Jump to content
Twins Daily
  • Create Account

Article: The Twins Have Become a Baseball Powerhouse. (What?!)


Despite their league-leading record, run differential, and trending results, the Twins – sitting on a double-digit lead in the AL Central – still didn't crack the No. 1 spot on freshly published power rankings at ESPN or CBS on Monday morning.

 

These snubbings being treated as subjects of controversy speaks to how much things have changed in two months for a Minnesota team that entered the year seeking to merely assert its relevance.In January, I wrote a piece here remarking about how drastically the Twins transformed their identity in just a five-year span, and how jarring this felt for an organization so steeped in stability. My primary focus there was the pitching staff, which has evolved from a group of contact-heavy soft-tossers to an amalgamation of stuff, velocity, and whiffs.

 

But I also made note that in 2013, Minnesota had zero players hit 20 home runs. It was par for the course; the previous year they hit the fewest homers in the league, and for almost the entirety of Terry Ryan's tenure as GM, they were always reliably in the bottom half. This is team that went from 1988 through 2005 without seeing a single 30-HR season. Whether it wasn't a priority or they just didn't know how to teach it (likely a combination of both), the Twins never featured power as a true strength.

 

The new front office signaled early on their intent to alter this distinction. With an analytical new-age mindset, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine started populating the org's ranks with analytical thinkers and Ivy League degrees. The new braintrust studied league-wide trends deeply, and slowly began to optimize the roster for what it saw as the future.

 

“The uppercut swing is like the three-point shot in the NBA,” director of baseball operations Daniel Adler told Adam Platt of Twin Cities Business ahead of the 2018 season. "When they go in, you get 50 percent more points. Fly-ball-based hits become home runs, which justify [a swing that gives up the opportunity for] ground-ball-based hits.”

 

Makes sense! But of course, deciding you want to hit a lot of home runs isn't the same as actualizing such a plan. Efforts to translate these beliefs to the field obviously came up short last year, sabotaged by Logan Morrison flaming out and various mishaps afflicting the team's core. Here in 2019, it's all coming together.

 

Through 52 games, the Twins are on pace to shatter the league's precedent for home runs in a season. Last year the Yankees set a new MLB benchmark with 267 bombs, topping the long-standing record of 264 set by the 1997 Mariners. At their current rate, the Twins will finish this year with 324.

 

With those previous standard-bearers, you could look at the rosters beforehand and envision historical home run totals. The '97 M's featured Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez. Last year's Yanks had Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius.

 

But the 2019 Twins? I mean sure, many of us contended this group could challenge the franchise home run record. But to suggest they might blow past that number by 100? It was inconceivable. It still feels inconceivable, even as I watch it play out before my very eyes – the scrappy little Twins outbombing the Bombers. Such a scenario would require almost every hitter on on the roster to either max out or redefine his slugging prowess and, well, that's exactly what is happening.

 

Nearly each Twins regular is on track for a career-high in homers. Some cases are flat-out stunning, like Mitch Garver (already at nine after totaling seven as a rookie) and Eddie Rosario (presently on pace for 50). Others are more or less culminations of best-case scenarios – we all plausibly hoped that Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton could sometime join the ranks of top sluggers at their respective positions – but to see it all happen at once? While C.J. Cron brings in a 40-HR pace and Jonathan Schoop recaptures his prime production?

 

Like I said, inconceivable. I keep using that word, and I'm starting to think it doesn't mean what I think it means. Because this is happening. The Twins just keep bombing away, night after night, with a lineup that shows no relent. They have seven or eight different position players who could plausibly garner All-Star consideration.

 

Such a confluence of outstanding results requires a medley of contributions. So many factors have played a role, from the unseen to the more obvious, like coaches who get through and talented players who execute. But ultimately, it all ties back to a front office that had a vision and saw it through. They put data analysts and instructors in place who could materially elevate performance. They inherited a roster and customized it to their own specifications, removing final traces of the previous regime's imprint when Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier completed their contracts last year.

