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The Moments that Sank the 2022 Minnesota Twins


Ted Schwerzler
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The Minnesota Twins are limping through September and it’s looking more like they’ll miss the postseason for a second straight year. Walking wounded and trying to make it through the finish line, there've been more than a handful of instances things have gone wrong.

 

Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Rocco Baldelli has done everything he can to hold this Twins team together. With the injured list total mounting, and lackluster output coming on the field, it’s been a perfect storm of negative outcomes this season. Unfortunately the bad omens came early on this year, and the hits really didn’t stop.

Emilio Pagan takes his first loss
On April 12 the Minnesota Twins faced the Los Angeles Dodgers at Target Field. It was an absolutely dominant series from the NL West champs, one in which Clayton Kershaw nearly threw a no-hitter. The front office flipped closers right before Opening Day, and Emilio Pagan was making his second appearance. He gave up a single hit and walk while being credited with a loss. The Dodgers rallied for six runs in the 8th inning and the game went up in smoke.

In and of itself, that loss wasn’t entirely damning. It was foreshadowing though, and Pagan has all but sunk the Twins season. He’s racked up six blown saves and is also responsible for six losses. He’s routinely coughed up games against the Guardians, Minnesota’s toughest competition, and all season it’s been a belief in stuff that hasn’t provided any positive results.

Byron Buxton jams his knee
On April 15 playing against the Boston Red Sox, Byron Buxton slid awkwardly and jammed his knee into the ground. It looked awful and he reacted as such. Being lifted from the game, but walking off the field under his own power, Minnesota’s newly extended $100 million man seemed destined for the injured list. Instead, Buxton was back less than a week later and playing through general knee soreness.

Sure, Byron has compiled 4.0 fWAR this season and has been worth every bit of his extension, but it’s been a constant battle as to whether the knee will hold up. He’s had it drained routinely throughout the year, and there have been fears of further damage due to the number of injections. Ultimately a hip injury landed him on the injured list and may end his season. Even with as good as he’s been, it’s hard not to think “what if” given a clean bill of health. There’s no denying the amount of strength this man has to play through what he did in 2022.

Royce Lewis goes down
The Minnesota Twins found themselves in a bind when record-setting free agent Carlos Correa was hit by a pitch. Despite having missed all of 2021 due to a torn ACL, Royce Lewis established himself immediately on the farm this season and forced his debut at the highest level. In an 11-game cameo, he posted an .889 OPS and looked solid at shortstop. Sent back when Correa returned, Lewis then sought to enter the lineup elsewhere. Playing centerfield for Byron Buxton a leap at the wall on May 29 sent him to the ground. After some waiting on the swelling, it was determined he’d torn his ACL for a second time.

Lewis looked like the breakout rookie Twins Territory could get behind. His debut had been heavily anticipated for some time, and then it all came crashing down in a matter of weeks. He’s on the road to recovery, but it’s not likely that he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2023. Minnesota will get their star prospect back, but waiting will be involved.

Alex Kirilloff undergoes season-ending surgery, again
On August 9 it was announced that Alex Kirilloff would again go under the knife in an attempt to fix his nagging wrist issues. After surgery last year shut him down, a more extensive procedure was required this time around. Kirilloff had looked like a shell of what expectations are, and aside from a brief hot stretch at Triple-A, he never found his power this year.

After thinking things were trending in a better direction following the first surgery, Kirilloff revealed that his wrist had never fully recovered. He shut things down in the offseason, and was clearly bothered at the plate for Minnesota. After having to break and shorten his wrist, the hope would be that Kirilloff’s healing process goes smoothly and he can tap back into the player he was prior to the injury.

Baserunning and Clutch Situations
Without pointing to a specific circumstance, the Twins have been horrid once reaching base this year. Fangraphs keeps track of baserunning via the BsR metric, and only the Washington Nationals rank lower across the league than Minnesota this season. While aggressiveness is desirable, being thrown out by a longshot or running into outs has been something far too regular this season.

There's also the ineptitude that Minnesota has displayed when hitting with runners in scoring position. Despite a lineup that should've been expected to score with regularity this season, the Twins have been shut out in nearly 10% of their games and routinely have taken poor at bats with runners in scoring position.

