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  • Which Twins Have Regressed the Most?


    Ted Schwerzler

    Coming into the 2021 Major League Baseball season this Minnesota Twins club was expected to battle with the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central Division title. Someone apparently forgot to tell them that.

    Image courtesy of © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    We’re now over 30 games into the season and Rocco Baldelli’s club is nearly double-digit games out of first place in the division. The story this offseason was one of winning a playoff game, but at this point getting there looks like a herculean feat. A week ago, I wrote about where blame should fall for this debacle. Taking that a step further, which players have regressed the most, and should we have seen it coming?

    Max Kepler

    Back in 2019 the Twins inked Kepler to a five-year contract extension. They had a corner outfielder that had done just enough but was looking to breakthrough. They gambled right and that season the German-native posted an .855 OPS. Since that season he’s played in 72 games and posted just a .720 OPS. Although the .760 OPS in 2020 was still a step forward from where he’d been previously, Minnesota was going to need more in the year ahead. He’s responded but hitting below the Mendoza Line with an OPS of .642. He’s got just two homers in 99 plate appearances and the power potential has been all but sapped.

    Kepler has struggled at times against lefties in his career, even to the point of being platooned for a period. He’s become an advanced defender, but he’s stretched a bit in centerfield, and it has put his body in more of a demanding scenario as well. It’s one thing when he’s hitting at the bottom of the lineup, but this is a guy the Twins groomed to hit leadoff or for power in the middle, and he’s become anything but. At 28 there’s still time, but it’s getting late early on the 2021 campaign.

    Miguel Sano

    Arguably one of the most frustrating players in recent Twins memory, there is no one more of a lightning rod for criticism than Sano is. Despite a .923 OPS across 105 games two years ago, the guy has never been given grace. He’s allowed laziness and character issues to creep in off the field, and even after turning a corner there, performance took a step backwards.

    Getting off to a late start due to Covid in 2020, Sano has doubled down in 2021. He’s got an unacceptable .496 OPS and looks completely overmatched at the plate. No longer is he able to catch up to fastballs, and while the season started with a strong walk inducing plate discipline, he now looks to be up there flailing. This is a guy that went from Nelson Cruz protégé to someone that could wind up being a lost cause for the organization. Like Kepler, he too is just 28, but at bats are now no longer guaranteed for the first basemen and it’s on him to re-earn any semblance of trust.

    Tyler Duffey

    This is arguably the most surprising. Over 81.2 innings the past two seasons Duffey transformed himself into one of baseball’s best relievers. He owned a 2.31 ERA bolstered by a 12.5 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9. The stuff was electric, he had strong command of it, and hitters found themselves looking like something close to an automatic out when he was on the bump.

    A 5.25 ERA isn’t overtly concerning across just 12.0 IP, but the lack of command and dominance is certainly a problem. Duffey has just a 10/9 K/BB this season and is seemingly not able to get batters to miss the ball. His 9.0 H/9 simply won’t play, and for a guy that was counted on to be a key back-end bullpen piece, Baldelli has been left searching for even more answers with one of his key cogs becoming completely unreliable.

    Mitch Garver

    I’m not certain that regression is entirely fair here for Garver as it depends on what the expectation was. I think it’s fair to suggest that his .995 OPS in 2019 wasn’t indicative of the player he is, just as the .511 mark battling through a core injury wasn’t a season ago. He’s since turned it on a bit and now owns a .733 OPS, but the 32/7 K/BB just isn’t reflective of the hitter we once saw.

    For Garver it doesn’t seem the problem is so much that he’s struggled with what to attack, but instead has been unable to attack the same pitches he once could. Previously hunting and crushing fastballs, he’s sat on that pitch in 2021 but been able to do little with it. Having dealt with a couple of bumps and bruises, it hasn’t been a fluid start to the year, but he could certainly ride some momentum back towards an acceptable output.

    Looking at the names above, I think they’re probably listed in order of impact and surprise. Kepler hasn’t been good for going on two years now, but he’s also been asked to do substantially more defensively and the level of consistency when getting to the ballpark hasn’t been there. Sano’s ceiling has long been established, and when the bottom falls out of a player like that it crashes hard. For Duffey there has to be a tweak that allows something better the rest of the way, and Garver isn’t far off from what should’ve been expected from him.

    All in all, the Minnesota Twins are where they are because the core players in their lineup and on the roster have fallen flat. Steps back should always be expected, but by virtually everyone at the same time, that’s pretty difficult to overcome.

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    1 minute ago, SoDakTwinsFan4 said:

    Question, why weren't the Twins able to re-sign Rich Hill?? He would have come in pretty handy right about now especially coming off an impressive 2020

    He is not expensive, he would be a much better choice than Shoemaker. I guess he is just a little more expensive than Shoemaker. I still think it's worth it though.

