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AJ Condon

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  1. The Twins aren’t getting the same production from the up the middle players on the field (C/2B/SS/CF) that played a big part in their offensive success a year ago. Between players not continuing their success from last year and new backups not performing like the former, the up the middle players aren’t getting as much production.The offense hasn’t looked like the Bomba Squad that set a home run record last year, or was up there for best offenses in the league. For starters, it’s no secret to any fan that players like Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez and Byron Buxton aren’t producing like they did just a year ago. As a team, the Twins just aren’t getting the same production from those up the middle players. Last season the Twins ranked first in team OPS at the catcher position, fifth at second base, seventh at shortstop and 8th at centerfield. Currently, the Twins rank fourth worst in team OPS by players up the middle. That is broken down by being ranked 23rd at catcher, 18th at second base, 26th at shortstop and 21st at centerfield. Catcher Mitch Garver showed last season that he was one of the best catchers in the league, offensively that is. While playing just 93 games he ranked second in HRs, sixth in RBIs and first in OPS of catchers who played at least 15 games. In his 17 games played he is .154/.262/.212 with just one home run and two RBIs, an immense drop off. Garver’s drop in numbers can be explained by a couple things. First off, he isn’t barrelling the ball like he was last season. His exit velocity has actually increased by .1% but he is barreling the ball only 3.4% of the time compared to 15.5% last season when he was in the top 4%. On top of that he isn’t hitting the ball in the “sweet spot” as much either. That has dropped from 33.6% to 27.6% while his strikeout rate has increased 15% from last season! He’s pulling the ball a lot more frequently this season which allows for more of a shift to be played on him. Though his chase rate has dropped, he seems to be whiffing at pitches at a significantly higher rate than his career. This season, his whiff rate is at 33% compared to a career 24.2%. The numbers Garver put up last season were obviously going to be tough to match, but it was tough to predict this big of a drop-off. It isn’t just Garver’s fault. Last season, the Twins’ got solid production from their back-up catcher in Jason Castro. With the lower usage of Garver, Castro was the number two option for the Twins and he was able to hold his own compared to Garver’s career year. Though his numbers were nothing special, he had an OPS of .767 which was higher than 23 other teams catcher’s OPS. He totaled for 13 home runs, knocked in 30 runs while batting .232. Alex Avila has been a different story on offense. He has just six hits and only one of them being a home run. It’s pretty evident by watching games that the catcher position hasn’t come close to the production we got from it just a year prior. The difference between Castro last year and Avila this year has been more hurtful because it looks as though Avila will be playing close to half the games. It didn’t help when Garver was removed from a game and placed on the 10-day IL. Middle Infield Another area the Twins have lacked this year is their middle infielders. Jorge Polanco has taken a drastic step backwards in his power game. Last season he broke out for a total of 69 extra-base hits including 22 home runs. This year, in 31 games, he has just seven. While his average is sitting at .275, his OPS has dropped from .841 to .682. The guy I was really excited for this year has also been brought back to Earth after he was a menace at the plate the season prior. Luis Arraez wasn’t going to match his numbers from last year, but they’ve dropped more than I would’ve expected. No one expected him to bring the power aspect to the plate this year. He grinds his at-bats and finds ways to make it on. This year hasn’t gone as well. He’s played in 23 games so far and is striking out at a 12.2% rate compared to 7.9% last year. Though he is still getting a good amount of hits, his average has also dropped, which was expected.. He is hitting .284 compared to .334 last season. That has played apart in his drop of OPS where he sits at .665 compared to his .838. Centerfield Throughout the past season and a half, the centerfield position hasn’t been held by just one player. Byron Buxton is the Twins starter out there, but injuries have held him from getting much action in his young career. In turn, the position has also been held by Max Kepler and Jake Cave. Last season, the Twins combined for an OPS of .821, which