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Fluke season or not?


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  1. 1. Is this season the fluke season or are the last two flukes?



Many people have suggested that this season is what the Twins really are and that they got extremely lucky the last two years. Others are saying that they’ve gotten extremely unlucky this year. Which side are you on?

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I think the Twins smartly used analytics in 2019 and were so masterful at it that they broke home run records and made major league baseball redesign the ball.  Many teams added humidors to their stadiums to further deaden the ball.

The front office believed in their approach just a little too much and failed to adjust.  This goes all the way down to the manager and up to the top.

Furthermore, fundamental problems were masked by the record home run surge.  A fundamentally sound 2019 Twins team would have been flirting with 120 wins or more.  The failures in baseball fundamentals are both on the player side and the manager side.

So ... no flukes, no luck.  2021 should have been more predictable than it was, and 2019 was the end result of a very good understanding of the physics of the baseball that was in use at the time.

If the Twins want to get back on the path to competing sooner rather than later, the obvious adjustments would be to join the humidor bandwagon and install one at Target Field, play defense, and stock up on pitching.  Ditch the dinger approach.

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2 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

I think the Twins smartly used analytics in 2019 and were so masterful at it that they broke home run records and made major league baseball redesign the ball.  Many teams added humidors to their stadiums to further deaden the ball.

The front office believed in their approach just a little too much and failed to adjust.  This goes all the way down to the manager and up to the top.

Furthermore, fundamental problems were masked by the record home run surge.  A fundamentally sound 2019 Twins team would have been flirting with 120 wins or more.  The failures in baseball fundamentals are both on the player side and the manager side.

So ... no flukes, no luck.  2021 should have been more predictable than it was, and 2019 was the end result of a very good understanding of the physics of the baseball that was in use at the time.

If the Twins want to get back on the path to competing sooner rather than later, the obvious adjustments would be to join the humidor bandwagon and install one at Target Field and stock up on pitching.  Ditch the dinger approach.

120 wins or more? How often has that ever happened in MLB history? I don't know how anyone can complain about 101 wins. 

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The 2019 team was bound to happen. It was loaded with former top 100 prospects and the FO made a number of smart moves that helped (Cruz, Pineda, even Cron and Schoop in FA and the Odo trade). But this year is not a fluke either. The pitching staff has utterly collapsed and I don't think that was a huge surprise.

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I don't know if any of these options capture my opinion... the Twins certainly received a fair amount of luck during that ridiculous 2019 campaign, as it was perfectly suited to the players they had accumulated, some of which broke out in big, unexpected ways and just fueled the fire. But the front office did a good job of building a team that was ready to break out and capitalize upon that environment.

This season, they've been unlucky. There were just *so many* injuries to everyone on the team early in the season. No one expected to be 7-8 outfielders deep six weeks into the season. Or that basically the entire rotation (and the 6, 7, 8 options) to be similarly injured. But they put a lot of stock into some really bad players, taking a bad situation and turning it into an unmitigated disaster.

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Just now, Brock Beauchamp said:

I don't know if any of these options capture my opinion... the Twins certainly received a fair amount of luck during that ridiculous 2019 campaign, as it was perfectly suited to the players they had accumulated, some of which broke out in big, unexpected ways and just fueled the fire. But the front office did a good job of building a team that was ready to break out and capitalize upon that environment.

This season, they've been unlucky. There were just *so many* injuries to everyone on the team early in the season. No one expected to be 7-8 outfielders deep six weeks into the season. Or that basically the entire rotation (and the 6, 7, 8 options) to be similarly injured. But they put a lot of stock into some really bad players, taking a bad situation and turning it into an unmitigated disaster.

Right....lots of good luck in 2019, lots of bad luck in 2021 (that, and covid ruining pitcher development the previous year). Really, outside of naysayers, nearly every projection system and expert figured Happ and Shoemaker would be #4 types....and the bullpen would be ok (not good, ok).....the world is 100% different if either Happ or Shoemaker is a number 4 and Maeda and Pineda are healthy all year.....but, they weren't (I was a naysayer on signing BOTH of them, but with the lost 2020, it makes some sense). 

They 100% need to have 2+ good pitchers from the system next year, or I'll say they should be gone. NOT ONE good pitcher from the minors yet, not one.

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24 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

120 wins or more? How often has that ever happened in MLB history? I don't know how anyone can complain about 101 wins. 

It happened roughly as often as a team hit 307 home runs in MLB history.  

101 wins is very good, but not outside the norm for the best teams in a given year.  307 home runs is outside the norm, as outrageous a number as getting 120 wins.

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I voted 2019 as the fluke but after further review, I’m not sure. That year’s roster was constructed similar to a slow pitch softball team. Combine that with the ridiculously juiced baseball and it was the perfect storm. 

Amazingly the Twins are tied for 2nd in MLB for HRs on this date. We’re all painfully aware why it hasn’t gone as expected this year with the pitching staff in shambles. 