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    I look at the baseball season as kind of a 6 month soap opera. We expected better and so far have been disappointed. We are now in crisis. So what will happen? How will the front office respond? What will Rocco do? Will any of our stars reestablish themselves? Will Buxton get his health back? What prospects will impress at the big league level this year? Will our relief pitching recover? I guess we will just have to tune in and see.  Should be interesting.

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    I think that a message really needs to be sent to the clubhouse.  A strong handed bench coach needs to be hired and Sano, frankly, should be cut or traded.  This team lacks fire and these guys really need to get some motivation back, and Rocco just isn't getting that done right now.

    I'll admit my bias in that I hate the Sano three-true-outcome player type anyways.  Maybe another player would be better to cut, but I don't find the 3 true outcome players that productive.

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    I continue to believe that Kepler will hit better than he has this spring.  No longer believe he will be a potential HOF candidate, but would keep him as part of my core in a rebuild.  Same goes for Duffey, who could turn it around any day.  Unfortunately, I doubt he has options remaining to do what he did a couple years ago when sent down.

    Don't know what to do with Sano as his trade value has to be nearly zero.  Garver needs to hit as he ain't staying with the Twins because of his defense behind the plate.

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    7 hours ago, Richard Swerdlick said:

    I look at the baseball season as kind of a 6 month soap opera. We expected better and so far have been disappointed. We are now in crisis. So what will happen? How will the front office respond? What will Rocco do? Will any of our stars reestablish themselves? Will Buxton get his health back? What prospects will impress at the big league level this year? Will our relief pitching recover? I guess we will just have to tune in and see.  Should be interesting.

    This is why it's an amazing sport. While the end result may not be what we want, the journey is compelling. Here's to hoping there's a turnaround in store.

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    11 hours ago, SoDakTwinsFan4 said:

    Question, why weren't the Twins able to re-sign Rich Hill?? He would have come in pretty handy right about now especially coming off an impressive 2020

    I think they were betting on Shoemaker being a bounce-back candidate this season after his past few injury plagued seasons, plus he's seven years younger than Hill. For what it's worth, Hill hasn't exactly been lighting it up with Tampa Bay this season (4.26 ERA in 8 starts, averaging less than 5 innings per start), but he hasn't been as bad as Shoemaker. I think the guys mentioned in this article (plus the rest of the bullpen) are much more to blame for the poor start to the season than the fifth man in the rotation anyway.

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    Sano is a write-off to cut.  Why is everyone so patient he will revive to be productive for what, 1/3 of the season? A player that is a 1 tool guy who is only mature enough to be professional for part of the year is called a washout and a drain on the team from a leadership and morale standpoint when he plays.  Show some leadership and expectations of professionalism, front office!!

    Kepler had a great 2019 because he quite trying to pull everything and used the opposite field.  He cannot be successful with a power hitter approach. He must open up and take the singles and doubles to the opposite field he is now choked off from.  He is a plus right fielder and far too streaky at the plate---but not nearly a full scale disappointment.

    Why are there no questions about the complete lack of a plan the Twins had for Left Field?  Complete joke to walk into a season with one of two retreads to maybe pan out in left---when we have been hearing for years now how deep the farm system is with outfielders. 

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    1 hour ago, twinbythebay said:

    I think they were betting on Shoemaker being a bounce-back candidate this season after his past few injury plagued seasons, plus he's seven years younger than Hill. For what it's worth, Hill hasn't exactly been lighting it up with Tampa Bay this season (4.26 ERA in 8 starts, averaging less than 5 innings per start), but he hasn't been as bad as Shoemaker. I think the guys mentioned in this article (plus the rest of the bullpen) are much more to blame for the poor start to the season than the fifth man in the rotation anyway.

    Hill just shut out the Yankees for 6.2 innings with 9 Ks. https://www.mlb.com/gameday/yankees-vs-rays/2021/05/13/634126#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=box,game=634126

     

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    What a list, it is listing the most obvious - Maeda (all the articles about we have our Ace) - and then we have Rogers and Polanco in the wings.  Do you count Colome or doesn't his White Sox time count?  This is sad because we had this group come up together and gave us the feeling that the future would be ours - just add a few arms and  legs and we would be ready to go.   Dobnak has to go on the list too.  He isn't even looking good in St Paul.  Jeffers would be on the list, but he is awake in St Paul and needs to come back up.  Jake Cave wasn't too high so his regression does not seem as much, but he is killing us - why does Rocco love him?  

    Maybe the biggest regression is at Manager and coaches.  In 2019 we were so excited that we had a team of genius coaching.  Now?

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    18 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    That's not necessarily surprising. The guy still has games like this in him every once in awhile. He had a 7-inning, 1-run start with 5 Ks for the Twins last season. It's just that these starts are few and far between for him at this point in his career. If the Twins had held on to Hill instead of signing Shoemaker, I don't think they'd be in a much different position than they are now. I think the back end of the rotation is pretty low on the list of reasons for the poor results this season.

