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Matt Braun

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Matt Braun last won the day on October 17 2020

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  1. Richard Nixon had a problem. No, it wasn’t Vietnam, or the Russians, or the press finding out about a secret slush fund; those would be issues for the ghosts of Nixon past and future. Rather, this was a dilemma for a mid-1960s Nixon, one that the people barely rejected in 1960 in favor of some young, handsome guy and who then badly lost a California governor race that should have ended his career. But the times were changing. The Democrats, crushed under the sins of Lyndon Johnson, were in disarray and out of favor with the general populous. The Republicans were comparatively healthy, but they lacked a true conservative superstar to carry them to success; significant players like George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller belonged to the liberal Republican camp. Perhaps, and this was a longshot, Nixon could re-brand himself and prove that a changed man was deserving of the White House. ----------------------------------- Tyler Duffey. You know him; you may like him! The Duffman is now the longest-tenured Twins pitcher, debuting in 2015 back when Ryan O’Rourke and Blaine Boyer were a thing (Caleb Thielbar was technically on that team also, but he took a bunch of years off, so it doesn’t count the same). Evolution has defined his entire career; Duffey moved to a relief role in 2019, cut his changeup, and found new success as a reliable late-inning arm. He’s back to tinkering in 2022. 2019 is the pivotal year in this discussion. Yes, those previous seasons do count, but Duffey was a different pitcher, so different that analyzing those years does not help us. The Twins front office decided that Duffey would not be up to snuff as a starter (probably true) and moved him to the bullpen where his fastball/curveball combo could play up. Friends, that’s exactly what it did. Duffey averaged 94 MPH with his fastball and spent 57 ⅔ innings laying waste to batters to the tune of a 2.50 ERA with great peripherals (3.06 FIP, 2.94 xFIP). Success since that year has been inconsistent, though. He was better in 2020 (1.88 ERA, 2.57 FIP), but his peripherals fell off a cliff in 2021 (3.49 FIP, 4.19 xFIP, enough walks to start a protest). He became hittable and less deadly outside the strike zone, as both his O-Swing % dipped (33.9% in 2019 to 26.6% in 2021) and Contact % rose (69.2% in 2019 to 77.9% in 2021); a terrible combination for any pitcher. Oh, and he’s lost a tick and a half on his fastball. The fastball is perhaps the most interesting pitch in Duffey’s repertoire. His curveball always had deep, visceral movement, the kind of drop that pushes one to theorize that all stadiums have a baseball magnet hidden underneath home plate. His 4-seam fastball, though, never carried great traits. It spins a bit more than average but doesn’t ride in the way that Justin Verlander’s heater can look like it’s elevating towards heaven. Still, he had enough juice to effectively attack hitters at the top of the zone in 2019. In the years since? It’s a different story. That’s… something; he’s become unpredictable, which can help to a degree (the hitter can’t know where the pitch is going if you don’t either), but inconsistency has plagued him with this new strategy. His solution? Re-invite the sinker to the party. He’s thrown the sinker 10.8% of the time—mainly against righties—and has successfully thrown it in exactly one location. See if you can spot the pattern: The pitch has excellent Statcast outcomes, but with only six batted ball events against it, bringing up those numbers seems foolish. Overall, Duffey has had an inconsistent start to his season, more than what one would expect from any reliever. The good news is that he might be ahead of the curve by trying out his sinker more; the bad news is that it is unclear yet whether that plan will work. Either way, Duffey is a changed pitcher in 2022. View full article
  2. ----------------------------------- Tyler Duffey. You know him; you may like him! The Duffman is now the longest-tenured Twins pitcher, debuting in 2015 back when Ryan O’Rourke and Blaine Boyer were a thing (Caleb Thielbar was technically on that team also, but he took a bunch of years off, so it doesn’t count the same). Evolution has defined his entire career; Duffey moved to a relief role in 2019, cut his changeup, and found new success as a reliable late-inning arm. He’s back to tinkering in 2022. 2019 is the pivotal year in this discussion. Yes, those previous seasons do count, but Duffey was a different pitcher, so different that analyzing those years does not help us. The Twins front office decided that Duffey would not be up to snuff as a starter (probably true) and moved him to the bullpen where his fastball/curveball combo could play up. Friends, that’s exactly what it did. Duffey averaged 94 MPH with his fastball and spent 57 ⅔ innings laying waste to batters to the tune of a 2.50 ERA with great peripherals (3.06 FIP, 2.94 xFIP). Success since that year has been inconsistent, though. He was better in 2020 (1.88 ERA, 2.57 FIP), but his peripherals fell off a cliff in 2021 (3.49 FIP, 4.19 xFIP, enough walks to start a protest). He became hittable and less deadly outside the strike zone, as both his O-Swing % dipped (33.9% in 2019 to 26.6% in 2021) and Contact % rose (69.2% in 2019 to 77.9% in 2021); a terrible combination for any pitcher. Oh, and he’s lost a tick and a half on his fastball. The fastball is perhaps the most interesting pitch in Duffey’s repertoire. His curveball always had deep, visceral movement, the kind of drop that pushes one to theorize that all stadiums have a baseball magnet hidden underneath home plate. His 4-seam fastball, though, never carried great traits. It spins a bit more than average but doesn’t ride in the way that Justin Verlander’s heater can look like it’s elevating towards heaven. Still, he had enough juice to effectively attack hitters at the top of the zone in 2019. In the years since? It’s a different story. That’s… something; he’s become unpredictable, which can help to a degree (the hitter can’t know where the pitch is going if you don’t either), but inconsistency has plagued him with this new strategy. His solution? Re-invite the sinker to the party. He’s thrown the sinker 10.8% of the time—mainly against righties—and has successfully thrown it in exactly one location. See if you can spot the pattern: The pitch has excellent Statcast outcomes, but with only six batted ball events against it, bringing up those numbers seems foolish. Overall, Duffey has had an inconsistent start to his season, more than what one would expect from any reliever. The good news is that he might be ahead of the curve by trying out his sinker more; the bad news is that it is unclear yet whether that plan will work. Either way, Duffey is a changed pitcher in 2022.
