before the season. I question the wisdom of flipping long-term assets at this point.

Tame Tigers
Things are not going so great in Detroit. The Tigers are eight games below .500 and more or less out of it in the Central. Miguel Cabrera is looking more human than ever at age 34, and the pitching staff is a mess behind Michael Fulmer. Detroit would love to dump Justin Verlander but unsurprisingly he isn't drawing much interest with a 4.66 ERA and $28 million salary.

The Tigers do have three players performing quite well – outfielders J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton, and closer Justin Wilson – but Martinez is on an expiring contract and Upton can opt-out after this season, so both figure to be dangled to contenders at the deadline. Wilson too might be shopped, though he's the team's best controllable reliever so it'd take a bounty (Twins, take note).

The bottom line is that the Tigers look be non-factors the rest of the way.

Winter Comes for the White Sox
With Game of Thrones kicking off its seventh season on Sunday night, we can fittingly call Chicago the White Walkers. An all-out rebuilding effort from the front office has systematically removed the lifeblood of this roster, with Chris Sale and Adam Eaton being shipped out before the season and Jose Quintana making his exit last week. In all likelihood, closer David Robertson is next up.

What's left is a ghostly group of mostly scrubs, dragging their way to the end of a campaign destined for doom from the start.

And Then, There Are The Twins
Minnesota remains in second place, barely, after dropping two of three against Houston. The Twins are 7-11 since sweeping the Indians in Cleveland, but remain within two games of first place. Now they will come home, with a chance to do some damage against slumping teams (Detroit and New York) before heading to a LA for a daunting date with the dominating Dodgers.

Seeing their flaws, which were clearly on display in Texas over the past few days, it might feel easy to pass the Twins off as also-rans, still living from the fruits of a fast start that's quickly fading into the rearview mirror.

But this is much harder to do in light of the circumstances they find themselves in. No team in the AL Central is presently on pace to win even 85 games. That might change, and it might not.

If the Indians truly aren't going to get it together and run away with this thing, is Minnesota really going to let them off the hook? The Twins are better positioned to take it from them than any of the three other teams.

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#2 HitInAPinch

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 02:22 AM

In this season, we need to ignore the record and keep on the development path.  I'd like to see 2 things from management:

 

  • I wish the Twins would quit playing around with guys like Belisle, Bosher, Breslow, etc, and start a steady stream callup of MiLB relievers. 
  • Be active in the trade discussions.

 

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It's not my fault !


#3 mikelink45

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 06:19 AM

I agree with HitInAPinch and have noted my disgust over the mediocre set of "veterans" that our new age FO has paraded in front of us and I feel the same about Colon even if he ends up being a wonderful summer time story for us. I do not care about the division and I do not want us to stop developing the future because other teams are mediocre.  Being the best of the worst is not the goal.  We want to have a legitimate run at the World Series and this team this year is not going to have that.

 

We just watched Altuve light up a game, taking bases at will and all our group could do was throw the ball around the infield.  The Astros are clicking on defense, offense, fielding, and speed and they have good enough pitching to take advantage of that.  We are not there yet and it will take some work to get there.  

 

The last lesson that this gave us is the idiocy of the large contracts for players who have passed their peak - Verlander, Hughes, Mauer, and many others eat up budget while producing memories of what they used to be.  Pujols might be passing milestones, but he is not elevating the team.  In our push towards the top I hope we can avoid this kind of foolishness. 

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#4 Han Joelo

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 07:17 AM

Considering the Twins had a -25 Run D against the Houston in 4 games prior to this series, I see a hugely improved team.  Yeah, they still have a ways to go, but improvement is attainable.  It seems like I keep hearing people (not Nick) say that Cleveland is some great team ready to run away with this, but I'm not seeing it, and Nick lays that out nicely.

 

I'd love to see meaningful baseball for as long as it lasts, without mortgaging anything of value.  The Astros, after this series, should soon be making a move for Gray, and who knows what else.  More power to them.  I don't want or expect the Twins to do something like that.  But I don't want the Twins to throw in the towel yet, either.  Sometimes, to extend your life expectancy, it is wise to get a colonoscopy.

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#5 glanzer

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 09:19 AM

Not that I believe this FO is considering this, but I would think going into sell mode now would kill the confidence in the clubhouse. The players have seemingly battled pretty hard to stay in the race into mid-July. Whether or not they're for real, moving some key veterans, I think, would have a negative ripple effect. The idea that the front office is behind you would be a nice jolt for this team. I'd at the very least stand pat, if not be a fringe buyer. Selling would be out of the question for me right now, but a terrible next 10 days could change that.

