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Key Early Storyline - Have the 2020 Twins resolved the 2019 Twins 2 biggest weaknesses?

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#1 twins1095

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Posted 29 July 2020 - 09:47 PM

The season is still very early, but what has been of note to me during these initial 5 games is how good the Twins infield defense and bullpen has been.

Last season, Sano/Polanco/Schoop/Cron we’re inconsistent on defense and prone to giving back 1 or 2 plays a game with mental mistakes or throwing errors.

This season, the addition of Josh Donaldson (and subsequent move of Sano to first base) seems to have stabilized the infield defense by a huge margin. It appears that having two negative defenders on the left side had a cumulative effect. That is, Sano & Polanco’s combined lack of range and inconsistencies throwing the ball to first to some degree made both players look worse.

Josh Donaldson is the best defending 3B in recent memory. He has solid range, but also great instincts, really soft hands, and is really accurate throwing the ball across the diamond. Polanco seems to be playing defense more smoothly, consistently, and confidently with Donaldson on his side.

Lastly, early returns of Sano at first appear to be a pretty big success. Sano actually moves really well and has pretty soft hands. It seems to have generally helped him that he doesn’t have to think about making a throw in time when fielding the ball.

Arraez may also not be spectacular, but he’s really heady and doesn’t make mistakes.

I don’t think the Twins infield has made an error yet thus far and from my eye test they have sucked up ground balls more cleanly and more consistently than just about any infield that I’ve seen for the Twins.

The other key factor is that the Twins bullpen, which has been theorized in the offseason, as a group that should be borderline elite if not elite—appears to be for real.

The raw numbers just look okay:

-21 innings
-19 hits
-8 walks (1.29 whip)
-10 earned runs (4.29 ERA)
-31 k’s (13.3 K/9)

These raw numbers slightly obscure what has been a dominant start to the season due to the 2nd game against Chicago where Littel & Smeltzer got hammered to the tune of:

3 innings
10 hits
9 runs
5 home runs
6 strikeouts

Wisler also pitched 1 scoreless inning with 2 base runners and 2 strikeouts

This obviously cannot be discounted and any bullpen will blow up occasionally—especially the end of the bullpen.

Outside of that outing, in the other 4 Twins games, here are the stats for the bullpen:

17 innings
8 hits
5 walks
1 earned run
23 strikeouts

Further, the only run that has been scored on the Twins bullpen outside of that game is a ball that bounced out of Buxton’s glove for a HR that he could have caught.

The bullpen in those games is essentially averaging just the following:

-Just over 4 innings per game
-2.65 BB/9 - 12.2 K/9
-0.53 ERA - 0.76 WHIP

The two biggest weaknesses of the 2019 Twins club was the fact that their defense would, at inopportune times, create extra outs and those extra outs would be compounded by a pitching staff (bullpen especially) that could not afford to have to also get extra outs. I think a huge early story line is how promising the 2020 Twins look in these two key areas.

What are your thoughts?
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#2 Aichiman

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Posted 30 July 2020 - 03:30 AM

So far so good; but it's soooo early!

 

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#3 twins1095

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Posted 30 July 2020 - 06:55 AM

So far so good; but it's soooo early!


At the same time, it’s almost 10% of the way throughout the season... if we’re looking for trends on how player performance will look over the next 2 months... it’s a reason optimistic!
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#4 jud6312

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Posted 30 July 2020 - 07:13 AM

There is a reason for optimism, and while they might be 10% of the way into the season, we're talking about 5 games in 6 days.

 

Let's look at it around August 25. By then they'll have played half of their games, including 27 games in 28 days (assuming there's no weather or COVID postponements. 

 

It's when the guys are tired, physically or mentally, that the mistakes will start to show on defense. And as is always the case with pitching, if the pen is still being asked to go 4 innings every night they could show some wear, too.

 

It's entirely possible that both aspects are drastically improved, but they could just as easily be only marginally better. Still too early to know anything definitively aside from they look really good so far.

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#5 bighat

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Posted 30 July 2020 - 07:24 AM

 

So far so good; but it's soooo early!

By the next game we'll be at 10% of the season complete....

 

Edit: Wow it looks like I'm not the only one to do the math!

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#6 Number3

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Posted 30 July 2020 - 07:53 AM

".......Polanco seems to be playing defense more smoothly, consistently, and confidently with Donaldson on his side...."
 

 

That is a great point and I hope it gets the monkey off his back that he is not a good defensive shortstop.

When you score double digit runs you should almost always win but its the 3-0 pitching/defense games that win championships or at least division titles and playoff series.

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#7 Doctor Gast

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Posted 30 July 2020 - 07:54 AM

W/ Donaldson on 3B, it makes all the difference in the world. He has great range to his left & Sano has decent range to his right, that helps Polanco & Arrais to cheat up the middle to make up for their lack of range. We have a great &proven BP, Smelzer & Littel have shown some success last year & Thorp has great potential but haven`t proven themselves yet. So they should be used more sparingly & in less leverage situation & definitely not together unless in a total blow out

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#8 twins1095

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Posted 30 July 2020 - 09:18 AM

 

W/ Donaldson on 3B, it makes all the difference in the world. He has great range to his left & Sano has decent range to his right, that helps Polanco & Arrais to cheat up the middle to make up for their lack of range. We have a great &proven BP, Smelzer & Littel have shown some success last year & Thorp has great potential but haven`t proven themselves yet. So they should be used more sparingly & in less leverage situation & definitely not together unless in a total blow out

 

Regarding the bullpen... I think it's also important to put it in perspective that we're talking about the performances of guys who likely will not be regular factors during the playoffs. 

 

The Twins have Rogers, Duffey, May, Romo, & Clippard who will be leaned on heavily. Once Pineda & Odorizzi are healthy, during a playoff run, they will likely have Pineda & Maeda as well out of the pen even if they are quasi splitting starts with Odorizzi/Hill and asking each guy to go twice through the order.

 

So, when you're talking about Thorpe, Littell, Smeltzer and even Stashak/Wisler/Dobnak... you're really talking about the Twins 8+ best reliever options on the team during the playoffs. This is coming from a person who is relatively high on Stashak, Littell, and even Dobnak/Thorpe... I think all of those players are major league bullpen arms.

 

Regarding the infield defense...

 

I definitely think at the corners, Donaldson/Sano have significantly more range than the Sano/Cron infield combo. You can tell this by how far the Twins are willing to shift Sano off the line and how well Donaldson moves to his left (that diving play that he missed but Polanco caught and threw out a runner at second is one good example).

 

Polanco/Arraez have said that they are working on the reaction time and efficiency of their initial steps... which means that they are getting to balls more quickly and more in control leading to less awkward throws. From the eye-test, the whole thing appears to be working really well together. 

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#9 Craig Arko

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Posted 30 July 2020 - 12:14 PM

The main weakness 'losing in the playoffs to the Yankees' won't have a known resolution for some time.

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Update your priors.