  3. TRANSACTIONS RHP Trevor Megill selected by Minnesota Twins LHP Devin Smeltzer optioned to AAA St. Paul RHP Tyler Bashlor placed on IL (right elbow strain) RHP Jake Petricka placed on COVID-19 related IL RHP Bailey Ober returned to Twins Saints Sentinel St. Paul 4, Omaha 2 Box Score Dereck Rodriguez: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K HR: Jake Cave (2) Multi-hit games: None The Saints cruised on Saturday. Royce Lewis walked, Alex Kirilloff singled, Jermaine Palacios walked, and Jake Cave brought the family home with a grand slam. You can’t start a game better than that. St. Paul would not score the rest of the game, but they didn’t need to as they received an outstanding effort from their pitching staff. Dereck Rodriguez was on his game. The former, former Twins prospect struck out nine batters over five innings while allowing just six baserunners. His ERA at AAA is now a sparkling 1.74, and one has to imagine that he’ll get another chance in the majors before long. Rodriguez handed the reigns to Ian Hamilton, who out-dueled Omaha hitters to the tune of three strikeouts over five total outs. His ERA is somehow even lower at 1.08. If he continues to quell the walks, his number could be called very soon. Overall it was a pretty quiet game. Cave’s grand slam represented the crucial runs while Omaha never established themselves at the plate. Hey, quiet wins count as much as loud ones. Of note: Royce Lewis played in left field, and it appears that he caught all of one out in the game. Wind Surge Wisdom Wichita 7, Springfield 9 Box Score Ben Gross: 3 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, K HR: Andrew Bechtold (5) Multi-hit games: Austin Martin (2-for-4, R, RBI, 2 BB), Andrew Bechtold (2-for-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB), Chris Williams (3-for-4, R, RBI, BB) Wichita lost a close game on Saturday. It was a classic barn-burner in score but not in game flow. Springfield, at one point, enjoyed a 9-0 lead over Wichita before an explosive six-run 7th inning brought intrigue to a game entirely in the blowout category. Let’s back up. An ugly 2nd inning that included a balk, a few hits, and two errors netted the Cardinals four quick runs. Gross would pitch one more inning afterward, but the damage remained attached to his name. Zach Featherstone put forth his best attempt at controlling the game but was only rewarded with an inflated ERA. A barrage of hits mixed with an error from Michael Helman doubled Springfield’s lead in short order. A solo homer would make the score the aforementioned 9-0 lead, but Wichita’s bats came alive in the 7th. It was a story in two parts: the first being runs scored by traditional hits, the second being patience leading to flourishing rewards. Ernie Yake doubled, Austin Martin singled, and Andrew Bechtold brought everyone home with a three-run blast. Some may see a home run as a rally-killer, yet it was anything but in this inning. An array of walks knocked old friend Kevin Marnon from the game before old friend Johan Quezada came in to establish order. He did not. A wild pitch brought home the inning's fifth run before a walk to Martin netted the sixth and final one. Chris Williams doubled home a run in the following inning, but it was not enough to overcome the brutal 9-0 deficit, and Wichita walked away without a win. Kernels Nuggets Cedar Rapids 4, Lake County 12 Box Score John Stankiewicz: 3 2/3 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K HR: Will Holland (3) Multi-hit games: Seth Gray (2-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB) The Kernels lost handily on Saturday. The Captains jumped on John Stankiewicz as the early innings melted into the middle innings, and the rest of the game’s narrative quickly followed suit. Ryan Shreve and Miguel Rodriguez were unable to stop an offensive movement in the 6th inning, and any scoring after that was a vain attempt at stat-padding. Cedar Rapids was held in check offensively as well. Kernels hitters punched out 14 times while reaching base only nine times; they went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Seth Gray was the big bat of the day, reaching base three times while knocking in half of Cedar Rapids’ runs; Will Holland knocked in the other two when he homered in the 3rd inning. To look for more bright spots, Bradley Hanner continued his ridiculous start to the season with two strikeouts over 1 1/3 scoreless innings. His season ERA is now a sparkling 0.50. Yeah, that’ll play. Mussel Matters Fort Myers 4, Clearwater 5 Box Score Marco Raya: 5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K HR: Mikey Perez (5) Multi-hit games: Mikey Perez (2-for-5, HR, R, 3 RBI), Keoni Cavaco (2-for-5, 2B, RBI), Dylan Neuse (2-for-3) Fort Myers lost a close one on Saturday. Marco Raya, looking to continue his fine start to the season, took the mound for the Mighty Mussels. The right-hander could not reign in his dominant stuff, and the Threshers made him pay, knocking around eight hits to go with three walks and three earned runs. It will be on to the next start for him. Clearwater’s offense was not a consistent onslaught despite the earned runs, instead evenly distributing their runs one at a time in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th innings, respectively. In fact, the Mighty Mussels held a slight lead after the top of the 7th inning when Mikey Perez blasted an Earl Weaver special to give Fort Myers a 4-3 lead. Although, the Mighty Mussels forgot that defense was part of Weaver’s special equation, and a dodgeball fight involving Noah Cardenas and Perez in the bottom half of the 7th resulted in a tying run scoring for Clearwater. They would score once more the following inning to win. The team shot themselves in the foot offensively as well. While four runs will win a team a fair amount of ballgames, the Mighty Mussels left a small army stranded on base; 11 to be exact. They walked and slashed hits all around the field like a good team is supposed to do but just missed out on a few damaging knocks that could have sealed a win. Altogether, six Mighty Mussels hitters reached base multiple times; Noah Miller and Emmanuel Rodriguez walked more than once, while Miller added a base hit for good measure. Regi Grace stood out for Fort Myers pitchers, allowing just one earned run over eight outs, with five of those coming via a strikeout. Because baseball is inherently cruel, he was tagged with the loss. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Dereck Rodriguez Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Mikey Perez PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #1 – Austin Martin (Wichita) - 2-for-4, R, RBI, 2 BB #2 – Royce Lewis (St. Paul) - 0-for-3, BB, R, K #5 – Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - 5 2/3 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K (79 pitches, 51 strikes) #10 – Noah Miller (Fort Myers) - 1-for-3, 2 R, 2 BB, K #11 – Gilberto Celestino (Minnesota) - 1-for-2, R, BB #12 – Matt Wallner (Wichita) - 0-for-2, 2 R, 3 BB #15 – Emmanuel Rodriguez (Fort Myers) - 0-for-2, R, 3 BB, 2 K SUNDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS St. Paul @ Omaha (2:05 PM) - RHP Ronny Henriquez Springfield @ Wichita (1:05 PM) - RHP Matt Canterino Lake County @ Cedar Rapids (2:05 PM) - LHP Brent Headrick Fort Myers @ Clearwater (11:00 AM) - LHP Jaylen Nowlin
