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  • How to Define the Minnesota Twins 2022 Season


    Ted Schwerzler

    Coming into the 2022 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins were largely projected as a runner-up to the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central Division. Now with the regular season coming to a close and it not playing out that way, how would you define the year as a whole?

     

    Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

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    After limping through the last impactful series of the season against the Cleveland Guardians over the weekend, Minnesota’s postseason hopes were all but cooked. Having led the division for a vast majority of the season, injuries mounted and ultimately ruined any potential to hang on. That’s not to say injuries were the defining factor in falling short, Minnesota contributed to that plenty on their own as well.

    Relatively early on in the year, it was apparent that the AL Central was going to fade behind the competition. Chicago’s ineptitude was injury-related as well, but they were also horribly managed by Tony La Russa, and consistently played bad baseball defensively. Cleveland has a great manager in Terry Francona, and as expected, their pitching kept them in it while young players got their feet wet. Minnesota’s place in all of that got shuffled early after a strong May, but it shouldn’t be lost that no one seemed to want to win this division down the stretch.

    Therein lies the definition of the 2022 Minnesota Twins season: A failure to capitalize.

    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine didn’t throw all of Jim Pohlad’s resources at the 2022 season to suggest it was World Series or bust. Nothing about a bullpen addition of only Joe Smith said, “We’re all in.” However, what was done should’ve been enough and at every juncture, the Twins came up short.

    When the trade deadline came around and there was an opportunity to improve a winning ball club, the front office added a top-level starter in Tyler Mahle. They addressed the bullpen by bringing in Michael Fulmer and Jorge Lopez. Then, as it had all season long, it quickly was wiped out on and off the field.

    Every team has injuries, but very few had as many and those as impactful as the Twins. Byron Buxton played hurt from the jump. Pitching was constantly in flux. Alex Kirilloff never got better. They won through them, for a time. When Minnesota would create their own fortunes, generating base runners and putting guys in scoring position, they consistently failed to capitalize. Baserunning was bad, defense equally so.

    All season long the Twins found themselves with the opportunity to control their own destiny, run away and hide with the division, and create noise. Instead, they responded with more trips to the injured list, poor situational hitting, and an overall lack of execution.

    If we were to reflect on the season as a whole, taking a bit of a step back from the emotions down the stretch, maybe we should've seen this coming. After all, a .500 record was largely what was projected from the get-go. For a good portion of the season, all this team amounted to a .500 ballclub. Ultimately though, after creating their own good fortune, a wilting happened and nothing was done to substantiate it.

    There’s certainly a handful of different ways to get where Minnesota finished, but as The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman put it, the Twins took the least enjoyable way to get there. Good teams capitalize on their opportunities, and although this one was masked as a good team for a while, they simply never capitalized on what was in front of them.

     

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    I thought it was interesting that Tony LaRussa and Terry Francona were given their criticisms and cudos, but our leader of the pack was conveniently left out of the discussion.  Why?  Was he a non factor?  Did he play a role at all?  Or did Ted want to avoid the refrain from previous articles about Rocco?  

    In the end, we can't have this discussion without bringing up the person with the most control over the game by game, inning by inning decisions which have the most impact on the season.  Every other team will.  

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    injuries were biggest factor..But, i believe Twins brass and all of us over rate the hitting of the Twins. Kepler , Polanco, Buxton, Jeffers, Sanchez,....you are just not going to win with sub .225 hitters making up most of your lineup. Arraez is special...Correa hasnt had a great year... Miranda, Gordon and Urshela were pleasant surprises. I'd luv to see a stat showing what twins batting avg is with runner in scoring position and no outs.. very sad batting with RISP. 

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    Good analysis.  Yes, injuries played a huge part in the fade, but as you note, I hope the FO doesn't start down the road of "we would have been fine but all the injuries doomed us" when in fact there are issues with this team that go beyond injuries.  Yes, the base running (boy, Celestino is something) is awful, the third base coaching "interesting", the defense spotty with too many boneheaded plays, especially with Buxton and Jeffers out, and the inability to get big hits is inexplicable. Getting everyone back will instantly improve this team, but the FO needs to make off season moves to solve the rotation, bullpen and catching situations, and to improve the on the field performance of the players.  I do disagree a bit with you about free agent pitchers never being willing to sign here.  I think midmarket teams need to commit to "overpaying" a bit, but if they do that, there are pitchers who would come here if the money was right--not all, but some.  Finally, Rocco is here so we need to take that as a given, but I hope they look at changes in the medical group and some of the coaching positions (and I don't want to see Pagan again :).