ranked eighth, from the centerfield position. This season it’s dropped all the way down to .646. This year the position has been held by Buxton and Cave who hold an OPS of .681 and .627, respectively. The drop in OPS by the center fielders can be explained in part because of how successful Kepler was last season and the amount of games he played out in center. Buxton also was having a solid season in limited time holding an OPS of .827. Is this just a slow start from these up the middle players? Will they be able to turn things around late in the season and in the playoffs? It is detrimental to get these guys back to their form in order to make a deep playoff run. Let me know what you think in the comments below! Click here to view the article
  2. The offense hasn’t looked like the Bomba Squad that set a home run record last year, or was up there for best offenses in the league. For starters, it’s no secret to any fan that players like Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez and Byron Buxton aren’t producing like they did just a year ago. As a team, the Twins just aren’t getting the same production from those up the middle players. Last season the Twins ranked first in team OPS at the catcher position, fifth at second base, seventh at shortstop and 8th at centerfield. Currently, the Twins rank fourth worst in team OPS by players up the middle. https://twitter.com/MLBRandomStats/status/1299067399019393027?s=20 That is broken down by being ranked 23rd at catcher, 18th at second base, 26th at shortstop and 21st at centerfield. Catcher Mitch Garver showed last season that he was one of the best catchers in the league, offensively that is. While playing just 93 games he ranked second in HRs, sixth in RBIs and first in OPS of catchers who played at least 15 games. In his 17 games played he is .154/.262/.212 with just one home run and two RBIs, an immense drop off. Garver’s drop in numbers can be explained by a couple things. First off, he isn’t barrelling the ball like he was last season. His exit velocity has actually increased by .1% but he is barreling the ball only 3.4% of the time compared to 15.5% last season when he was in the top 4%. On top of that he isn’t hitting the ball in the “sweet spot” as much either. That has dropped from 33.6% to 27.6% while his strikeout rate has increased 15% from last season! He’s pulling the ball a lot more frequently this season which allows for more of a shift to be played on him. Though his chase rate has dropped, he seems to be whiffing at pitches at a significantly higher rate than his career. This season, his whiff rate is at 33% compared to a career 24.2%. The numbers Garver put up last season were obviously going to be tough to match, but it was tough to predict this big of a drop-off. It isn’t just Garver’s fault. Last season, the Twins’ got solid production from their back-up catcher in Jason Castro. With the lower usage of Garver, Castro was the number two option for the Twins and he was able to hold his own compared to Garver’s career year. Though his numbers were nothing special, he had an OPS of .767 which was higher than 23 other teams catcher’s OPS. He totaled for 13 home runs, knocked in 30 runs while batting .232. Alex Avila has been a different story on offense. He has just six hits and only one of them being a home run. It’s pretty evident by watching games that the catcher position hasn’t come close to the production we got from it just a year prior. The difference between Castro last year and Avila this year has been more hurtful because it looks as though Avila will be playing close to half the games. It didn’t help when Garver was removed from a game and placed on the 10-day IL. Middle Infield Another area the Twins have lacked this year is their middle infielders. Jorge Polanco has taken a drastic step backwards in his power game. Last season he broke out for a total of 69 extra-base hits including 22 home runs. This year, in 31 games, he has just seven. While his average is sitting at .275, his OPS has dropped from .841 to .682. The guy I was really excited for this year has also been brought back to Earth after he was a menace at the plate the season prior. Luis Arraez wasn’t going to match his numbers from last year, but they’ve dropped more than I would’ve expected. No one expected him to bring the power aspect to the plate this year. He grinds his at-bats and finds ways to make it on. This year hasn’t gone as well. He’s played in 23 games so far and is striking out at a 12.2% rate compared to 7.9% last year. Though he is still getting a good amount of hits, his average has also dropped, which was expected.. He is hitting .284 compared to .334 last season. That has played apart in his drop of OPS where he sits at .665 