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  • Injuries Don’t Excuse How Bad This Twins Team Has Been


    Tom Froemming

    The 2021 Minnesota Twins have been one of the most disappointing teams in franchise history but it’s all due to injuries, right? While this team has had to navigate through a lot of their players being unavailable, so have most other teams in the league. Let's dig into the numbers.

    Image courtesy of © Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

    The Twins haven’t been the most injured team in baseball. They’re not even in the top five. In fact, they’re barely even in the top 10. If you’re interested in looking at the data, it’s available at spotrac. In terms of number of players who have been or are currently on the Injured List, the Twins are tied for 10th in baseball. Here’s a look at the rankings:

    TEAM PLAYERS
    1. Giants 26
    2. Blue Jays 25
    3. Padres 23
    4. Mariners 22
    5(t). Astros 21
    5(t). Rays 21
    7(t). Dodgers 20
    7(t). Brewers 20
    7(t). Cubs 20
    10(t). Mets 19
    10(t). Twins 19

    Change the metric to days spent on the IL and the Twins are even lower down on the list. They rank 23rd at 360 days. There are four teams with more than 700 combined days on the IL. And you know what? It hasn’t prevented any of them from having winning seasons. Two of the top four teams are in first place (the Rays and Giants) and the other two have winning records ( the Padres and Blue Jays).

    TEAM Days
    1. Padres 943
    2. Rays 748
    3. Giants 732
    4. Blue Jays 718
    ... ...
    23. Twins 370

    Switch the focus to dollars spent on IL players and the Twins are 21st at just over $6.2 million. And, again, the top-four teams in terms of dollars spent on IL players all have winning records (the Astros, Mets, Yankees and Dodgers).

    Even right now, with the Twins having 11 players currently on the IL, the team isn’t in the top five. Yes, the Twins have had a ton of injuries, but almost every team in the league has been dealing with similar situations this season. The health of this team isn’t a "get out of jail free" card for those who were in charge of building and managing a winning Twins club in 2021.

    The Twins played their 60th game last night, which is as many as they played last season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the team’s number of players and days on the IL from the past five seasons. These are full-season numbers, so the 2017-19 data represents the full 162-game season. 

    TWINS PLAYERS DAYS
    2021 19 360
    2020 14 389
    2019 19 629
    2018 18 1,052
    2017 15 1,026

    And now that same information for the entire league.

    MLB PLAYERS DAYS
    2021 488 14,350
    2020 456 13,313
    2019 574 49,279
    2018 585 34,126
    2017 530 31,300

    We’re less than 40% through the season. This is pretty crazy.

    Why? Consequences from last year’s mostly lost season, probably. That sounds like an easy explanation, but I’m not smart enough to find anything better than that (hint, hint: looking for some help here from all you lovely people of the Twins Daily community). 

    If we go back further and compare this era to previous ones, I found the explanation Patrick Reusse offered up interesting.

    This may have been said with tongue in cheek — sometimes the tone of Reusse’s Tweets can be tough to gauge — but this seems like a legit reason to me. Some people may read that Tweet as "old man mad at new technology" but I think he has a point. In prior eras, the training staff didn’t have much to go on. They had to depend on players self reporting accurately, and they’re almost always going to push to stay on the field.

    That’s not to say it was necessarily better in the good ‘ol days. Just different. I would just like to see the best players on the field as close to 100% as much as possible. Can’t somebody just go into the settings and turn injuries off?

    Are things going to keep getting even more extreme going forward? Again, I’m not smart enough to figure that out. Hopefully the 2020 hangover is to blame and things deescalate next season.

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    No matter who is penciled in...the results are sub-par. Guys aren't getting it done. What I think about Buxton would be this: once he comes back please play him EVERYDAY. Stop with the coddling and worrying that every inning he will re-injure himself. If this guy cannot handle the everyday grind of a major leaguer, then there is no place on this roster for him. Harsh? Not at all. If you can only play 3 or 4 days a week and stay off the IL for only a few weeks at a time, what good can come of it?

    Twins must find out if Buxton can play regularly, or move him for someone who can. Personally the thought of losing him makes my stomach turn...but conversely, the thought that when he returns you have to handle him with kid gloves, given his history also makes no sense. Only way we'll know is if he is thrown out there everyday (within reason of course). I'm growing very weary of having to 'rest' our regulars for fear they will hurt themselves.  They don't pay you to sit. They pay you to perform.

