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  1. Like
    Aichiman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, One Pitch Speaks Volumes for Garver   
    It was a beautiful Easter Sunday in Milwaukee for the Minnesota Twins as they pounded out eight runs against the Brewers. One notable takeaway was what backstop Mitch Garver did in sending a ball over the fence.
    A season ago the Twins got just 23 games from their catcher that posted a .995 OPS a season prior. Garver dealt with an intercostal strain most of the year and he simply was not the same hitter. Typically pulverizing opposing fastballs, he saw 217 of them in 2020, and it resulted in little success. Of those offerings, he swung 86 times, whiffing 29 times, or nearly 34% of the time the bat left his shoulder. Beating him with heat was far too easy.
    Rewinding for context, Garver saw a whopping 839 fastballs in 2019 and swung at 303 of them. Of those 303 swings, he missed just 48 times, or just north of 15%. A jump of over 50% year over year is substantial, and while the now 30-year-old backstop may not be the .995 OPS hitter he was in 2019, he’s also certainly not the .511 OPS hitter he was in 2020.

    Now fast forward to that pitch from Adrian Houser in the 5th inning of Sunday’s game. The Brewers starter attacked Garver with a first pitch fastball registering at 94.3 mph, one of the hardest balls he threw all day. After taking a walk in his first plate appearance, Garver sat on the heat and clubbed the pitch 102 mph going the opposite field and leaving over the right field wall.
    In 2019 when things were going right for Mitch, he posted a 47.3% hard hit rate and went up the middle or opposite field roughly 50% of the time. Last season the hard-hit rate dropped to 41% and he used the opposite field a measly 13.9% of the time becoming essentially a dead-pull hitter. That’s a logical strategy for someone dealing with core muscle issues, given the necessity to cheat and get the bat around.
    At the end of the day, it was just one swing and maybe it ends up being a small footnote rather than indicative of what’s to come. I’d be willing to be however, that Mitch is in line for a season with an OPS back north of .800, and Minnesota will have two of the best hitting catches in baseball while being anchored by the man known as Sauce.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
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    Aichiman reacted to mike8791 for a blog entry, When Is it Time to be Concerned?   
    Spring training is slightly more than half over. While most of us tend to dismiss results, both from the Twins W/L record and individual performances, I admit to a growing concern about last year's greatest weakness - the offense. Looking at team stats the Twins rank 23rd(out of 30) in BA, 27th in Runs, 29th in OBP, and 25th in Slugging. These figures are even more depressing if we subtract the very robust stats from guys like Lin, Astudillo, Broxton, and Garlick, none of whom are given much of a shot to make the 26 man roster(more on that later).
    Among the almost certain starters, Sano, Buxton, Simmons(very SSS) are all hitting below the Mendoza line and Kepler is below .100. Even our two most heralded rookies, Kirillof and Larnach fall below .200BA and Jeffers is near the line. Is this a continuation of 2020's offensive malais? Well, we obviously won't know much until the season starts, but after 2+ weeks of ST, one has to wonder what offense can we expect from these designated starters in 2021?
    On paper, this looks like a solid lineup. Barring injuries, it could be one of the more productive ones in the majors. Guys like Cruz and Donaldson should be expected to produce and others like Buxton and Arraez have exhibited enough offensive prowess to supplement the big two. Simmon's defensive chops at SS earns him a pass on offensive production. But there are still holes in this lineup. namely Sano, Kepler, LF, Garver. The streakiness of this lineup, so apparent in the playoffs, could loom large over a full season. All we have to fall back on in forecasting is past performance, which among these last group named, is, to say the least, highly erratic.
    Suffice it to say that despite rosy predictions for the 2021 Twins, the FO cannot afford to wait all season for some of these hitters to perform. The Cubs have made the mistake of waiting too long for guys like Bryant, Baez, Rizzo, Schwarber, and Contreras to live up to their earlier potential, with the result they have steadily declined since their 2016WC and now border on irrelevance. Patience should not be endless. If Sano, Kepler, et. al., don't pick up in April and May, then guys like Astudillo, Broxton, Garlick, and any of our high minor league prospects should be given the opportunity. This is not pushing the panic button. It's part of good managment to separate the wheat from the chaff. The window is wide open for this team to advance deep into the playoffs so long as complacency does not remain the org's managing philosophy.
  3. Like
    Aichiman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Maeda Emerges as the Ace Minnesota Needed   
    All offseason the talk was that the Minnesota Twins needed an ace. Someone that could slot into the rotation at the level of Jose Berrios or higher would fit that bill. There was plenty of consternation when it took moving Brusdar Graterol to land the piece, but Kenta Maeda is here to stay.
    The Dodgers signed Maeda out of Japan and his first season in the majors came at 28-years-old. Despite being relied upon for over 500 innings while with Los Angeles, Maeda was often shuffled back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. Given their overall pitching strength it was a luxury LA had, but one that wore on the Japanese star.
    Deemed expendable this offseason and enticed by a flame throwing prospect, the Dodgers made the move and Minnesota got their guy. Dubbed a number three in the Dodgers rotation behind the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, there was always plenty of upside for the Twins to exploit. Fast forward to the final week of the 2020 Major League Baseball season and Minnesota seems to have found their ace.
    Through 10 starts Maeda owns a sparkling 2.52 ERA. He has a career best 10.5 K/9 and also is allowing a career low 1.5 BB/9. He leads the league with a 5.3 H/9 and also has a league leading 0.758 WHIP. He’s got a 5-1 record in the decisions column, and Minnesota is 7-3 when he takes the ball. He’s yet to miss a quality start in any turn, and he’s gone at least 6.0 IP in seven of his 10 total outings.
    No matter how you define the role of an ace Kenta Maeda has embodied it this season. He’s been dominant. He’s been reliable. He’s been consistent. Now it also looks like he’ll be rewarded as Minnesota’s game one starter in the Wild Card round of the Postseason. Starting on Wednesday the 23rd against the Tigers, he lines up to toe take the ball when the Twins open a home playoff series.
    There could certainly be some handwringing over the fact that it’s Maeda and not Jose Berrios being entrusted with the opportunity to set the tone in a short series, however this elevation of ability is probably good for both of them. Berrios really struggled out of the gate this year for the Twins, and despite being dominant of late, he had an uphill battle to climb. It was hoped that 2020 would be another step forward for Jose, and while the sum of all parts may represent as much, it’s again been a tale of two halves.
    As Minnesota looks to rebuild their rotation again in 2021, with plenty of departures pending, it will be a welcome relief that Berrios is joined by another constant in Maeda. Neither of these guys will crack true ace status across baseball, reserved for just the top ten or so arms in the sport. However, both can pitch as staff aces, and the ability to be interchangeable or play off of one another is something that Rocco Baldelli and his staff have to be excited about for years to come.
    It’s certainly not easy moving on from a prospect that has been talked up for so long. When you have an opportunity to cash in for proven, upper level talent though, you have to jump at it. Maybe Brusdar Graterol will turn out to be more than Maeda ever is, but by that time Minnesota will be long past the current window they’re looking to capitalize on.
    You wanted an ace Twins fans, and he’s here, in the form of Kenta Maeda.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
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