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Game Recap: Twins 5, Athletics 4


The Minnesota Twins won and now sit at 13-24. But many of the team's struggles continued to manifest on Saturday. When will the team start making changes?

Boxscore
José Berríos:
7.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
Home Runs: Sanó (3)
Top 3 WPA: Sanó .558, Donaldson .145, Cruz .141
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

chart.png.fd4a604578d5c35d8fee05f63f518cbf.png

Well, that's one way to win a game.

Trailing 4-1 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, the Minnesota Twins scored four runs — capped off by a three-run home run off the bat of Miguel Sanó — to claim their first win since defeating the Detroit Tigers 7-3 over a week ago.

But — and at risk of being an brutal Debbie downer — suffice it to say that the Twins are still not playing very well right now.

José Berríos was fine — his control was much improved compared to his last start, when he walked five and only struck out one — but largely unimpressive. The Athletics owned a 47.8% hard-hit percentage over Berríos’s seven innings and half of their hits — two home runs and two doubles — went for extra bases. (The below images are courtesy Baseball Savant.)

172455544_ScreenShot2021-05-15at5_03_16PM.thumb.png.d37ec4b4016d2b1aef2427b7dff06ade.png

1561703703_ScreenShot2021-05-15at5_03_40PM.png.d71bd07b8835b138f8cc41702536bb33.png

But, pitching was not the Twins’ main issue Saturday.

Building on a recurring theme, the Twins’ offense struggled mightily once again — the bottom of the eighth notwithstanding — going 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position. As the team entering play on Saturday, the Twins owned MLB's third-worst offense, according to FanGraphs, in regard to win probability added with a cumulative total of -3.45 and the worst in regard to their Clutch metric with a -3.29. A lineup possessing as much raw talent as the Twins — regardless of the number of key contributors who are injured — should not be saddled with such consistent — and truly baffling — ineptitude. 

While the distant rumblings of the developing storm that is the MLB trade season are starting to become audible, the fact of the matter is that the Twins likely won’t be partaking any time soon. But it is clear that something needs to change and probably sooner rather than later.

The head of the head coach — or in baseball’s case, the manager — is rarely the first to roll when teams underperform expectations. Normally, the first order of business is to tweak the lineup and engage in various call-ups and send-downs in an attempt to ignite a spark that turns the offense aflame. The Twins have tried this method and while the likes of Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Kyle Garlick have largely performed well, the results have not followed.

The next change that occurs is usually the firing or re-assigning of various assistant coaches. The seats under Rudy Hernandez and Edgar Varela — the Twins’ two hitting coaches — must be particularly hot at the moment and one would think that either or both are the leading candidates to be the first true casualty of the season.

The Twins lineup is not performing to expectations and — rightly or wrongly — the hitting coach(es) are beginning to draw the ire of the team’s faithful. Would removing Hernandez and/or Varela from their duties truly impact the team’s on-field performance? It’s difficult to say with any amount of certainty. 

However, an unfortunate downside of being a coach at the professional level is that your job can sometimes be renounced, even if doing so is simply akin to putting a band-aid on a festering wound. The Twins aren’t going to ship out Donaldson, Mitch Garver or Max Kepler — at least not anytime soon — and while DFAing Miguel Sano may make some sense on paper, the odds of it actually occurring are probably slimmer than none. 

The Twins will make moves — and perhaps sooner rather than later — but the moves are more likely to do with anyone not named Rocco Baldelli on the coaching staff rather than a significant trade.

Up next

The Twins will try to pry the series away from the Athletics Sunday afternoon when Kenta Maeda (2-2, 5.08 ERA) goes up against Chris Bassitt (3-2, 3.54 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. CT.

Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

  TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT
Thielbar 41 0 0 29 0 70
Law 19 13 0 35 0 67
Anderson 0 54 0 0 0 54
Robles 0 0 12 0 17 29
Alcala 12 0 16 0 0 28
Colomé 0 15 0 0 7 22
Rogers 0 0 20 0 0 20
Duffey 0 16 0 0 0 16


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Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if Baseball Savant tables will copy to the site.