    End of rant.

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    I like the topic of this article. I would be interested in reading a follow-up about the injuries the Twins have had in recent years in their farm system; that to me is far more concerning than what has happened at the MLB level this season. Specifically, what impact has the MLB level seen as a result of injuries in recent years throughout the farm system?

    The recent injuries to Enlow and Cantarino are just the latest in a long string of injuries that have hindered the development of major prospects coming up through the pipeline. Royce Lewis is out for the year, Kirilloff missed a year, Colina is hurt, Nick Gordon had injuries that slowed him up.

    Baseball is a far more physically demanding game than what is recognized by the average person and injuries will happen. Additional emphasis on player health in the minors so as not to delay player development would pay dividends in a season like this. Matt Shoemaker and, to a lesser degree, J. A. Happ, have no business being on an MLB roster, but with no one ready to replace them as a result of development time missed due to injury, that is what we are stuck with.

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    3 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    Yeah, last night was a good example of how we as fans view win “probability” versus the actual win probability of a situation. That was a low leverage situation in the ninth. 

    This is getting at the gist of the universal vs. the particular in stat's. 2 runs down in the 9th may be a 93% probability generally. But in a specific game situation, it is not, for most MLB teams, insurmountable. Bringing in the new guy to get beat down in the 9th just added another layer of sheer gloss lipstick to this pig of a season. IMHO this team has grown far too accustomed to assuming the loss in late game adverse situations,, and plays accordingly, from the manager on down.

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    I agree with your premise - the Twins' injuries have been tough, but that isn't the main reason we are 24-36.  I think the main reason is poor fundamental and situational play. We make too many errors and also don't execute simpler lays like converting ground balls into double plays and hitting cut-off men, and so we let the opponent have too many at bats. We also don't execute well on offense when it's time to move over a runner, run the bases well, etc. or hit well with RISP. We can blame a small part of that on injuries - putting Astudillo in the field is an invitation for an error, for example - but that's not the main problem We just don't execute well and don't have the talent advantage In the field or anywhere near enough pitching to overcome that problem. 

    I don't know the answer. Maybe it's coaching, but more likely it's just the players we have.  I really liked the idea of trying to improve the pitching by improving the defense but that hasn't really seemed to work. Getting Buxton back will help but not solve the problem in its entirety. We are going to continue to play at this level unless the fundamental play improves.

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    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/03/sports/baseball/mlb-injuries-soft-tissue.html

    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jun/09/baseball-injuries-mlb-rise-reasons-covid

    Lots of articles out there confirming a large spike in baseball injuries.  These are just two of a trove that arent hard to find.

    Nothing to do with the Twins sucking, just one more sweet ingredient to MLB's rapid decline into irrelevancy.

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    9 hours ago, chinmusic said:

    It's one thing to have stats for days spent on the IL. But what about the value of those players? Buxton out for a month is not the same as Cave.

    How many teams have the impact equivalent of Buxton/Kepler/Garver/Arraez  out at once. Maeda too.

    It's devastating.

    Just looking at teams  current IL and not the whole season: How about the first place White Sox with Luis Roberts, Eloy Jiminez and Michael Kopech?  Or second place Cleveland with Zach Plesac, Franmil Reyes, and Roberto Perez? Or the Astros without Justin Verlander, Juan Castro and Lance McCullers? Or the Angels - Mike Trout, Jose Quintana, Dexter Fowler?  Or the Dodgers - Max Muncy, Cory Seager and Dustin May?  Or our opponents - the Yankees - Luis Severino, Zach Britton, Aaron Hicks, Luke Voit, and Corey Kluber.  

    Sorry the Twins should be used to being without Byron Buxton by now and sympathy to them, but they are just part of the overall story, not the most suffering team.

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    5 hours ago, wsnydes said:

    May has been awful and Clippard hasn't thrown a pitch this season. 

    May has rebounded after a bad start and is sitting at 3.86 ERA/3.29 FIP, but he does have a 10 hits/9. His 102 ERA+ would put him behind Robles, Rogers, and Alcala on our current team.

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    3 minutes ago, Danchat said:

    May has rebounded after a bad start and is sitting at 3.86 ERA/3.29 FIP, but he does have a 10 hits/9. His 102 ERA+ would put him behind Robles, Rogers, and Alcala on our current team.

    That's fair.  