 

This front office's influence has even made an impact on those purportedly uncontrollable variables – namely, health. It's been a key driver of the offense's success, and while luck obviously plays a big part in that, the new leadership has totally retooled Minnesota's training and medical staffs. Worth noting as we see Garver preparing to return in about half of his estimated timeline.

 

Meanwhile, it's not entirely coincidental we've seen so few players go down to begin with. Rocco Baldelli makes a point of giving his players ample rest, and has championed the idea of rotating three catchers to keep all their legs fresh. The conservative approaches to bringing Sano and Nelson Cruz back from their ailments have been emblematic. Then there are the subtler things, like Buxton being asked to play a little further back in center field, lessening the frequency of blindsidings from the wall.

 

I've been a vocal fan of this front office since very early on, and they continually reaffirm my faith. Falvey and Levine have built a cutting-edge baseball operation where useful data guides the ship, and advantages are sought in every element, from every corner. It's impossible for an outsider to even divvy up credit amongst Falvey, Levine, Adler, Baldelli, and the many others involved. This has truly become a collaborative administration, as promised – one that's reinventing the Twins as a modern championship contender, out-slugging every club to come before it. To try and keep this article somewhat focused, I haven't even mentioned the organization's pitching turnaround, which is arguably even more impressive.

 

For those of us who spent years lamenting the Twins' relative antiquation and insularity, begging for an increased emphasis on analytics, this is especially rewarding to watch. Much credit belongs to Jim Pohlad, Dave St. Peter, and other top executives who embraced this thinking and orchestrated a miraculous transition: from lagging behind the pack to leading it in just a few short years. Plenty of baseball clubs have looked admiringly at teams like the Astros, hoping to replicate their success, but no one's done it this well.

 

The good vibes ringing out around the Twins right now are well deserved. And the folks who set this machine into motion, by putting their faith in the right people and providing the necessary resources, will themselves be richly rewarded as fans pour into Target Field this summer. What we saw this past weekend was only the beginning.

 

These 2019 Minnesota Twins aren't assured anything with two-thirds of the season left to go. But by now we can safely label them a power to be reckoned with, risen from a prolonged era of perpetual irrelevance.

 

Click here to view the article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Recommended Posts

It's a great feeling to have a team that is looking like a true contender - and thanks for the article! Run differential is out of this world, pitching has been the biggest surprise to me, low on giving up walks, fielding seems above average, and the homers are nice, although hitting a bunch of home runs has never been the top of my list for a team - I'll take runs however they are generated. I hope these guys can keep up a decent pace! Of course, the Minnesota Sports Fan in me has to look at the dark side and point out that, if my count is correct, the Twins are 9-10 against teams that as of yesterday were .500 or better. The flip side is that makes them 27-7 against the rest!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

It's a great feeling to have a team that is looking like a true contender - and thanks for the article! Run differential is out of this world, pitching has been the biggest surprise to me, low on giving up walks, fielding seems above average, and the homers are nice, although hitting a bunch of home runs has never been the top of my list for a team - I'll take runs however they are generated. I hope these guys can keep up a decent pace! Of course, the Minnesota Sports Fan in me has to look at the dark side and point out that, if my count is correct, the Twins are 9-10 against teams that as of yesterday were .500 or better. The flip side is that makes them 27-7 against the rest!