  4. Royce Lewis played left field, the Wind Surge almost made an impressive comeback, and Jake Cave blasted a grand slam. If that doesn't excite you, then nothing will. Read all about that and more in this edition of the minor league report. TRANSACTIONS RHP Trevor Megill selected by Minnesota Twins LHP Devin Smeltzer optioned to AAA St. Paul RHP Tyler Bashlor placed on IL (right elbow strain) RHP Jake Petricka placed on COVID-19 related IL RHP Bailey Ober returned to Twins Saints Sentinel St. Paul 4, Omaha 2 Box Score Dereck Rodriguez: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K HR: Jake Cave (2) Multi-hit games: None The Saints cruised on Saturday. Royce Lewis walked, Alex Kirilloff singled, Jermaine Palacios walked, and Jake Cave brought the family home with a grand slam. You can’t start a game better than that. St. Paul would not score the rest of the game, but they didn’t need to as they received an outstanding effort from their pitching staff. Dereck Rodriguez was on his game. The former, former Twins prospect struck out nine batters over five innings while allowing just six baserunners. His ERA at AAA is now a sparkling 1.74, and one has to imagine that he’ll get another chance in the majors before long. Rodriguez handed the reigns to Ian Hamilton, who out-dueled Omaha hitters to the tune of three strikeouts over five total outs. His ERA is somehow even lower at 1.08. If he continues to quell the walks, his number could be called very soon. Overall it was a pretty quiet game. Cave’s grand slam represented the crucial runs while Omaha never established themselves at the plate. Hey, quiet wins count as much as loud ones. Of note: Royce Lewis played in left field, and it appears that he caught all of one out in the game. Wind Surge Wisdom Wichita 7, Springfield 9 Box Score Ben Gross: 3 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, K HR: Andrew Bechtold (5) Multi-hit games: Austin Martin (2-for-4, R, RBI, 2 BB), Andrew Bechtold (2-for-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB), Chris Williams (3-for-4, R, RBI, BB) Wichita lost a close game on Saturday. It was a classic barn-burner in score but not in game flow. Springfield, at one point, enjoyed a 9-0 lead over Wichita before an explosive six-run 7th inning brought intrigue to a game entirely in the blowout category. Let’s back up. An ugly 2nd inning that included a balk, a few hits, and two errors netted the Cardinals four quick runs. Gross would pitch one more inning afterward, but the damage remained attached to his name. Zach Featherstone put forth his best attempt at controlling the game but was only rewarded with an inflated ERA. A barrage of hits mixed with an error from Michael Helman doubled Springfield’s lead in short order. A solo homer would make the score the aforementioned 9-0 lead, but Wichita’s bats came alive in the 7th. It was a story in two parts: the first being runs scored by traditional hits, the second being patience leading to flourishing rewards. Ernie Yake doubled, Austin Martin singled, and Andrew Bechtold brought everyone home with a three-run blast. Some may see a home run as a rally-killer, yet it was anything but in this inning. An array of walks knocked old friend Kevin Marnon from the game before old friend Johan Quezada came in to establish order. He did not. A wild pitch brought home the inning's fifth run before a walk to Martin netted the sixth and final one. Chris Williams doubled home a run in the following inning, but it was not enough to overcome the brutal 9-0 deficit, and Wichita walked away without a win. Kernels Nuggets Cedar Rapids 4, Lake County 12 Box Score John Stankiewicz: 3 2/3 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K HR: Will Holland (3) Multi-hit games: Seth Gray (2-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB) The Kernels lost handily on Saturday. The Captains jumped on John Stankiewicz as the early innings melted into the middle innings, and the rest of the game’s narrative quickly followed suit. Ryan Shreve and Miguel Rodriguez were unable to stop an offensive movement in the 6th inning, and any scoring after that was a vain attempt at stat-padding. Cedar Rapids was held in check offensively as well. Kernels hitters punched out 14 times while reaching base only nine times; they went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Seth Gray was the big bat of the day, reaching base three times while knocking in half of Cedar Rapids’ runs; Will Holland knocked in the other two when he homered in the 3rd inning. To look for more bright spots, Bradley Hanner continued his ridiculous start to the season with two strikeouts over 1 1/3 scoreless innings. His season ERA is now a sparkling 0.50. Yeah, that’ll play. Mussel Matters Fort Myers 4, Clearwater 5 Box Score Marco Raya: 5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K HR: Mikey Perez (5) Multi-hit games: Mikey Perez (2-for-5, HR, R, 3 RBI), Keoni Cavaco (2-for-5, 2B, RBI), Dylan Neuse (2-for-3) Fort Myers lost a close one on Saturday. Marco Raya, looking to continue his fine start to the season, took the mound for the Mighty Mussels. The right-hander could not reign in his dominant stuff, and the Threshers made him pay, knocking around eight hits to go with three walks and three earned runs. It will be on to the next start for him. Clearwater’s offense was not a consistent onslaught despite the earned runs, instead evenly distributing their runs one at a time in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th innings, respectively. In fact, the Mighty Mussels held a slight lead after the top of the 7th inning when Mikey Perez blasted an Earl Weaver special to give Fort Myers a 4-3 lead. Although, the Mighty Mussels forgot that defense was part of Weaver’s special equation, and a dodgeball fight involving Noah Cardenas and Perez in the bottom half of the 7th resulted in a tying run scoring for Clearwater. They would score once more the following inning to win. The team shot themselves in the foot offensively as well. While four runs will win a team a fair amount of ballgames, the Mighty Mussels left a small army stranded on base; 11 to be exact. They walked and slashed hits all around the field like a good team is supposed to do but just missed out on a few damaging knocks that could have sealed a win. Altogether, six Mighty Mussels hitters reached base multiple times; Noah Miller and Emmanuel Rodriguez walked more than once, while Miller added a base hit for good measure. Regi Grace stood out for Fort Myers pitchers, allowing just one earned run over eight outs, with five of those coming via a strikeout. Because baseball is inherently cruel, he was tagged with the loss. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Dereck Rodriguez Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Mikey Perez PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #1 – Austin Martin (Wichita) - 2-for-4, R, RBI, 2 BB #2 – Royce Lewis (St. Paul) - 0-for-3, BB, R, K #5 – Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - 5 2/3 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K (79 pitches, 51 strikes) #10 – Noah Miller (Fort Myers) - 1-for-3, 2 R, 2 BB, K #11 – Gilberto Celestino (Minnesota) - 1-for-2, R, BB #12 – Matt Wallner (Wichita) - 0-for-2, 2 R, 3 BB #15 – Emmanuel Rodriguez (Fort Myers) - 0-for-2, R, 3 BB, 2 K SUNDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS St. Paul @ Omaha (2:05 PM) - RHP Ronny Henriquez Springfield @ Wichita (1:05 PM) - RHP Matt Canterino Lake County @ Cedar Rapids (2:05 PM) - LHP Brent Headrick Fort Myers @ Clearwater (11:00 AM) - LHP Jaylen Nowlin View full article
  5. If I were to guess, the definition of a pitch in a certain location and it being "in the strike zone" could differ based on whether it was called a strike or not. Because the samples are so darn small, just a few calls could make it so that a pitch was thrown in a specific location of the plate, but not called a strike. Therefore, it could be reflected in the heatmap, but not necessarily his zone %. Also I grabbed most of my numbers from pitch info solutions and the heatmap could be from a different source, which mucks things up. That's the issue with trying to look at very small samples!