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#6 Comrade Bork

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 09:30 AM

Any team in baseball can beat another on any given night. Even a couple average pitchers could squeak this team into the playoffs. No guarantees we are this close next year.
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#7 bluechipper

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:11 AM

The only way the Twins sell in my mind is if they fall a few games below .500 in these next 3 series. As long as they go 4-5 or better, they should at least stand pat and make a minor move for the bullpen or the 5th starter spot.

 

I don't see Cleveland running away with the division, and KC isn't really a team to worry about, so this seems like a good year to make a run at it.

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#8 High heat

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:47 AM

I think there is a way to stay competitive while still selling some pieces. I am a believer that we have seen the best of Ervin santana. Put him on the market as soon as the remaining teams loss out on Grey. Could likely get a pitcher ready to fill in now. Plus future assets. Dozi er should be another on the market. Polanco move to second and role with adrienza and escobar at SS. You can still buy some relief help like Hand and Neshek and still be in the same position as now
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#9 sandbun

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:51 AM

Obviously winning the division is better than not winning the division, but is the goal to win the division or to win playoff series and ultimately a World Series? I mean, I know anything can happen, but does anyone really believe this team wouldn't get bounced right away if they squeaked in? I hope the front office doesn't make decisions based on 'Hey, it's a down year, maybe we can steal a division title this one year' rather than sticking with the long term plan.

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#10 gman

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:53 AM

I think I've seen this movie before. The Twins sneak into the playoffs in a weak division, then get their brains beat out. In the process give up hundreds of games with more talented prospects.

 

 Let Cleveland make the big move and give up some of their future. Makes future Cleveland weaker as a result.

 

Trade Santana, Dozier or whomever we don't include past 2018. Bring up more prospects, not simply sign some wornout vets. Continue to build toward a real playoff contender. At the end of 2018 the only current Twins with contracts are Hughes, Park and Castro and I don't think Hughes or Park will be here. Then with a young, rising team and money, go after some heavy free agents from the 2018 class. The possibility of signing with a rising team might interest free agents more than a 1 and done situation on some other teams. 

It 2019 it looks like our division challengers will be Cleveland for maybe 1 more year and a building White Sox.

 

Talk to the cluhouse and fans and tell them what your plans are. Nothing worse then leaving everyone in the dark. I think getting the core team on board for a good future will keep them interested.

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#11 Winston Smith

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 11:36 AM

They are 11-20 against likely playoff teams and 1 game over .500. Not sure spending young assets for a shot to limp into the playoffs makes much sense.

If the players are honest with themselves they would understand selling if the return is right. They can then use those new assets this winter to help get some long term pitching which they need to be a serious playoff team, imo.

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#12 bluechipper

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 11:54 AM

 

Obviously winning the division is better than not winning the division, but is the goal to win the division or to win playoff series and ultimately a World Series? I mean, I know anything can happen, but does anyone really believe this team wouldn't get bounced right away if they squeaked in? I hope the front office doesn't make decisions based on 'Hey, it's a down year, maybe we can steal a division title this one year' rather than sticking with the long term plan.

The goal is to win the division. Once you get in, anything can happen. We just saw Kyle Gibson shut down the Astros (if the JV wasn't playing).

 

Opportunities to win a weak division don't come around every year.

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#13 nytwinsfan

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 12:20 PM

What you are leaving out of this analysis is that the Twins have a run differential of -65 runs, which is by far the worst in their division and the 7th worst in all of baseball (WSox are next in the division with -36). Also, whether using Pythagorean or BaseRuns, the Twins are way overperforming and have been very lucky. http://www.fangraphs...sition=BaseRuns According to both measures they should be 39-52 right now.Now I'm not saying any of these measures are perfect estimates of how good a team is (they leave out when a team like the Twins puts in its Rule 5 pick when it is already down a lot of runs and the score baloons even further, inflating the run differential against it, and other things like that), and I'm not saying that the Twins are necessarily a 39-52 team, but it does really suggest the Twins have at least been overperforming somewhat, if not a lot. Buxton was starting to come on there the last two weeks, and a big step forward for him might have changed my mind, but he will be out now for a while now, and probably won't be on a tear when he comes back. Sano and Berrios are slumping, and we are now in the midst of the most difficult part of the schedule. I would love for the Twins to make the playoffs, but the odds of that happening even after acquiring say a #3 pitcher (which would likely cost some good prospects) just are not worth it. I'd give it another ten-twelve games to July 29-30, see how they are doing, and unless something changes/upgrades in their play, I'd be a seller.