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8 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

It happened roughly as often as a team hit 307 home runs in MLB history.  

101 wins is very good, but not outside the norm for the best teams in a given year.  307 home runs is outside the norm, as outrageous a number as getting 120 wins.

This doesn't work, though, as four teams broke the home run record in 2019.

Best team record in 2019? 107 wins, nine wins below the season record by the Mariners in 2001.

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5 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

It happened roughly as often as a team hit 307 home runs in MLB history.  

101 wins is very good, but not outside the norm for the best teams in a given year.  307 home runs is outside the norm, as outrageous a number as getting 120 wins.

I agree with you on the fundamentals, but I find it hard to believe that improved fundamentals nets that team another 19 wins.  That's about 1/3 of the games they actually lost.  10 seems plausible, but 19 seems like a stretch.

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1 minute ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

This doesn't work, though, as four teams broke the home run record in 2019.

Best team record in 2019? 107 wins, nine wins below the season record by the Mariners in 2001.

And four teams topped 100 wins that season.  The Twins had the 4th best record in baseball with 101 wins.

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4 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

This doesn't work, though, as four teams broke the home run record in 2019.

Best record in 2019? 107 wins, nine wins below the season record by the Mariners in 2001.

True, but the Astros and Dodgers, the two leaders in the wins column, hit a lot fewer home runs than the Twins.  

The Astros and Dodgers were both great home run hitters too, and their records reflect that.  If the Twins had been a more fundamentally sound team, they should have been able to eclipse both of them.

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3 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

True, but the Astros and Dodgers, the two leaders in the wins column, hit a lot fewer home runs than the Twins.  

The Astros and Dodgers were both great home run hitters too, and their records reflect that.  If the Twins had been a more fundamentally sound team, they should have been able to eclipse both of them.

I mean... maybe? I'm not even arguing whether those 2019 Twins were fundamentally sound. They were pretty bad defensively. They handed away at least a few games with unnecessary blundering.

But to place the win discrepancy solely on fundamentals is a mistake, I think. It completely ignores pitching and the fact the Twins didn't even lead the league in run scoring in 2019. Both of those are larger contributors to wins than a nebulous definition of "fundamentals".

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I'd say the number of injuries is flukey this year, and depending on your definition of a fluke, I guess you can call it a fluke that the free agent pitching gambles went mostly good in 2019-2020 and mostly bad in 2021.

If your definition of a fluke is really generous, you could call the timing of MLB-level changes like the deadened ball and the extra-inning runners a fluke, I guess.

I'll also allow that if you can argue that the lost MILB season last year impacted the Twins more than other teams, that's a fluke.

It's not a fluke that our division is a lot more competitive than it was in 2019. And it's not a fluke that a lot of players regressed a frustrating but not shocking amount from career-high seasons.

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I guess if I had to chose one, I'd say this year is more of a fluke, mostly because this team is way more talented than it's record. And the number of quality players the Twins have that keep getting mentioned in trade rumors certainly supports that.

But I don't know that it was exactly a fluke. I'm sure it wasn't deliberate, but they did not keep the momentum going heading into this year. There was no trade for a Meada or a free agent signing like Donaldson. The big free agent signing was Nelson Cruz, but that's only a big free agent signing when it comes to the media guide because brining back your own player only keeps the status quo, it doesn't improve your club from the prior year. It's not like the players wouldn't see it this way too. The team sat back and waited to fill out the rotation and bullpen with guys willing to meet their demands; there was no sense of aggression or urgency. I'm not upset about losing players from last year, but this team definitely let better players go than they brought in.

Basically, they let the club go stagnant. 

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1 hour ago, wsnydes said:

I agree with you on the fundamentals, but I find it hard to believe that improved fundamentals nets that team another 19 wins.  That's about 1/3 of the games they actually lost.  10 seems plausible, but 19 seems like a stretch.

Well, compare the 1963 Twins to the 1965 Twins.

The first won 91 games with a horde of home runs, where the latter won 102 games with far fewer home runs.

The Devil is in the details which are fundamentals.  Without the fielding ability of Donaldson and Simmons this year, the record would be even worse.

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4 minutes ago, RpR said:

Well, compare the 1963 Twins to the 1965 Twins.

The first won 91 games with a horde of home runs, where the latter won 102 games with far fewer home runs.

The Devil is in the details which are fundamentals.  Without the fielding ability of Donaldson and Simmons this year, the record would be even worse.

Sure, and that's 11 games improvement.  I said that 10 games seems plausible.  And that was based on a team that had already won 101 games.  19 still seems like quite a stretch.

And as @Brock Beauchamppointed out, there are lot of other things that go into an improvement like that probably don't get wrapped up in the broad "fundamentals" umbrella.

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In 2019, the Twins got career years out of several players when they were playing in by far the weakest division in baseball. The White Sox, Tigers and Royals were all awful. The Twins' pythagorean also showed they were a little lucky on top of it all.

