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Front Page: The Three Biggest What-Ifs from the 2019 Twins Season

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#1 Matthew Taylor

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 09:01 PM

It seems year after year there are always those two or three moments that, had they played out differently, could have changed the entire season for a franchise. I can’t tell you how many times I have replayed key moments in Twins history in my head, trying to imagine what could have been if a certain event had played out differently.What if Francisco Liriano never blew out his elbow in 2006? What if Phil Cuzzi (correctly) called Mauer’s line drive fair in the 2009 ALDS? What if Morneau never suffered his concussion in 2010? In today’s article I will be taking a look back at what I consider to be the three biggest “What-ifs” of the 2019 Twins season.

1. What if Byron Buxton didn’t run into the wall in Miami on Aug. 1?

When Byron Buxton injured himself attempting to make a play on a deep fly ball in Miami, he was in the middle of a career season. Buxton had an OPS of .827, 100 points higher than he had ever hit in any season prior to this one. Buxton was leading the team in doubles as well as stolen bases, and providing production from the nine spot that any other team in the majors would have killed to have.

Losing Buxton’s bat from the lineup was a big blow. While Jake Cave stepped up big time with his bat during Buxton’s absence in the regular season, most Twins fans will remember Cave’s strikeout looking with two outs and the bases loaded to kill the second inning rally in game three of the ALDS. While there’s no way to know how Buxton would have fared in the same spot, Byron had cut his K% to a career low 23% and posted a .912 OPS in high leverage spots in 2019 and I can’t help but think that he might have put up a better fight than Cave in that spot.
Where Byron’s presence was most felt, though, was in the field. Prior to his shoulder injury, Buxton was having his best defensive season to date, posting 10 DRS in 86 games and a career best 15.7 UZR/150. The ripple effect of his defensive loss extended past center field, though, as Buxton’s injury worsened our right field defense as well. The injury forced Max Kepler into being our everyday center fielder, and while he performed admirably in this role, he was taken out of the right field role where he was performing like a Gold Glove-type fielder.

2. What if Michael Pineda Hadn't Gotten Suspended?

On Sept. 7, just one month before the start of the postseason, the Twins got news that Michael Pineda had been suspended for the remainder of the baseball season for taking a banned diuretic. At the time of the suspension, Pineda was 11-5 with a 4.01 ERA with an extraordinary 3.04 ERA in nine starts after the All-Star break.

I can’t help but think how the Twins’ season would have played out had Pineda not been suspended. Pineda had quickly become the Twins most consistent and reliable pitcher in their rotation and losing him was a huge disappointment, especially down the stretch when Kyle Gibson and Marin Perez were as ineffective as they were. Pineda’s absence was felt most, though, in the postseason. Prior to being suspended there was talk of Pineda possibly being the game one starting pitcher for the ALDS. His absence caused Baldelli to go to Randy Dobnak for game three, and we all know how that turned out.

3. What if the Twins had been able to match New York’s offer for Marcus Stroman?

According to a report by Dan Hayes of the Athletic, the Twins had indicated Marcus Stroman as their number one target heading into the trade deadline, and had a good chance at acquiring the Duke grad. After initially turning down the Blue Jays on a deal involving Alex Kirilloff or Royce Lewis, though, the Blue Jays sought out other deals and eventually made a trade with the Mets without giving the Twins the chance to match New York’s offer.

Had the Twins been given the chance to trump New York’s offer and acquire Stroman at the deadline, Minnesota would have added a lethal arm to their rotation who would have been a valuable asset not only for the stretch run of the 2019 season, but would have also been a key member of the rotation heading in 2020, which currently stands with Berrios and Odorizzi as its only members.

What are some of your biggest “What-ifs” from the 2019 season? Let’s hear them in the comments below!

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#2 ewen21

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 08:38 AM

I try not to play the "what if" game anymore.Especially since we won 101 games.

 

 

I think saying "what if Buxton didn't get injured" at this point sort of ignores reality.He gets injured and it is awfully hard to lament that fact because he can control it if he chose to.There is another thing about Buxton and anyone who reads this can take it or leave it:
https://www.baseball...xtoby01|bat|AB|

I find it hard to believe he would have had an impact in the Yankees series.Not if he is going to continue to hit like a pitcher against them.

 

The Pineda situation was a bummer, but the Yankees lost Domingo German.As far as pitching is concerned we were terrible in that series aside from game 3 where Odorizzi pitched OK.

Marcus Stroman was not that great with the Mets, to be honest about it.He had a 1.475 WHIP with them.Had he given us that he would not have given us much.

 

I get that winter is in swing now and hot stove talk is in full gear.I don't want to discourage any of it, but we were not hit with bad breaks.The Yankees suffered a ridiculous amount of injuries and persevered.Our team did not persevere in the post season.I am wondering WHAT IF we actually won a round in the playoffs (maybe two) and made some noise?That is the WHAT IF I wonder and I think had we done that we would be in a better position in the free agent market.Going three and out in the playoffs at a record pace does nothing to make the Twins a more attractive destination.