    May is also the one guy I hoped they'd brought back.  To this point, he'd still be part of the problem.  Glad he's at least trending in the right direction though.

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    When there is a systemic failure across almost all players of effort, production, and fundamentals.... it is a failure of leadership.

    Rocco has failed miserably this season.

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    Minor league players hurt in spring training while invited to the major league camp go on the MLB dl.  Covid, which really has nothing to do with the sport, got counted in the Sportrac tallies.  Still injured from the year before? Still counted under 2021 on Sportrac. The totals on sportrac may or may not be actually reflective of what is going on with the major league talent for the given year

     

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    8 hours ago, D.C Twins said:

    When there is a systemic failure across almost all players of effort, production, and fundamentals.... it is a failure of leadership.

    Rocco has failed miserably this season.

    So, it was Rocco's fault when Simmons (elite defender) dropped a throw right to him and it was Rocco's fault when Arraez airmailed 1st base on a routine play and on and on?  It's Rocco's fault our Cy Young candidate has been ineffective or hurt?  When players make great plays do we say wow that guy is well-managed?

    None of us have the access and ability to observe Rocco to adequately assess his level of competency.  Fans adore players.  Therefore, it's managements fault.  It might be in this case but their is a mountain of evidence that suggests players have failed.  Of course, the injuries, who was injured and when they were injured has contributed but players have failed to execute and that's why we are where we are.  Go ahead. blame everyone except the people actually playing the game if it makes you feel better.

    Where we can find fault is signing a 38 yo SP and a 41 yo DH.  None of this was really criticized at the time but there is an inherent risk.  We also have to ask if there were better FA options.  I like Taijuan Walker myself but I did not see much support for him here.  Most people here wanted Odorizzi resigned and he has been quite bad.  Clippard is out and Wisler has been bad.  We could have traded away good prospects for Snell as so many insisted was the thing to do.  He has been mediocre.  We would still suck and part of our future would be lost.  So, to sum up, had they followed the consensus we would be in worse shape.

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    On 6/9/2021 at 7:57 AM, wsnydes said:

    Its one thing to have production drop off from starter to replacement, but the sloppiness is quite another.  Sure, they have lost games because they simply don't have talent that the other team does.  But more often then not, they're losing because the beat themselves by errors or otherwise sloppy play.  Little things in close games get amplified and result in losses, sometimes in blowout style.  That's not due to injury.  The injuries only explain a small portion of what this season has become.

    I don't mind losing, sometimes the opponent is just better.  But it drives me nuts when a team beats itself.  Even more so when its done as often as this team does it.

    I am 100% with you.  I personally have watched much less over the last few weeks because the play is not fun to watch.  In the first couple months they lost so many games by failing to produce in key situations.  I can recall at least 5 to 10 games off top of head that a poor decision or failing to make routine play has cost them games.  I know you cannot always point to a single play, unless it was literally the last play of the game, that made the difference.  However, late in games they have just made so many bad plays and the pen cannot get guys out in high pressure situations it seems. 

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    While I think you are probably right that there have been at least 5 to 10 games where you can point to a lack of executing on a fundamental play as costing us the game, we would not have won all of those games by any stretch, I think again the poor fundamentals are a symptom of the problem but not the underlying disease.  Let's say we win 5 more games by making a simple fundamental play, like the game in Oakland, 5 more wins would make us 29 – 32 instead of 24 – 37. Better? I guess, A move into playoff relevancy? I don't think so.

    The Problem is simple: we don't have enough talent. If you look at the team, even when we are at full strength we have about three quarters of the starting lineup sufficient to be a contending team, or about two thirds depending on how you count Sano. We are still at least one outfielder or and perhaps two short, and still unsettled in the middle infield and unsettled at catcher. That's giving credit to 1st base being covered by either Kirilloff or Sano. We have at most 60% of the starting rotation with the last 2 spots not covered by the combination of Happ, Dobnak and Shoemaker. The most we can hope for there is that Dobnak will somehow recover his magic and be a serviceable 5th starter in the future. The bullpen is even worse. We do not have the necessary high-end closer so everybody is stretched one spot. Rogers and Robles should be 7th and 8th inning guys, Alcala and Duffy 6th and 7th inning guys, and the rest are just filler. This bullpen could work with Colome being the elite closer but it turns out that's not what he is so the whole thing has fallen apart. The flaw is that our young core group just hasn't advanced with the possible exceptions of Polanco who has looked very good the last 30 games or so, and Rogers and Berrios on the pitching staff. Sano and Kepler do not look like starters on a contending team. Those two, Arraez and Garver are very much works in progress at best; not the finished, solid to elite hitters we all thought they were. It is much more likely that Kepler and Sano are what they have been the last 2 years, a DH/bench bat and platoon/4th outfielder respectively. So the bottom line is it's not just a few injuries that are hurting us, it's an overall lack of talent and depth coupled with the lack of progress from the young core that has killed us this year. Unfortunately, I really think the Twins are what our record says we are, a mediocre team that injuries have turned into a poor team.