Nice first post. Welcome to Twins Daily.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, these articles are getting ridiculous. The season is young. Opposing teams will adjust & the Twins will stop hitting HRs and when they do they'll stop winning. I think a record better than .500 is just about guaranteed at this point, but playoff success is not. Baseball is a game of video & adjustments. Opposing pitchers will figure out how to beat the Twins' swings. Just look at how Astudillo has fallen apart once teams started figuring out how to pitch to him. The same thing will happen to Cron, Schoop, Rosario, Kepler, Buxton, etc. Sanó still is not a viable hitter, just look at his performance last night. And the pitching staff will get figured out too. I'm just waiting for some team to figure out Perez's new cutter and start teeing off on him. The same thing with Odorizzi. At some point teams will figure him out & they'll start taking batting practice against him like last year. It's just unrealistic to expect anything more from the Twins. They never succeed. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Ok, these articles are getting ridiculous. The season is young. Opposing teams will adjust & the Twins will stop hitting HRs and when they do they'll stop winning. I think a record better than .500 is just about guaranteed at this point, but playoff success is not. Baseball is a game of video & adjustments. Opposing pitchers will figure out how to beat the Twins' swings. Just look at how Astudillo has fallen apart once teams started figuring out how to pitch to him. The same thing will happen to Cron, Schoop, Rosario, Kepler, Buxton, etc. Sanó still is not a viable hitter, just look at his performance last night. And the pitching staff will get figured out too. I'm just waiting for some team to figure out Perez's new cutter and start teeing off on him. The same thing with Odorizzi. At some point teams will figure him out & they'll start taking batting practice against him like last year. It's just unrealistic to expect anything more from the Twins. They never succeed. 

 

Wow, maybe kick back and enjoy the ride while it lasts. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alyson Footer at MLB.com drives me crazy with her Power Rankings list.  The Twins had been languishing at #6 (and lower) and now that we have the best record in the league and hit 1000 more HR's, this week she moved us all the way up to...   4th.  Granted, no Twins fan would put the team in front of the Dodgers or Astros, but polling regularly below the Cubs, Braves, Brewers, A's, BoSox, (and even the Indians!), et al was frustrating.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Ok, these articles are getting ridiculous. The season is young. Opposing teams will adjust & the Twins will stop hitting HRs and when they do they'll stop winning. I think a record better than .500 is just about guaranteed at this point, but playoff success is not. Baseball is a game of video & adjustments. Opposing pitchers will figure out how to beat the Twins' swings. Just look at how Astudillo has fallen apart once teams started figuring out how to pitch to him. The same thing will happen to Cron, Schoop, Rosario, Kepler, Buxton, etc. Sanó still is not a viable hitter, just look at his performance last night. And the pitching staff will get figured out too. I'm just waiting for some team to figure out Perez's new cutter and start teeing off on him. The same thing with Odorizzi. At some point teams will figure him out & they'll start taking batting practice against him like last year. It's just unrealistic to expect anything more from the Twins. They never succeed. 

 

*Sano strikes out against probably the best closer in the league* = "not a viable hitter".  Boy he sure was lucky to hit those 4 moon shots in 5 games.  Just how empty is your glass...?  There is one thing to be a bitter MN sports fan, but another to completely dump on what the team is doing.  You know our players can make adjustments too, right?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Ok, these articles are getting ridiculous. The season is young. Opposing teams will adjust & the Twins will stop hitting HRs and when they do they'll stop winning. I think a record better than .500 is just about guaranteed at this point, but playoff success is not. Baseball is a game of video & adjustments. Opposing pitchers will figure out how to beat the Twins' swings. Just look at how Astudillo has fallen apart once teams started figuring out how to pitch to him. The same thing will happen to Cron, Schoop, Rosario, Kepler, Buxton, etc. Sanó still is not a viable hitter, just look at his performance last night. And the pitching staff will get figured out too. I'm just waiting for some team to figure out Perez's new cutter and start teeing off on him. The same thing with Odorizzi. At some point teams will figure him out & they'll start taking batting practice against him like last year. It's just unrealistic to expect anything more from the Twins. They never succeed. 

The beer is way overpriced, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only thing bad about the Twins starting to get some national attention is the east coast writers treating Twins players like they're just on a farm club until the get snatched up by a "real" team. i.e., the jackhole on ATH who commented on the twins by saying, "Name to know: Byron Buxton. Some other team is going to pick him up and make him a star." I nearly threw my remote through the tv...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Spiro Agnew would have called you a nattering nabob of negativity.

Unless you already gave him a healthy bribe to say something to the contrary. 