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    The biggest frustration for me is the lack of situational hitting.  I believe this is very much based on the coaching.  I am overall someone that embraces the use of analytics, but I do feel you can go overboard and forget that those numbers included players doing situational hitting.  Meaning, when a runner is on 3rd and less than 2 outs you score as often as you do because you put the ball in play, or when a runner is on 2nd with no outs you score as often as you do because you can advance the runner.  Yes, the other team is trying to prevent this, and I am not advocating for always bunting guys over, but way too often we would fail to get runners to 3rd and fail to get runners home when we could manufacture a run, always playing for the multi-run inning.  When you never play to try and just get 1 run in, when you need to get just 1 run in you will not normally do it. 

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    Good article. I understand where you're coming from here, and you're probably right about the team's "failure to capitalize."

    But I wonder if there wasn't a bigger problem beneath all this: delusional thinking.

    Bringing in Correa was the kind of "go big or go home" deal that we Twins fans have been begging for for years. However, putting him behind a starting staff of one established #2-#3 starter, two very iffy reclamation projects, one promising homer-prone rookie and another promising young starter with a significant history of injuries was questionable at best. Then, trading away your best reliever just before the season started for a starting pitcher with chronic arm problems and a closer who destroyed his team's playoff chances the year before was borderline insanity. Yes, Rogers did ultimately decline, but Paddack was almost instantly injured and Pagan - well, we all know exactly what happened there. No one should have been surprised.

    Added to that, the team put its emphasis on a resurgent Buxton as the team leader, and at first that looked like it would pay off beautifully. Sadly, reality couldn't be denied. Injuries take their toll on a body, and Buxton's season was derailed again, just as it has been, and just as it always will be.

    The reality was that this was a last place team that didn't have the pieces at SP, RP, C, DH and CF to compete in 2022. The delusional thinking was that the team could simply sign a top SS and a few bargain SPs and get right back into contention. Falvey and Levine put too much stock in their ability to build a pitching staff and relief corps. It's good they believe in themselves on this front, but seemingly no one else who follows baseball shares their confidence.

    The FO should have seen these many question marks. They should have realized that the previous window of contention had closed. It would have been disappointing, but they should have committed to a rebuilding process, using 2022 as an audition for young arms and rookie talent. Instead, they weakened the farm system in the offseason and at the deadline, likely prolonging any chance at a return to contention. The disappointing end of 2022 could have marked the end of Year 2 of a rebuild, with a surging farm system and a better idea of whom to keep and whom to trade. Instead, the work of righting the ship for this club still has yet to begin.

    Reality is painful sometimes. Anyone who thinks this team has a shot at contending in 2023 likely has a lot more pain ahead.

     

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    Obviously injuries were the worst culprit, but unforced errors around pitching decisions were a major contributor as well. Knowingly sticking Pagan in high leverage situations when he'd demonstrated no ability to perform is on the managerial staff. Not getting an extra inning or two from an effective starter also put undue pressure on the bullpen. These decisions probably cost us 8+ wins or more. So yes, injuries were terrible, but managerial decisions were the preventable death blow.

    I'm also not a fan of scheduled days off (except maybe in Buxton's case). Your best players should be on the field until they decide they need a break. Probably an unpopular opinion.

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    1 hour ago, MinnInPa said:

    injuries were biggest factor..But, i believe Twins brass and all of us over rate the hitting of the Twins. Kepler , Polanco, Buxton, Jeffers, Sanchez,....you are just not going to win with sub .225 hitters making up most of your lineup. Arraez is special...Correa hasnt had a great year... Miranda, Gordon and Urshela were pleasant surprises. I'd luv to see a stat showing what twins batting avg is with runner in scoring position and no outs.. very sad batting with RISP. 

    Or how about the team's insistence on playing Sano for half of the year when the dude could barely hit over .100?

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    1 hour ago, Mark G said:

    I thought it was interesting that Tony LaRussa and Terry Francona were given their criticisms and cudos, but our leader of the pack was conveniently left out of the discussion.  Why?  Was he a non factor?  Did he play a role at all?  Or did Ted want to avoid the refrain from previous articles about Rocco?  

    In the end, we can't have this discussion without bringing up the person with the most control over the game by game, inning by inning decisions which have the most impact on the season.  Every other team will.  

