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Article: Series Preview: You Come At The King, You Best Not Miss

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#1 Matt Braun

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Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:04 AM

A week of rest for the All-Star break will lead a hopefully rejuvenated Twins team into a three-game series against the team that is currently chasing them; the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland has been red hot recently and have cut down on the massive lead the Twins held earlier in the season, but the Twins get a shot at proving their worth once more.Brief Overview:
The Indians were the favorites to take the AL Central again and spent their off-season actively attempting to trade some of their best pieces while remaining mostly silent in free agency. A cool first two months caused many to diagnose the Indians as a dead team but they have since clawed back in to the race thanks to a great June and a flawless July so far. Their record stands at 50-38 with a pythag W/L of 47-41 that is mostly thanks to back-to-back 13-0 roastings at the hand of Baltimore that killed their run differential but only counted as two losses in the book.

What They Do Well:
The Indians have great pitching, something that I am sure comes as a shock to none of you, but what is interesting is that their great pitching has been mostly in the bullpen. Their elite rotation has suffered some injuries so they have “only” been the sixth-best rotation by fWAR. Their bullpen however has the best ERA in baseball at 3.48, granted this comes with peripherals that suggest some regression. This is an impressive feat considering they’ve relied on guys like Nick Wittgren and the ghost of Tyler Clippard who have so far done well.

Their offense as a whole has been nothing to write home about but they do walk a lot as their team walk rate of 9.6% is the seventh-best in baseball. For reference, that rate is just a hair better than Brian Dozier’s Twins walk rate of 9.5%. Although the Indians offense as a whole has been just OK (their wRC+ on the year is just two points higher than Dan Gladden’s Twins wRC+ of 89), the Indians actually have had a slightly better offense than the Twins since the start of June as their team wRC+ since then is 113 and the Twins is 110. So expect a hot offense heading into the series.

What They Do Not Do Well:
Something interesting that may require more digging is that the Indians bullpen has the lowest WPA+ (win probability added) of any bullpen in baseball but they also have the lowest WPA- (win probability lost) of any bullpen in baseball, potentially meaning that their bullpen has not been put into many situations where they needed to be clutch and they have only been asked to just get the job done, which they have. An unproven bullpen could be a weakness for the Twins to exploit.

As mentioned before, their offensive numbers on the year have been pretty poor but their Jekyll and Hyde-like change has made them just below average on the year (91 wRC+) but great since the start of June (113 wRC+). The question that may decide whether the Twins have real competition for the division will be whether their recent stretch is a fluke or not... or at least to what degree have they improved since their ice-cold start that included a team wRC+ of 79 heading into June (Ben Revere’s Twins wRC+ was 77).

Individuals Of Note:
Carlos Santana made his return to Cleveland this year and has already almost set a new career high in fWAR (3.0 currently) and his work this year earned him the starting 1B gig at the All-Star game. He has enjoyed a career high BABIP of .311 so far this year that has helped him melt faces to the tune of a 149 wRC+, cool, how fun.

Quick, who is currently third on the Indians for position player fWAR? I’ll give you a few minutes ...

Correct, it is Roberto Perez, you guessed him, right? The catcher has been great at the plate to go with his already fantastic defense and he is close to setting a career high in fWAR while hitting over 40 points higher than his career wRC+. His .527 slugging % is seventh among catchers with at least 100 plate appearances (but lower than both Twins catchers, so ha!).

God saw that the Indians didn’t have enough starting pitching, so he blessed them with Shane Bieber who built on a strong rookie campaign last year and now has the 12th highest fWAR among starting pitchers in all of baseball. Yeah, that’s fair. Anyway, Bieber holds the seventh highest K/9 among qualified starters at 11.30 and an absolutely minuscule 1.84 BB/9 which is the 12th lowest among qualified starters. Somehow, he was the lone starter from the Indians rotation to make the All-Star game which would be an absolutely wild statement about four months ago.

Brad Hand has been as elite as elite can be, but Nick Wittgren has been the second-best reliever in the Indians’ bullpen, a solid feat considering he was a waiver wire claim over the off-season. He has struck out hitters at a good 9.45 K/9 clip while absolutely refusing to walk anyone as his 1.35 BB/9 is the eighth-lowest among qualified relievers in MLB.

Recent History:
The season series between the Indians and the Twins is tied as the Twins took two of three in the Opening Day series at Target Field and the Indians took two of three back when the Twins came into Cleveland in the most recent series from June 4 through June 6.

Recent Trajectories:
No team in the AL has more wins than the Indians since the start of June as they have won 22 games while losing only nine. The Twins have been solid during that stretch as they are 18-15 over the same time frame but that is a significantly lower winning percentage than their 38-18 stretch before the start of June.

Ending Thoughts:
This is the biggest series of the year so far and it really isn’t even close. The Twins will be assured the division lead no matter what happens, but said lead could be as little as 2.5 games or as large as 8.5 games. The Twins will be healthier than they were heading into the break and now have a chance to knock Cleveland down a peg instead of sitting around watching them beat up on the Royals and Reds of the world. Both teams will be sending their best starters to the mound and there will be no excuses on either side. I think the Twins will take two of three and my gut hasn’t been wrong in any prediction so far, so take solace in that.

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#2 rdehring


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:29 AM

Two of three will make most of us happy, very happy!

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#3 Dantes929


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:37 AM

Big series but I don't even think the White Sox are out of it at this point. If we sweep or get swept it won;t change my thinking too much.Cleveland at 8.5 behind still wouldn't be out of it.2.5 ahead and I would still be optimistic.Its still a long way to go.When the Twins are hot I hate it when they even have a day off.5 days off is a long time for a hot team to be inactive and still stay hot. My guess is the Indians will pull closer by the end of July and the Twins will get a few games back in August making for an interesting September.  

