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  • Twins Facing a Shakeup Without Massive 2023


    Ted Schwerzler

    The Minnesota Twins are trending towards a finish to the 2022 Major League Baseball season that has them looking at something near a .500 record. It was hardly how this had to go, but not far off from where projections initially suggested. If the organization is going to avoid another shakeup, then 2023 is do or die.

     

    Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

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    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the Minnesota Twins front office six seasons ago. 2023 will be year seven. In that timeframe the club has been to the postseason three times while winning two AL Central division titles. There’s certainly some success there, but ultimately it comes with an 0-6 record in the postseason, which has accounted for one-third of the 0-18 futility during October.

    There’s only a partial pass for the Twins to be had in 2022. The injuries were significant. 37 pitchers have been used for the first time in franchise history. Byron Buxton played injured from the jump, and time was missed by Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco. All those things are fair to suggest that plenty has been working against Rocco Baldelli and his bosses. It’s also time to realize there’s no more room for error or excuses.

    It’s safe to say that the front office, and the manager, aren’t looking for a pass. Both those in the clubhouse and those employing it are looking for a way to create a sustainable winner for the future. Falvey was brought in to develop a pitching pipeline similar to that of Cleveland. Levine is a smart general manager who has made some shrewd moves. Baldelli can run a clubhouse and has orchestrated difficult decisions. For all the good each party has done, the results now have to follow.

    In year seven the Twins won’t, and shouldn’t be given the benefit of doubt. 2022 saw a franchise-high payroll that included the signing of superstar shortstop Carlos Correa. He fell into Minnesota’s lap and is likely gone over the offseason. It will be on the front office to appropriately name his replacement, and find ways to use that money. Plenty of the roster is penciled but almost all of it carries some level of uncertainty as to availability or expectation.

    There’s no more room for acquisitions like Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer. Every offseason addition has to be made under the premise of creating the best roster possible, with nothing added just to fill the fringes. Management can’t dictate any more reclamation projects to play a substantial role, and when something doesn’t work similar to Emilio Pagan this season, the plug has to be pulled.

    It’s more than fair to understand those running the Twins are an incredibly smart group with very good ideas. Both rooted in analytical outcomes and results based decision making, there’s probably never been a better group across the board. Ultimately though, the only thing that matters is the wins and losses, and they haven’t had enough of them.

    Over the winter the front office and coaching staff will need to find ways to improve internally. That will mean staffers being replaced, coaches being changed out, and developmental areas being addressed. This should be the last go-round for the collective as a whole, and there’s no excuse to forgo bringing in fresh faces to help reach the ultimate goal.

    There’s plenty of argument to be made that 2022 was never seen as the year to go “all in.” The trade deadline was navigated with a focus on the now, but a vision to the future as well. Fast forwarding to Opening Day 2023 and the future becomes now, with no more room for missteps. It’s time to come through on the vision, or change it entirely.

     

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    I'm confused - didn't we have this exact same conversation at the end of last season? What exactly do we expect to see change? We know who these folks are, and we clearly see their results. I don't think those results warrant another year of futility.

    If we fans don't push aggressively for change NOW - at the very least a new manager + pitching and hitting coaches - I fear we'd be making the same exact mistake as sticking with Colome or Pagan. Yes, there was past success with both, but the results now are pretty clearly damaging the team's chances at winning. 

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    It’s more than fair to understand those running the Twins are an incredibly smart group with very good ideas. Both rooted in analytical outcomes and results based decision making, there’s probably never been a better group across the board. 

    Completely disagree with this Ted.   A competent FO does not go with short hooks on the SP without a BP to back it up.  An incredibly smart FO doesn't pitch Archer and Bundy back to back that chews up what little BP they have.  A FO with very good ideas gets a fourth outfielder at the trade deadline knowing Buxton is really hurt.  Unlike all of us on TD the FO actually has the inside information to make informed decisions.

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    What you're suggesting perhaps SHOULD be the case, but I'm skeptical. I think it would take something bordering on catastrophic like a 90+ loss season to cause another complete management shakeup. If it's another .500 season, with enough injuries to point to as excuses, I don't see ownership making wholesale changes. Maybe the FO would axe Rocco to save their own jobs, I suppose.

    I also don't think they'll be "using that money" that would come back on the books with a Correa opt-out. In fact, Assuming Correa is gone, what do you expect the Twins' opening day payroll to look like in 2023? It was $134M this season... a club record. Do we really think it will be at that level (or even higher) next season? I don't. I'd set the over-under at about $125M. That's the level at which I probably wouldn't want to put money on either side.