Jose Berrios

Pitches Swings   Pitch Velocity Exit Velocity
Pitch Type Count % Swings Whiffs % CS CS+Whiffs CSW% Fouls BIP Max Min Avg Yr-Avg +/- Avg Min Max
 
Curveball
41 40 18 4 22 7 11 27 6 8 85.1 80.9 83.1 83.9 -0.8 ↓ 79.0 38.4 99.0
 
4-Seam Fastball
28 27 15 1 7 6 7 25 8 6 96.2 92.3 94.1 94.2 -0.1 ↓ 97.3 73.0 113.7
 
Sinker
23 22 13 1 8 4 5 22 6 6 95.0 92.2 93.5 93.9 -0.4 ↓ 92.2 76.6 102.9
 
Changeup
11 11 7 3 43 0 3 27 1 3 86.5 84.0 85.2 86.2 -1.0 ↓ 90.3 66.3 103.5
  103   53 9 17 17 26 25 21 23 96.2 80.9 88.6     88.7 38.4 113.7
  Pitches Spin Vertical Break Horizontal Break
Pitch Type Count % Max Min Avg Yr-Avg +/- Max Min Avg Yr-Avg +/- Max Min Avg Yr-Avg +/-
 
Curveball
41 40 2600 2244 2394 2349 45.0 ↑ 49 37 43 42 1.0 17 6 12 14 -2.0
 
4-Seam Fastball
28 27 2463 2200 2296 2288 8.0 ↑ 19 12 16 16 0.0 17 9 11 10 1.0
 
Sinker
23 22 2345 2033 2178 2181 -3.0 ↓ 24 16 20 20 0.0 19 14 16 17 -1.0
 
Changeup
11 11 1703 1480 1563 1490 73.0 ↑ 38 28 32 32 0.0 19 12 14 14 0.0
  103   2600 1480 2230     49 12 30     19 6 13    
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I am willing to just be happy with a win.  I was on the shared site and left to go have a whisky.  I could not handle it anymore and then they came back.  I am delighted.  If they want to make me look bad by winning the rest of their games I am willing to take the pie in the face for it.

Do the hitting coaches deserve to go?  I do not know.  I know that we have a team of regression.  Kepler, Polanco, Sano, and Garver seemed to be on the verge of greatness and slipped back into mediocrity.  I know Sano had a big hit today, but how many times has he failed?  If Big Papi is his model, he has a long way to go.

Berrios is our best pitcher, but is he elite?  No.  

The BP had two studs - Duffey and Rogers then they hit the wall and regressed.  

Something is missing.  I do not know what.

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Like the author and the other commenters....I'm happy about the win but overall it didn't change my feelings about this team. It was nice to see Sano get fired up, dude sure as heck needed a big moment.

Speaking of that big moment, it was the Twins' first lead in 33 INNINGS:

This team needs to win tomorrow, or today's win will be forgotten quickly. Here's hoping someone in the locker room (maybe, I dunno, former league MVP, established veteran and highest paid guy on the team Josh Donaldson cough-cough) is ready to step up into a leadership role and tell these guys to pull their heads out already.

Bullpen with 2 scoreless innings, that's something I guess?

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The best part of watching the highlights was watching how much joy there was in Sano’s Face as he went around the bases after his home run. I know I and I think many of us sometimes forget these are human beings trying their best every day. He has had a very tough time but by all reports is working hard on his craft. I hope this gets him started because we need help and he could be that help. I’m just glad for him. That must’ve been a huge rock on his shoulders.

My post earlier today wondering why we have not DFA’d him and why he was in the starting lineup when anybody else would have been better? Yeah, forget that one.

I will take credit for saying two weeks ago the Robles should be the closer though. I think he’s the best we got for that job.

 

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11 minutes ago, h2oface said:

"Miguel Sano's homer only had an exit velocity of 99.8 mph and had an expected batting average of .120."

How a ball that goes off the bat at 100mph and goes over the fence comfortably has an expected batting average of .120 is just BS. Crazy talk. How has stats come to this?

xBA doesn’t take into account park factors or any number of things that affect a single ball. All it does is take the exit velo and launch angle data and outputs a number with the batting average on balls similar to that one based on historical data.

There will always be fringe cases like this one where a ball doesn’t have a great historical record but goes for a home run in certain parks and certain conditions. 

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I actually enjoyed the game today. Didn’t have a problem with any of Rocco’s moves. Nice to see a new face in Refsnyder who helped today and hopefully Kirilloff is getting close.

So glad for Sanó. Gladden called it. Sanó got ahold of two balls and one of them one the game. Maybe he can get on one of his streaks, or maybe it fires up a couple other guys.

Lots of us have been asking for Rocco and the front office to let a starter pitch the 7th sometimes, and that finally happened today too. That’s not always going to work out, but today it did.

Obviously the bullpen is still short some talent, and the fifth rotation spot will be a concern, but a win is a win; you only play them one at a time and you can’t get it all back all at once.

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43 minutes ago, h2oface said:

"Miguel Sano's homer only had an exit velocity of 99.8 mph and had an expected batting average of .120."

