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Twins 2018 Midseason Report - Where Did All the Wins Go? (p2/2)

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#1 Danchat

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 05:23 PM

Where did all the wins go? - Part 2 - The Batters

 

Today we're going to find out where all the wins went, because it's time for a statistical analysis of the hitters, and it's gonna be ugly. I'll be examining their WAR but also several other stats that I found relevant. This time around, I'm going to use both Baseball-Reference's and Fangraph's WAR measurements and compare them. We'll start with 1B and DHs first:

 

--My apologies for the small images; if you're on a computer, I recommend right-clicking the images and opening them up in a new tab--

 

1B/DH

3Ik1ZaK.png

 

Key: oWAR is Baseball-Reference's measure of how many wins the player's offense is worth. UZR is Fangraph's measure of defense for non-catchers. "F.G. Def." is the percentile of where that player ranks among his peers in the MLB. "BB WAR" is Baseball-Reference's WAR measurement and FG stands for Fangraphs. Finally, the "My WAR" is the measurement I choose for the player - for example, for Joe Mauer 2017, I chose BB's WAR over Fangraphs, and sometimes it could be a mix of the two ratings.

 

Losing a month of Mauer hurt this team, and he hasn't been the best since he's been back. Joe's OPS has dropped about 80 points, his defense hasn't been as elite as last year, and his power has diminished even further - it's embarrassing to have a 1B who has a 0.88% chance to hit a home run every time up. Joe projects to finish lose 2 more games for the Twins compared to his 2018 form, which is tough to swallow since virtually nobody else is picking up the slack.

 

Logan Morrison, coming off a career year in Tampa Bay, couldn't be having a worse season. At least Kennys Vargas was able to be a passable DH option last season, as Morrison projects finish over a full win worse than Kennys. Morrison's defense at 1B has been just alright, and he talks a bunch of walks, but that's about it. He can't get hits and when he does, he's not hitting for power much anymore... it's not as though he's getting really old (he's 30), but suddenly he's not looking like a MLB-caliber hitter anymore.

 

Robbie Grossman has also been a big disappointment. With yet another massive drop in OPS in this group, Grossman's ability to take walks has diminished by about 23%, and with little power and terrible defense, it's not clear what purpose Robbie fills on this team. We're a ways off from Grossman's 2016 .828 OPS and I don't think we're going to see that version of him again.

 

 

Catchers

1hIyQZq.png

 

I stuck with just Fangraph's general defensive metrics for the catchers, as I think they did a good enough job capturing the defensive level of the few players.

 

Jason Castro's 2017 was underrated, and we're feeling the brunt of missing out on it. That isn't to say he was going to repeat it - his start to 2018 was horrid offensively - but they could really use his defensive abilities out there. Meanwhile, Garver has been ranked as MLB's worst defensive catcher by fangraphs, and I'm sure many here would agree. Mitch's bat has been solid, but also below 2017 Castro's, as he hit more HRs and took more walks. Garver needs to hit a lot better to justify his terrible defense.

 

Surprisingly, the Twins could use 2017 Chris Gimenez back, as he was surprisingly worth about 1 WAR. His batting average was bad but he took a ton of walks, had the ability to swat HRs, and his defense was mostly solid. Too bad the Twins are using Bobby Wilson as their primary catcher now, who's on pace to be worth -1.0 WAR or even worse if he plays more. All in all, the Twins have lost 4 more games thanks to their catchers... yikes.

 

Next, the infielders:

8OhnIrM.png

 

Dozier is somehow worth about a win, and most of that is coming from his bat, which has seen a remarkable drop-off from 2017. He's hitting HRs 30% less often, his OPS has dropped by a massive 150 points, and the Gold Glover's defense has been below average this season. He stills brings a decent amount of value to the table, and if he finishes the season at 2.4 WAR, that isn't so bad... but it's his total ineptitude in RISP and high leverage situations that frustrate me the most. He has the ability to be an All-Star 2B but he's inexplicably dropped off a cliff in his contract year.