    The big question is where we go from here. I'm actually a little encouraged by the fact that the FO and Baldelli seem to realize the situation and are giving some younger players run with Larnach and Kirilloff playing every day, and Jeffers/Rortvedt getting some real time behind the plate. I know injuries caused a lot of that, but I think that's going to happen for the rest of the season. I also think that Simmons will be traded even if all we get is a A ball lottery ticket which should free up playing time for Gordon at 2B and SS with Polanco back at SS. I really hope they do that rather than bringing up someone like JT Riddle the play short. I hope Bailey Ober is here to stay in the rotation for the rest of the season, and that Jax will get a real opportunity in the bullpen. I also hope and expect to see Duran in the rotation at some point, probably after a Pineda trade, would really like to see Andrew Vasquez get a shot in the bullpen. Frankly, I'd like to see Louis Thorpe in the bullpen after he recovers from his latest injury because he's either going to have to make it there or go somewhere else. He's just isn't good enough to be a starter.

    This year's a lemon. Let's make lemonade out of it by basically fielding a developmental team for the rest of the season. Trade Simmons, Cruz, Pineda, Happ and Colome for whatever we can get and give their spots to young guys on the way up. DFA Shoemaker. Frankly, trading Cruz makes it a lot easier to find at bats for Larnach, Kirilloff, Sano, Arraez, Gordon, Jeffers, Rooker, and even Refsnyder who might be the RH bat in a platoon with Kepler/4th OF. We can try to re-sign Pineda in the off-season. The rest are gone forever. I'd also say trade Donaldson but his contract probably makes that impossible. Let's just see this team for what is and try to retool this year so that we know what we can do and can't do in the off-season.  Nothing else makes sense to me.

     

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    10 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

    None of us have the access and ability to observe Rocco to adequately assess his level of competency.  Fans adore players.  Therefore, it's managements fault.  It might be in this case but their is a mountain of evidence that suggests players have failed.  Of course, the injuries, who was injured and when they were injured has contributed but players have failed to execute and that's why we are where we are.  Go ahead. blame everyone except the people actually playing the game if it makes you feel better

    I disagree with your premise- Pull a guy of the street and have them manage a team and even if you have an allstar roster you still are not winning. Its a fantasy to think that you assemble the best 9 players and that will translate to wins. I grew up watching the England national soccer team. 11 of the best players in the best league but chronically mismanaged leading to disappointment (conditioned me well to be a Twins fan). 

    Rocco can obviously manage because he has won the division twice. However, that doesn't mean that there isn't something amiss with the coaching team and organizational culture. In 2019 and 2020 Rocco was paired with an experienced baseball mind in Shelton and Bell. With the latter's passing you could argue that its had a huge affect on the team. I would also put blame on the pitching department of Wes Johnson. The guy has received a lot of praise especially for the 2020 pitching but this year it has not worked. Project arms have failed, established guys have regressed, and free agents have looked lost. Take Dobnak's slider- A crowning achivement in the Spring and a laughing stock yesterday. Few players can perform without the coaching behind them. 

    We can assess Rocco and the coaching team based on one thing- Results. This core of players who won in the last two years are now underperforming. Do you think they just hit the field and choose to ignore what they have been coached? "Coach said to glove this groundball but maybe if I booted it that would be good for me or my team?" You can blame a player for a singular error but not for a pattern of defensive bungles. 

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    47 minutes ago, BritishTwinsFan said:

    I disagree with your premise- Pull a guy of the street and have them manage a team and even if you have an allstar roster you still are not winning. Its a fantasy to think that you assemble the best 9 players and that will translate to wins. I grew up watching the England national soccer team. 11 of the best players in the best league but chronically mismanaged leading to disappointment (conditioned me well to be a Twins fan). 

