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Situational Bashing


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Lack of situation hitting will cost the Twins a lot of runs and wins this year.

By David Weinshilboum

It’s the weekend; the Minnesota Twinkies snapped a hitting rut that extended through a dismal showing against the lowly Detroit Tigers. The good guys beat a very solid Blue Jays team. Byron Buxton’s bat appears to have come alive.

All is well with the offense, right? Wrong. I have to go killjoy on those fans who think the offense will be fine moving forward. 

I offer you exhibits A and B from Friday’s game: moments when Twins hitters had a chance to be smart and improve the chances of scoring a run. In both instances, hitters showed no situational awareness and failed to move a runner from second to third. 

Let’s start with a late-inning situation: in the 8th, the Twins led 6-3 and needed an insurance run. After a walk and balk, Nick Gordon was on second and Gary Sanchez had a 1-0 count. Jays hurler Andrew Vasquez tossed a sinker down. Sanchez swung hard and fouled it off. The next pitch was a curve that Sanchez floated to the second baseman. 

Throughout the season, I’ve watched Sanchez poke balls to right, building up his average and reducing his K rate. In this instance, advancing the runner never seemingly crossed his mind. He swung hard and didn’t do his job.

Ultimately, the missed advance didn’t hurt the Twins. Gordon stole third and Luis Arraez got an infield single. But the lack of awareness – or the decision to just try to hit the crap out of the ball regardless – left me frustrated.

The other at-bat earlier in the game was, to me, more problematic. 

In the top of the fourth, the Twins clung to a 4-3 lead. Gio Urshella doubled and needed Jose Miranda to move him to third. Why? According to fangraphs, a runner on third with one out has a 22 percent better chance of scoring than a runner on second with one out. Ground out to first or second, and suddenly Trevor Larnach’s job is MUCH easier. 

Jays pitcher Yusei Kikuchi throws a breaking ball down and away. Miranda isn’t even considering hitting. The ball to right. Instead, he goes Sano – swings from the heels and misses.

Miranda had just blasted a solo homerun and he was focused on hitting another. But lack of the situation just bothered me. Worse, Kikuchi threw a pitch that is EASIEST to hit to the opposite field. It’s as if he knew Miranda wasn’t going to do his job, hit situationally and move the runner over. After a ball down & away, Kikuchi tossed YET ANOTHER pitch made for an opposite-field slap – a fastball down and away. Best case scenario is a run-scoring base hit to right. Worst case is a grounder that puts Urshella on third—increasing the chance of scoring by 22 percent.  What’d Miranda do? Swung from the heels and fouled it back. He flied softly to center on the next pitch and wasted an at-bat. 

The Twins didn’t score that inning.

What is particularly galling to me is that Kikuchi never even considered altering his pitching approach. It’s as if he knew Miranda and the Twins don’t think about situations, about anything beyond the cro-magnon “hit ball hard” approach.

Too often this year, I’ve watch Minnesota hitters seem oblivious or disinterested in the situation. As a result, the bases are left loaded, runners remain unadvanced and scoring opportunities get wasted. That’s why I expect this offense to continue to struggle. Because Buck’s bat will go silent at some point, slumps will happen, and the Twins will continue to waste scoring opportunities by overlooking the situation.

Thoughts on my take? Email me at David_weinshilboum@yahoo.com.

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Yes, situational hitting is a real problem ... and not only for the Twins. these type of things go in cycles (hopefully) and maybe we will begin to see more astute hitting as the players become accustomed to a new ball that doesn't lend itself to the simple rip and launch strategy. Who knows though ...? Agree with the frustration in general and did think the same exact thoughts on that specific at bat. As a long time coach that would have left an impression with me toward a player, and actually it still does.

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This is generally a league-wide problem since batters have fallen further into the 3 true outcome tidal pool. The big $$$ come from HR & RBI, not advancing the runner from 2nd to 3rd and letting the next guy get the RBI, and the pitchers know this.

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Worse, Kikuchi threw a pitch that is EASIEST to hit to the opposite field. It’s as if he knew Miranda wasn’t going to do his job, hit situationally and move the runner over.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm assuming Kikuchi didn't tell Miranda what pitch was coming and where it was going to be located.

Miranda (a rookie with 80 plate appearances and a reputation, historically, for being aggressive at the plate) first needs to make contact with the pitch to push it to the opposite field, and with Kikuchi averaging almost 10 K/9 and a career 15% swinging strike rate generated, he's been pretty successful at preventing contact. Furthermore, Miranda is a dead pull hitter and while it's easy for writers or commenters to say "just hit it the other way" as if players could just change their swing on the fly, in reality, MLB pitchers aren't throwing pitches with the intent of letting the batter dictate where the pitch goes. 

Want to complain about swinging wildly at a 3-0 pitch with runners on after the last two hitters walked? That's fair. Complaining the Twins hitters didn't hit balls to exactly the most opportune spot during all their at bats, not so fair. 