 

Meanwhile, the transition from Polanco to Adrianza for the first half of 2018 went rather smoothly. It depends what you make of their defense - Ehire has mostly been regarded as a very good defender, but something has gone wrong this season. Fangraphs thinks he's been a liability out there, which is the type of thing you'd think make Adrianza a massive downgrade. However, his bat has finally come around and while it's nothing exciting, he's been far and away a superior batter from his days as a Giant. With Polanco up, I don't think we have too much to worry about here.

 

I can't say much about Sano that hasn't already been said. Around the All-Star game last year he began a sharp decline that has resulted him hitting at A ball. His K% rate didn't change much from 2017, but I think that's more due to his second half in 2017 being so full of strikeouts. He needs to figure out how to get his walk rate back to its 2017 form. Fangraphs doesn't like his defense at 3B, and it's possible his next position is 1B or DH.

 

Wow, there's something positive to talk about here? Eduardo Escobar to the rescue! Eddie's improvement has been rather straightforward, but I am a bit concerned about his rising K% rate. He has improved with taking walks, though. All four of these infielders are considered as liabilities in the field, which has to be a concern. One reason why this team was so good last year was due to our fielding.

 

Adrianza was worth 1.0 WAR last year, and we're not getting that from the Petit/Motter/Astudillo group. Having Escobar and Adrianza on the bench last year was great for depth purposes - unfortunately Sano's demise and Polanco's suspension used up said depth. That's our 3rd position group with at least -4.0 WAR...

 

 

Outfielders

nfNkKAN.png

 

We'll start with the good news first. His name is Eddie Rosario because he's the only thing that's been 'good' about the outfield. Not only has he topped his numbers from an already impressive 2017 season, but he's improved his defense, and by my eye, he's mostly stopped with his inaccurate throws from left field. For all the strikeout concerns some had with Rosario, he strikes out just 17.5% of the time, and only Mauer and Kepler have smaller K% rates. He has some serious pop in his bat and he's close to his first All-Star appearance.

 

Byron Buxton has obviously been a disappoint, and losing his stellar defense in center field has been detrimental to the pitching staff. Baseball-Reference had him as high as 5.5 WAR last season! Fangraphs had him as the best defensive CF but only at 3.5 WAR, so I chose 4.7 WAR as a middle ground between the two (I thought his defense was worth about 2 wins plus 2.7 oWAR). LaMarre and Cave haven't been black holes in Buxton's absence, but they [actually just Cave] project(s) to finish with around 0.6 WAR. That's not bad, but it's still a big drop-off from what we had last season. About a 5 win drop-off!

 

I don't get Max Kepler. He vastly improves his K% rate, he's taking a bunch more walks, his defense is getting better... and yet, his third season in the MLB has been even more disappointing than his first two years, which weren't much to talk about either. He seems to be hitting in to the shift and hitting far too many pop-ups and weak flyballs. His sudden weakness to right-handed pitchers is also baffling. Kepler seems to have the ability to be something more than a 1-2 WAR hitter but he just can't figure it out.

 

I didn't include Grossman here, as I thought he fit better as a DH. The outfield has been worse than its 2017 form, but Rosario is ensuring it's not the disaster all the other positions are.

 

Adding it all up, the hitters have been -14.6 WAR worse than their 2017 selves. Yikes!!

 

~~ Summary ~~

 

Pitchers 3.1 WAR + Hitters -14.6 WAR = -11.5 WAR 

 

The Twins should be about 11 to 12 games worse than they were in 2017. However, that's not the case. The 2017 Twins finished 7 games above .500 and as of the season midpoint, the Twins are 11 games under .500. We're comparing -11.5 WAR to -19 WAR... so what explains the -7.5 WAR gap?

 

Reasons for the gap:

Bad managing

Strength of opponents (or weakness of 2017 opponents)

Clutch hitting/pitching

Other outside factors (umpires, weather, etc.)

Luck

My bad logic

 

We could get into a whole other argument about the job Paul Molitor has done. I'd rather just cover the manager's affect on the games, like: 

-Situational Hitting (bunting)

-Lineup Decisions (lineup placement/resting players)

-Bullpen Decisions

-Other strategic decisions

-Clubhouse Vibe

-A bunch of other minor factors

 

There's also the strength of opponents to consider. Even the best teams are going to lose at least 50 games a season, and sometimes the other team is just going to beat you even when your guys play a good game. However, it's debatable that's the problem as the Twins have faced the White Sox, Royals, and Tigers a bunch this season and haven't capitalized on the poor competition.