 

It was a thoroughly disappointing season because of the ending.I choose not to blame that on things beyond our control.Not when we were non competitive.Sorry

 

 


#3 MMMordabito

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:03 AM

What if?

 

That pic looks like Buxton doing his best Russell Westbrook impression.

 

Reporter:"Byron, what if you didn't get injured last season?"

 

Buxton: "What!?Bro, what are you talkin' about, man?" .... and so on and so forth

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#4 Dantes929

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:14 AM

The what if's are easier for me and a little less big picture. What if Littell had just pitched like he did all year (after his first game) and shuts down the Yanks in the first game. We have the lead and now it is Duffey, May and Rogers rather than Stashak and Gibson to close the game. What if we left Dobnak in to get out of the jam in game 2. What if any of the guys came up with a big hit and bases loaded in game 3? 

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#5 Matthew Taylor

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 09:20 AM

 

The what if's are easier for me and a little less big picture. What if Littell had just pitched like he did all year (after his first game) and shuts down the Yanks in the first game. We have the lead and now it is Duffey, May and Rogers rather than Stashak and Gibson to close the game. What if we left Dobnak in to get out of the jam in game 2. What if any of the guys came up with a big hit and bases loaded in game 3? 

 

These are excellent playoff what-ifs! You are right in that I was trying to keep mine more big picture but these are really good ones. Another big playoff what if..what if Schoop started at 2B in game one instead of Luis Arraez?

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#6 Monkeypaws

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 10:48 AM

I'll play in the other direction. 

 

What if the Twins hadn't signed Nelson Cruz? Probably no way they even make the playoffs: that's how important I think he was to the team.

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#7 DocBauer

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 11:07 AM

I think all 3 "what ifs" are valid points. (I still don't understand the Jays not playing the Mets against the Twins and looking for a counter. Ridiculous!)

When a team has such a good season and wins 101 games and sets records, it's a little hard to play the "what if" game over the context of a full season. It does, however, hold a little more weight when narrowed down to the post season.

I'm a little tired of hearing how the Yankees had it so bad but overcame odds to have a good season. Good for them. But the Twins run of injuries happened the second half of the season, along with the Pineda suspension. And some of the guys who played in that series were hurting or at least rusty.

An excuse? No. Just a fact.

To me, both teams, healthy were a very even matchup. The Yankees had more post season experience and were healthier at the time. They won.

Now to tweak a very good team and get 2020 going and get back to the post season again!
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#8 darin617

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 11:13 AM

Or what if, The Twins didn't play in the worst division in MLB and got to beat the tar out of Baltimore so much last season.

 

You would hope someone has finally sat down with Buxton and drilled it into his head that he is hurting the team by always getting hurt.

 

With great speed comes great responsibility. He needs to figure this out soon. Crashing into a wall that doesn't give is not smart.

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#9 Tomj14

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 12:34 PM

How about what if the Twins ponied up for a starting pitcher?

 

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#10 Riverbrian

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 02:12 PM

I am of the opinion that contending teams have to be deep enough so the loss of one player (no matter who the player is) or two or three will not kill you. 

 

Losing Byron Buxton... Tough blow... would love to have had him on the playoff roster. However... He is just one guy. Specific injuries are impossible to predict but an injury with someone somewhere somehow is pretty damn easy to predict because it happens every day, month and year. Buxton getting hurt or Yelich getting hurt should never cripple a club to the point of saying... Yeah we would have won if Yelich was around to hit 5 home runs in the playoffs. 

 

The main "What If" moment or at least pivotal moment in 2019 was the Trade Deadline. 

 

When the Twins failed to acquire a starter at the deadline... they failed to deepen the rotation.

 

Once they failed to acquire a starter, they followed that by failing to deepen the rotation from the system. 

 

Once they failed to deepen the rotation from outside or inside the system, they were left vulnerable to the predictable, happens every year, routine stress points of Gibson (Health), Pineda (Suspension), Perez (Not Performing). A team can navigate the playoffs with just 3 starters. 

 

Once they were left vulnerable, this led to starting Randy Dobnak in game two of the playoffs after trying really hard not to start him during the regular season. 

 

Once they decided to start Randy Dobnak, this led to a strict bullpen plan to manage Randy Dobnak's start. 

 

Once they decided on a strict bullpen plan to help manage Randy Dobnak's (we don't have confidence in you) playoff start, this led to complete chaos in the bullpen in Game One after Baldelli had to turn to it sooner than he would have liked.

 

None of these "Once they decided" points I'm making are the complete reason they lost in the playoffs nor would the trading for a pitcher at the deadline been any type of guarantee that the Twins would have done better in the playoffs. 

 

However... IMO... The True... "What If" moment occurred at the trade deadline when they did not pick up significant depth for a rotation that had been healthy until the deadline. 

 

It's a mistake I hope they learned from as we get ready for the World Series Title in 2020. 

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#11 Battle ur tail off

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 02:52 PM

Losing Buxton hurt their defense. That is all. Offensively they were just as good if not better without him in the lineup. Against playoff caliber pitching, he is also mostly a black hole offensively. 

