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Article: Week in Review: A Grand Finale?

joe mauer trevor hildenberger
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 16 September 2018 - 07:01 PM

As all-time Minnesota Twins great Joe Mauer signals that his playing career may be reaching its end, many of us are savoring what could be the final chance to watch him on the field.

Last week, he gave us a grand show.

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/10 through Sun, 9/16

***

Record Last Week: 3-4 (Overall: 68-81)

Run Differential Last Week: -8 (Overall: -78)

Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (15 GB)

HIGHLIGHTS

Home runs from Mauer are rare. Grand slams, even more so. And for such a rarity to arrive against the dreaded Yankees, well, that's all the sweeter.

The first baseman's big blast – a beautifully struck drive to straightaway center – came in the fifth inning of Tuesday's game with the Twins already leading 6-1, effectively burying the Bombers.

It came as part of a two-hit night for Mauer, amidst a 7-for-21 week that also included a pair of doubles. It was undoubtedly a productive stretch for the 35-year-old, but only served to push his OPS back up into the .720 range that's been customary for him throughout the summer.

Just two days after Mauer's grand evening against the Yankees, an article appeared in the Star Tribune indicating that he plans to seriously contemplate retirement during the offseason. While Mauer insists he hasn't made his mind up, there are several quotes in La Velle E. Neal III's piece that suggest he's leaning toward hanging 'em up. For example...

Regarding the factors at play for him: “There’s a lot that goes into it than just, ‘Do you want to play?’ ”

Regarding an apparent reversal from his more committed springtime stance: "Yeah, a lot can change in six months. Personally, professionally, physically.”

Regarding his health and family circumstances: "The concussion, third baby on the way. So we have a lot of things to go over. I want to do that and take a deep breath and try to think with a clear mind.”

Mauer didn't reference the sagging production (his current .724 OPS and 0.9 WAR would both rank as the second-worst of a 15-year career) but that's also in play here. When accounting for all these aspects, and the general tone of his latest interview, I gotta think Mauer elects to retire this offseason, which would spare the Twins an awkward conversation.

If so, fans have one more homestand remaining to come see him at Target Field. I highly recommend making a trip out to the park next week; I know I'll be doing so. While part of me looks forward to a new era of locker room leadership, and an unencumbered payroll, this team just won't be the same without him around.

Mauer's potential farewell tour isn't the only worthwhile attraction as this season winds down. Willians Astudillo continues to be an absolute treat to watch. With Mitch Garver sidelined by a concussion, Astudillo has stepped into a larger role and he is THRIVING:



Seriously though: Even beyond the all-out heart and hustle this scrappy 26-year-old rookie shows, there's some real offensive ability flashing. Not only does Astudillo put the bat on everything (two strikeouts in 57 plate appearances with MN), he most often hits it pretty hard. Last week he tallied seven knocks in 18 at-bats (.389) and drove in three runs. And he drew his first walk as a big-leaguer!

Jorge Polanco, who found himself batting either first or second in every start (a change from his previous entrenchment in the three-hole), went 11-for-27 (.407) and launched his fifth homer.

It was a fruitful offensive week for several members of the outfield unit: Robbie Grossman (9-for-25 with three doubles and four walks), Jake Cave (8-for-26 with a homer and five RBIs), Max Kepler (6-for-22 with two doubles and a homer). Even Johnny Field, who entered the week with a .192 average, joined the fun with four hits and his first Twins home run on Sunday.

On the pitching end, Jake Odorizzi turned in his finest start in a Minny uniform on Wednesday, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth against New York's potent lineup. He finished with one run allowed on one hit over 7 1/3 innings.

Considering his historical lack of proven endurance – he's only topped 170 innings once, and has never reached 200 – it's a good sign that Odorizzi is finishing strong. His 27th and 30th starts have been his longest of the season. Since the beginning of August he has a 3.98 ERA, and has quietly corrected his biggest weakness, allowing only three homers in eight turns. The unspectacular yet steady right-hander has made a solid case for returning next year.