 

I think a shout-out to situational hitting and pitching is in order. I mentioned Dozier's terrible RISP numbers (.205/.600 OPS) but also with pitchers losing leads (Rodney's 5 busted saves, can't hold a one run lead). The Twins shouldn't be losing so many 1 run games. These stats are just summaries of the players' performances, and they don't explain when and how the runs score and which players are 'clutch' or not.

 

So, in the end, the hitters are definitely dragging this team down, there's no doubt about that. Injuries to Castro, Mauer, Sano, Buxton, Ervin Santana, Polanco's suspension, and others have hurt this team. But just looking at their performances, I think it's safe to say they should absolutely be better than this. Nearly all of the hitters have regressed a shocking amount. I think you can partly blame that 7-8 game gap on Molitor - but you could also pin the -11.5 WAR on the front office, because there's only so much Molly can do.

 

In the end, the Twins need to figure out how to maximize their players and figure out who needs to go (I'm looking at you, Morrison/Dozier/Grossman) and who needs to be fixed (Sano/Buxton/Kepler). The pitching staff has mostly done their part, but maintaining those performances for 2019 will not be as easy as it appears. We assumed the hitters would pick up from where they left off in 2017, but unfortunately they picked up where they left off in the 2016 season. With the front office entering Year 3 and Molitor entering Year 5 in 2019, there are a lot of questions to answer and a whole ton of improvements to be made.

Edited by Danchat, 04 July 2018 - 05:45 PM.

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#2 Monkeypaws

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 06:51 PM

Easy answers:

 

Wilson, Cave, Motter, LaMarre, Petit, Astudillo, Grossman(and some of them not as bad as regulars). Who saw that coming?

 

24 pitchers used.

 

Subpar Sáno, Buxton, Kepler, Dozier, Morisson, Mauer.

 

No Santana or Castro., and up til now Polanco.

 

Funny stat that thumbs its nose at sample size tonite. Twins top eleven hitters for BA:

 

1. Gibson 2. Astudiilo 3.Rosario 4. Petit 5. Escobar 6. Lamarre 7.Garver 8. Adrianza 9. Mauer 10. Grossman 11. Cave

 

1.000-.233

 

Mmmm, yah!

 

Train wreck it is.


#3 Mike Sixel

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 07:13 PM

Great article! Thank you.

It's all about Buxton and Sano. I mean, others matter, but those two need to be good or better for this team to have a shot
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One of the best opening day rosters in years. Now go get 'em.


#4 TheLeviathan

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 08:32 PM

To explain the -7.5....I wonder what run sequencing tells on that story.It seems to me that we have put up a lot of offensive numbers in games that were already lopsided.The Cubs series serves as a good example - we basically got stomped 3 times but managed some late rallies to make it look good.  

 

We seem to score a lot when we're already getting whooped and to score nothing in close games.Maybe that's my perception....but maybe someone adept at finding such numbers could look?(Or share how they did it?)

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#5 gunnarthor

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 09:07 PM

I don't think player WAR and team wins actually add up - that was a big part of the discussion regarding Judge v. Altuve last year, IIRC.

 

But ignoring the math, this offense has embarrassing to watch.

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#6 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 09:18 PM

The core is still intact and we have pitching. All is not lost. We are in this. There just happened to be a perfect storm* of injuries, non-performance, and a failed free agent class that torpedoed this season. Those things can be corrected in the offseason or trade deadline.


* and yeah I hate when others use that term "perfect storm" but there you go
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#7 TheLeviathan

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 09:28 PM

 

The core is still intact and we have pitching. All is not lost. We are in this. There just happened to be a perfect storm* of injuries, non-performance, and a failed free agent class that torpedoed this season. Those things can be corrected in the offseason or trade deadline.