2020 is a throwaway year. Short, late start, not even all the players actually played.

Tough to say what's ahead for the Twins as they're currently utterly without direction. In fact, it's felt that way for a while now. 

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9 hours ago, cHawk said:

Many people have suggested that this season is what the Twins really are and that they got extremely lucky the last two years. Others are saying that they’ve gotten extremely unlucky this year. Which side are you on?

None of the above. They’e made a huge series of bad moves and done a poor job - The FO that is. Maybe the Cruz trade and whatever they do before Fri deadline will be the start of redemption. Hopefully.

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45 minutes ago, Greglw3 said:

None of the above. They’e made a huge series of bad moves and done a poor job - The FO that is. Maybe the Cruz trade and whatever they do before Fri deadline will be the start of redemption. Hopefully.

The literally won the division two years in a row..... They took an awful pitching staff, and had it in the top ten the last two years. 

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8 hours ago, bean5302 said:

In 2019, the Twins got career years out of several players when they were playing in by far the weakest division in baseball. The White Sox, Tigers and Royals were all awful. The Twins' pythagorean also showed they were a little lucky on top of it all.

2020 is a throwaway year. Short, late start, not even all the players actually played.

Tough to say what's ahead for the Twins as they're currently utterly without direction. In fact, it's felt that way for a while now. 

Agree with this the most. The AL Central does a lot of the skewing of reality for all of these years, even going back 20 years since the unbalanced schedule has been in place. Twins were 5 games under .500 against teams that finished with a winning record in 2019. Think about that - you can win 101 games and be underwater against good competition. Similarly 2020 has a huge asterisk in that they played only the AL Central and NL Central, the two weakest divisions in baseball (evidenced by the fact that Central teams won precisely one playoff game last year, and zero playoff series wins). Going back further, the whole Terry Ryan era is skewed by the fact they played in what was consistently the easiest division in baseball, pretty much in every year except 2006. The perception of "the window is wide open" (which has led FOs to be ultra-conservative at the trade deadline, wary to add pieces) is skewed because of the cake division they play in and a refusal to contextualize their talent against actual difficult competition. 

I desperately want MLB to go back to a more balanced schedule, not only because I really am sick of seeing the Royals 19 damn times a year, but more importantly because it would give the FO and people who cover the team a more accurate picture of the team they're invested in. 

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Too bad there wasn't an option "Both are flukes" because I think that's kinda what happened. In 2019 everything that could go right, did go right. And in 2021, the opposite is happening.

The Twins got a bit lucky in 2019, they've been a bit unlucky in 2021 (not terribly unlucky, mind you - they are a bad team having bad luck).

I think it's best to just leave 2020 out of all convos - it wasn't a season, it wasn't real baseball, it was honestly just extended Spring Training at best.

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I honestly don't think the Twins have been at all unlucky in 2021. They're just a very bad team. Not much stands out in terms of bad luck. Pythagorean, divisional records, 1 run games, extra inning performance. It all looks about how their record looks. I think the Twins went incredibly cheap in regard to both the rotation and bullpen, signed a tier 3 shortstop and had a few injuries. From what I saw, the Twins' injuries weren't nearly as bad as a lot of the competitive teams in the league, but I just don't think the Twins had any wiggle room. It feels like they built a team which was designed to compete when all the competitors in the division were still awful.

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14 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

I honestly don't think the Twins have been at all unlucky in 2021. They're just a very bad team. Not much stands out in terms of bad luck. Pythagorean, divisional records, 1 run games, extra inning performance. It all looks about how their record looks. I think the Twins went incredibly cheap in regard to both the rotation and bullpen, signed a tier 3 shortstop and had a few injuries. From what I saw, the Twins' injuries weren't nearly as bad as a lot of the competitive teams in the league, but I just don't think the Twins had any wiggle room. It feels like they built a team which was designed to compete when all the competitors in the division were still awful.

I hear and understand the injury comments and while it's understandable to think "wow, losing a player for an entire season sure is awful", is it worse than constantly digging into your third or lower depth options because the entire team is slightly banged up? I'll be honest, I don't know, but both can be disastrous for teams. It's how the Twins ended up with Refsnyder in center, who ALSO was injured while playing moderately well. And that was after rotating through Cave, Kirilloff, Garlick... And that was only the OF. The rotation had the same problem. Hell, the entire team had that problem. It's easy to say "well, Kepler only missed 14 games" but that ignores that at the same time, three other OF were also missing games and the Twins were literally starting a shortstop in centerfield.

Is it worse to lose a good player and pivot for months/season or is it worse to lose four middling players and scramble like your hair is on fire? I don't know the answer, frankly. Both suck.

As for "luck", IMO the best indicator of expected performance is FanGraphs' BaseRuns and the Twins are -5 in the win column according to that metric. And that's *after* gaining a bunch back after winning some one-run and extra inning games. IIRC, through April they had atrocious BaseRuns and pythag underperformance.

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