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#14 bluechipper

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 01:00 PM

The Twins were "lucky" 2 years ago, and they had a chance up to the final weekend of the season. Take advantage of this position in the standings (if they get through this tough stretch of games in decent shape), make some minor trades at least, and we can have something to root for the rest of the season.


#15 yarnivek1972

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 01:36 PM

The goal is to win the division. Once you get in, anything can happen. We just saw Kyle Gibson shut down the Astros (if the JV wasn't playing).

Opportunities to win a weak division don't come around every year.


I wouldn't call 4 runs and 10 baserunners in 6 IP "shutting down" the Astros. Frankly, Houston had a couple bad days offensively.

2017 is not the Twins year IMO.

#16 bluechipper

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 01:41 PM

 

I wouldn't call 4 runs and 10 baserunners in 6 IP "shutting down" the Astros. Frankly, Houston had a couple bad days offensively.

2017 is not the Twins year IMO.

If the regular OF was out there, 3 of those runs don't score. 

 

And you just said it in this post: Houston had a couple bad days offensively. Why couldn't that happen in a playoff series against the Twins? Stranger things have happened.


#17 frightwig

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 02:00 PM

 

What you are leaving out of this analysis is that the Twins have a run differential of -65 runs, which is by far the worst in their division and the 7th worst in all of baseball (WSox are next in the division with -36). Also, whether using Pythagorean or BaseRuns, the Twins are way overperforming and have been very lucky... According to both measures they should be 39-52 right now.

 

Also, in the last 30 days, the offense has 80 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR, while the pitching has a 5.30 FIP, 0.0 fWAR. The Twins certainly don't look like a team that's gearing up to take advantage of an Indians stumble or claim a WC spot. It looks like the fade has already begun.

 

Even if they pull out of this long skid, they still have the worst staff in the league, led by an All-Star with a 4.77 FIP, 4.90 xFIP, and a youngster with a 4.02 FIP, 4.45 xFIP (and generally neither has pitched well in the past month). The offense currently ranks in the middle of the AL, with one young star and handful of guys who are... kind of middling. Brandon Warne today suggested that Rosario may be the second-most dangerous bat in the Twins lineup--and he may be right! But if the second-most dangerous bat in the lineup is a streaky LF with a 105 wRC+, what does that say to you?

 

It doesn't tell me that this club should be a deadline buyer. If they decide to stand pat, and maybe trade veteran assets in the winter, all right. But honestly I think it would be for the best if the Twins get their asses kicked in the next few series, to give Falvine cover to trade Santana, Kintzler, and maybe Dozier, now.

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#18 yarnivek1972

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 02:18 PM

If the regular OF was out there, 3 of those runs don't score.

And you just said it in this post: Houston had a couple bad days offensively. Why couldn't that happen in a playoff series against the Twins? Stranger things have happened.


Twins still lost one of the games where Houston was not very good offensively. And Houston is likely to get Kuechel back early next month. They won 6 of 7 against the Twins without him.
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#19 frightwig

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 02:56 PM

 

Twins still lost one of the games where Houston was not very good offensively. And Houston is likely to get Kuechel back early next month. They won 6 of 7 against the Twins without him.

 

Twins also just had the good fortune to run out the top of their rotation, Berrios-Santana-Gibson, against Houston's back end, Charlie Morton, Joe Musgrove, and Mike Fiers--yet still lost 2 of 3. They won a 4-2 game against Musgrove, a guy with an ERA over 6, while Santana danced around trouble--2 ER on 5 hits + 5 walks, 3 strikeouts, in 6 innings. If they ran that matchup 100 times, that outcome might not happen again. Anyway, they certainly wouldn't even get that matchup again in the playoffs.

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#20 Vanimal46

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 03:16 PM

State of the American League:

Heading into today, there are 7 teams with a record of .500 or better. The Twins are one of them. Cleveland isn't some powerhouse team, as Nick noted in the article. Their pitching is just as suspect as the Twins. 

 

The Twins could really get a boost from even a competent SP to replace Gibson's -1 bWAR. Or the revolving #5 starter that I'm sure combines for -3 bWAR. You can plan for the future all you want, but nothing's guaranteed. This team is one major injury to Sano, Kepler, etc. away from being a bottom feeder again whether it's 2017, 2018, or 2021. I'd certainly like to strike while the league as a whole is mediocre, and the starting 9 is healthy. 

 

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