  6. Royce Lewis is no longer on the Twins big-league roster. The top prospect slashed .308/.325/.564 with the ballclub, a total impressive for most hitters in the game, much less one who just recently played his first professional baseball game in two-and-a-half years. But the Twins, whether so enamored by Gio Urshela that they couldn’t possibly DFA him, or doggedly set on having Lewis play shortstop no matter the cost, optioned him to AAA. While Lewis is now literally just 15 minutes away, let's dive far too deep into his offensive numbers in the majors. Plate Discipline: Looking first at his O-Swing%, Lewis swung at 33.3% of pitches outside the strike zone, placing him 34th highest amongst qualified hitters in MLB, sandwiched between two Austins; Hays and Riley. There’s nothing inherently damning about that stat—O-Swing rate is more descriptive of how the meat is made rather than its quality; that he’s between a great hitter in Riley and a forgettable one in Hays makes that point by itself. Dave Cherman’s work allows us to understand that O-Swing rate is correlated with walks, meaning that Lewis did not show much of an affinity for taking a free base, which we knew. The following important stat is O-Contact %—how much contact did Lewis make with pitches outside the strike zone? He put up a 70.0% mark, an elite total that would tie him with teammate Gio Urshela and Ozzie Albies for 24th in baseball. If you can believe it, making contact with pitches outside the zone is a great way to lower your strikeout rate (as pointed out by general baseball logic and Cherman’s work from above), and Lewis rocked this area. His otherworldly 12% strikeout rate is probably lower than it will be when his numbers stabilize, but he should still settle in with a punchout rate well below average (in a good way). Finally, we’ll observe Z-Contact %. Zone contact rate, again using Cherman’s work to help, is correlated with strikeouts—a swing and a miss inside the zone means as much for the count as a swing and a miss outside of it. Lewis’s 88.2 % mark is well above average, sitting 54th among 172 hitters, right above José Abreu. Again, this number is hardly world-altering, but it reflects a hitter capable of putting the ball in play at the major league level. What is incredibly odd is that Lewis saw 56.8 % of pitches inside the strike zone, a total that would top the leaderboards if he qualified for them. MLB pitchers, rather than berate him with junk, thought the best course of action would be to hurl him enough strikes to make Jimmy Hoffa proud. That level of zone-filling will certainly change whenever Lewis re-joins the team. Batted Ball Nuggets Lewis popped an xWOBA of .347, good enough to tie him with known elite bats Gavin Lux and Andrew Knizer; Austin Hays isn’t far behind. Perhaps most impressive was his smoked “officer, I didn’t mean to kill him” 114 MPH line-out that could have cartoonishly blasted José Ramírez through brick walls if we didn’t live in such a dull reality. Instead, it was just an out. So it goes. Not Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, or another big-meaty man, Pete Alonso, have hit a ball harder this year. The baseball gods gave Royce Lewis 139 pitches to sculpt an impressive resume from, and he did a solid B+ job, hinting at a tool collection full of noisy, consistent contact. Happenstance chose otherwise this time, but Lewis is guaranteed another shot at staying in the majors whenever the universe next carelessly chooses to injure an unfortunate starter. Hopefully, for that player’s sake, their nickname isn’t Wally Pipp.
