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2022 Twins--What Went Wrong and How to Fix It


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Some time after the All-Star break, I was pondering how the Twins could fit all of their quality major league position players on the active roster. A few weeks later, baseball immortals Mark Contreras and Caleb Hamilton were on the big club. Fast forward to a crucial five-game series in Cleveland and the Twins were starting Bailey Ober, Josh Winder (both coming off injuries) and having Louie Varland make his second major league start and Jake Cave and Gilberto Celestino were considered regular starters. The season unraveled quickly and now the Twins look likely to finish below .500 and in third place in the weak AL Central. How did it happen? I have several answers--there have been enduring issues all year exacerbated by a rash of injuries, most of them season-ending. 

Offense underperformed almost all year. Going back to the start of the season, after a rocky first couple of weeks, the Twins offense was sufficient to win a lot of game despite never scoring runs commensurate with their underlying numbers. Right now, the Twins are 18th in runs scored despite being 11th in OPS and 12th in homers. They have often been futile with runners in scoring position and they have been a terrible running bases as a team. I have seen many posters state that the team is terrible at fundamentals. I would submit that all teams draw their fans ire for not advancing runners and "beating the shift". Part of these problems is the way the Twins are built. They lack team speed and their is a lot of swing and miss in their collective game. With the changes made to limit homers, the Twins (IMHO) have suffered disproportionately. 

Pitching regressed after overperforming early. The Twins seized first place in late April and held on to the top spot for most of the season bolstered by a pitching staff that performed better than expected. Despite seemingly having at least one and usually two or more guys in their rotation that were locks to go no more than five innings, they won a lot of games and obvious weaknesses at the back end of the bullpen were not evident in the win-loss record. Things unraveled here in slow motion. The failure of anyone but Jhoan Duran in late innings cost games (particularly to Cleveland). The extra innings assigned to the bullpen showed the lack of depth that so many short starts demanded. Back to statistics--the Twins currently are right in the middle of total runs allowed stats. Underlying stats (WHIP, Opponents BA and OPS and BB and K numbers) come out slightly below the mean. I think team defense has been slightly better than average, which has helped keep runs allowed acceptable. 

Injuries (oh my!). The Twins lead the AL in total man-games on the Injured List. They went into the season with one player slated to miss time, so it isn't like there were a bunch of players already on the IL. Some of the injuries could be expected and put on the front office. The Twins obtained several pitchers with injury issues and this season have come up snake eyes with most of them missing significant time. 

There have been plenty of position player injuries as well. Regular players Ryan Jeffers, Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler have all missed significant portions of the season. Carlos Correa also missed over 20 games with COVID and a badly bruised finger. We all know Buxton hasn't made it through a season without spending time on the IL. The other guys would figure to be healthier than they have this year. 

Dick Bremer characterized the Twins as developing a "slow leak" from June through August. The leak has been accelerated in the month of September and injuries are a factor in that. That said, even without the injuries, the Twins' flaws probably were too big to win the division. The club exhausted their depth and seeing Jermaine Palacios, Mark Contreras, Caleb Hamilton, Sandy Leon, Aaron Sanchez, and (second half) Devin Smeltzer "perform" in key situations just shows that the Twins have scraped bottom.

I think some roster turnover is necessary. Among the position players, they need more guys who make contact, are better base runners and who have more speed. They need more left-right balance in corner outfielders. The front office needs to adjust their focus and bring in more durable players. It should be noted that the position players they brought in (Urshela, Sanchez and Correa) have been basically healthy. The problem has been with the pitchers. 

I think there is too much talent to tear it down. If the club fails to compete next year, it is probably time to try something else, starting at the top. It won't be easy to win the Central next year, but there needs to be significant progress and better health.

 

 

 

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Just to remind people Ober and Winder were going to be on some sort of pitching restrictions this year and both pitched less in in 2002 than 2021. So I don't see them being used much different than they were planned to be this year, now they are 26 and 27 so I don't really care about protecting them any longer and should have zero restrictions on innings or pitches (besides you know the magical 100 pitches) and if they can't handle that well they should no longer be in any plan that includes them as a starter and be regulated to the bullpen or gone, you can't hold 40 man spots for pitchers that old that can't stay healthy. Same with Maeda if he is a starter he should be pushed until he is no longer effective who cares about protecting a 35 year old FA to be arm?

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On 9/30/2022 at 8:33 AM, Beast said:

I think people just overvalue a lot of Twins players.

Guys like Kepler and Polanco aren’t going back to 2019.

Nick Gordon and Trevor Larnach just aren’t that good.

Buxton will never play a full season.

Kirillof’s career may be derailed at this point.

Royce Lewis may never stay healthy. If he does, we don’t know he’s a good major leaguer yet based on a small sample.

The list goes on.  

 

Polanco  had a better 2021 than 2019

Nick Gordon had an  OPS+ of 117

Larnach has not played  at the major league level to know one wat or the other what he will be

Your maybes are worst case scenarios. Maybe every say will be dark and cloudy 

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I'm not sold on Jeffers, at least not yet.

This off-season the Twins should add a number one starter and find a top tier catcher. Keep Jeffers as a backup and give him reasonable playing time.

Polanco can be trade material. Arraez should be allowed to get comfortable at second base.  Adios to Sano and Gary Sanchez and Pagan and Archer.

Maybe I'm being foolish, but I think the team has solid, play-off caliber position players. Kepler will benefit by the shift prohibition. Give him another season. Keep Urshella at third. Move Miranda to first. Correa is the best shortstop to play for the Twins, in my estimation. I suggest prioritizing his return. He'd be the team leader and terrific mentor to younger players. A coach on the field. A superstar with his glove and arm. Respectable and streaky bat. I like Sonny Grey as a two starter. Lopez underwhelmed, but I get the feeling he'll have a better 2023. Duran is a difference maker, obviously. If healthy, this team can contend with a couple new and key players. I'm optimistic (Did I just say that?).  

