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Can the Twins Solve Their Offensive Woes?


Offense is at historic lows this season, but the Twins have some of baseball’s best hitters. Can the Twins figured out a way to buck this trend?Offensive Down Across Baseball

During the season’s first month, batters as a whole hit .232, which would be the worst total in a season ever. Back in 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, batters were able to bat .237 for the season. If you don’t know about that season, just look up Bob Gibson’s numbers from that year. According to the Athletic, on-base percentage (.309) was the lowest since 1968, OPS (.698) was the lowest since 1989, and hits per game (7.63) were the lowest of all-time.

 

Some of the best pitching performances in baseball history also happened in the season’s first month and Minnesota was witness to one of those pitchers. Corbin Burnes ended the month with a 49 to 0 strikeout to walk ratio. The Twins handed him his first loss of the year as he and Jose Berrios locked in a pitcher’s duel where Burnes struck out 11 and Berrios struck out 12. Besides Burnes, both Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom posted strikeout rates of 44% or higher. Unfortunately, the Twins don’t have one of these pitchers.

 

Minnesota’s pitchers haven’t exactly joined the pitching revolution. As a staff, the Twins are tied with the Rangers for the worst pitching WAR total in the American League. The club’s 8.87 K/9 ranks 10th and they have given up more home runs per nine innings than any other AL club. According to Statcast, the Twins average exit velocity is the third highest in the AL they have the worst hard-hit percentage. Minnesota pitchers are getting hit and getting hit hard, but they aren’t the only group that is struggling on the team.

 

Positional Struggles

Some players in the Twins line-up have been on fire to start the year including Nelson Cruz and Bryon Buxton, the AL Player of the Month. Those aren’t the only positions where the Twins have fared well. According to FanGraphs, the Twins rank in the AL’s top-4 for WAR at multiple positions including second base (2nd overall), third base (1st overall), and left field (4th overall).

 

Catcher has been a rough spot especially since Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers were expected to be one of baseball’s best catching duos. Currently, only two AL teams have a lower WAR from the catching position than the Twins. Garver’s bat has shown signs of life, so there is hope for a catcher turn around in the weeks ahead. Jeffers has been relegated to Triple-A where he will try to regain some confidence at the plate and he hit a home run in his first game.

 

Other positions that can see some improvements are first base (9th overall), shortstop (7th), and right field (14th). Luckily, there are some easy fixes when it comes to these positions. Alex Kirilloff has been killing the ball, but a wrist injury might cause him to miss time. Miguel Sano’s return can also provide a boost at first if he can get his swing back on track. Shortstop is another easy fix, because Andrelton Simmons missed time with COVID. Now that he is healthy, the Twins shortstop numbers should improve.

 

Do you think the Twins can continue to improve offensively? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

 

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The offense has been fine, even with a multitude of injuries. There are 3 teams in the AL that have scored more runs.

 

There are only 5 teams in the AL that have given up more runs. There are 2 teams in the AL with a higher bullpen ERA. We’re tied with the Tigers for the fewest saves in the AL (and we’ve had plenty of chances).

 

We’d be just fine right now if our bullpen wasn’t a garbage fire. That’s the issue.

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The offense has been fine, even with a multitude of injuries. There are 3 teams in the AL that have scored more runs.

There are only 5 teams in the AL that have given up more runs. There are 2 teams in the AL with a higher bullpen ERA. We’re tied with the Tigers for the fewest saves in the AL (and we’ve had plenty of chances).

We’d be just fine right now if our bullpen wasn’t a garbage fire. That’s the issue.

The offense has NOT been "fine."

 

They've scored 3 or fewer runs in 17 of 29 games this year. Almost 2/3rds of the time.

That's not going to work, even if you manage to throw up a couple 12  run explosions.

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>>>>>>" Besides Burnes, both Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom posted strikeout rates of 44% or higher. Unfortunately, the Twins don’t have one of these pitchers."

 

They do have several of those hitters though!  
 

The stat on total runs scored is really not relevant for the Twins. This is a Jeckel and Hyde team. It’s either 12 runs, or 2 runs. Some of that is Bomba Ball, and some may be a group of front running hitters. Which would explain a seemingly low success rate in high leverage situations. 

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For a team struggling to score runs (most times) why don't they try to manufacture runs? Ya know, bunt, hit&run, hit the ball to the open side of a shift? Lots of opportunities there that they hardly ever, if never try. The lineup is Pull happy, Homerun happy, from top to bottom outside of Arraez. They are too one dimensional. When an opposing pitcher knows you want to pull the ball into the seats on every swing he's already 1 step ahead of you.

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For a team struggling to score runs (most times) why don't they try to manufacture runs? Ya know, bunt, hit&run, hit the ball to the open side of a shift? Lots of opportunities there that they hardly ever, if never try. The lineup is Pull happy, Homerun happy, from top to bottom outside of Arraez. They are too one dimensional. When an opposing pitcher knows you want to pull the ball into the seats on every swing he's already 1 step ahead of you.

 

Fundamental baseball by the twins isn't sexy enough for the Bomba Squad mentality. Plate discipline be damned, hit behind the runner/shift, bunt to move players over.  Not sure the Twins remember a good game of strato-matic when a 3-2 game was fun to watch. The punch/counter punch moves using their gut feeling days are over.  Let me look at my spreadsheet and see if I can hit a 3-run homer with no one on base

 

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According to FanGraphs, the Twins rank in the AL’s top-4 for WAR at multiple positions including second base (2nd overall), third base (1st overall), and left field (4th overall).