  7. It was 1920, alcohol would soon be banned, big band Jazz would become the popular music of the time, and Republican Warren G. Harding would take the office of the Presidency in March the following year. His opponent, James Cox, has melted away in the sands of time; the tragic victim of losing in a country that has no time for losers. Cox's running mate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, could have easily been the nominee for the Democrats, but the politically wise Roosevelt sensed the shifting tides and understood that he would never win in 1920. Woodrow Wilson burned any goodwill left with the American public, and the last time a Democrat took office after another Democrat was James Buchanan in 1857. FDR still wanted to be president, but his time would have to wait. Royce Lewis is no longer on the Twins big-league roster. The top prospect slashed .308/.325/.564 with the ballclub, a total impressive for most hitters in the game, much less one who just recently played his first professional baseball game in two-and-a-half years. But the Twins, whether so enamored by Gio Urshela that they couldn’t possibly DFA him, or doggedly set on having Lewis play shortstop no matter the cost, optioned him to AAA. While Lewis is now literally just 15 minutes away, let's dive far too deep into his offensive numbers in the majors. Plate Discipline: Looking first at his O-Swing%, Lewis swung at 33.3% of pitches outside the strike zone, placing him 34th highest amongst qualified hitters in MLB, sandwiched between two Austins; Hays and Riley. There’s nothing inherently damning about that stat—O-Swing rate is more descriptive of how the meat is made rather than its quality; that he’s between a great hitter in Riley and a forgettable one in Hays makes that point by itself. Dave Cherman’s work allows us to understand that O-Swing rate is correlated with walks, meaning that Lewis did not show much of an affinity for taking a free base, which we knew. The following important stat is O-Contact %—how much contact did Lewis make with pitches outside the strike zone? He put up a 70.0% mark, an elite total that would tie him with teammate Gio Urshela and Ozzie Albies for 24th in baseball. If you can believe it, making contact with pitches outside the zone is a great way to lower your strikeout rate (as pointed out by general baseball logic and Cherman’s work from above), and Lewis rocked this area. His otherworldly 12% strikeout rate is probably lower than it will be when his numbers stabilize, but he should still settle in with a punchout rate well below average (in a good way). Finally, we’ll observe Z-Contact %. Zone contact rate, again using Cherman’s work to help, is correlated with strikeouts—a swing and a miss inside the zone means as much for the count as a swing and a miss outside of it. Lewis’s 88.2 % mark is well above average, sitting 54th among 172 hitters, right above José Abreu. Again, this number is hardly world-altering, but it reflects a hitter capable of putting the ball in play at the major league level. What is incredibly odd is that Lewis saw 56.8 % of pitches inside the strike zone, a total that would top the leaderboards if he qualified for them. MLB pitchers, rather than berate him with junk, thought the best course of action would be to hurl him enough strikes to make Jimmy Hoffa proud. That level of zone-filling will certainly change whenever Lewis re-joins the team. Batted Ball Nuggets Lewis popped an xWOBA of .347, good enough to tie him with known elite bats Gavin Lux and Andrew Knizer; Austin Hays isn’t far behind. Perhaps most impressive was his smoked “officer, I didn’t mean to kill him” 114 MPH line-out that could have cartoonishly blasted José Ramírez through brick walls if we didn’t live in such a dull reality. Instead, it was just an out. So it goes. Not Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, or another big-meaty man, Pete Alonso, have hit a ball harder this year. The baseball gods gave Royce Lewis 139 pitches to sculpt an impressive resume from, and he did a solid B+ job, hinting at a tool collection full of noisy, consistent contact. Happenstance chose otherwise this time, but Lewis is guaranteed another shot at staying in the majors whenever the universe next carelessly chooses to injure an unfortunate starter. Hopefully, for that player’s sake, their nickname isn’t Wally Pipp. View full article
  8. Emmanuel Rodriguez reminds me of a certain Sublime song; "I take two walks in the morning, I take two walks at night."
  9. Bailey Ober was supposed to make his first rehab start, but rain stopped him from ever taking the mound on Saturday. However, the three teams that did play all won their games. Read all about that and more in this edition of the Minor League Report. TRANSACTIONS RHP Bailey Ober assigned to AAA St. Paul on Major League Rehab. OF Alex Kirilloff optioned to AAA St. Paul. LHP Devin Smeltzer contract selected by Minnesota Twins. IF Miguel Sano placed on 60-Day IL. RHP Blayne Enlow added to AA Wichita Saints Sentinel The Saints were rained out on Saturday. They will play a double-header against Columbus tomorrow with Bailey Ober taking the mound in game one. Wind Surge Wisdom Wichita 7, Arkansas 6 Box Score Blayne Enlow: 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K HR: Spencer Steer (6), Chris Williams (1) Multi-hit games: Austin Martin (2-for-5, R, RBI), Spencer Steer (3-for-5, HR, R, 3 RBI), Andrew Bechtold (2-for-4, 2B, R, BB, 2 K) The Wind Surge kept rolling on Saturday. Blayne Enlow made his Wind Surge debut and his first non-rehab assignment start since undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s back. The start wasn’t the best, but six strikeouts is nothing to sneeze at. It’s just great to see him healthy and back on a pitching mound this summer. While the game ended up close, Wichita’s offense took off quickly in this game, scoring pairs of runs in the first three innings. Spencer Steer was the main culprit, hitting a two-run homer in the first to go with an RBI infield hit in the second. That may be the biggest difference feet-wise between RBI hits in baseball. Arkansas would steal a run in the bottom of the 2nd inning, but Chris Williams belted a hearty laugh, and blasted a two-run homer to right-center field. The Naturals came scratching back, though. Chris Vallimont had a tough outing in relief, allowing two earned runs and walking four batters in 1 2/3 innings of work. Defense didn’t help either, as both Andrew Bechtold and Austin Martin made errors that allowed un-earned runs to score. That Martin error was especially deadly, as Arkansas rode their extra out to three runs and a tied game. In dramatic fashion, Martin then made good and gave Wichita the lead in the 8th with an RBI single. The Naturals could not recover from that deficit. Kernels Nuggets Cedar Rapids 7, Peoria 1 Box Score Sawyer Gipson-Long: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K HR: Anthony Prato (5) Multi-hit