How a ball that goes off the bat at 100mph and goes over the fence comfortably has an expected batting average of .120 is just BS. Crazy talk. How has stats come to this?

From how I understand it, basically this is only a HR in places with a short RF, so only in Target Field and maybe Yankee Stadium, anywhere else that's a flyout.

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1 hour ago, h2oface said:

"Miguel Sano's homer only had an exit velocity of 99.8 mph and had an expected batting average of .120."

How a ball that goes off the bat at 100mph and goes over the fence comfortably has an expected batting average of .120 is just BS. Crazy talk. How has stats come to this?

I guess If it was hit into the flower pots on the overhang, it’s probably just a deep fly out in 7 of 8 parks?

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1 hour ago, mikelink45 said:

I am willing to just be happy with a win.  I was on the shared site and left to go have a whisky.  I could not handle it anymore and then they came back.  I am delighted.  If they want to make me look bad by winning the rest of their games I am willing to take the pie in the face for it.

Do the hitting coaches deserve to go?  I do not know.  I know that we have a team of regression.  Kepler, Polanco, Sano, and Garver seemed to be on the verge of greatness and slipped back into mediocrity.  I know Sano had a big hit today, but how many times has he failed?  If Big Papi is his model, he has a long way to go.

Berrios is our best pitcher, but is he elite?  No.  

The BP had two studs - Duffey and Rogers then they hit the wall and regressed.  

Something is missing.  I do not know what.

After 1st and 3rd with no outs in 7th and zero runs scored I figured that was it and went on with my day.  Came back later to read the horror story and found out they won the game.  This team has had a year full of tough breaks so nice to finally see something break our way.  I wish I could say I am believer but in reality I am barely hanging on, barely able to watch this team right now.  Hopefully this is a start of better things to come and not some luck driven one good game back to painful losing type scenario.

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1 hour ago, jkcarew said:

Berrios wasn’t terribly impressive, but he did something hugely important (especially for this club) that he hasn’t been able to do all year...he got through 7 innings.

I'm not so sure he wasn't able to do it, he just wasn't allowed to. Baldelli's double mound visit snafu pulled him when he was going better than today. Small point, yes.

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Unless Sami’s confidence is rebuilt by a 345 foot homer, I don’t think he’s out of the woods. However, something like this could really help the team. 

Is it possible that Columé has found something that can make him an effective reliever? I’m not convinced, but they don’t have many choices. 

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Well, I didn't bother to even look at Gameday at all...maybe I should start doing that more often. I did say that I thought the most consistent reliever was Robles and hoped that he would be tried as the closer. It's only one game, but he held onto a one-run lead--something the Twins have done only once this year!!!!! (The 3-2 win at Detroit when Colome pitched two innings.)  I am also happy to see that Baldelli let Berrios come out for the 7th considering he wasn't pitching poorly (maybe not fantastic but not horribly).

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Clearly this season we will need to derive our satisfactions from little victories. Today the team won, and Miguel Sano vanquished his personal demon, at least for one day. The fact that his homer sailed over the right field fence is significant in that the team wants him to be able to hit the ball where it is pitched, not just try to pull everything.

After David Ortiz went to Boston and became Big Pappy, he ragged on the Twins for trying to make him an "all-fields hitter," as if that was a bad thing. Well, just like Sano, Ortiz had plenty of strength to hit homers oppo. He just didn't do it. Even so, if pitchers are constantly tickling the outside edge to get you out, at some point a hitter must adjust, even if that means collecting a mere single to opposite field. Even Ortiz was forced to admit, later in his career, that the Twins were right to show him how to collect oppo hits. Some of those hits drove in runs that won games, just as sure as his homers did.

Miguel Sano's power exceeds even that of Big Pappy. When Sano goes oppo, the ball will clear the fence, sometimes even when he doesn't quite get all of it. He doesn't need to settle for mere singles in that direction. If the Twins have been tinkering with Sano's swing, it's probably with oppo power in mind. He needs to punish pitchers that refuse to come inside. 

Speaking of which, I just checked the video of Sano's game-winning tater. Yup, it was a 95 mph heater on the outside edge. Boom, opposite field home run.

Let the punishment begin.

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The first-inning HR by Olson was disappointing. Berrios got him to an 0-2 count, then couldn't quite finish him, and eventually on 3-2 he gave him a center-cut fastball. I realize this is second guessing, but it was the difficult AB (don't want to run up the pitch count, don't want to walk him) that can make or break a pitcher's game on a given day. Berrios is SO CLOSE to being a dominant starter, with his excellent assortment of pitches, but there is some final tip that he's not getting from his pitching coach on what to do when the going gets tough.

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