    Even if Rocco had been mentioned, it's always one of two lame excuses--either it's not his fault because managers have no real impact on the game or it was just bad luck, too many injuries, etc. If he has no real impact on the game, why even have a manager at all?

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    As I stated last week  ...

    The defining moment in this season and last season is  Rocco and his coaches heads are not on the game , if the managers and coaches heads are not on the game  , how do you expect the players to have their heads  in the game  ...

    Last year and this year two mound visits in the same inning  and had to remove pitcher when they had no intentions to remove but lost count or weren't paying attention ...

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    2 hours ago, RJA said:

    Good analysis.  Yes, injuries played a huge part in the fade, but as you note, I hope the FO doesn't start down the road of "we would have been fine but all the injuries doomed us" when in fact there are issues with this team that go beyond injuries.  Yes, the base running (boy, Celestino is something) is awful, the third base coaching "interesting", the defense spotty with too many boneheaded plays, especially with Buxton and Jeffers out, and the inability to get big hits is inexplicable. Getting everyone back will instantly improve this team, but the FO needs to make off season moves to solve the rotation, bullpen and catching situations, and to improve the on the field performance of the players.  I do disagree a bit with you about free agent pitchers never being willing to sign here.  I think midmarket teams need to commit to "overpaying" a bit, but if they do that, there are pitchers who would come here if the money was right--not all, but some.  Finally, Rocco is here so we need to take that as a given, but I hope they look at changes in the medical group and some of the coaching positions (and I don't want to see Pagan again :).

    IMO the entire coaching staff needs to go. I believe one of the reasons top tier starters don't want to sign here is Rocco and his "plan". These guys have a lot of talent, and pride and ego to match. Why would they want to sign here with a manager that doesn't have enough confidence in them to get through opposing lineups more than twice? I know it is becoming a bit of trend around the league, but top tier starters want to and should be allowed to go longer. Next year they should have a fairly deep stable of starters to draw from, so now the FO won't have to bargain shop again. Instead, they need to concentrate on keeping Correa and signing at least 2, 2-3 inning relievers instead of filling the pen with one-and-done types.

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    1 hour ago, dberthia said:

    Obviously injuries were the worst culprit, but unforced errors around pitching decisions were a major contributor as well. Knowingly sticking Pagan in high leverage situations when he'd demonstrated no ability to perform is on the managerial staff. Not getting an extra inning or two from an effective starter also put undue pressure on the bullpen. These decisions probably cost us 8+ wins or more. So yes, injuries were terrible, but managerial decisions were the preventable death blow.

    I'm also not a fan of scheduled days off (except maybe in Buxton's case). Your best players should be on the field until they decide they need a break. Probably an unpopular opinion.

    "I'm also not a fan of scheduled days off (except maybe in Buxton's case). Your best players should be on the field until they decide they need a break. Probably an unpopular opinion."

    Not with me. :)  

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    8 hours ago, Karbo said:

    IMO the entire coaching staff needs to go. I believe one of the reasons top tier starters don't want to sign here is Rocco and his "plan". These guys have a lot of talent, and pride and ego to match. Why would they want to sign here with a manager that doesn't have enough confidence in them to get through opposing lineups more than twice? I know it is becoming a bit of trend around the league, but top tier starters want to and should be allowed to go longer. Next year they should have a fairly deep stable of starters to draw from, so now the FO won't have to bargain shop again. Instead, they need to concentrate on keeping Correa and signing at least 2, 2-3 inning relievers instead of filling the pen with one-and-done types.

    I get so tired of seeing comment boards with some variation of Rocco is the problem.

    He's not.

    The sooner we could agree that he is just a lackey executing the strategy of the FO, the sooner we can stop with this nonsense. 

    He is likely pushing the envelope as far as he can with the FO without getting canned. You seem to think he should be fired because he pulls SPs too early for your liking. It's almost certainly the other way around that what he would actually get fired for by the FO is letting the SP go too long. 

    Any replacement for Baldelli is almost certainly going to frustrate you even more as pitchers get pulled even earlier.

    Rocco is merely a Lieutenant who is ordering his troops to execute "the plan" of his commanders back at base. As long as he sticks to "the plan" he gets positive marks. But if he veers from that, he gets reprimanded.

    No one likes getting reprimanded.

    Edited by Richie the Rally Goat
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    2 hours ago, AK83 said:

    Or how about the team's insistence on playing Sano for half of the year when the dude could barely hit over .100?