games: Aaron Sabato (2-for-4, 2B, R), Alerick Soularie (2-for-4, 3B, 2 R, RBI), Will Holland (2-for-3, R, RBI) The Kernels won on Saturday. Water is wet. These were the two sentences used last time, and they are still appropriate. Sawyer Gipson-Long Did the Darn Thing and completely silenced the Chiefs’ bats. It took the righty just 62 pitches to run through 15 outs with seven of those being strikeouts. Gipson-Long has been a surprising revelation since joining the Twins organization, and Saturday was another day in a line of impressive starts from him. Credit news to be given to Derek Molina, Tyler Palm, and Denny Bentley, as they combined for four clutch innings of work and just a single earned run allowed. Although the game ended up handily won by Cedar Rapids, the game flow was not always so simple. The score was 2-1 after eight innings with an Alerick Soularie little-league homer (triple with an error allowing him to score), and a Jair Camargo RBI single representing their only offense of the game. But the Kernels broke it open in the 9th inning, plating five runs off a few base knocks, and an Anthony Prato three-run bomb. Peoria had no response in their half of the inning. Mussel Matters Fort Myers 10, Palm Beach 4 Box Score Steve Hajjar: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 5 K HR: Mikey Perez (3), Dillon Tatum (2) Multi-hit games: Emmanuel Rodriguez (3-for-4, 2B, 3 R, RBI, BB), Mikey Perez (3-for-4, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI, BB) The Mighty Mussels won handily on Saturday. Is it a good thing to have four players reach base three times in one game? Asking for a friend. Fort Myers dominated with an equal attack amongst their offense—no one batter should own the means of run production after all. Noah Miller and Emmanuel Rodriguez continued to be on-base machines, which isn’t surprising. Mikey Perez was the big story though, as he doubled, homered, and reached base four times in the game. Eight hitters reached base at least once. Steve Hajjar took the mound, and while he allowed just one run, command eluded him. Hajjar walked five batters while throwing just 46 of his 80 pitches for strikes. Although, it appears he was “effectively wild” given that the Cardinals could only knock one hit off of him. Walks proved to be the name of the game overall. The Mighty Mussels walked more than they struck out (nine to eight) while the Cardinals weren’t far behind (seven to 10). One could refer to this game as “leisurely.” TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Sawyer Gipson-Long Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Spencer Steer PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #1 – Austin Martin (Wichita) - 2-for-5, R, RBI #2 – Royce Lewis (Minnesota) - 1-for-4 #3 – Jose Miranda (Minnesota) - 0-for-5, 2 K #4 – Jordan Balazovic (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #5 – Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - Did not pitch #6 – Matt Canterino (Wichita) - Did not pitch #7 – Jhoan Duran (Minnesota) - 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, K #8 – Simeon Woods Richardson (Wichita) - Did not pitch #9 – Josh Winder (Minnesota) - Did not pitch #10 – Noah Miller (Fort Myers) - 1-for-2, 2 R, 3 BB #11 – Gilberto Celestino (Minnesota) - 1-for-4, 2 K #12 – Matt Wallner (Wichita) - 0-for-3, 2 BB, K #13 – Cole Sands (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #14 – Louie Varland (Wichita) - Did not pitch #15 – Emmanuel Rodriguez (Fort Myers) - 3-for-4, 2B, 3 R, RBI, BB, K #16 – Ronny Henriquez (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #17 – Blayne Enlow (Wichita) - 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K #18 – Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 3-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 HR, 2B #19 – Edouard Julien (Wichita) - 1-for-3, 2 R, 2 BB, K #20 – Steve Hajjar (Fort Myers) - 4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 5 K SATURDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS St. Paul @ Columbus (12:05 PM) - RHP Bailey Ober St. Paul @ Columbus (Game Two) - RHP Dereck Rodriguez Wichita @ NW Arkansas (1:35 PM) - RHP Casey Legumina Cedar Rapids @ Peoria (1:35 PM) - RHP John Stankiewicz Palm Beach @ Fort Myers (12:00 PM) - RHP Marco Raya View full article
  10. TRANSACTIONS RHP Bailey Ober assigned to AAA St. Paul on Major League Rehab. OF Alex Kirilloff optioned to AAA St. Paul. LHP Devin Smeltzer contract selected by Minnesota Twins. IF Miguel Sano placed on 60-Day IL. RHP Blayne Enlow added to AA Wichita Saints Sentinel The Saints were rained out on Saturday. They will play a double-header against Columbus tomorrow with Bailey Ober taking the mound in game one. Wind Surge Wisdom Wichita 7, Arkansas 6 Box Score Blayne Enlow: 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K HR: Spencer Steer (6), Chris Williams (1) Multi-hit games: Austin Martin (2-for-5, R, RBI), Spencer Steer (3-for-5, HR, R, 3 RBI), Andrew Bechtold (2-for-4, 2B, R, BB, 2 K) The Wind Surge kept rolling on Saturday. Blayne Enlow made his Wind Surge debut and his first non-rehab assignment start since undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s back. The start wasn’t the best, but six strikeouts is nothing to sneeze at. It’s just great to see him healthy and back on a pitching mound this summer. While the game ended up close, Wichita’s offense took off quickly in this game, scoring pairs of runs in the first three innings. Spencer Steer was the main culprit, hitting a two-run homer in the first to go with an RBI infield hit in the second. That may be the biggest difference feet-wise between RBI hits in baseball. Arkansas would steal a run in the bottom of the 2nd inning, but Chris Williams belted a hearty laugh, and blasted a two-run homer to right-center field. The Naturals came scratching back, though. Chris Vallimont had a tough outing in relief, allowing two earned runs and walking four batters in 1 2/3 innings of work. Defense didn’t help either, as both Andrew Bechtold and Austin Martin made errors that allowed un-earned runs to score. That Martin error was especially deadly, as Arkansas rode their extra out to three runs and a tied game. In dramatic fashion, Martin then made good and gave Wichita the lead in the 8th with an RBI single. The Naturals could not recover from that deficit. Kernels Nuggets Cedar Rapids 7, Peoria 1 Box Score Sawyer Gipson-Long: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K HR: Anthony Prato (5) Multi-hit games: Aaron Sabato (2-for-4, 2B, R), Alerick Soularie (2-for-4, 3B, 2 R, RBI), Will Holland (2-for-3, R, RBI) The Kernels won on Saturday. Water is wet. These were the two sentences used last time, and they are still appropriate. Sawyer Gipson-Long Did the Darn Thing and completely silenced the Chiefs’ bats. It took the righty just 62 pitches to run through 15 outs with seven of those being strikeouts. Gipson-Long has been a surprising revelation since joining the Twins