What other lowlights come to mind for you this season?


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Injuries happen in sports and it isn't likely that every team can make it through a schedule with their primary players healthy enough to play. When a player goes down another steps in and has an opportunity to succeed. This season the Twins had some losses. There are players that have had previous issues staying healthy. Some guys who stepped in had decent results. It is rather pointless to point to injuries as a determining factor in this season because there were many opportunities to win games that eventually were losses. The Twins are run one way. Some like it and others are not so enamored. The issue with the Twins strategies are that they appear to be quite rigid in their approach. When the personnel changes due to injuries, the strategies remain in place despite vastly different skill sets and talents. Flexibility and preparation is important to an athlete and I would submit that this season we have witnessed a prime example of why those same things are important for management as well. The problem with the 2022 Twins was a failure to plan. If there was any excuse that might make sense it would be the shortened Spring Training which meant that some plans were abandoned, such as extensive practices on basic baseball fundamentals. Injuries did not hamper the 2022 Twins as much as their lack of fundamentals.

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Kind of hilarious that they were careful with so many players.  I assume it was so they would be at their best for post season.   Especially pitchers getting pulled when they were on their way to pitching a gem. Well that logic didn’t work out very well.  IMO many of the strains and aches and pains could be avoided if they had a better conditioning program.   Proper stretching and warming up is very important.   IMO gymnastics is much harder on knees/joints and muscles than baseball.  Mine practice 4 days a week 5 hours at a time.  Much of the time is spent with proper conditioning and warmups.  Pitchers are certainly different than fielders.  Fielders make 3-4 plays and hit 3-4 times.  To me that doesn’t seem like it would take such a toll.  Running the bases should not cause the injuries it does.  Just seems odd that a sport like baseball can be that hard physically.   

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13 minutes ago, MABB1959 said:

Kind of hilarious that they were careful with so many players.  I assume it was so they would be at their best for post season.   Especially pitchers getting pulled when they were on their way to pitching a gem. Well that logic didn’t work out very well.  IMO many of the strains and aches and pains could be avoided if they had a better conditioning program.   Proper stretching and warming up is very important.   IMO gymnastics is much harder on knees/joints and muscles than baseball.  Mine practice 4 days a week 5 hours at a time.  Much of the time is spent with proper conditioning and warmups.  Pitchers are certainly different than fielders.  Fielders make 3-4 plays and hit 3-4 times.  To me that doesn’t seem like it would take such a toll.  Running the bases should not cause the injuries it does.  Just seems odd that a sport like baseball can be that hard physically.   

Seems like there might be some further research into ways to prevent injuries, but there is likely quite a bit known at this time; there is much still to learn though. I believe teams are on this at this time.

All sports and physical activity require separate skills. Comparisons are pretty pointless, but natural exercises. Athletes at the highest levels perform feats on a regular basis that ordinary people, even those who were MVPs in high school or college conferences, cannot achieve. The training done to improve oneself amongst these professionals may help or ironically hinder their bodies. 

My experiences were with the common crowd, below the highest levels of professional sports. It did include playing with and against many former professionals. FWIW. Catching is brutal in summation. It isn't just the foul balls, bats, collisions, or fastballs thrown when a curveball was called. These are minor. The crouching is nothing in the moment but it adds up over time to an incredible degree. Ice, stretching and running help only to a point. Pitching is pretty violent. In short stretches, 1-2 innings, the arm gets abused but the body is ok. Pitching 7-9 innings is the most demanding physical exercise I have ever done. The body is sore in every spot possible, but not injured. Ice, stretching, and running help somewhat, but only a couple of days can really allow the body to recover. Pitching is much more strenuous than anything I ever experienced in football, basketball, biking, or running. I always thought gymnasts were the ultimate athletes but I could never attempt their routines. The position players face the usual strains and stresses of all athletes and muscle tears, pulls, and chronic small injuries build up. The professional athlete at the highest levels must operate at peak efficiency to find success. The physicality of separate sports varies widely. Football has ridiculous brute strength and speed (super violent) and marathon runners combine speed, incredible endurance, and mental fortitude. I think it is all relative making the comparisons worthless, but I would think that MLB teams would further examine how Cal Ripken managed to stay on the field.