 

Pineda really killed them and to me, this was the biggest what if of the season. He was pitching extremely well at the time of his suspension, to be honest, he was likely our best starter going into the playoffs. 

 

Not bringing in a starter hurt them and was also extremely predictable. I have never in my years of being a Twins fan seen the front office take a high reward risk. Shouldn't have even been Stroman, they should have countered an offer including one of Lewis, Graterol or Kiriloff and brought in Syndergaard. Then we'd also be sitting here with Syndergaard, Berrios, Ordorizzi, likely FA(Bumgartner/Wheeler) and likely Pineda. Imagine the confidence you would have going into this season with that rotation. 

 

 

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#12 ewen21

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 03:33 PM

 

Losing Buxton hurt their defense. That is all. Offensively they were just as good if not better without him in the lineup. Against playoff caliber pitching, he is also mostly a black hole offensively. 

 

 

Let's be real here....Buxton wasn't going to do any damage in that series vs. NY if his history means anything.He has a .121 lifetime average vs. the Yankees and 16 strikeouts in 33 at bats.The guy seems to tense up against them just as he does when a new year starts.Not sure what it is, but pressure seems to make him worse.

 

I think we are barking up the wrong tree if we are going to cite missing Buxton was a big blow in the playoffs.We don't know if he will have a chance to make that play 90% of major league outfielders cannot make during a short series.He might make two or three plays a game and they might be routine plays any ML centerfielder can make.That is far more likely than what some people seem to enjoy imagining:him running around making play after play saving runs left and right.That is a fantasy.The truth is there are some very small zones on the field where he can have a chance to make an exceptional play and balls only get hit there every so often.We do know that his spot in the order will come up every two or three innings and that he can be an awfully easy out when he starts gripping the bat too tightly.It is hard for me to envision him in any other light in that situation.Missing Buxton is not worth mentioning if you ask me.

 

We needed to have competent starting pitching and our offense needed to hit.THAT is what needed to happen and we had neither.At this point, it is very disheartening for this Twins fan to see that the psychological hold the Yankees have on us as great as it has ever been.Whatever it is that makes this happen needs to be uncovered because until we get over that we will continue to get swept out of the playoffs by them.I honestly believe something is broken in the culture where the mindset seems to be "it would sure be nice to beat this guys, but if we don't it is OK because we won the division"

It was blatantly apparent when Michael Cuddyer dubbed 2010 as a successful season after the last 3-and-out and it was underscored again by Rocco.

 

More than anything THAT needs to die and Baldelli did nothing to bury it.As a matter of fact, he reinforced the mindset once the playoffs ended.I cannot imagine what baseball would be like if we played in the same division with them.They have a hold over us that is hard to take and we need to start discussing it with more candor, in my opinion.Maybe we need to take a page from Tampa and start fighting them.Tampa threw down with both the Yankees and the Red Sox and while I can't say that changed their fortune it is hard to deny it had a psychological impact.Seems like ever since then they viewed the Yankees like rivals instead of being starstruck by them

 

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#13 JD Green

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 08:27 PM

In September we saw the won/loss record with and without Buxton. What if Buxton played 150+ games plus the playoffs? We may not ever know that answer if he keeps hitting walls. Buxton maybe needs to go to my pillow.com to pad the outfield wall.

#14 wabene

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Posted 03 December 2019 - 05:00 PM

Since my Dad isn't even aware of the website I'm safe even participating in this thread. I agree with 1 and 2. 3 I would change slightly. Since Gibson was hurt and Perez was not performing adding a starter was the ticket. I do not get the interest in Stroman however. Now that deal the was mentioned for Syndergaard? Count me in.

#15 Doctor Wu

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 06:20 AM

 

Losing Buxton hurt their defense. That is all. Offensively they were just as good if not better without him in the lineup. Against playoff caliber pitching, he is also mostly a black hole offensively. 

 

Pineda really killed them and to me, this was the biggest what if of the season. He was pitching extremely well at the time of his suspension, to be honest, he was likely our best starter going into the playoffs. 

 

Not bringing in a starter hurt them and was also extremely predictable. I have never in my years of being a Twins fan seen the front office take a high reward risk. Shouldn't have even been Stroman, they should have countered an offer including one of Lewis, Graterol or Kiriloff and brought in Syndergaard. Then we'd also be sitting here with Syndergaard, Berrios, Ordorizzi, likely FA(Bumgartner/Wheeler) and likely Pineda. Imagine the confidence you would have going into this season with that rotation. 

Gotta agree with all of those points. The Pineda suspension was the real killer and probably cost us at least one win in the playoffs. And yeah, another quality starter would have helped too. Dream on.


#16 Litdus

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 09:35 AM

What if the Twins hadn't traded Nick Anderson for an infielder that hit sub .200 in the low minors


#17 Nine of twelve

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 07:26 PM

What if the Yankees hadn't had so many injured players during 2019? What if the Twins had kept David Ortiz? What if the Red Sox hadn't traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees? As my late grandfather was fond of saying, if my aunt had balls she'd have been my uncle.