    Rocco can obviously manage because he has won the division twice. However, that doesn't mean that there isn't something amiss with the coaching team and organizational culture. In 2019 and 2020 Rocco was paired with an experienced baseball mind in Shelton and Bell. With the latter's passing you could argue that its had a huge affect on the team. I would also put blame on the pitching department of Wes Johnson. The guy has received a lot of praise especially for the 2020 pitching but this year it has not worked. Project arms have failed, established guys have regressed, and free agents have looked lost. Take Dobnak's slider- A crowning achivement in the Spring and a laughing stock yesterday. Few players can perform without the coaching behind them. 

    We can assess Rocco and the coaching team based on one thing- Results. This core of players who won in the last two years are now underperforming. Do you think they just hit the field and choose to ignore what they have been coached? "Coach said to glove this groundball but maybe if I booted it that would be good for me or my team?" You can blame a player for a singular error but not for a pattern of defensive bungles. 

    You are welcome to your opinion.  In the consulting world it's considered gross incompetence to derive conclusions without in depth gathering of information and validation of that information.  I guess I am really stupid because after 20 years of conducting this sort of assessment I would need much more information to derive any conclusions as to the competence of Mr. Baldelli.  

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    On 6/10/2021 at 6:07 PM, Major League Ready said:

    You are welcome to your opinion.  In the consulting world it's considered gross incompetence to derive conclusions without in depth gathering of information and validation of that information.  I guess I am really stupid because after 20 years of conducting this sort of assessment I would need much more information to derive any conclusions as to the competence of Mr. Baldelli.  

    You seem to have been personally offended by my opinion. I am not a consultant hired to assess why 2021 has been a disaster for the Twins. I am a fan. I watch the games, follow the news, and think about the team. I am not on the inside. I am not in a position to diagnose what the problems might be.

    My main assertion was that there was a problem in the coaching, which I don't think is too far from your assertion that the problem lay with underperforming players. I get that we have analytics that can produce insights around player performance, and that the same is not available for off field staff. However, simply blaming the people playing the game is not particularly helpful. A roster of little leaguers would have bad stats but we wouldn't blame little Timmy for running home crying at the sight of a 100mph fastball. Polanco had a bad 2020, and it wasn't until he got surgery we found out there was an injury behind it etc. I feel you have fallen into the trap with players as you have identified I may have with coaches. 

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    On 6/9/2021 at 12:28 PM, BritishTwinsFan said:

    It didn't work out but look at it

    Outside the Kiriloff left field hole to start the season that is exactly what the Twins had. A projected defensive powerhouse left sided infield with masters in those positions. Same with centrefield and right field. Sano who is pretty good at first, Garver and Jeffers as good catchers. I'm sure you are talking about Astudillo who is lovely to have on the bench to cover injuries but shouldn't be starting in the field or relied on to hit. Arraez is serviceable alongside Polanco defensively. Then Cave who fits the role of the 4th outfielder on a team with a strong DH- There for cheapness, defense and flexibility but again isn't an everyday starter. 

    Then in the bullpen on paper you have 3 closers- Rogers and Robles projected to return to 2019 form, and then Colome who WAS a shutdown guy last season, looked a bargain at half the 2020 price and should have suited the defensive infield. Building the roster you are balancing cost with upside and expected performance. Colome even with some regression built in looked good, you can't predict his cutter stopping working based on available data. High leverage situations aren't always the 9th so its good to have flexibility rather than one superstar you are scared to waste or gas. 

    Coming into spring the Twins had Speed (Buxton, Cave Polanco), Defense (Donaldson, Simmons, Buxton), Reliable hitting/Patient hitting (Cruz, Donaldson) plus strikeout guys like Robles in the bullpen. 

     

    In terms of the players called up for depth Refsynder, Gordon, Larnach have all done well. Bullpen depth perhaps not but a lot of the guys were projects that maybe didn't get the time before being pressed into service. Even with starters there were 7/8 guys set to go opening day. I'm not sure with the budget *And Knowledge* available that there could have been much else done on roster construction. My view is early bad form, surprises and injuries got the Twins behind where the pressure mounted and the fundamentals fell apart. E.g. the infield Errors have been too high but I'm not sure how that could be predicted preseason. 

    I would so agree that it actually did look like a competitive and servicable roster. And spring training was NOT horrible. So, what the devil happened! Talk about imploding!

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