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I would add the decision to run the offense through Buck. I love Buck, but building offensive identity around him is just bizarre.  Next year's base assumption should be that Buck is good for 80 relatively healthy games. If he gets more its gravy. But dont build out from a faulty assumption.

And if they want Buck hitting 25-30 HR's, whats he doing in leadoff? 28 HR's turned into 51 RBI's, what waste to the max. They need to re-envision the offensive identity entirely. As others have pointed out this offense is grossly inefficient, and needs different structure, different strategy, and probably an infusion of different skills. 

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Earlier in season with stretch of games against KC/Detroit 8-7-needed to go 11-4 as well losing 8th/9th innings big leads to Cleveland earlier in season. Most frustrating season ever!!!!! Had sooo many chances to blow away division but didn’t ?????

Edited by Peter
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When I try to find bright spots, they're hard to locate.  I can't point a finger of blame at one phase, because nothing is really at a championship level in the other phases.  Some bad luck is involved, but the words Total System Failure keep coming to mind, simply on the grounds that Total System Mediocrity isn't a thing.

I can't pin it down to "moments" in the season  The roster was constructed for an outcome like this

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6 hours ago, PopRiveter said:

Good writeup. Feels like there was potential for a much better outcome this year, but it would have required a number of good breaks. 
It’s gotten pretty bleak lately. 

Things started out rough, then turned pretty good, and now have completely unraveled. I think even with the injuries they had a good chance of contention but I look back at the mismanagement of the bullpen in late June as the start of the death spiral which we're seeing now come to fulfillment. 

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Cory Provus gave us the quote for the season after Pagan chunked the save to close the Cleveland series in July - “I’m going to puke”.  Those were the games that left us nauseous throughout the summer and now leave us with dry heaves.
 

Wes Johnson left shortly thereafter for the green fields of LSU.  Whether he knew that the end was near or whether he just didn’t give a crap about his pitching staff and team anymore,  I remain suspicious about the circumstances and would like to hear “the rest of the story”.  
 

I loved it when Rocco pulled the Dapper Dan card on Karinchak, but I just can’t deal with his low-key (or batshit crazy) demeanor for another season.  I do think Correa has unfinished business here and should stay to “build a championship culture” with Buxton, Arraez and Maeda next year under a new manager, group of coaches and set of trainers.  
 

Sad to say, it won’t happen.  Minnesota fans are stoic, loyal and frugal, happy to show up for the Target Field Experience regardless of the mediocre product on the diamond.  We will continue to foot the bill for the plaything of the Pohlads.  
 

Excuse me while I empty the contents of my stomach. 
 

 

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3 hours ago, ashbury said:

When I try to find bright spots, they're hard to locate.  I can't point a finger of blame at one phase, because nothing is really at a championship level in the other phases.  Some bad luck is involved, but the words Total System Failure keep coming to mind, simply on the grounds that Total System Mediocrity isn't a thing.

I can't pin it down to "moments" in the season  The roster was constructed for an outcome like this

I would phrase it as the car didn’t break down, but nor did it turn on.  At no point this year have the Twins looked like a team that was going to make any other team nervous in a playoff series.

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Injuries happen...in all sports.  HOWEVER, it completely baffles me how an organization that stresses "rest and recovery" above all else, including common sense at times, can be completely incapable of keeping players healthy...and even worse at getting players healthy again after they've been hurt.  It's so far beyond frustrating you can't even see frustrating from where we stand!

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The first and last points really stand out to me. 

The writer brings up Pagan but there are plenty of other Twins relievers that have not been able to close out games.  The Twins have blown 26 saves as a team which is tied for third worst in MLB.  Since the Twins have only had 51 save opportunities all season, this means that they only converted about 50% of possible saves.  Imagine what happens if they convert 65% or 70% of those opportunities.  They are probably talking about how they are going to compose their roster in October if this was the case.  