    And, at that level, I don't see it as likely they put together a roster that would be a serious contender to do more than what they've accomplished this year... merely being at least arguably competitive in the AL Central.

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    I looked at the Twins records, 2021 compared to 2022.

    The only top rank team (Early Cleveland this year was lousy unlike now) and the only blow out they had, for them, that was against a good team was against the Yankees 8-1; while the size of the blow-outs agains the Twins this year, were not as horrific as last year, they were still for practical purposes equal in number to last year.

    They had four with over 12 runs against last year, and two with 12 runs against; this year there was one over 12 and two more at 12 runs allowed.

    I am rationalizing here, putting blow-out at 10 or more runs but there was only one where the Twins were shut-out last year, with two this year.

    Had Cleveland not been so bad early on and Detroit lost the oomph  they had last year the Twins would be no better or worse this year than last, so next year can only get better.

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    If they finish 75-87 or 76-86, which is bordering on likely, that's 2 consecutive seasons more than 10 games under.  I think next season is the fork in the road which may determine the direction in 2024 and beyond. What I mean by that is great improvement AND health, or potentially massive changes everywhere.

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    Next season is definitely a crossroads year. They're starting out at a much better baseline for the rotation and the bullpen then they did last year before free agency began, which is good. No reason to dumpster-dive for reclamation projects for the rotation, and if anyone does get signed that way they should know they're not getting in on scholarship and might be moved into a long relief role. Personally, I would say the standard on the rotation is "don't sign anyone not expected to be better than Joe Ryan. This is not a knock on joe, but a notation that their improvement need to be top-end, not backside)

    the lineup is where we're really looking at uncertainty, despite having a number of quality players. We don't know who plays SS. The entire OF has amazingly high variance. Larnach & Kirilloff are really talented, but have never shown it over a season because of injury. Wallner has only a cup of coffee. Buxton is awesome, but seems unlikely to reach 100 games for the 5th straight season. Celestino has shown improvement, but is still young. Garlick can't stay healthy. Kepler seems to have hit his ceiling and the 2019 explosion looks like a juiced ball fluke year. They need decisions at 3B, SS, and 1B and reinforcements at catcher.

    If the lineup implodes again next season, then we're looking at really big changes, because it means that guys like Kirilloff/Larnach/Wallner aren't able to step in and be the future in the corners. That they can't find a defensive home for Miranda or Arraez. And if that happens, I think you'll see bigger changes in the team, from the front office on down. YMMV on how beneficial that will be.

    They need to get the offseason right, they need a little injury luck, and they need a couple of young players to really be hitters. A rotation with Mahle, Gray, Ryan, Maeda, & Ober could be quite good. A bullpen with Lopez, Duran, Jax, Alcala, Thielbar & Moran could be quite good. But they'll need a lineup of Polanco, Buxton, Arraez, Miranda, Kirilloff, Larnach, and jeffers to also be good and to play.

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    35 minutes ago, farmerguychris said:

    I know our existing training staff is only 2 years in - but how about we re-evaluate them.  No manager or F.O. could have won this year with the amount of players on the IL that never made it back, or took way longer than expected to return after injuries.  

    Not just the training staff, but the entire organizational philosophy on player health.

    What they're trying clearly isn't working.

    I want a return to players playing. The best players play. Every day. When injured, they go on the IL, and someone else plays. No more "load management," and conversely, no more carrying players that can't play.

    Train for 162 games played. 

    Don't know if that will work...it used to...but do SOMEthing. The current philosophy is a disaster.

     

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    Ted, your points are solid and it will likely be the case that the FO and Rocco are back. Here are a few thoughts though.

    First, there will (should) be a “massive” lineup shakeup before Opening Day 2023.  Correa, Sanchez, Urshela, Kepler, Sano, Bundy, Archer, Pagan plus maybe one or two more will in all likelihood be gone.  Those are eight players that were essentially “starters” when the season began. These departures open up a lot of cash for FAs and opportunity for younger players.

    Second, what exactly has our manager and coaching staff done to build confidence in our ownership that they are the right people to lead a new, substantially revamped lineup?

    Do they have exhibit the in-game strategies/decision-making to “steal” more wins than they lose?

    How are they at getting the team to play solid fundamental baseball (a must for any mid-market team)?