 

 

left field (4th overall).

 

Left field? LEFT FIELD?

So much for WAR meaning anything.....

 

Don't blame WAR here, blame the messenger (sorry, Cody).

 

Cody was looking at the combined overall numbers of everyone who has appeared in LF (from the horizontal position list at Fangraphs). So his quoted number covers 297 PA, 2nd most in the AL (over 10 PA per game!), and includes Arraez's full 0.9 WAR, plus 0.5 WAR for Kirilloff and Garlick.

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=lf&stats=bat&lg=al&qual=0&type=8&season=2021&month=0&season1=2021&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2021-01-01&enddate=2021-12-31&sort=21,d

horizontal

 

But what he should have been looking at is the vertical drop-down "LF" split -- that will only show the stats accumulated by guys while playing LF. That covers 116 PA (a much more reasonable 4 PA per game), and only 0.2 of Arraez's WAR has been accumulated in LF (and -0.3 WAR for Kirilloff and Garlick).

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=al&qual=0&type=6&season=2021&month=42&season1=2021&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2021-01-01&enddate=2021-12-31&sort=11,d

vertical

 

As you can see, Cody's figure is heavily distorted to favor teams who rotate a lot of guys through the spot (like the Twins). It might be interesting when reviewing individual LF options within a team, but it's worthless for comparisons between teams.

 

Our correct LF WAR rank per Fangraphs is 11th in the AL, and 24th in MLB. Twins left fielders to date have performed below replacement level (-0.2 WAR).

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The problem is getting a hit when we really need one. The team seems to be unmotivated except Buxton and maybe Cruz. Is there a reason behind it?

I also question validity of WAR. Defense seems underrated and hard to believe we are 4th in WAR at LF. Something is definitely broken.

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Positional Struggles
Some players in the Twins line-up have been on fire to start the year including Nelson Cruz and Bryon Buxton, the AL Player of the Month. Those aren’t the only positions where the Twins have fared well. According to FanGraphs, the Twins rank in the AL’s top-4 for WAR at multiple positions including second base (2nd overall), third base (1st overall), and left field (4th overall).

Catcher has been a rough spot especially since Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers were expected to be one of baseball’s best catching duos. Currently, only two AL teams have a lower WAR from the catching position than the Twins.

Following up on my previous post, here are the correct Fangraphs positional WAR values and ranks for the 2021 Twins:

 

C: 0.2 WAR, 9th in the AL

1B: 0.4, 7th

2B: 0.0, 13th

SS: 0.7, 7th

3B: 1.2, 2nd

RF: 0.1, 11th

CF: 2.2, 2nd

LF: -0.2, 11th

DH: 0.9, 3rd

 

As you can see, Cody's erroneous numbers were wildly inflating our 2B and LF performance, while under-rating our C performance.

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The 3 players who signed multi year deals (Kepler, Polanco, Sano) are struggling, all three.

Is this coincidence?

 

I'll happily eat crow if this comment appears ridiculous 6 weeks from now.

 

The coincidence is that those guys were all signed early to team-friendly deals before they fully proved themselves, thus discounting for the risk that they weren't going to blossom into above average players. They all understood that they were better off grabbing the bag now while there was still the 'potential' label on them.

 

Turns out that flawed players in their mid-20s often remain flawed into their late 20's and beyond.

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I was curious about something so I ran some numbers. According to team rankings, the Twins are scoring 4.72 runs per game - 8th in the majors. (not too bad). I took the runs scored per game and ran a median calculation on them, which shows they are only scoring 3 runs per game. This bolsters the previous comment that they either score 12 runs or 3 runs in most games. 

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Throw all the analytics out the window...overall they are not being good fundamental baseball in my opinion...I am not a great analytics mind but my eyes tell me there aren't playing good ball.  Hopefully that changes very soon.  

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Don't blame WAR here, blame the messenger (sorry, Cody).

 

Cody was looking at the combined overall numbers of everyone who has appeared in LF (from the horizontal position list at Fangraphs). So his quoted number covers 297 PA, 2nd most in the AL (over 10 PA per game!), and includes Arraez's full 0.9 WAR, plus 0.5 WAR for Kirilloff and Garlick.

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=lf&stats=bat&lg=al&qual=0&type=8&season=2021&month=0&season1=2021&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2021-01-01&enddate=2021-12-31&sort=21,d

 

 

But what he should have been looking at is the vertical drop-down "LF" split -- that will only show the stats accumulated by guys while playing LF. That covers 116 PA (a much more reasonable 4 PA per game), and only 0.2 of Arraez's WAR has been accumulated in LF (and -0.3 WAR for Kirilloff and Garlick).

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=al&qual=0&type=6&season=2021&month=42&season1=2021&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2021-01-01&enddate=2021-12-31&sort=11,d

 

 

As you can see, Cody's figure is heavily distorted to favor teams who rotate a lot of guys through the spot (like the Twins). It might be interesting when reviewing individual LF options within a team, but it's worthless for comparisons between teams.

 

Our correct LF WAR rank per Fangraphs is 11th in the AL, and 24th in MLB. Twins left fielders to date have performed below replacement level (-0.2 WAR).

 

I just couldn't assume he could have done it that wrong. Thanks for doing it right.... and I can consider worshiping WAR.

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