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On 6/4/2022 at 9:06 PM, mnfireman said:

This is generally a league-wide problem since batters have fallen further into the 3 true outcome tidal pool. The big $$$ come from HR & RBI, not advancing the runner from 2nd to 3rd and letting the next guy get the RBI, and the pitchers know this.

Yes, you're totally on point. It's so strange to see how much baseball has changed over the past 20 years. I get that bunts aren't statistically beneficial, but situational hitting is a lost art...

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On 6/4/2022 at 9:24 PM, bean5302 said:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm assuming Kikuchi didn't tell Miranda what pitch was coming and where it was going to be located.

Miranda (a rookie with 80 plate appearances and a reputation, historically, for being aggressive at the plate) first needs to make contact with the pitch to push it to the opposite field, and with Kikuchi averaging almost 10 K/9 and a career 15% swinging strike rate generated, he's been pretty successful at preventing contact. Furthermore, Miranda is a dead pull hitter and while it's easy for writers or commenters to say "just hit it the other way" as if players could just change their swing on the fly, in reality, MLB pitchers aren't throwing pitches with the intent of letting the batter dictate where the pitch goes. 

Want to complain about swinging wildly at a 3-0 pitch with runners on after the last two hitters walked? That's fair. Complaining the Twins hitters didn't hit balls to exactly the most opportune spot during all their at bats, not so fair. 

My point is that the Twins as an organization don't teach how to hit in certain situations; furthermore, pitchers don't even WORRY about situational approaches, either. 

Anyhow, I will point out that approach matters, and we can agree to disagree :)

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There's definitely some room for improvement here, but I'm not sure I like using Miranda, a rookie as an example. After an extremely rough start, the guys has an OPS over 1.100 the last two weeks, he's clearly just starting to figure things out.

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1 hour ago, nicksaviking said:

There's definitely some room for improvement here, but I'm not sure I like using Miranda, a rookie as an example. After an extremely rough start, the guys has an OPS over 1.100 the last two weeks, he's clearly just starting to figure things out.

I did not expect a 2 homerun game from him Friday, but it was great to see. 

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On 6/4/2022 at 11:06 PM, mnfireman said:

This is generally a league-wide problem since batters have fallen further into the 3 true outcome tidal pool. The big $$$ come from HR & RBI, not advancing the runner from 2nd to 3rd and letting the next guy get the RBI, and the pitchers know this.

This is the reason I like Arraez so much, he looks where a hole may be and tries to hit it that way instead of swinging for the fences. The homeruns I've seen him hit looked like they surprised him as much as it surprised those watching.

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It is one thing to look for a pitch to drive. It is another to try to crush ANY pitch. I know for a rube like me it's easier said than done, but more often than not this year I've seen our batters go up WRISP with seemingly no plan and no awareness of who is behind them in the order.

Watching Urshela's knees buckle and check swing into a week groundball 1-2-3 double play with bases loaded, no out, on a 0-0 offering earlier this year just killed me.

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19 hours ago, nicksaviking said:

There's definitely some room for improvement here, but I'm not sure I like using Miranda, a rookie as an example. After an extremely rough start, the guys has an OPS over 1.100 the last two weeks, he's clearly just starting to figure things out.

Good point. I should have noted that it isn't about Miranda, but rather his education as a longtime Twins prospect. He never considered hitting oppo. That's the organizational approach, not the rookie's fault.

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I've never agreed with a piece more than this one. This iteration doesn't contain anything at all that would scare an opposing pitcher. 

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100% agree with the article.  Lots of this is managerial.  if you have a low # of runs on the board, you start situational hitting in the 4th inning.  Move runners, score runners.  You can play 7,8,9th innings swing to pound the ball--but the middle innings---or from the start with an MLB dominant pitcher---1-2 runs per inning works by speed, hustle and slowing the bat speed for contact.  Looping singles can be a beautiful thing.  I have a feeling that the art of stealing is not taught well within the  TWINS org as evwn our speed guys struggle taking bases---but that is part of owning the tempo of the game and playing aggressively, too.

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Overall I agree that situational hitting is lacking.  However, that is in part based on how players have developed over the years.  Most MLB players have always been 1 thru 4 type hitters on their teams growing up, because they are most likely the best on the team.  They were never asked to really advance runners.  I have long talked about players lack of practicing such situations is the biggest issue.  Like guys never bunting, but then asking them to do it out of no where is a problem, they normally fail at it. 

Over the past decade the game went away from situational hitting, but went to try to hit extra base hits, which requires hitting the ball hard.  With the dead ball that has played out this year, doing the little things may be much more of a thing to work on.  However, just because a guy wants to do something, does not mean they will, as the pitcher is not going to just let them do it.  Also, if the hitters gets a pitch to hit hard, why take it because it does not give you the planned result of just advancing a runner? 

The Sanchez situation talked about, he did hit the ball the right direction, but just not in the right angle.  Guys cannot always hit the ball the way they want to. Now, I will agree we should work more on those situations and get back to maximizing situations. 

I do feel overall the team is doing much better having better at-bats overall.  You will always find bad at-bats to point out in any game.  They just get highlighted when you lose by a run or two.  

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