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I just watched MLB.com talk about Bruce Sutter who averaged almost 2 innings per relief appearance at his peak - a number of years.  Starters pitching more innings, relievers pitching more innings.  What a difference and not a good one.  We need some new paradigms.  

 

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Did anyone notice that the Guardians beat the Yankees today and won a playoff game with bloop singles.  Oh, wait, you have to have exit velocity to win - right?  I love the way the Guardians play.  Rocco - please look up from your computer and watch Francona manage.

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We had a great season (through mid-August) due to a weaker than normal White Sox team. Then the injuries caught up with us and the Guardians got very hot. Next year will be very different without a shift and with a pitch clock and with hitters no longer allowed to lollygag between pitches. Our scouts should look at ballplayers on both our team and others that will be helped and/or hurt by those new rules and act accordingly. We need pitching help more than anything else- especially in the bullpen. And we need a big hitter- especially if Correa doesn't resign. And, perhaps as much as anything, we need HEALTH. We can't afford injuries.

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You should change your underwear because you never know when you get caught with your pants down. 

If you keep specialists on your roster. What happens when you need them to be much more than what they are. Every. Single. Year. Injuries. Happen. If someone is on your 26 man roster, they can't be hid because injuries are going to bring them into the light and you will NEED THEM. It happens every. single. year. 

Every year... injuries are going to pull your pants down. Change your underwear because the whole world will see that specialist if you don't. 

Gilbert Celestino was a defensive specialist. His hitting wasn't good. We knew his hitting wasn't good and we knew that Buxton wasn't healthy by the trade deadline. You are screwed when you need your defensive specialist to be a hitter because your hitters have gone away. 

Max Kepler is a defensive specialist. His hitting makes him a defensive specialist. He defends but doesn't hit. That makes him a defensive specialist for two years now. Needing Kepler to be a hitter because your other hitters have gone away is too much to ask and too much to expect.  

Kyle Garlick was a specialist that was only allowed to face left handed hitting. You are screwed when you need Garlick to quickly digest right handers after starving him for years, needing to do it in September during a pennant chase is complete lack of prep for the possibility. Placing a player in a short side platoon is not prepping someone for September. 

We knew what Celestino and Garlick were at the trade deadline. The trade deadline is the last day that you can change your underwear. Our pants came down.  

 

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Generally speaking, anytime one has to ponder how a club is gonna fit all of it's quality players on a roster, it's a mirage.  Kind of reminds me of all the angst every spring about who is gonna make the opening day roster.  Completely ignores that fact that in addition to the opening day 26 there might  be another 26 who make big league appearances in a given season.

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There are a lot of questions, but some questions cannot be answered by simply getting a bigger and better battleship. Here is what two Astros players have just said:

"These guys here, we've never been afraid of the brightest lights," Verlander said. "Obviously New York brings the brightest lights, the most attention. More than anything, it's about not being afraid. I think we embrace it and we bring our A-game and we play our best baseball."

Here is the second:

Mancini said, "You just want to better yourself every day. These guys prepare better than anybody I've ever seen."

I think we need a bigger and better battleship, but if we are leaking oil because we didn't prepare properly or we don't have the right mindset, the battle is lost before it is even fought.

There are intangibles in baseball. I'll go to my grave saying that...

 

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Good article. Good view points. 

Personally, IMO, we have some good players but a mess of a team. #1 issue is our manager. It is time for Mr. Baldelli to go. But our FO has said he will stay. MISTAKE.

Unload time: Kepler (even though he is superb in the field) is a .240 hitter. Buxton, an extremely talented fielder with power, but not a good hitter, K prone, fragile as a dandelion in full bloom waiting for the wind to take away. All the catchers, even though Sanchez was ok, his hitting was not and his arm was not that great, though our pitchers don't hold runners well (and there were a lot of those). I too am not sold on Kirilloff, though he sure has shown moments when healthy. Archer, Bundy did not help.

Keep: Urshela, spend the dollars for Correa,, Arraez, Polanco, Garlick, and see what Lewis can do if he gets healthy. Larnach is interesting, but a pleasant surprise was Celestino. He seems far more durable than Buxton and got a bit better with hitting as the season went on. He also has a pretty good arm and speed. Plays the ball well and had a good read on most balls hit out to CF and gaps. 

Get: Starting pitching and catching with some decent coaches.

Only my opinions. Twins Geezer......out!

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On 10/2/2022 at 12:08 PM, CrusherDoescher said:

3 position players that came from other teams basically played the whole season and the rest of the players from the Twins organization were injured.

This was super interesting to me. Correa missed a little bit of time but is generally a gamer. Urshela and Sanchez played through everything. I was very impressed with how tough Sanchez was this past year. That said, he is not a good defensive catcher and his bat has slowed considerably.

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Sanchez is far, far better than Jeffers; put Jeffers back in AAA to learn how to play better or cut him loose.

If all three are gone next year, it will be a long sad season.

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On 9/30/2022 at 7:25 PM, DocBauer said:

Other than SS, there isn't a major hole anywhere on the roster with a return to health

You don't think there's a hole at catcher? I do, I'm not sold on Jeffers being a decent MLB catcher.

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On 10/28/2022 at 2:14 PM, RpR said:

Sanchez is far, far better than Jeffers; put Jeffers back in AAA to learn how to play better or cut him loose.

If all three are gone next year, it will be a long sad season.

I don't like either one of them.  Twins need to find a catcher this offseason.

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