compared to his .838. Centerfield Throughout the past season and a half, the centerfield position hasn’t been held by just one player. Byron Buxton is the Twins starter out there, but injuries have held him from getting much action in his young career. In turn, the position has also been held by Max Kepler and Jake Cave. Last season, the Twins combined for an OPS of .821, which ranked eighth, from the centerfield position. This season it’s dropped all the way down to .646. This year the position has been held by Buxton and Cave who hold an OPS of .681 and .627, respectively. The drop in OPS by the center fielders can be explained in part because of how successful Kepler was last season and the amount of games he played out in center. Buxton also was having a solid season in limited time holding an OPS of .827. Is this just a slow start from these up the middle players? Will they be able to turn things around late in the season and in the playoffs? It is detrimental to get these guys back to their form in order to make a deep playoff run. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
  3. Josh Donaldson, the biggest free agent signing in franchise history, started out his Twins tenure by going 1-for-10. Donaldson broke out of his mini slump Tuesday night at an empty Target Field in front of cardboard cut outs of former Twins. He and fellow new Twin, Homer Bailey, helped lead Minnesota to a 6-3 victory over St. Louis.Box Score Bailey: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Polanco (1), Donaldson (1) Top 3 WPA: Bailey .131, Polanco .122, Sanó .093 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs): Download attachment: WinChart.png With former Twins behind the backstop watching the Bomba Squad play their home opener, they got off to a hot start. Homer Bailey pitched his way to a win in his debut. The Bringer of Rain arrived at Target Field in style with his first bomba in a Twins uniform. Following the game, Donaldson said, "I've been on some teams to where it's been strictly relied on the home run ball. This team has the capability to do that, but we also have the ability to manufacturing some runs, and create some runs without just the home run ball." Just like the Twins’ offense did for Kenta Maeda in his debut, Homer Bailey was given an early cushion to work with. The Twins got off to a quick start in the first filling the bases, but fell short of punching one across. They didn’t make that same mistake twice. In his first at-bat of the 2020 season, Byron Buxton was able to pick up an RBI on a fielder's choice. Just two batters later, Josh Donaldson was able to pick up his first RBI in a Twins uniform with a sac-fly. The Twins found themselves with a comfortable five-run lead after Jorge Polanco gave Target Field its first home run of the season with a 2-run blast. Just like Maeda, Bailey used his early cushion to his advantage. Through four innings, Bailey had given up just two walks and two hits while striking out four Cardinals. Three of those strikeouts came off his sinker with the slider picking up the fourth. Of the run support, Bailey smiled and said, "With this type of offense, it's not a surprise when you have this many weapons in your lineup." He later added, "You try to have that short inning, and get these guys back in the dugout as quick as you can after you team puts up big innings like that." After a strong start by Bailey, the Bringer of Rain decided to make his presence felt across Twins Territory. He went oppo in the bottom of the fourth for his first home run in a Twins uniform. https://twitter.com/...287014744457216 It took a little longer than Twins fans were hoping, but they should get used to seeing Donaldson trot around the bases in the coming years. Rocco Baldelli said after the game, "That's probably the first of many." "I was pretty excited running around the bases," said Donaldson after the game. Bailey got brought back to reality for a moment in the fifth when he left a hanging slider right over the heart of the plate on a full count. Tyler O’Neill hit the ball a long way in the bullpen to cut the deficit to just four runs. Before turning the ball over to the bullpen, Bailey came back very strong and retired the next three batters to end the fifth. His night was ended after five innings giving up just two runs on four hits and two walks. Following the game, Bailey said, "I like the score at the end of nine innings, and that's the most important thing." The bullpen came in and helped Bailey earn a deserving win in his debut. With a four run lead, they allowed just one run, that very easily could’ve been an out, but we’ll give Buxton a break for all the runs he’s saved us. The lone run came on a deep fly ball to center field. Buxton appeared to have an *easy* leaping catch, but instead, the ball hit the palm of his glove and bounced over the fence. After that solo shot, May struck out the side and passed the duties along to Sergio Romo. Taylor Rogers is yet to make his 2020 debut but hopefully it’s solely because there hasn’t been a spot where he’s really needed. Whether or not that’s the case, Rogers hopefully can see some action soon so the lefty can bring havoc on opposing batters. Baldelli said after the game that not using Rogers to this point in the season is circumstantial. He added, "It's absolutely circumstance. I want to get Rog out there as much as anyone. Believe me. Tonight was an opportunity, surely, for him to pitch, but also, looking ahead, looking at Sergio being up and hot in the bullpen in the eighth inning, making sure we set ourselves up going forward. I just thought it was the right thing to let Sergio go in in a three-run game and pitch tonight." He continued, "Nothing has changed from last year in any way. Rog is our guy. Rog is the guy we're going to lean on in very difficult circumstances when we need outs. He's the guy we're going to turn to. We want him pitching the innings that we would call our most important innings." In all three of their wins now, the bullpen has helped hold the early lead the offense has set up. They’ve given up just one run in 13 innings in those three wins. It’s been nice to see guys like Cody Stashak and Lewis Thorpe come in early in the season and show they can be key pieces for the Twins. Not to mention Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Romo and Taylor Rogers who haven’t had to work as much with these younger guys stepping up. The Twins finish up this two game series tomorrow and look for a sweep in their first interleague play of the season. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Download attachment: Bullpen.png Postgame Pint At our postgame pint, Andrew Thares, Ted Schwerzler and Nathan Palmer join John Bonnes to talk about the Twins lineup jumping on the Cardinals early and the bullpen shutting the door late. Check it out below, or download the podcast. And check out PostgamePint.com to find out how to join us after the next Twins game. Seth Stohs contributed the player and manager quotes to this article. Click here to view the article
  4. Box Score Bailey: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Polanco (1), Donaldson (1) Top 3 WPA: Bailey .131, Polanco .122, Sanó .093 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs): With former Twins behind the backstop watching the Bomba Squad play their home opener, they got off to a hot start. Homer Bailey pitched his way to a win in his debut. The Bringer of Rain arrived at Target Field in style with his first bomba in a Twins uniform. Following the game, Donaldson said, "I've been on some teams to where it's been strictly relied on the home run ball. This team has the capability to do that, but we also have the ability to manufacturing some runs, and create some runs without just the home run ball." Just like the Twins’ offense did for Kenta Maeda in his debut, Homer Bailey was given an early cushion to work with. The Twins got off to a quick start in the first filling the bases, but fell short of punching one across. They didn’t make that same mistake twice. In his first at-bat of the 2020 season, Byron Buxton was able to pick up an RBI on a fielder's choice. Just two batters later, Josh Donaldson was able to pick up his first RBI in a Twins uniform with a sac-fly. The Twins found themselves with a comfortable five-run lead after Jorge Polanco gave Target Field its first home run of the season with a 2-run blast. Just like Maeda, Bailey used his early cushion to his advantage. Through four innings, Bailey had given up just two walks and two hits while striking out four Cardinals. Three of those strikeouts came off his sinker with the slider picking up the fourth. Of the run support, Bailey smiled and said, "With this type of offense, it's not a surprise when you have this many weapons in your lineup." He later added, "You try to have that short inning, and get these guys back in the dugout as quick as you can after you team puts up big innings like that." After a strong start by Bailey, the Bringer of Rain decided to make his presence felt across Twins Territory. He went oppo in the bottom of the fourth for his first home run in a Twins uniform. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1288287014744457216 It took a little longer than Twins fans were hoping, but they should get used to seeing Donaldson trot around the bases in the coming years. Rocco Baldelli said after the game, "That's probably the first of many." "I was pretty excited running around the bases," said Donaldson after the game. Bailey got brought back to reality for a moment in the fifth when he left a hanging slider right over the heart of the plate on a full count. Tyler O’Neill hit the ball a long way in the bullpen to cut the deficit to just four runs. Before turning the ball over to the bullpen, Bailey came back very strong and retired the next three batters to end the fifth. His night was ended after five innings giving up just two runs on four hits and two walks. Following the game, Bailey said, "I like the score at the end of nine innings, and that's the most important thing." The bullpen came in and helped Bailey earn a deserving win in his debut. With a four run lead, they allowed just one run, that very easily could’ve been an out, but we’ll give Buxton a break for all the runs he’s saved us. The lone run came on a deep fly ball to center field. Buxton appeared to have an *easy* leaping catch, but instead, the ball hit the palm of his glove and bounced over the fence. After that solo shot, May struck out the side and passed the duties along to Sergio Romo. Taylor Rogers is yet to make his 2020 debut but hopefully it’s solely because there hasn’t been a spot where he’s really needed. Whether or not that’s the case, Rogers hopefully can see some action soon so the lefty can bring havoc on opposing batters. Baldelli said after the game that not using Rogers to this point in the season is circumstantial. He added, "It's absolutely circumstance. I want to get Rog out there as much as anyone. Believe me. Tonight was an opportunity, surely, for him to pitch, but also, looking ahead, looking at Sergio being up and hot in the bullpen in the eighth inning, making sure we set ourselves up going forward. I just thought it was the right thing to let Sergio go in in a three-run game and pitch tonight." He continued, "Nothing has changed from last year in any way. Rog is our guy. Rog is the guy we're going to lean on in very difficult circumstances when we need outs. He's the guy we're going to turn to. We want him pitching the innings that we would call our most important innings." In all three of their wins now, the bullpen has helped hold the early lead the offense has set up. They’ve given up just one run in 13 innings in those three wins. It’s been nice to see guys like Cody Stashak and Lewis Thorpe come in early in the season and show they can be key pieces for the Twins. Not to mention Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Romo and Taylor Rogers who haven’t had to work as much with these younger guys stepping up. The Twins finish up this two game series tomorrow and look for a sweep in their first interleague play of the season. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Postgame Pint At our postgame pint, Andrew Thares, Ted Schwerzler and Nathan Palmer join John Bonnes to talk about the Twins lineup jumping on the Cardinals early and the bullpen shutting the door late. Check it out below, or download the podcast. And check out PostgamePint.com to find out how to join us after the next Twins game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efjk8C3xRUY&feature=youtu.be Seth Stohs contributed the player and manager quotes to this article.
  5. The first of many dingers from the Bringer of Rain in a Twins uniform
  6. Man Bailey is killing it tonight!! Looks so much different than he did in the "summer" training game
  7. Berrios... Take notes on what to do with early leads... (I'm kidding)
  8. This could turn into a scary inning... Cardinals need to take outs where they can get them. Bad choice by DeJong
  9. The Minnesota Twins make history! Yes, you read that correctly. The 2017 Twins became the first MLB team ever to make the playoffs following a 100-loss season. Paul Molitor turned his team around for a playoff run that ended as quickly as it started, at the hands of some familiar foes.We're running a 20-part series in which we look back at each Minnesota Twins season of the 2000s. A rotation of different writers will highlight key moments, unearth forgotten details, and share nostalgic tales from the past two decades leading up to the present. This installment covers the 2017 season. Team Record: 85-77 Finish: 2nd Place in AL Central (Won 2nd Wild Card) All Star(s): Ervin Santana (P), Brandon Kintzler (P), Miguel Sanó (3B) Awards: Brian Dozier (Gold Glove, 2B), Byron Buxton (Gold Glove, CF), Paul Molitor (Manager of the Year) Playoffs: Lost to NYY in A.L. Wild Card Game Season Overview From a 100-loss season to making the playoffs as a wild-card, there was a big shift in just one year for Paul Molitor and the Minnesota Twins. They were mired in a six-year playoff drought heading into 2017, with a lot of young prospects looking for breakout seasons. From 2014 to 2016, we saw many