Jose Berrios delivered an impressive performance of his own, hurling six innings of two-run ball against Kansas City on Thursday. It was refreshing to see him in dominant form for the first time in a while – nine strikeouts were his highest total since July 24th, and 14 swinging strikes were his most since July 9th.

Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Taylor Rogers continued his run of second-half excellence with four more scoreless appearances, allowing only one hit. He's now gone 24 straight appearances without allowing a run.

LOWLIGHTS

Berrios exited Thursday's game with a well earned 4-2 lead, but unfortunately failed to procure the win due to Trevor Hildenberger melting down in the ninth.

Called upon to protect a one-run lead, Hildenberger gave up a one-out RBI double to No. 9 hitter Rosell Herrera that tied the game. Following a single and an intentional walk, the bases were loaded for Salvador Perez, who launched a walk-off grand slam.

The brutal outing raised Hildenberger's ERA, which had been steadily dropping, back up to 4.70. It bears noting that this was the first of seven save opportunities Hildy's been unable to convert since taking over the closer role. He previously had a 0.77 ERA since the Fernando Rodney trade.

The righty has had many long stretches of effectiveness this year, with his struggles concentrated in short painful bursts. To an extent, that's reassuring, but there's no ignoring some alarming bigger trends for him – namely, home run and walk rates that have doubled from his standout rookie season.

Despite his stumbles, Hildenberger will remain an integral part of the bullpen picture going forward. However, Alan Busenitz might be pitching his way out of the Twins' plans. In two appearances last week he was charged with seven earned runs, without recording an out. That's about a bad as it gets. His ERA now sits at 7.71. Despite his sterling work at Triple A, Busenitz is shaping up as a 40-man casualty this fall.

TRENDING STORYLINE

As mentioned earlier, Garver has received a concussion diagnosis after taking a foul ball off the mask on Wednesday. He experienced persisting "lightheadedness and headaches" into the weekend, which will understandably set off alarm bells in the minds of Twins fans all too familiar with where this can lead. Adding to the concern is that Garver has had multiple concussions in the past, and was dazed by a blow to the head from Manny Machado's bat earlier this year.

Garver has been one of the team's biggest bright spots this season, showing plenty of offensive aptitude with gradually improving defense at a crucial position, so the gravity of this development cannot be downplayed. Right now, there's no reason to panic, but it's something to monitor.

DOWN ON THE FARM

On Monday night, the last of Minnesota's minor-league affiliates held its own grand finale, as the Fort Myers Miracle capped off an excellent season by winning the Florida State League Championship.

Fort Myers was a major source of intrigue all summer long, with Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff and Brusdar Graterol firmly solidifying themselves as the organization's top three prospects there. Each was instrumental in the Miracle becoming champs. It'll be interesting to see where they fall on national prospect lists this offseason, and then, which level they start at next spring.

For some additional minor-league reading, check out the season-ending awards Twins Daily has dished out to prospects recently (more to come this week):
LOOKING AHEAD

The Twins travel to Detroit and Oakland to wrap up their final road trip of the 2018 season. They need to go 13-0 in their remaining games to finish .500 (ha!). More plausibly, they need to go 5-8 or better to avoid 90 losses, for whatever that's worth.

MONDAY, 9/17: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kohl Stewart v. RHP Jordan Zimmermann
TUESDAY, 9/18: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Daniel Norris
WEDNESDAY, 9/19: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP Stephen Gonsalves v. LHP Matthew Boyd
FRIDAY, 9/21: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Trevor Cahill
SATURDAY, 9/22: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Mike Fiers
SUNDAY, 9/23: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Kohl Stewart v. TBD

Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps


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#2 D.C Twins

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Posted 16 September 2018 - 08:18 PM

Thank you Joe Mauer. A consummate professional and generational catcher. What a treat to have a home town boy spend his entire career on the hometown professional team. 