    Half the season? He played 20 games. If you mean that they gave him a chance when he came off the IL, it was a no-brainer to see if he was Good Miguel. He wasn’t, he got hurt, and they didn’t push to get him back. 

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    6 minutes ago, Minny505 said:

    I get so tired of seeing comment boards with some variation of Rocco is the problem.

    He's not.

    The sooner you and your ilk can comprehend that he is just a lackey executing the strategy of the FO, the sooner we can stop with this nonsense. 

    He is likely pushing the envelope as far as he can with the FO without getting canned. You seem to think he should be fired because he pulls SPs too early for your liking. It's almost certainly the other way around that what he would actually get fired for by the FO is letting the SP go too long. 

    Any replacement for Baldelli is almost certainly going to frustrate you even more as pitchers get pulled even earlier.

    Rocco is merely a Lieutenant who is ordering his troops to execute "the plan" of his commanders back at base. As long as he sticks to "the plan" he gets positive marks. But if he veers from that, he gets reprimanded.

    No one likes getting reprimanded.

    This is quite possibly the most lucid post I have seen in quite a while.  Anybody here thinking that Rocco has enough pull to set this type of agenda on his own is crazy.  A more tenured manager may have been able to push the envelope on this, but losing Wes Johnson mid-season basically steamrolled everything.

    As with most teams, the general agenda comes down from on high.  Rocco either gets on the bus or gets run over.  Anybody here think the young SP coming up have any real experience going deep into games in the minors?  Really?

    As for SP going longer than 5-6 IP, please refer to the plethora of statistical evidence that shows going the third time through the lineup generally has bad results for the SP, including Gray and his ERA almost quadrupling the third time.   I would argue that Gray owes his statistical success this year to the way the Twins have handled him.

     

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    What is the easiest thing to fix - fundamentals. The Twins were the worst baserunning team in MLB, something like a negative 12 runs lost last I heard. That's not even counting putting more stress on the pitcher and turning that one more run into a 5 run inning (and maybe not having to put our top relievers in to save them for the next game). Bunting - these guys are professionals and should be able to learn to bunt in spring training. These things are easily teachable and win games.

    I'm not a Rocco basher, but the fundamentals or lack there of are all on him. Well almost. I'm also not a front office basher but guys in the minors should be taught fundamentals throughout the system. As the Gordon's, Julien's, Martin's, who aren't going to be 30 homer guys come up, they should be great at fundamentals.

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    Managing a baseball team includes managing the 162 games also. Meaning in game decisions, based on many moving parts. A good baseball man once told me, "every pitch changes a game".  I have never doubted that philosophy. 
     

    If it’s even borderline true, there is no way to manage  a team from the FO suite. There are ever fluid situations, and frankly some of them are gut reactions. Pitcher Bob may have a 4.00 ERA, but that’s an average. The managers job is to decide whether this is one of Bob’s 2.00 days, or 6.00 days. At the end of two games like this he will still have a 4.00, your job is to make use of him on the good one, and get him out on the bad one. Otherwise, all you are doing in the dugout is wasting sunflower seeds. 
     

    One last thing, This team has be horrendously undisciplined all year on fundamentals.  The baserunning has been basically high school level FO running the show or not, that’s on the manager to control and correct. 

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    "Therein lies the definition of the 2022 Minnesota Twins season: A failure to capitalize."  Agree to disagree; 2022 should be the year of a bad plan and template for what not to do. (Players and Philosophy)

    They went into the season with no real plan B's. There Plan A was full of players that the odds say were probably going to get hurt based on their history. Gray, Ober, Winder, Buxton, AK, Archer. Or hadn't been all that good prior, Sano, Jeffers, Bundy, Sanchez, Kepler, Pagen, Jax, Smith.

    The starting outfield was Larnach, Buxton and Kepler and their plan B was? Celestino, Gordon, Garlick, Cave, Contreras, and AK? Wow, hard to believe that didn't work out great.

    When they decided to pay Correa and trade a first round pick for Gray, they should have shored up the back ups, they didn't. When everybody seen the bullpen was being overused early in the season they should have changed up what they were doing, they didn't (and I don't mean longer starts, that may have helped though).

    They let Chris Archer start 25 games (They team lost 16 of those games) and only pitched 102 innings with an ERA of 4.56. From June 14th on the team lost 11 of his 13 starts.  They should have done something different with Buxton starting in July (He only had 14 singles in July and August and hit .214. Pagan blew 7 of his 16 save/hold chances? I could go on and on,

     

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    1 hour ago, Minny505 said:

    I get so tired of seeing comment boards with some variation of Rocco is the problem.