of the key components of the current Twins team make their MLB debuts as a new talent core started to come together. After a detrimental 2016 season, these young prospects saw an increase in their playing time across the board while finding more stability defensively. Center fielder Byron Buxton was one of the top prospects coming into the league when he debuted in 2015. Though he struggled early in his career, he took a big step forward in 2017, especially in a spectacular second half that earned him MVP votes. His power continued to increase as he lowered his strikeout percentage. Meanwhile he fully established himself as an elite center fielder, earning not only the AL Gold Glove in center but also a Platinum Glove as baseball's best overall defender.At 23, shortstop Jorge Polanco was already in his fourth season in MLB (he played just nine games his first two) and finally solidified his spot on the roster. Signs of his budding power were apparent with 46 extra-base hits, and the switch-hitter showed strong contact ability with a 15% strikeout rate.With Miguel Sanó's right field experiment thankfully in the rear-view mirror, he started coming into his own as a third baseman. At the plate he was a prototypical strikeout-prone slugger, hitting 28 homers and striking out 173 times in just 114 games. Now right field belonged to Max Kepler, who showed modest improvement in his sophomore season. He dropped his K-rate a little, but didn’t draw as many walks. Defensively he was outstanding.Left fielder Eddie Rosario had his breakout season in 2017, clubbing 27 home runs and 33 doubles while ranking second on the team with a career-high .290 average. His glove was a mixed bag, as he finished with a -11 for Defensive Runs Saved Above Average.When talking about this turnaround for the Twins, it’s almost impossible to leave out Joe Mauer, who nostalgically led the team in average (.305). At 34 years of age, he had his best post-catcher season. Mauer hit above .300 for the first time as a first baseman. While he hit only seven home runs, his 36 doubles tied for second-most in his career. Defensively he was impressive and many felt he deserved a Gold Glove (Eric Hosmer won it). In the rotation, Ervin Santana led the way, putting forth a tremendous campaign that harkened back to Twins workhorse starters of the early 2000s. In what would be his last successful major-league season (to date), Santana logged 211 and 1/3 innings with five complete games and three shutouts. At 34 he was an All-Star and finished seventh in AL Cy Young voting. He was joined atop the rotation by José Berríos, who turned the corner after a brutal rookie year. Berríos posted a 3.89 ERA and 1.23 WHIP while winning 14 of his 25 starts. He allowed only 15 home runs in 145 2/3 innings. Fueled by a powerful offense, with 10 players reaching double-digit homers, and a patchwork pitching staff behind Santana and Berríos, with Brandon Kintzler coming out of nowhere as an All-Star closer and the ageless Bartolo Colon contributing as a starter in the second half, the Twins were massively improved from 2016. Still, they found themselves three games under .500 and seven games out of first place when the deadline arrived. Here, a clash between the clubhouse leader and his new bosses emerged. The new front office, led by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, went into sell mode, trading newly acquired starter Jaime García for to New York for prospects (including right-hander Zack Littell). Clubhouse leader Brian Dozier, sporting a .767 OPS at the end of July in a stark dropoff from 2016's brilliance, voiced his dismay. And he backed it up. Dozier slashed .314/.411/.605 with 17 homers in 56 games after August 1st as the Twins went 34-22 and locked up one of the American League's two wild-card bids. Come October 3rd, they found themselves facing off against the league's other wild-card winner: the New York Yankees. Minnesota had lost nine straight playoff games to the Yankees. In the top of the first, it looked like things might be different this year. Dozier did exactly what he did best: leadoff home run. (He toppled Jacque Jones' team record with his 21st in July.) Soon after, Rosario sent a ball out for a two-run homer and the Twins had an early 3-0 lead. Yankees stud right-hander Luis Severino didn’t even finish the first inning. But Santana – who it later turned out was bothered by a finger issue – fell just like his opponent did, and the game was tied after the first. By the fourth inning the Yankees had a 7-4 lead, and by the time it was over the Twins lost 8-4. Another fun season ended at the hands of New York. Team MVP: Brian Dozier (2B) Other Contenders: Byron Buxton (CF), Ervin Santana (SP), Joe Mauer (1B), Eddie Rosario (LF) Dozier