 

Make no mistake about it. He earned EVERY PENNY he received for his play alone. Too little early and too much late. And that does not even account for how many tickets he sold. 

 

He was not a natural born leader, but remember,few people are. He never tired to be someone that he wasn't.  

 

I'm in the minority that thinks he'll get to the HOF eventually. His prime catcher years were singular in baseball history. Also, as we learn more and more about brain injury over the next decade, his accomplishments will also be better appreciated. 

 

Enjoy retirement Joe!!!!

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#3 Nick Nelson

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Posted 16 September 2018 - 08:44 PM

Well said


#4 70charger

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 12:23 AM

Agreed. Well said.

#5 Platoon

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 06:02 AM

When Mauer was healthy he was simply one of, if not the best catcher that ever played. I realize that's a subjective view, but simply the fact that it is a legitimate argument says wonders. While his quiet demeanor probably cost him notice, it should not diminish how he excelled at the toughest defensive position in the game, not to speak of an unheard of three batting titles at that position.
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#6 mikelink45

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 06:34 AM

I hope they come up with a real closer.I do not think Hildenberg is the right person to be the 9th inning designee. Thanks for finding so many positives in a week that saw us beat the Yankees and lose to the Royals!

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#7 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 08:12 AM

 

Thank you Joe Mauer. A consummate professional and generational catcher. What a treat to have a home town boy spend his entire career on the hometown professional team. 

 

Make no mistake about it. He earned EVERY PENNY he received for his play alone. Too little early and too much late. And that does not even account for how many tickets he sold. 

 

He was not a natural born leader, but remember,few people are. He never tired to be someone that he wasn't.  

 

I'm in the minority that thinks he'll get to the HOF eventually. His prime catcher years were singular in baseball history. Also, as we learn more and more about brain injury over the next decade, his accomplishments will also be better appreciated. 

 

Enjoy retirement Joe!!!!

Outstanding post about an outstanding Twin.

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#8 caninatl04

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 10:13 AM

I'm sure readers here could list scores of players who played one year too long, usually at a different team.

Never flashy, always classy, I hope Joe rides off into the sunset as a life-long Twin.

Although he should not have any financial need, I hope he remains with the Twins in some capacity either in a broadcast booth or as a (roving?) hitting instructor.
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#9 gocgo

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 11:00 AM

Great write up as always. I concur on the Joe Mauer comments.I gotta admit, my interest in the Twins has fallen off the map.I haven't watched more that a couple innings since August 1st.I feel like a bandwagon fan, but they just fell off my radar of things to do.I'm hoping to watch Dozier in the playoffs, but won't be heartbroken if that doesn't happen either.

 

I know it's early, but I'm starting to think that our new front office is floundering around a bit.Perhaps searching for answers rather than having the answers.Am I the only one that is beginning to have doubts?

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Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.


#10 Nick Nelson

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 11:28 AM

 

I know it's early, but I'm starting to think that our new front office is floundering around a bit.Perhaps searching for answers rather than having the answers.Am I the only one that is beginning to have doubts?

Not at all. I shared some of my thoughts on the topic last week and there was a lot of great discussion in the comments, if you're interested.

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#11 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 11:30 AM

 

Great write up as always. I concur on the Joe Mauer comments.I gotta admit, my interest in the Twins has fallen off the map.I haven't watched more that a couple innings since August 1st.I feel like a bandwagon fan, but they just fell off my radar of things to do.I'm hoping to watch Dozier in the playoffs, but won't be heartbroken if that doesn't happen either.

 

I know it's early, but I'm starting to think that our new front office is floundering around a bit.Perhaps searching for answers rather than having the answers.Am I the only one that is beginning to have doubts?

Yes, you are the only one.  

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#12 yarnivek1972

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 12:32 PM

The same storm that is going to cool off Minnesota tonight figures to be in the Detroit area sometime tomorrow afternoon. If the remnants of Florence slows it down, there could be a delay tomorrow.