The baserunning has bothered me all season.  They don't bother to even try to steal.  They don't take bases when they should and the try to take bases when they shouldn't.  There seems to be a pure lack of fundamentals in this area of the game.  This is one area the team can improve without adding a single player this off season.

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December 1, 2021

every team in baseball has a plan to sign as many starting pitchers as they can…

every team except the Twins, who sign Dylan Bundy, apparently shocked at the hording of premium assets leading up to the lockout.

it gets worse from there…

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3 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

I would phrase it as the car didn’t break down, but nor did it turn on.  At no point this year have the Twins looked like a team that was going to make any other team nervous in a playoff series.

They currently have 17 guys on the injured list, including 80% of a starting rotation (and that's _after_ getting two starters back in the last week or so), an entire starting outfield plus two outfield depth pieces, both of their first two first base options, and 3 of their 4 up-the-middle defenders. The car has broken down, caught fire, exploded, and set half the surrounding neighborhood on fire. No team dealing with that level of injury problems is going to make a serious playoff run, much less make another playoff team nervous if they somehow manage to get to the postseason.

I would argue that the two biggest things that the Twins could and should do this winter are 1) bring in a new training staff and 2) re-spin their analytics resources to be more holistic and systems-oriented, especially as it relates to player training, nutrition, etc.

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Excellent article.  I would have also included the several games in June losing to Cleveland late in the game with Pagan being sent back out there time after time to lose games.  This is reflective of Rocco's stay with the plan I don't care if we lose approach.  The what if speculations regarding Buxton have been going on for eight years now.  Come on, he is what he is:  a good, at times, part time player.  You can't hang your hat on a part time player that is so undependable.  So many failures before the catastrophic injuries even came up.  Extremely poor in game management and adjustments by Baldelli.  They have a lot of work to do to be competitive in 2023.  The injuries and their length of time?  I don't understand it for sure.  Not even sure what can be done but a thorough organizational look into it should be one of the first things to do.

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Top three reasons the Twins tanked: Pagan, Pagan, Pagan.  He has displaced Ron Davis as the most reviled relief pitcher in Twins history, in my mind.  And that's saying something.

Otherwise, the FO has made many curious decisions. Seltzer had a fantastic spring but couldn't make the roster. When he was finally called up he continued his excellence at least for a little while. Think of him in the bullpen to start the season. 

Taking in Sanchez might have been necessary to complete that trade, but keeping him was not.  I've heard he was known as the worst catcher in all MLB, and it seems the twins were satisfied with that. I guess we'll never know how hard the Twins tried to get a top ranked minor league catcher, but it was a fail.

Others have mentioned Buxton batting lead off. That's a hard spot to get rbi's, and as a slugger, he should have been moved to a spot where his hits would have meant more.

Call ups for September? ,Billy Hamilton? That's what they thought would give them the best advantage? Terrible thinking. I would like to hear the reasoning why every other candidate for promotion was turned down , leaving Hamilton as the top choice.

Check out who was on the bench last week or so: Hamilton, Hamilton, Leon, Kepler, for example. That has to be MLB worst. Absolutely not acceptable for a team pushing down the home stretch, and again, that's on the FO, not the players

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19 hours ago, USAFChief said:

The Front Office's pitching staff decisions, ot lack thereof, doomed this season, exacerbated by Rocco's use of same.

I concur that the bullpen roster, and to a lesser extent the starting roster, was not adequate to succeed given Rocco's philosophy of pitching staff management. I'm not going to comment here about Rocco's philosophy in that regard, but I would be curious to know how much communication there was among Rocco, Falvey, and Levine regarding the type and number of pitchers needed to make his system work. Assuming there was full communication, I would be interested to read what actions you think the front office should have taken.

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Regarding the position player roster, simply list every injury and that will cover all the moments one needs to consider. No team would be likely to succeed given the number of games key players lost this season.

Regarding the pitching staff, see my comment above. There wasn't one key moment, or even fifty-one. The pitchers we had simply weren't successful enough to make Rocco's system work.