    He's not.

    The sooner you and your ilk can comprehend that he is just a lackey executing the strategy of the FO, the sooner we can stop with this nonsense. 

    He is likely pushing the envelope as far as he can with the FO without getting canned. You seem to think he should be fired because he pulls SPs too early for your liking. It's almost certainly the other way around that what he would actually get fired for by the FO is letting the SP go too long. 

    Any replacement for Baldelli is almost certainly going to frustrate you even more as pitchers get pulled even earlier.

    Rocco is merely a Lieutenant who is ordering his troops to execute "the plan" of his commanders back at base. As long as he sticks to "the plan" he gets positive marks. But if he veers from that, he gets reprimanded.

    No one likes getting reprimanded.

    Ah, not the problem.  And, it appears............not the solution.  

    If we do not have a solution in the dugout, where do we have one?  Is Falvine the solution?  Is JP?  is it the pitchers who can't see a batter 3 times?  Or the player who can't decide when to take a base and when not to?  Who, or what, is the solution?  The organizational approach throughout the minors?  The medical/trainer staff charged with the duty of keeping our guys in one piece throughout the season?  Who, or what is the solution?  

    For well over a century, it was the manager who got the credit, and/or the blame, for virtually everything involving the players and the game by game results.  What is it about this team that ends that accountability?  Is it JP and his penchant for continuity?   Is it the 101 win first year that we have been reminded of for 3 years?  Does anyone smarter than me have answers to any of the above?  

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    4 hours ago, Karbo said:

    IMO the entire coaching staff needs to go. I believe one of the reasons top tier starters don't want to sign here is Rocco and his "plan". These guys have a lot of talent, and pride and ego to match. Why would they want to sign here with a manager that doesn't have enough confidence in them to get through opposing lineups more than twice? 

    I'm still sticking with my prediction of a month ago that sonny gray will demand a trade this off season  ... 

    I would not play for this manager and the plan ...

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    1 hour ago, Mark G said:

    Ah, not the problem.  And, it appears............not the solution.  

    If we do not have a solution in the dugout, where do we have one?  Is Falvine the solution?  Is JP?  is it the pitchers who can't see a batter 3 times?  Or the player who can't decide when to take a base and when not to?  Who, or what, is the solution?  The organizational approach throughout the minors?  The medical/trainer staff charged with the duty of keeping our guys in one piece throughout the season?  Who, or what is the solution?  

      

    The plan is the problem through the entire system  , and who is in charge of the system  ,,, 

    Need I say more , falvey hired all top professionals to replace every top position from Ryan's  regime , his words not mine ....

    And Wes Johnson left during the middle of the season  which I thought was lame but might say something of the plan he didn't like ,,, 

    He should have finished out the season in my opinion ...

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    Typical and never going to change.  We will continue to bargain shop and when we do get a gem let them go with not much in return.  We have been waiting 20 years for our window of opportunity.  Last blow for me was letting Berrios go and then trying to find someone to replace him.

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    Last year's team, for me, was defined by a game in Oakland where Buxton did everything he could to win the game and Blankenhorn, Donaldson, and Araezz blew the game. 

    This year it was a Friday night game in Cleveland in which Buxton could not even pinch hit in a tie game 

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    6 hours ago, Karbo said:

    IMO the entire coaching staff needs to go. I believe one of the reasons top tier starters don't want to sign here is Rocco and his "plan". These guys have a lot of talent, and pride and ego to match. Why would they want to sign here with a manager that doesn't have enough confidence in them to get through opposing lineups more than twice? I know it is becoming a bit of trend around the league, but top tier starters want to and should be allowed to go longer. Next year they should have a fairly deep stable of starters to draw from, so now the FO won't have to bargain shop again. Instead, they need to concentrate on keeping Correa and signing at least 2, 2-3 inning relievers instead of filling the pen with one-and-done types.

    "The plan" was taken too far this year with their refusal to change it as the season progressed, but linking this year's plan to FA pitchers not coming here is inaccurate. Berrios was amongst the league leaders in innings pitched the whole time he was with the Twins. He was on pace for over 200 innings last year before he was traded. Typically the Twins, and Rocco, haven't been this extreme about pulling starters. I don't know what they were doing this year, but it was outside the norm, even for them. But you can't claim "the plan" is why FAs never come here when this is the first year they've run so aggressively with "the plan."

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