And that’s a look at the weather, next up: sports.
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#13 yarnivek1972

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 06:41 PM

So, might be interesting to see what, if anything, Gardy and the Tigers do Wednesday. I wouldn’t expect a big to do since he hasn’t officially made a decision. But I would expect to see Gardy and Mauer do a lineup exchange and handshake.
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#14 DocBauer

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 07:32 PM

Personally, for many reasons already stated and hinted at, I think Joe is done after this year. It's just the right time. My only complaints are not directed at him, but at fate. He and Morneau were both ill-fated to lose so much of the second half of their careers to the shared fate of concussions that robbed them. Disappointed and bitter at the baseball gods to rob these wonderful talents of what might have been.

Simply from a baseball standpoint, however, Mauer riding off in to the sunset does open up opportunities for the Twins in 2019. And not because his contract is off the books, (a given), but it also grants them the $8-10M he may have earned coming back for another season. And it creates greater roster flexibility opportunities. For example, if Austin really could be the daily guy at 1B, with Sano backing him up, it makes it that much easier to find an every day SS and move Polanco to 2B, while still, hopefully, bringing back Escobar...paid like a starter...to play all over the infield, DH, and provide insurance. You can then, of course, concentrate even more efforts on pitching, etc.

And you mentioned Austudillo. Whether he sits in Rochester awaiting a call up, or is the final man on the roster he's a guy to keep around as an ideal 25th man. You're right, he shows offensive ability, and can clearly provide positional flexibility, though not necessarily great, including being a 3rd catching option.

But none of these observations should detract from the greatness that has been Mauer's career.
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#15 caninatl04

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 08:40 AM

 

The same storm that is going to cool off Minnesota tonight figures to be in the Detroit area sometime tomorrow afternoon. If the remnants of Florence slows it down, there could be a delay tomorrow.

And that’s a look at the weather, next up: sports.

I await with baited breath the Hollywood minute!


#16 caninatl04

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 08:47 AM

 

Personally, for many reasons already stated and hinted at, I think Joe is done after this year. It's just the right time. My only complaints are not directed at him, but at fate. He and Morneau were both ill-fated to lose so much of the second half of their careers to the shared fate of concussions that robbed them. Disappointed and bitter at the baseball gods to rob these wonderful talents of what might have been.

Simply from a baseball standpoint, however, Mauer riding off in to the sunset does open up opportunities for the Twins in 2019. And not because his contract is off the books, (a given), but it also grants them the $8-10M he may have earned coming back for another season. And it creates greater roster flexibility opportunities. For example, if Austin really could be the daily guy at 1B, with Sano backing him up, it makes it that much easier to find an every day SS and move Polanco to 2B, while still, hopefully, bringing back Escobar...paid like a starter...to play all over the infield, DH, and provide insurance. You can then, of course, concentrate even more efforts on pitching, etc.

And you mentioned Austudillo. Whether he sits in Rochester awaiting a call up, or is the final man on the roster he's a guy to keep around as an ideal 25th man. You're right, he shows offensive ability, and can clearly provide positional flexibility, though not necessarily great, including being a 3rd catching option.

But none of these observations should detract from the greatness that has been Mauer's career.

I agree with everything you wrote.I vote yes for keeping Austudillo as the 25th man.I hope the Twins are god enough that he is the 25th man, as opposed to being a top 10.If nothing else, he sells tickets!

 

It is my opinion that 1B is a position that should not be a concern for the foreseeable future.Austin / Sano in 2019 and then (fingers crossed) one of the potential studs currently in A ball in years beyond.

 

Now about the rest of the infield....

And the outfield.....

And starting pitching....

oh, and relivers....

 

Go Lookouts!


#17 Doomtints

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 01:59 PM

Polanco leading off is a great idea that I think most other managers would have figured out a hell of a lot sooner. Hopefully he makes himself indispensable at leadoff.




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