If you build a man a fire, he'll be warm for a day.
If you set a man on fire, he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

#4 Respy


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:47 AM

Is Odorizzi returning for tomorrow's game?


I predict the Twins take 1 and the Indians take 2. Should be a fun series. Let the nail-biting commence.

#5 JW24


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:48 AM

Hopefully the Twins pitchers were able to rest up over the All-Star break because the Twins will need them to step up this weekend. I imagine all 3 games will be low scoring.


Should be a really fun weekend with a playoff atmosphere.

#6 dex8425


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:52 AM

Please win one. I'd be thrilled if we win two. 

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#7 jkcarew


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 08:53 AM

4 consecutive days of getting exercise and things done around the house. President Ford said it best back in 1974...even though the break was only 3 days at that time..."My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."

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#8 spanman2


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 09:21 AM

Should be a 'playoff type' atmosphere.We will see how the boys react.There will in all likelihood be several high stress situations.My guess is Rocco has them loose...dont think just play ball!Here is to hoping for a 2-1 series win.WIN TWINS!



#9 SpicyGarvSauce


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 09:32 AM


Should be a 'playoff type' atmosphere.We will see how the boys react.There will in all likelihood be several high stress situations.My guess is Rocco has them loose...dont think just play ball!Here is to hoping for a 2-1 series win.WIN TWINS!


This is assuming the Cleveland fans show up...

#10 Darius


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 11:10 AM

Can’t wait to watch this series. It’s really a no-lose scenario for all of us.

Obviously, the more games the Twins take in this series, the better our chances of winning the division. This would make many of us happy.

If the Twins were to get swept, there is going to be a nuclear meltdown. Even though I’ll be upset about the losses, and believe the Indians will win the division if they sweep this series, we’re going to get some priceless hot takes that will become lore. Bards will still be writing songs of these hot takes long after we’re all gone. I’m talking drop Buxton for Granite level hot takes (the undisputed champion to date). Twins Daily will be accused of juicing the threads in order to create more hot takes.

What a time to be alive.

Edited by Darius, 12 July 2019 - 11:15 AM.

#11 ChuckKnobluntz


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 12:20 PM

Moar wire references plz

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#12 diehardtwinsfan



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Posted 12 July 2019 - 12:52 PM


This is assuming the Cleveland fans show up...


There were plenty there a couple months ago when I was there and the central was looking out of reach. They will be there.


I'm more concerned about the Twins showing up. They didn't do that well in June.

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#13 TheMatt


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 01:08 PM

Over under number on Kepler homers this weekend. I'm going with 8.5
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#14 yarnivek1972



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Posted 12 July 2019 - 02:01 PM

Rosario is apparently not ready. He isn’t in the lineup. Marwin is in LF. Sano at 3b. Adrianza at 1b. Arraez at 2b.

#15 crapforks



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Posted 12 July 2019 - 02:28 PM











I think the preference is to Let Marwin, Adrianza and Arraez play everywhere to give breathers, but I am surprised to see this alignment. I think this speaks to where Baldelli is most comfortable playing certain people. Some thoughts:


Sano seemed a little out of place at 1B vs. Texas. He had a lot of awkward things going on with some pickoff moves. I think we don't see Sano at 1B much (barring catastrophe) until he starts a season at 1B. He is serviceable, but I'd wager Gonzales would be playing there if not for the Rosario injury.


Arraez will probably get more LF time if Cron gets back before Rosario, otherwise it's starting to look a little platoon-ey at 2B. Schoop (.811 vs LHP .770 OPS vs RHP) has some platoon splits and Arraez is looking like he can hit anyone. If Arraez can get a couple starts at SS and 3B without cratering the infield defense, he could very well be playing everyday until (if/when) his numbers come down a bit.


Garver is the 1a catcher and Castro is 1b. We all figured that was the case, but starting against a RHP right out of the break sort of solidifies that, no?


Im probably in the minority, but I don't really mind Buxton hitting 9th. Also, Sano batting 7th or 8th is fine with me as well. Both have moments where they seem unstoppable, but both have also been pretty streaky. Let them be instigators at the bottom until they force their way up or an injury throws a wrench in the lineup. Buxton, especially, has been fun to watch when getting on in front of the top of the lineup.


Rested bullpen. Hopefully the team gets out to some pretty big leads so we can see what some of the lower leverage guys can do. We know what Rogers is, it would be nice to see who can make a case to stay if and when some bullpen reinforcements arrive.


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#16 ChrisKnutson


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 03:59 PM

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very satisfied with our lineup, but imagine how much better we could’ve been if we had traded for Santana instead taking a chance on Cron...

#17 yarnivek1972



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Posted 12 July 2019 - 04:44 PM

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very satisfied with our lineup, but imagine how much better we could’ve been if we had traded for Santana instead taking a chance on Cron...

If the Twins trade for Santana, zero chance they also sign Cruz. So, it’s Cruz + Cron or Santana + Austin, most likely. Pretty much a push IMO.

#18 spycake


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Posted 12 July 2019 - 05:04 PM


Don’t get me wrong, I’m very satisfied with our lineup, but imagine how much better we could’ve been if we had traded for Santana instead taking a chance on Cron...

Don't be greedy!

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#19 stringer bell

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Posted 12 July 2019 - 05:10 PM

Love the "The Wire" reference!

#20 South Dakota Tom

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Posted 12 July 2019 - 09:40 PM

The Reds are not the Royals. They are a sleeper in the NL Central with the worst pythag in baseball (I think, last I checked). My pick for 2d half team of the year. Even if Cleveland whooped them.
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