was a menace at the plate and in the field in the 2017 season. He turned 30 in the second month of the season but continued to show improvements on offense. While he didn't match his 42 home runs from 2016, his late surge allowed him to knock out a team-high 34. That wasn’t the only category he led in. Dozier also paced the lineup in RBIs (93), runs scored (106), and walks (78). He finished second behind Buxton with 16 steals. With a strong defensive showing, Dozier won his first Gold Glove award, committing only five errors in 151 starts at second. Alongside Buxton he became the first Twins Gold Glover since Mauer in 2010. Dozier's individual performance in 2017 wasn't quite as amazing as 2016, but it was infinitely more impactful for the team as he – with help from Buxton, Santana, Mauer, Rosario and others of course – willed the Twins to their first postseason berth in seven years. 3 Most Pivotal Games July 30th: Lost @ Oakland Athletics, 6-5 After resiliently battling through the first four months, the Twins saw their season slipping away as the trade deadline arrived. Ten days earlier, they were a half-game out of first place, and now suddenly that deficit had grown to seven games. On this date, July 30th, the Twins traded Garcia – whom they'd acquired less than a week earlier – to New York in a clear pivot from buy to sell mode. Meanwhile, the team suffered its third walk-off loss in four games, with Yonder Alonso's homer off Tyler Duffey in the 12th sealing Minnesota's 15th loss of July. Dozier, who openly begrudged the García trade, struck out five times. August 6th: Won vs Texas Rangers, 6-5 One week later, Minnesota was four games under .500. After Berríos gave up five runs in the first inning courtesy of two home runs, the Twins were on the ropes. Berríos bounced back with four shutout innings while Kepler and Dozier each hit two-run homers to cut the lead. Rosario drew things tied with a solo shot in the third, Robbie Grossman added a go-ahead RBI single in the fifth, and the bullpen shut down Texas to close out the game. This began a season-high six-game win streak for the Twins, during which they moved above .500 for good and cut Cleveland's division lead down to 3 1/2 games. September 17th: Won vs Toronto Blue Jays, 13-7 With only 14 games left in the season, and the division out of reach thanks to Cleveland's 22-game win streak, Minnesota sat just one game ahead for the second wild-card spot. In this contest against Toronto, the Twins scored in only two innings but made 'em count, with seven runs in the second and six in the fifth. Rosario homered twice while Mauer drove in five. Though the Twins followed with a sweep in New York (foreshadowing!), they never saw their wild-card lead drop below 1 1/2 games again. They would finish five games ahead of the Angels to secure the second spot. Unforgettable Highlights Mauer’s First Career Walk-off Home Run In his 14th MLB season, the Minnesota legend Mauer was still without a walk-off home run. On May 5th, that all changed. The Twins took a 3-1 lead into the ninth, but Kintzler blew a rare save by giving up two runs to tie the game. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Mauer stepped up to the plate. On a 1-2 count, he belted a high fastball out into the right-field bullpen for his first ever walk off home run in a 4-3 win. Ervin Santana's Shutouts In a career season, the veteran Santana pitched recorded three complete-game shutouts. His first came against the White Sox on April 15th, when he gave up just one hit and walked one batter. On May 23rd, he walked two and gave up two hits against the Baltimore Orioles. His last came on June 9th, against the San Francisco Giants where he gave up four hits and walked just one batter. Byron Bustin' Around the Bases The year prior, Buxton went from home-to-home for an inside-the-park homer in 14.05 seconds for a Statcast record. On August 18th against the Diamondbacks, Buxton broke his own record by racing around the bases in just 13.85 seconds. Gold Glove Double Dip As mentioned earlier, Buxton and Dozier both received of Gold Glove Awards, ending a six-year dry spell for the franchise. It was the first time since 2007, when Torii Hunter and Johan Santana earned the honor, that the Twins had two Gold Glove winners in the same season. Paul Molitor's Redemption After one of the worst seasons in Twins history, Molitor turned his team completely around. While working under new baseball ops leadership (which had been mandated to keep him in place), he oversaw a 26-win improvement on his way to winning AL Manager of the Year. The Twins became the first team to ever make the playoffs following a 100-loss season, even if it was short-lived. One Detail You Probably Forgot Though he didn’t do