 

All I know is that I'm enjoying this ride.  I know there's no way they can keep up this HR pace, but this is now two months of great baseball from this Twins team.  One month, maybe that's a fluke, but two months, that's the beginning of a trend.  Even if the HR's drop, I'm putting my money on this Twins team still finding ways to win ball games for a while.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, these articles are getting ridiculous. The season is young. Opposing teams will adjust & the Twins will stop hitting HRs and when they do they'll stop winning. I think a record better than .500 is just about guaranteed at this point, but playoff success is not. Baseball is a game of video & adjustments. Opposing pitchers will figure out how to beat the Twins' swings. Just look at how Astudillo has fallen apart once teams started figuring out how to pitch to him. The same thing will happen to Cron, Schoop, Rosario, Kepler, Buxton, etc. Sanó still is not a viable hitter, just look at his performance last night. And the pitching staff will get figured out too. I'm just waiting for some team to figure out Perez's new cutter and start teeing off on him. The same thing with Odorizzi. At some point teams will figure him out & they'll start taking batting practice against him like last year. It's just unrealistic to expect anything more from the Twins. They never succeed.

 

Bro....

 

Like... your harsh is crushing my vibe. You gotta’ feel the love man... it be a lot cooler if you did ✌.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Piling on I guess....

 

No one expects this team to continue winning 72% of their games (which they did in May)

 

No one expects this team to continue winning 68% of their games (which they've done up to this date so far)

 

They have banked so many wins right now that a bad stretch of baseball won't kill this team.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

I'm just waiting for some team to figure out Perez's new cutter and start teeing off on him. 

 

Detroit tried that and then Perez adjusted and started mixing in more change-ups.  As much as the cutter has been lauded, he actually has a couple more developments that have led to his success this season.  Fastball velo is up as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thing I love is, to a man, you can't say what they are doing is out of their realm of talent.

 

Think about the guys brought on board. Schoop had 2 nice years, a breakout year, and then an injured season. Cron was productive, but not an everyday player. He makes some reported adjustments, gets to play daily, and has his best season in 2018 before being allowed to walk and continue on with the Twins. Gonzalez is not a true slugger, but a nice player with decent power. Always a bit of a slow starter, he's heating up and doing what he's done, mostly, for the last few years. Cruz is still Cruz.

 

And now for the guys held over. Garver may be the only "surprise" but we've heard and seen the potential in his bat in the minors, and some last season as well. While I truly don't expect Rosario to hit 50 bombs...though he could...his potential along with Polanco, Kepler, Sano and Buxton has never been in question. It's been about health, experience and maturity.

 

Back to pitching for a moment, no question there has been a major shift in the entire organization from players brought on, analytics and new coaching techniques. But...and you are going to have to trust me on this because I'm not going to do the research and can't remember who was talking...a couple years ago, when the old FO was still in charge they were speaking on a radio broadcast how the entire milb system had improved velocity and SO numbers as the philosophy (And players to be sure) had changed. But there is no question the new FO has continued this new push.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't get over statements such as "eventually they will figure Odorizzi out" The key word is "execution" Repeat "execution". Schemes, plans, analytics and so on are ok but the team that executes the best usually wins. As long as Odorizzi maintains the command of his pitches he has demonstrated so far, it doesn't matter what the competition figures out. Same goes for all pitchers and position players.

 

NBA playoffs are classic example as the TV and radio analysts say over and over that the teams have seen each other so much that there is nothing they can do strategy wise to make a difference. The teams that execute best and, yes, want it the most, win.

 

Now wrap up May against the Rays and then on to June to continue road trip against Rays, Indians and Tigers.  Heavy dose of Royals in June plus first shot at Red Sox who are coming on strong.

 

Go Twins! Just play hard and loose and keep doin what you're doin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's great that the Twins are off to such a great start. Very weak schedule and the bullpen will continue to be a weak spot going further.

 

I just don't want this to be like the Gardy teams that won the division and then were 1 and done in the playoffs.

 

Plenty of time to figure it out. Maybe Pineda could turn into an even greater arm out of the pen. Bring that heat for an inning or 2 every couple of days.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

Featured Video

×
×
  • Create New...