* and yeah I hate when others use that term "perfect storm" but there you go

 

The core is in A ball and AAA.Easy Kevin Bacon....:)

 

giphy-downsized-large.gif

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#8 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 09:32 PM

The core is in A ball and AAA.Easy Kevin Bacon....:)
 
giphy-downsized-large.gif

haha I know how you feel about this :)

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#9 Thrylos

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 09:38 PM

WAR is a cumulative stat.Which means it depends on games played. In order to compare 2017 with 2018, you have to normalize to equal games, which means got to multiply 2018 WAR by something like 2 (or 162/number of games so far in 2018).

 

Or (bit harder, but more accurate) go back in time and figure out 2017 WAR after the same number of games they played in 2018.

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#10 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 09:41 PM

The core is in A ball

It's possible Sano would have had his epiphany if he stayed with the MLB club, but it's hard to argue against the demotion. Sano did no favors to anyone. Good out-of-the-box thinking by the front office to order him to Ft. Myers.

and AAA

Buxton is a different story. I thought it was questionable to send him on rehab after his migraines. He straightened himself out in 2017 without needing to be demoted. I'd call him back up right now. I still think he'll hit and be great.

It's also fair to think of Rosario, Kepler, Berrios as part of the current core.

Edited by Hosken Bombo Disco, 04 July 2018 - 09:45 PM.

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#11 TheLeviathan

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 09:48 PM

 

It's possible Sano would have had his epiphany if he stayed with the MLB club, but it's hard to argue against the demotion. Sano did no favors to anyone. Good out-of-the-box thinking by the front office to order him to Ft. Myers.

Buxton is a different story. I thought it was questionable to send him on rehab after his migraines. He straightened himself out in 2017 without needing to be demoted. I'd call him back up right now. I still think he'll hit and be great.

It's also fair to think of Rosario, Kepler, Berrios as part of the current core.

 

Rosario and Berrios are doing well, but Kepler (who I am a big fan of) is struggling to put things together.There is no way to sugar coat Buxton and Sano right now.I'm not sure why you're trying.

 

I'll be as happy as anyone when they are back in the big leagues being all we hoped.I haven't given up on them.But right now, in 2018, "intact" is just an adjective with no business in the conversation.


#12 Danchat

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 09:53 PM

 

WAR is a cumulative stat.Which means it depends on games played. In order to compare 2017 with 2018, you have to normalize to equal games, which means got to multiply 2018 WAR by something like 2 (or 162/number of games so far in 2018).

 

Or (bit harder, but more accurate) go back in time and figure out 2017 WAR after the same number of games they played in 2018.

Yes, I am aware of that, so that's why I had to make the assumption by doubling the current Twins' WAR, which makes things unrealistic, but this is an informal analysis so I didn't think it would be a big deal.

 

I did consider figuring out the WAR at the halfpoint last year, but I quickly decided not to after realizing how much work it would take. However, if I choose to do this next year, I have exactly what I need right here!

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#13 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 10:15 PM

Rosario and Berrios are doing well, but Kepler (who I am a big fan of) is struggling to put things together.There is no way to sugar coat Buxton and Sano right now.I'm not sure why you're trying.
 
I'll be as happy as anyone when they are back in the big leagues being all we hoped.I haven't given up on them.But right now, in 2018, "intact" is just an adjective with no business in the conversation.

I won't try to sugarcoat what happened with Sano. Buxton absolutely. When they sent Buxton on his rehab he was hitting .195 which would be like the third best average on the team right now. :)

I'm not convinced Buxton's broken toe explains 100% of his struggle after that, but I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. You can call it sugarcoating, but I call it a reasonable explanation. That said, I'd like to see him back up before the All Star break. His second half in 2017 was for the books. I don't want to see this team fielding an inferior team, just because. I want some wins.

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Game and an old timer's game. - Vin Scully


#14 TheLeviathan

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 10:23 PM

 

I won't try to sugarcoat what happened with Sano. Buxton absolutely. When they sent Buxton on his rehab he was hitting .195 which would be like the third best average on the team right now. :)

I'm not convinced Buxton's broken toe explains 100% of his struggle after that, but I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. You can call it sugarcoating, but I call it a reasonable explanation. That said, I'd like to see him back up before the All Star break. His second half in 2017 was for the books. I don't want to see this team fielding an inferior team, just because. I want some wins.