    What’s been their ability for keeping players on the field (or is that just luck anyway)?

    What is their track record for developing young major leaguers (Miranda, Gordon and Arraez seem to have positive momentum, but Kepler, Sano, Berrios, and others stagnated badly and the jury is still out on others like Kiriloff, Larnach, and Jeffers)?

    Is a good clubhouse enough and are we certain that is even the case (I have no reason to doubt it’s the case).

    Any objective analysis would conclude that the coaching staff has underperformed, perhaps significantly, in these areas.  Unless some massive improvements occur (and, again, what evidence is there that is possible), there is little chance that a mid-market team like the Twins led by Rocco can realistically contend.

    If it’s a package deal - the FO and Rocco together -  then you are probably correct: they both stay and we should not expect anything other than another “wait ‘til next year” in 2023, But if I’m the FO (and certainly the Pohlads), I’m not sure I’d want to hitch my wagon to the current coaching staff - remember, they have careers and a business to run too.

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    Injuries certainly hurt the team this year but one needs to have a back-up plan.  I agree with the sentiment that the Twins should not be dumpster diving for pitchers.  Take the money that they were going to spend on Correa when he chooses to leave and find a top end starting pitcher.  With new FA SP, Ryan, Mahle, and Maeda, the Twins should be in better shape to start 2023 than they have been all this season.  

    Adding another bullpen piece wouldn't hurt but the Twins bullpen has actually been decent since the All-Star Break.  Before the break, they were dead last in WAR.  Since the break, the Twins have had the 5th best bullpen in the league.  It has been the offense (or lack thereof) over the two months that has sunk this team.

    As far as Byron Buxton is concerned, assume that he is going to play about half the season.  That means we need someone else in CF for the other half of the season.  For what he is being paid, half a season of Buxton is a bargain given how good he can be.  Relying on Buxton as the everyday center fielder is not a plan.  His presence should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.  

     

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    Preseason projections from 6 months ago, prior to the Twins having an 11 game cushion, and the division being an absolute dumpster fire, are irrelevant. It was in the post game thread last night, the Twins are 46-61 since May 24th. That's 90+ loss baseball for 4 months...

    A shakeup of mid to low level staffers is just scapegoating. 

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    33 minutes ago, Nashvilletwin said:

    First, there will (should) be a “massive” lineup shakeup before Opening Day 2023.  Correa, Sanchez, Urshela, Kepler, Sano, Bundy, Archer, Pagan plus maybe one or two more will in all likelihood be gone.  Those are eight players that were essentially “starters” when the season began. These departures open up a lot of cash for FAs and opportunity for younger players.

     

    90 losses next year, for sure, 100 losses quite probably; just what the paying fans need, and there are not many already.

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    36 minutes ago, USAFChief said:

    Not just the training staff, but the entire organizational philosophy on player health.

    What they're trying clearly isn't working.

    I want a return to players playing. The best players play. Every day. When injured, they go on the IL, and someone else plays. No more "load management," and conversely, no more carrying players that can't play.

    Train for 162 games played. 

    Don't know if that will work...it used to...but do SOMEthing. The current philosophy is a disaster.

     

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. All the days off and load management, what did they accomplish? Is it because other teams do it and we think we should too? Again, it’s the same as limiting starting pitchers. Other teams do it so we should too. Except we don’t have the bullpen to compensate. Same with giving guys days off. How much of a drop off are the replacements? 
     

    I think the entire organizational philosophy stinks. Something is rotten from the ground up. Guys are not showing up to the ML with even the minimal prerequisite fundamental skills that this organization made its name on. We have more coaches than members of Congress and guys don’t even know how to run the bases. More numbers for more situations yet we’ve played 46-61 ball for the last 4 months.

    And where are we at, farm system wise? After we lost two good prospects for a guy we knew had injury issues? Man it just seems like it’s going to be a long time til we break that playoff loss streak.

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    4 minutes ago, Aggies7 said:

    It would be a godsend for correa to opt out and free up that money. Zero point to have an expensive guy like that on a Swiss cheese roster. Thanks for the memories, Carlos 

    Yeah, they could bring back Simmons who glove is still one of the best and have him work with the excellent Twins batting coaches on hitting.

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    29 minutes ago, RpR said:

    Yeah, they could bring back Simmons who glove is still one of the best and have him work with the excellent Twins batting coaches on hitting.

    I think Simmons has already agreed to join a senior men's team. He is a good shortstop and got a call.