organization, and Saturday was another day in a line of impressive starts from him. Credit news to be given to Derek Molina, Tyler Palm, and Denny Bentley, as they combined for four clutch innings of work and just a single earned run allowed. Although the game ended up handily won by Cedar Rapids, the game flow was not always so simple. The score was 2-1 after eight innings with an Alerick Soularie little-league homer (triple with an error allowing him to score), and a Jair Camargo RBI single representing their only offense of the game. But the Kernels broke it open in the 9th inning, plating five runs off a few base knocks, and an Anthony Prato three-run bomb. Peoria had no response in their half of the inning. Mussel Matters Fort Myers 10, Palm Beach 4 Box Score Steve Hajjar: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 5 K HR: Mikey Perez (3), Dillon Tatum (2) Multi-hit games: Emmanuel Rodriguez (3-for-4, 2B, 3 R, RBI, BB), Mikey Perez (3-for-4, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI, BB) The Mighty Mussels won handily on Saturday. Is it a good thing to have four players reach base three times in one game? Asking for a friend. Fort Myers dominated with an equal attack amongst their offense—no one batter should own the means of run production after all. Noah Miller and Emmanuel Rodriguez continued to be on-base machines, which isn’t surprising. Mikey Perez was the big story though, as he doubled, homered, and reached base four times in the game. Eight hitters reached base at least once. Steve Hajjar took the mound, and while he allowed just one run, command eluded him. Hajjar walked five batters while throwing just 46 of his 80 pitches for strikes. Although, it appears he was “effectively wild” given that the Cardinals could only knock one hit off of him. Walks proved to be the name of the game overall. The Mighty Mussels walked more than they struck out (nine to eight) while the Cardinals weren’t far behind (seven to 10). One could refer to this game as “leisurely.” TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Sawyer Gipson-Long Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Spencer Steer PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #1 – Austin Martin (Wichita) - 2-for-5, R, RBI #2 – Royce Lewis (Minnesota) - 1-for-4 #3 – Jose Miranda (Minnesota) - 0-for-5, 2 K #4 – Jordan Balazovic (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #5 – Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - Did not pitch #6 – Matt Canterino (Wichita) - Did not pitch #7 – Jhoan Duran (Minnesota) - 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, K #8 – Simeon Woods Richardson (Wichita) - Did not pitch #9 – Josh Winder (Minnesota) - Did not pitch #10 – Noah Miller (Fort Myers) - 1-for-2, 2 R, 3 BB #11 – Gilberto Celestino (Minnesota) - 1-for-4, 2 K #12 – Matt Wallner (Wichita) - 0-for-3, 2 BB, K #13 – Cole Sands (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #14 – Louie Varland (Wichita) - Did not pitch #15 – Emmanuel Rodriguez (Fort Myers) - 3-for-4, 2B, 3 R, RBI, BB, K #16 – Ronny Henriquez (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #17 – Blayne Enlow (Wichita) - 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K #18 – Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 3-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 HR, 2B #19 – Edouard Julien (Wichita) - 1-for-3, 2 R, 2 BB, K #20 – Steve Hajjar (Fort Myers) - 4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 5 K SATURDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS St. Paul @ Columbus (12:05 PM) - RHP Bailey Ober St. Paul @ Columbus (Game Two) - RHP Dereck Rodriguez Wichita @ NW Arkansas (1:35 PM) - RHP Casey Legumina Cedar Rapids @ Peoria (1:35 PM) - RHP John Stankiewicz Palm Beach @ Fort Myers (12:00 PM) - RHP Marco Raya
  11. Of course, what happens is you spend a few days writing an article about a guy and on the day you send it, he has his worst outing of the season. Really shouldn't have tempted fate like that.
  12. Griffin Jax had a poor 2021 season by just about any stat you prefer. He struck out just 18.1% of batters, walked them at an 8.1% clip, and gave up 23 home runs in 82 innings, a total high enough to make Bert Blyleven blush. Unsurprisingly, his ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line looked more like the price of gas these days, as it went 6.37/6.47/5.75. Outside of a surprise, 10 strikeout game against the White Sox on August 10th, outings of upside were few and far between. Jax always had a trick up his sleeve: his slider. The pitch was a bright spot in an otherwise bland repertoire, running a .275 xWOBA with characteristics favorable in Eno Sarris' pitch data collection. Ironically, his popular slide piece only recently joined his repertoire. You can read Jax himself describe the pitch to David Laurila in possibly the greatest baseball information series known to mankind. According to Jax, the pitch came as a fluke; “I was toying around in catch-play, right before I was about to go on the mound, and was like, ‘What if I just turned my curveball a little bit?’ That’s how I got the slider I have now.” Coaches immediately caught on to the pitch and encouraged him to continue using it. In its horizontal break, the pitch perfectly fits with the sweeper revolution in baseball, and it has buoyed Jax’s 2022 season so far. With his two-pitch (basically one-pitch) mix, Jax became a reliever. His velocity has bumped up two ticks to 94.7 MPH, and he has thrown his slider a Matt Wisler-like 52.7% of the time. While the fastball remains hittable, the breaker is anything but. He owns a .195 xWOBA with it, while hitters are whiffing 47.3% of the time they swing at it. That’s good. In fact, that’s good for 11th best amongst all pitchers in MLB who have faced 25 hitters in 2022. The total numbers are inspiring; an ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 1.35/2.43/2.83 that looks great in any era, dead ball or not. The only two criticisms are ‘it’s early’ and ‘it’s not sustainable.’ The first point is fair, but the second one may not be true in the age of breakers. Matt Wisler, Amir Garrett, Andrés Muñoz, Diego Castillo, and the Rogers twins are all quality relievers throwing sliders more often this season than Jax. And, well, just look at the pitch! Hitters may eventually key in on the pitch, but its movement combined with Jax’s command makes it a safe bet that he’ll continue to succeed in the majors. Like we talked about with Danny Coulombe, where a pitch ends up matters as much, if not more than any movement profile. Jax knows how to put his slider juuuuuuuust in the precise place to fool hitters. Yeah, that’ll work. Griffin Jax has become a revelation, finding his proper place in the bullpen where he can unleash as many sliders as humanly possible. It has only been a handful of innings, but Jax has wholly changed course from 2021; his performance is much improved, and his stuff suggests that this will be a permanent change.