 

 

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On 9/17/2022 at 8:30 AM, Ted Schwerzler said:

There's also the ineptitude that Minnesota has displayed when hitting with runners in scoring position. Despite a lineup that should've been expected to score with regularity this season, the Twins have been shut out in nearly 10% of their games and routinely have taken poor at bats with runners in scoring position.

 

https://www.statmuse.com/mlb/ask/team-average-with-runners-in-scoring-position

This source shows the Twins are 12th in MLB in batting average with RISP. The Twins are also 12th in MLB in batting average as a whole. So based on this their situational hitting does not show ineptitude. They are simply typical.

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1 hour ago, Nine of twelve said:

I concur that the bullpen roster, and to a lesser extent the starting roster, was not adequate to succeed given Rocco's philosophy of pitching staff management. I'm not going to comment here about Rocco's philosophy in that regard, but I would be curious to know how much communication there was among Rocco, Falvey, and Levine regarding the type and number of pitchers needed to make his system work. Assuming there was full communication, I would be interested to read what actions you think the front office should have taken.

I think Falvinelli are in complete and total lock step, which is why I put the pen more on Falvine than Baldelli.  All 3 of them think they have cracked a code by limiting starters to 4-6 innings depending on when the order turns over for the second time.  The thing is, they’re right.  The stats are undeniable.  

However; there was never a plan to address bulking up the bullpen to pitch 486-810 innings, which is why the Twins have generally rolled out 8 guys who more or less only pitch one inning, and need a day off after pitching in order to stay highly effective.

Combine that with Baldelli’s penchant to use all his best bullpen options anytime the game’s margin is 3 or less, and you have a recipe to blow out your bullpen constantly.  If the FO wants to continue their “5-and-fly” strategy, they MUST dedicate a significant amount of resources to the pen this offseason.  Theilbar and Jax need to be your 5th and 6th option at best, and you need at least 2 guys that can handle 3-4 innings every third day.  If they can’t get that done, and they still refuse to get more innings from starters, then Falvine should be told they’ll need to start paying for tickets to Twins games (because they were fired).

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Still think the main reason for failure is Rocco and the "Plan". Resting players when they were healthy to keep them healthy probably cost a few wins in the process by not having the best players on the field every chance possible. It surely didn't help keep them healthy anyway. Sticking with pitchers like Pagan and Duffey too long was another managing mistake by Rocco. Not using starters effectively and over-working a suspect bullpen, another Rocco mistake. Good Managers use what is given to them efficiently and by not using starters for more than 5 innings on a regular basis when you have a weak bullpen is not smart use of what you have. (Don't tell me it is the FO fault for not providing better pitchers to fit the Managers Plan. The Managers Plan needs to be flexible to fit the players). Why use a veteran pitcher like Bundy for only 4 innings against a weak team like the Royals when you know you have a 5 game series starting the next day, in which 2 games will be on 1 day, against a much better team where your bullpen will be needed much more? That move, pulling Bundy early in the final game against KC, was the biggest bonehead move he possibly made all year. It's just idiotic to wear out your bullpen the game before your most important series of the year.

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3 hours ago, Mike h said:

Top three reasons the Twins tanked: Pagan, Pagan, Pagan.  He has displaced Ron Davis as the most reviled relief pitcher in Twins history, in my mind.  And that's saying something.

You might have a short memory.  Alex Colome served a similar role just last season.  The situational stat Win Probability Added was even more negative for Colome than for Pagan in their respective Twins seasons.

Trevor Hildenberger was even more terrible than that in 2018, but we don't remember it because expectations for him were low anyway.  He repeatedly came up small when the situation was big that season.

I won't bore you with the specific negative numbers these gentlemen all put up, but they are each completely dwarfed by TWO different seasons Ron Davis put up for our Twins, in 1984 and 1986.  Chances are that those '84 Twins weren't quite ready for prime time, but they did finish only 3 games behind in the standings, and Davis by himself could well have accounted for more than that number of mind-numbingly spirit-sapping losses compared to just some rando minor league arm called up for duty in his place.  Billy Gardner and Ray Miller sure stuck with their spreadsheets during those two seasons!

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