    So that ship has sailed.

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    4 hours ago, Aggies7 said:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. All the days off and load management, what did they accomplish? Is it because other teams do it and we think we should too? Again, it’s the same as limiting starting pitchers. Other teams do it so we should too. Except we don’t have the bullpen to compensate. Same with giving guys days off. How much of a drop off are the replacements? 
     

    I think the entire organizational philosophy stinks. Something is rotten from the ground up. Guys are not showing up to the ML with even the minimal prerequisite fundamental skills that this organization made its name on. We have more coaches than members of Congress and guys don’t even know how to run the bases. More numbers for more situations yet we’ve played 46-61 ball for the last 4 months.

    And where are we at, farm system wise? After we lost two good prospects for a guy we knew had injury issues? Man it just seems like it’s going to be a long time til we break that playoff loss streak.

    Agree about the lack of fundamentals. There's an interesting quote from Steven Kwan of the Guardians (in an article on ESPN.com) about how Francona emphasizes the little things:

    "He called me into his office, which he normally doesn't do," Kwan said. "And he pulls up a video and it's a runner on first and I hit a single to right. The runner goes first to third and the right fielder sails the ball and I'm standing on first.

    "He asks me why I didn't take second base? I told him I hadn't had a hit in while and I got to first and I was happy to be there. He was like 'No kid, that's not what we're about. If we're going to do this we're going to do it the right way.'

    "That stayed with me."

    From what we are seeing on the field it doesn't seem like the Twins' coaches are pushing fundamentals, or their conversations aren't sinking in with the players, which is just as bad. 

     

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    For me, the clincher is that they profess to be guided by analytics, yet the analytics appear to be poor.

    Exhibit A: calling up Tim Beckham, who has no discernible defensive skills remaining and whose gaudy batting stats at AAA were bolstered by an unearthly .500 batting average on balls in play.  Even an armchair analytics guy like me spotted the potential for massive regression.  What were they possibly seeing in his numbers?

    Exhibit B: trading for two pitchers who the general public had information to indicate injury risk.  You're telling me there are no analytic models for pitcher injury forecasts?  What tools were they using?

    Exhibit C : resting guys like crazy, yet the injuries mount anyway.  Are the results matching up with what their forecasts were telling them?  Are they looking at additional tools to figure out why not?

    Those are three that come to mind at the moment.  But more generally, any FO makes a lot of moves over the course of a season, and too many of theirs don't work out.  Bad luck?  If that's the excuse, then I want a luckier FO to replace them.  I'm not bothered by individual moves that don't work out, but it looks like systematic flaws in their process behind the moves.

    Analytics, expertly done, isn't nearly as rigid as they make it look.  Indeed, in the business world, the term "brittle" is used to describe a system that is over optimized and under stress-tested.  Look at airline cancellations for an example.

    I know lots of folks here aren't sold on analytics as a way to run a team.  But I don't want analytics to be judged as a concept, by how these guys seem to be doing it. 

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    The organizational philosophy is a joke.  The analytic approach without even considering any form of a conventional approach mixture is a joke.  Scheduled days off with no flexibility is a joke.  Way too many coaches is a joke.  With all those coaches you would think we would play better fundamental baseball all around. Since both Rocco and Baldelli are staying next year, the whole coaching staff should be replaced.  They need to quit being so surprised and frustrated when Buxton's season abruptly ends again.  All they need to do is sign a FA that may be willing to play center field half time for 100 mil over 7 years.  This organization needs to do some real soul searching to get team back into contention.  And quit blaming the WHOLE season on bad luck and injuries. The injuries mounted in September but that's no excuse for their poor play from June 1 to September 1.  If 2023 turns out to be another disaster instead of what many said would be a contending year the Rocco and FO need to go.

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    10 hours ago, UpstateNewYorker said:

    Agree about the lack of fundamentals. There's an interesting quote from Steven Kwan of the Guardians (in an article on ESPN.com) about how Francona emphasizes the little things:

    "He called me into his office, which he normally doesn't do," Kwan said. "And he pulls up a video and it's a runner on first and I hit a single to right. The runner goes first to third and the right fielder sails the ball and I'm standing on first.

    "He asks me why I didn't take second base? I told him I hadn't had a hit in while and I got to first and I was happy to be there. He was like 'No kid, that's not what we're about. If we're going to do this we're going to do it the right way.'

    "That stayed with me."