  13. Jhoan Duran has melted faces, Emilio Pagán has given everyone heart attacks, and Joe Smith has rumbled on, continuing his excellence with a fastball that wouldn’t get pulled over on most highways. Yet, Griffin Jax has quietly emerged as a reliable stud in the bullpen, giving the team desperately needed bridge-outs in the middle innings with relative ease. Let’s talk about Jax, the relief ace. Griffin Jax had a poor 2021 season by just about any stat you prefer. He struck out just 18.1% of batters, walked them at an 8.1% clip, and gave up 23 home runs in 82 innings, a total high enough to make Bert Blyleven blush. Unsurprisingly, his ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line looked more like the price of gas these days, as it went 6.37/6.47/5.75. Outside of a surprise, 10 strikeout game against the White Sox on August 10th, outings of upside were few and far between. Jax always had a trick up his sleeve: his slider. The pitch was a bright spot in an otherwise bland repertoire, running a .275 xWOBA with characteristics favorable in Eno Sarris' pitch data collection. Ironically, his popular slide piece only recently joined his repertoire. You can read Jax himself describe the pitch to David Laurila in possibly the greatest baseball information series known to mankind. According to Jax, the pitch came as a fluke; “I was toying around in catch-play, right before I was about to go on the mound, and was like, ‘What if I just turned my curveball a little bit?’ That’s how I got the slider I have now.” Coaches immediately caught on to the pitch and encouraged him to continue using it. In its horizontal break, the pitch perfectly fits with the sweeper revolution in baseball, and it has buoyed Jax’s 2022 season so far. With his two-pitch (basically one-pitch) mix, Jax became a reliever. His velocity has bumped up two ticks to 94.7 MPH, and he has thrown his slider a Matt Wisler-like 52.7% of the time. While the fastball remains hittable, the breaker is anything but. He owns a .195 xWOBA with it, while hitters are whiffing 47.3% of the time they swing at it. That’s good. In fact, that’s good for 11th best amongst all pitchers in MLB who have faced 25 hitters in 2022. The total numbers are inspiring; an ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 1.35/2.43/2.83 that looks great in any era, dead ball or not. The only two criticisms are ‘it’s early’ and ‘it’s not sustainable.’ The first point is fair, but the second one may not be true in the age of breakers. Matt Wisler, Amir Garrett, Andrés Muñoz, Diego Castillo, and the Rogers twins are all quality relievers throwing sliders more often this season than Jax. And, well, just look at the pitch! Hitters may eventually key in on the pitch, but its movement combined with Jax’s command makes it a safe bet that he’ll continue to succeed in the majors. Like we talked about with Danny Coulombe, where a pitch ends up matters as much, if not more than any movement profile. Jax knows how to put his slider juuuuuuuust in the precise place to fool hitters. Yeah, that’ll work. Griffin Jax has become a revelation, finding his proper place in the bullpen where he can unleash as many sliders as humanly possible. It has only been a handful of innings, but Jax has wholly changed course from 2021; his performance is much improved, and his stuff suggests that this will be a permanent change. View full article
  14. You may think it's too early, and that's fine, but we have countless articles from incredibly bright minds that can absolutely prove that the balls are dead. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/home-runs-and-drag-an-early-look-at-the-2022-season/ https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/74097/moonshot-2022-mlb-baseball-higher-drag/ https://theathletic.com/3272450/2022/04/26/baseballs-arent-flying-as-far-and-home-runs-are-down-across-mlb-is-it-the-ball-itself/
  15. Do the Twins actually have a good pitching staff? Twins fans have asked this question in various forms, attempting to grapple with a group of arms currently sitting with the fourth-lowest ERA in baseball. Usually, one does not question a good thing, but Minnesota sports fans know better than to buy into any hype. This author cannot answer for sure, but it does appear that the team has purposely constructed a stable of pitchers perfectly suited for a new Twins pitching style. Let’s dive in. The ball is dead. The ball remains dead. And Rob Manfred has killed it. One can barely watch a game or read a baseball article without someone mentioning just how short baseballs are flying compared to previous years. Perhaps MLB wanted to counter-act the previous “rabbit ball” era, perhaps they wanted to de-incentivize home runs to move away from three-true-outcome baseball, or perhaps Manfred is a foolish stooge. One cannot say with authority which statement is true, or if the answer includes some combo of the three, but the reality is thus: baseballs in 2022 are not flying as far as before. If the baseballs are dead, and they are, then flyball pitchers have the most to gain from such a development; their main weakness—one of those flyballs landing behind the fence—is neutered. The term “flyball pitcher” has become something of a swear in the juiced-ball age, implying a deficiency rather than describing a strategy. The main plus to being a flyball pitcher is that most true flyballs end up in gloves; flyballs held a .117 BABIP in 2018, and that number barely moves yearly. If flyballs are no longer as threatening as before, a team in 2022 could be more liberal with allowing them. For the Twins, that’s an important note. The team has the seventh-highest flyball rate in baseball, and many of the culprits holding that number up—Joe Ryan, Chris Archer, and Sonny Gray—the team targeted over the past year. Those pitchers have other desirable traits, so their flyball rate could be a secondary thought, but that consideration looms especially large this season. Of course, presumably, part of why the Twins targeted them involved other details; Target Field and outfield defense. If Target Field feels like it’s on the cavernous side of ballparks, that’s because it is. Statcast’s park factors claim that the stadium was the 10th best at suppressing homers between 2019-2021 and is generally slightly more of a pitcher’s park. That feels right. The high walls in right field block homers that would go out in the wiffleball field that is Yankee Stadium, while centerfield often plays like Death Valley, eating up flyballs for dinner. Righties have it better for hitting doubles, but it’s also the most challenging park for them to single in. A secondary point: that 2019 team looks even more impressive when you consider that the team hit many of those homers in a park that is bad for power. The exact characteristics that define Target Field aside, there’s one glaring, painfully obvious reason Target Field is more challenging for hitters: Byron Buxton. Buxton’s defense needs no introduction, so it won’t get one. Buxton is an out machine, whether you like OAA, UZR, DRS, or any other suspiciously New Deal Program-sounding acronyms. His presence in center is world-altering, attracting fly balls to his person so he can gobble them up in a SportsCenter Top 10-esque diving catch or during a mid-sprint effort that only looks easy because Buxton makes it look so. Even his backup, Gilberto Celestino, currently is in the 84th percentile of outfielders by OAA, albeit in a minuscule sample size. In fact, let’s talk about those other outfielders; Max Kepler has long been one of the finest defensive right fielders in the game, ranking in the top 15 in MLB in OAA every full year since its introduction. Trevor Larnach is messier to analyze given his small sample, but Statcast at least thinks his route-running is good enough for an NFL wide receiver. Nick Gordon holds the least attractive numbers, but he has the athleticism to play in the outfield and should improve with more reps. It should be unsurprising that the Twins outfield is currently 1st in MLB in DRS, 3rd in OAA, and 3rd in UZR/150 innings. The ball does not fly as far as before, Twins pitchers are good at allowing fly balls, Target Field suppresses those fly balls, and the Twins outfield will probably catch them. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are either cracked-out geniuses or fortunate individuals because they have quietly built a perfect relationship between the ball, pitcher, park, and defense. That combination has not only fueled their success so far in 2022, but it will probably carry them to many victories as the season continues. View full article
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