 

Like I said, not giving up on the talent.But Buxton's lack of hitting is not just relegated to the time after his toe injury, he hasn't hit all year.He also isn't hitting in AAA.He largely has been awful but for a few short stretches.

 

I'm not ruling out hope for the future, but right now it's only hope and our fandom fueling it.The current state of those two players (relative to our expectations in March) are nothing short of a five alarm fire.

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#15 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 06:19 AM

 

 

I don't get Max Kepler. He vastly improves his K% rate, he's taking a bunch more walks, his defense is getting better... and yet, his third season in the MLB has been even more disappointing than his first two years, which weren't much to talk about either. He seems to be hitting in to the shift and hitting far too many pop-ups and weak flyballs. His sudden weakness to right-handed pitchers is also baffling. Kepler seems to have the ability to be something more than a 1-2 WAR hitter but he just can't figure it out.

 

 

 

Kepler was hitting the ball quite well in April. I wonder if his problem is due to injury or something like that. I think patience is in order here. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he has a true break out season in the not so distant future.


#16 Vanimal46

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 06:55 AM

I'll say it since others aren't. I'm giving up on Sano and Buxton being stars for this team.

It will be a mistake if they keep going with status quo and pencil them in as every day starters.

#17 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 07:04 AM

 

I'll say it since others aren't. I'm giving up on Sano and Buxton being stars for this team.

It will be a mistake if they keep going with status quo and pencil them in as every day starters.

 

If that's the case, this team's window is over for the forseable future. Not much in terms of bats in the high minors. You may as well trade Berrios, Polanco, Hildy, and Rosario too, hold Romero in the minors for all of 2019 for service time reasons, and collect a bunch of top 5 picks over the next 3-4 seasons. 

 

I think that's a bit of overreacting personally. Both have hit in stretches in the majors. Both have destroyed minor league pitching. Both need a reboot and probably a return to their fundamentals. I still think there's hope for both in 2019 and definitely 2020. It's a bit too soon to label these guys as AAAA players.


#18 Vanimal46

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 07:10 AM

If that's the case, this team's window is over for the forseable future. Not much in terms of bats in the high minors. You may as well trade Berrios, Polanco, Hildy, and Rosario too, hold Romero in the minors for all of 2019 for service time reasons, and collect a bunch of top 5 picks over the next 3-4 seasons.

I think that's a bit of overreacting personally. Both have hit in stretches in the majors. Both have destroyed minor league pitching. Both need a reboot and probably a return to their fundamentals. I still think there's hope for both in 2019 and definitely 2020. It's a bit too soon to label these guys as AAAA players.


They'll most likely have another top 5 pick after this season so 2 out of 3 years isn't bad.

Buxton's had 3 good months of hitting (Sept. 2016, Aug-Sept 2017) and the rest of the time has been putrid. I'm not convinced he'll ever figure it out at the MLB level.

Sano needs to learn pitch recognition, and a complete body transformation like Kyle Schwarber. I defended him blindly for years but now I'm done with that.
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#19 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 07:44 AM

Same things were said about Gomez and Hicks. Gomez had several viable MLB seasons after he was traded. I wouldn't call him a star though he did make the All Star game. Hicks has been good since we "traded high" on him. Hicks is outperforming Bryce Harper this year. To give up on Buxton now seems premature.
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#20 gunnarthor

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 08:09 AM

 

.

Buxton's had 3 good months of hitting (Sept. 2016, Aug-Sept 2017) and the rest of the time has been putrid. I'm not convinced he'll ever figure it out at the MLB level.

.

That's not quite true, though.He struggled in his first 15 games last year which hurt his overall numbers but he really only had that and one other period where he struggled.Opening day to April 20, he hit .082/.135/.122 and he hit pretty bad in June. But the other two thirds of the season he always posted an OBP over .333. In fact, if you break down his season into 15 game periods, he has three that were bad (Early April and June) and the rest he was more or less a .360 OBP guy.

 

I have no idea why he's struggling so much this year - I suppose injuries and not having consistent playing time early this year didn't help - but you'd hope that he would start tearing up AAA again. Still, he has about 150 PA total this year over the last three months. Let's hope that being healthy and getting back into a routine help him. He's always going to have strike outs in his game but that might not mean as much as the game changes.




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