    From what we are seeing on the field it doesn't seem like the Twins' coaches are pushing fundamentals, or their conversations aren't sinking in with the players, which is just as bad. 

     

    I'd love a manager like Francona that focuses on fundamentals, whose game plan isn't swing for the fences or spin analytics to fit his agenda to make decisions.

    I credit Sheldon for Baidelli's success in '19, Sheldon works his butt off & he's great with players. I've voiced that I'd preferred to have kept Sheldon as manager & Rowson as bench coach. You can say look at their stats they are terrible. But you have to take into consideration that Sheldon belongs to PIT, who had horrific coaches under him, w/ a FO phylosophy of tanking and selling off any successful player that had been developed is doomed no matter what he does.

    But no matter what I think, because Falvey has rendered his support behind Baldelli and Pohlad  gave Falvine an grade A, last season (he'll probabally give him an AA+ this season). So get used to having Baldelli around for a very long time.

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    17 hours ago, RpR said:

    I looked at the Twins records, 2021 compared to 2022.

    The only top rank team (Early Cleveland this year was lousy unlike now) and the only blow out they had, for them, that was against a good team was against the Yankees 8-1; while the size of the blow-outs agains the Twins this year, were not as horrific as last year, they were still for practical purposes equal in number to last year.

    They had four with over 12 runs against last year, and two with 12 runs against; this year there was one over 12 and two more at 12 runs allowed.

    I am rationalizing here, putting blow-out at 10 or more runs but there was only one where the Twins were shut-out last year, with two this year.

    Had Cleveland not been so bad early on and Detroit lost the oomph  they had last year the Twins would be no better or worse this year than last, so next year can only get better.

    let us not forget that next year...unlike this year there wont be 19 games against the guardians, White Sox, motor city kittys, and royals...we will have to play LA, San Diego, Atlanta, the Mets, Philly, St.Louis, Milwaukee and the rest of the national league...somebody push derek, thad and rocco out of the way of this train wreck. Joe Maddon and Jon Daniels works for me.

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    I know this is sports with a spot light and not real life. 

    Although, I must admit I wonder what the world would be like, if all the fans who so easily call for the heads of the leadership of every team in every sport, everywhere.... I wonder what would happen if they actually did what they constantly suggest to our sports leaders to the people that surround them.

    Divorced the first wife because someone else made an unbelievable meat loaf and didn't take 2 hours getting ready. But that 2nd wife didn't last because she wanted him to correct some behaviors so onto wife #3 who talks too much when she has a beer. 

    Not speaking with the 3 kids anymore, He traded the oldest for a kid down the street that he liked a little better. Placed the 2nd kid in a foster home after getting a D in Algebra. The Youngest... just sent him away because all he does is look at his Iphone all day. 

    I'm grateful that there is so much perfection around them so these sports fans are able to keep these impulses at bay. 😀

     

     

     

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    5 hours ago, Russ said:

    I would love to see an anonymous evaluation from other MLB managers and GM's opinion of the Twins.  I wouldn't be pretty.

    I agree. It wouldn’t be pretty. But we did get a tease, of sorts.

    There was a short report in the Athletic right before the trade deadline with this lede paragraph:

    “Two rival officials Monday expressed little confidence the Twins would hold on in the AL Central, which they currently lead by 3 1/2 games over the Guardians and four games over the White Sox.”

     

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    There's not a lot of reason to expect success next season without the Pohlads opening the checkbook and us signing several real starters. And this FO has utterly failed to do what they were hired to do - mimic the 2000s Twins success. So, not sure why we need another season to wait on what is clear - they aren't capable. We need to move on.

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    Ownership has a track record of extreme aversion to change in team leadership. Another year like this, close to 500, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them run it back again. 

    On 9/23/2022 at 1:26 PM, heresthething said:

    Completely disagree with this Ted.   A competent FO does not go with short hooks on the SP without a BP to back it up.  An incredibly smart FO doesn't pitch Archer and Bundy back to back that chews up what little BP they have.  A FO with very good ideas gets a fourth outfielder at the trade deadline knowing Buxton is really hurt.  Unlike all of us on TD the FO actually has the inside information to make informed decisions.

    These are good points and the Bundy and Archer thing really bugged me. Having to call St Paul after every Archer start. I get that they were considered the 4th and 5th starters, but if they only go 4 or 5 at best, split em up. If the team exhibits the same weaknesses next year I'd support a change in leadership. I hope it doesn't come to that. 

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