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  • Are the Twins Not Using Spin to Win?


    Cody Christie

    Major League Baseball is in a bit of a self-made crisis when it comes to pitchers and their use of substances to generate spin. With baseball starting to crack down, are the Twins not using enough spin to try and win?

    Image courtesy of © David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

    Offense has been down across baseball this year as pitchers have dominated for much of the 2021 campaign. This can be directly related to an increase in pitch velocity, movement, and spin rates. Some of these increases are tied to sticky substances used by pitchers to increase their control and spin rate. Minnesota’s pitchers haven’t been taking advantage of this decrease in offense, so how does spin rate factor into their results?

    Starting in 2020, Statcast posted an active spin leaderboard, which can also include an active spin %. They offer a longer explanation at their site, but the nuts-and-bolts description is the spin that contributes to movement including up or down and side to side.

    Twins Four-seam Leaderboard (Active Spin %)

    Hansel Robles (99 %), Cody Stashak (98 %), Alex Colome (97 %)

    Currently, Robles ranks as the player getting the 12th most active spin on his four-seam fastball. Batters have posted a .200 BA and a .360 SLG when facing this pitch, which are far superior to the numbers he saw last year (.355 BA, .742 SLG). Stashak’s fastball hasn’t been as effective this year and he has switched to using his slider more than his four-seamer. Colome uses his cutter almost twice as much as his four-seamer, but opponents have combined for a .500 SLG when getting a fastball to hit.

    Twins Changeup Leaderboard (Active Spin %)

    J.A. Happ (98 %), Jose Berrios (95%), Hansel Robles (94%)

    For the second consecutive season, Happ is using his changeup less often, but opponents are hitting about 90 points lower against this pitch. Berrios has been known for the movement on his pitches since he was an amateur so it’s no surprise to see him near the top of the leaderboard when it comes to multiple pitches in his repertoire. Berrios uses his changeup mainly against lefties as batters have posted a .636 SLG against it so far in 2021. Robles uses his changeup 44% of the time and he has generated a 26% Whiff% with this pitch.

    Twins Slider Leaderboard (Active Spin %)

    Taylor Rogers (43%), Caleb Thielbar (42%), Jorge Alcala (32%)

    Even though these are the leaders on the Twins, none of these pitchers rank in the top-100 compared to the rest of baseball. Rogers and his lanky frame/delivery make for a slider that is tough for both righties and lefties in the batter’s box. For the first time in his career, Rogers is using his slider more than his sinker. Alcala ranks well on the Twins, and he might be the team’s closer of the future if he can continue to develop another pitch.

    Twins Sinker Leaderboard (Active Spin %)

    Jose Berrios (95%), Taylor Rogers (95%), Matt Shoemaker (92%)

    At this point, Minnesota fans might want to avoid any leaderboard with Matt Shoemaker. However, Berrios and Rogers have been two of the most consistent Twins pitchers this season as they rank near baseball’s top-30 in this category. Also, Berrios has seen increased sinker usage in each of the last two seasons. Batters posted a .561 SLG against Rogers’ sinker last season and he has improved that number by nearly 160 points in 2021.

    The Twins don’t have a pitcher in the mold of Gerrit Cole or Trevor Bauer that rely heavily on spin to be effective. Maybe this crackdown will help level the playing field for Twins pitchers and batters.

    Will baseball’s crackdown on sticky substances impact the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    I have been wondering about this in the back of my mind as it seems several pitches just don't have the same level of control they have had in the past.  I just don't have enough info though to make an informed decision.  If MLB is contemplating penalties it will be interesting to see who gets hit by them.

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    If the Twins pitchers are using a sticky substance I hope that it is banned, because it certainly has not worked.  Robles last night was great for one batter - then he lost the game and he is second best in the BP if he is using a substance and it is taken away from him we might as well DFA him now. 

    I believe this years spin is the FO trying to sell us this pitching staff. 

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    If the question is about the crackdown on sticky stuff you need to present RPMs and Bauer units. A comparison of Twins spin rates vs league spin rates would be interesting. Maybe the Twins are the only honest team in the league and that's why their pitching is so horrible and as teams quit cheating we'll be closer to league average? We could hope at least.

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    I think the tell is usually that you can see a point where a pitcher's spin rate makes a sudden increase, we could much more easily tell who's using if we stacked up their spin rates over the last few years and looked for a dramatic bump.

    Also anyone whose current spin rate would have been considered excellent a few years ago is worth investigating.

    I think that as a team built around hitting, the Twins are suffering more from sticky stuff than they may potentially be benefiting from it, but it can't possibly be responsible for all of their woes. It certainly gives me more sympathy for strikeout-prone players like Sano, 

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    Slight change of topic.  But what was Wes Johnson’s supposedly specific skill area of expertise within pitching when he started with the Twins?

    Was it teaching the slider, or something about the release point?

    He supposedly had this knack for noticing a flaw and fixing it.

    But what was it?

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    59 minutes ago, Herschel78 said:

    Slight change of topic.  But what was Wes Johnson’s supposedly specific skill area of expertise within pitching when he started with the Twins?

    Was it teaching the slider, or something about the release point?

    He supposedly had this knack for noticing a flaw and fixing it.

    But what was it?

    Use of technology. Expert in Rapsodo, Trackman, etc. and being able to use technology to improve a pitcher's efficiency and pitch mix.

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    Yep, the questions 'How does a team that was on the cutting edge of analysis and implementation of advanced data suddenly become one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball? And does that have anything to do with the fact that the most outspoken hitter on the substance topic is playing 3B?" have crossed my mind quite a few times this spring. I can't prove anything either way, so I can't/won't officially have that take. But I do wonder...

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    The spin rate based on substance issue is an interesting one.  Specifically, how many teams are widely using it versus not.  So many cheating sandals have happened because players had not spoken up and became the norm.  After being caught players speak out saying I wish I would have said something before.  Back in the day when there was very little player movement it did not benefit a player from speaking out against his own team, even in private, to play the game straight up.  

    Now with all the player movement it does benefit hitters to tell pitchers to not cheat because maybe next season, or even later in the season they will be on opposite sides. Then it benefits the hitter to tell on the pitcher.  So maybe Donaldson told his pitchers to not use substances. 

    I read that since the announced crack down, batting averages took a jump, over short sample, but spin rates took a huge dive as well.  So it is clear it was happening and reports are just about every pitcher was using something.  Now with the crack down it will be interesting to see who holds up to past numbers and who drops off. 

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    I for one hope the Twins weren’t cheating. Because it the results we have seen so far are "cheat" assisted then I shudder to think what it will be like when we don’t? 
     

    That said, if the rest of the league is using sticky stuff, what makes one think the Twins won’t? Just cuz Donaldson says not to? I doubt a pitcher who’s paycheck doesn’t come from Donaldson really cares what he thinks. If the baseline is sticky stuff, I can’t believe Twins pitchers aren’t on it. Despite the results so far! 😢😢😢

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