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    And by the way, what about Byron Buxton?  He is a very good player WHEN HE PLAYS.  Seven years in and what do you have?  Great defensive center fielder.  Pretty good hitter but very streaky.  And the worst thing is all the injuries.  In his 7 year twins career he barely plays in half the games.  What good is a good guy and decent player if you can't count on him to play. 

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    I agree with all the hitters are huge regression.  Kepler has good defense, but he has never adjusted well when teams started attacking him differently, and that has been his issue.  Sano, I have no answer for he has just been terrible and should not be back next season regardless of contract.  Garver has also failed to adjust to how teams pitched him.  He snuck up on teams two years ago, but they figured him out and he has not made the adjustments needed. 

    Duffy, his numbers are not good, but pen guys always have up and down years and stretches.  You need to expect it.  Very few bullpen pitchers are top notch year in and year out.  If you count on a pen guy to be always great without backup plans you are making a large gamble. Only the all time greats do it every year.

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    2 hours ago, Trov said:

    Duffy, his numbers are not good, but pen guys always have up and down years and stretches.  You need to expect it.  Very few bullpen pitchers are top notch year in and year out.  If you count on a pen guy to be always great without backup plans you are making a large gamble. Only the all time greats do it every year.

    Duffey is having more than a down stretch. Look at these swinging strike percentage. Yikes. And that zone contact %. Double yikes.

    Season Team Level O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr% CStr% CSW%
    2015 MIN MLB 32.4% 62.3% 45.5% 63.0% 88.7% 78.5% 43.8% 63.6% 9.8% 18.3% 28.1%
    2016 MIN MLB 33.1% 65.6% 47.3% 70.5% 89.6% 82.0% 43.7% 63.8% 8.5% 17.6% 26.1%
    2017 MIN MLB 32.9% 67.4% 49.3% 63.1% 86.1% 78.0% 47.4% 63.9% 10.7% 17.0% 27.7%
    2018 MIN MLB 36.4% 65.0% 48.4% 64.8% 90.4% 79.3% 42.2% 57.0% 10.0% 16.5% 26.5%
    2019 MIN MLB 34.6% 71.9% 50.6% 50.5% 81.8% 69.6% 42.9% 67.2% 15.3% 14.9% 30.3%
    2020 MIN MLB 40.3% 59.1% 47.0% 54.7% 78.2% 65.3% 35.9% 68.5% 16.3% 18.5% 34.8%
    2021 MIN MLB 26.9% 60.4% 40.4% 58.3% 94.5% 80.2% 40.4% 59.3% 8.0% 19.6% 27.6%
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    20 hours ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

    Mitch Garver

    I’m not certain that regression is entirely fair here for Garver as it depends on what the expectation was. I think it’s fair to suggest that his .995 OPS in 2019 wasn’t indicative of the player he is, just as the .511 mark battling through a core injury wasn’t a season ago. He’s since turned it on a bit and now owns a .733 OPS, but the 32/7 K/BB just isn’t reflective of the hitter we once saw.

    For Garver it doesn’t seem the problem is so much that he’s struggled with what to attack, but instead has been unable to attack the same pitches he once could. Previously hunting and crushing fastballs, he’s sat on that pitch in 2021 but been able to do little with it. Having dealt with a couple of bumps and bruises, it hasn’t been a fluid start to the year, but he could certainly ride some momentum back towards an acceptable output.

    Garver's season is a tale of two players. Since his OPS bottomed out at .517 on April 27th, this is what he's done. It's basically a 2+ week snapshot of the 2019 version of Mitch Garver.

    Mitch Garver Batting Gamelogs for Career Games 259 to 269

    Date Tm G GS Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip aLI WPA acLI cWPA RE24 DFS(DK) DFS(FD)
    Apr 28 to May 13, 2021 MIN 11 8 3-8 37 32 5 9 0 0 4 7 5 0 9 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .281 .378 .656 1.035 .263 .86 -0.234 .52 -0.07% 1.82 89.00 118.50
    per 162 games 162 118   545 472 74 133 0 0 59 104 74 0 133 0 0 0 0 15 0 0             -3
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    6 hours ago, twinbythebay said:

    I think the guys mentioned in this article (plus the rest of the bullpen) are much more to blame for the poor start to the season than the fifth man in the rotation anyway.

    Oh yeah. Just a random question I had especially after seeing how...lackluster a couple of our starters have been

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    On 5/14/2021 at 1:13 PM, Whitey333 said:

    And by the way, what about Byron Buxton?  He is a very good player WHEN HE PLAYS.  Seven years in and what do you have?  Great defensive center fielder.  Pretty good hitter but very streaky.  And the worst thing is all the injuries.  In his 7 year twins career he barely plays in half the games.  What good is a good guy and decent player if you can't count on him to play. 

    I don't think you can put Buxton on a list of regression in a season where he was leading the MVP race, hurt or not. It is disappointing he can't ever avoid the injury bug.

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