much in this season, and wasn’t called up until the middle of August, a future stud arrived. Mitch Garver made his debut on August 19th when he came in to pinch-hit against the Diamondbacks in a 5-0 win. He totaled only 52 plate appearances with nine hits for slash line of .196/.288/.348. Two years later he would turn in one of the better offensive seasons by a catcher in team (and league) history. Fun Fact The Twins started out the season with a three-game sweep against the Kansas City Royals. It was Minnesota's first time opening with brooms since 2007 when they swept the Orioles. ~~~ Previous Installments: The 2000 SeasonThe 2001 SeasonThe 2002 SeasonThe 2003 SeasonThe 2004 SeasonThe 2005 SeasonThe 2006 SeasonThe 2007 SeasonThe 2008 SeasonThe 2009 SeasonThe 2010 SeasonThe 2011 SeasonThe 2012 SeasonThe 2013 SeasonThe 2014 SeasonThe 2015 SeasonThe 2016 Season Click here to view the article
  10. We're running a 20-part series in which we look back at each Minnesota Twins season of the 2000s. A rotation of different writers will highlight key moments, unearth forgotten details, and share nostalgic tales from the past two decades leading up to the present. This installment covers the 2017 season. Team Record: 85-77 Finish: 2nd Place in AL Central (Won 2nd Wild Card) All Star(s): Ervin Santana (P), Brandon Kintzler (P), Miguel Sanó (3B) Awards: Brian Dozier (Gold Glove, 2B), Byron Buxton (Gold Glove, CF), Paul Molitor (Manager of the Year) Playoffs: Lost to NYY in A.L. Wild Card Game Season Overview From a 100-loss season to making the playoffs as a wild-card, there was a big shift in just one year for Paul Molitor and the Minnesota Twins. They were mired in a six-year playoff drought heading into 2017, with a lot of young prospects looking for breakout seasons. From 2014 to 2016, we saw many of the key components of the current Twins team make their MLB debuts as a new talent core started to come together. After a detrimental 2016 season, these young prospects saw an increase in their playing time across the board while finding more stability defensively. Center fielder Byron Buxton was one of the top prospects coming into the league when he debuted in 2015. Though he struggled early in his career, he took a big step forward in 2017, especially in a spectacular second half that earned him MVP votes. His power continued to increase as he lowered his strikeout percentage. Meanwhile he fully established himself as an elite center fielder, earning not only the AL Gold Glove in center but also a Platinum Glove as baseball's best overall defender. At 23, shortstop Jorge Polanco was already in his fourth season in MLB (he played just nine games his first two) and finally solidified his spot on the roster. Signs of his budding power were apparent with 46 extra-base hits, and the switch-hitter showed strong contact ability with a 15% strikeout rate. With Miguel Sanó's right field experiment thankfully in the rear-view mirror, he started coming into his own as a third baseman. At the plate he was a prototypical strikeout-prone slugger, hitting 28 homers and striking out 173 times in just 114 games. Now right field belonged to Max Kepler, who showed modest improvement in his sophomore season. He dropped his K-rate a little, but didn’t draw as many walks. Defensively he was outstanding. Left fielder Eddie Rosario had his breakout season in 2017, clubbing 27 home runs and 33 doubles while ranking second on the team with a career-high .290 average. His glove was a mixed bag, as he finished with a -11 for Defensive Runs Saved Above Average. When talking about this turnaround for the Twins, it’s almost impossible to leave out Joe Mauer, who nostalgically led the team in average (.305). At 34 years of age, he had his best post-catcher season. Mauer hit above .300 for the first time as a first baseman. While he hit only seven home runs, his 36 doubles tied for second-most in his career. Defensively he was impressive and many felt he deserved a Gold Glove (Eric Hosmer won it). In the rotation, Ervin Santana led the way, putting forth a tremendous campaign that harkened back to Twins workhorse starters of the early 2000s. In what would be his last successful major-league season (to date), Santana logged 211 and 1/3 innings with five complete games and three shutouts. At 34 he was an All-Star and finished seventh in AL Cy Young voting. He was joined atop the rotation by José Berríos, who turned the corner after a brutal rookie year. Berríos posted a 3.89 ERA and 1.23 WHIP while winning 14 of his 25 starts. He allowed only 15 home runs in 145 2/3 innings. Fueled by a powerful offense, with 10 players reaching double-digit homers, and a patchwork pitching staff behind Santana and Berríos, with Brandon Kintzler coming out of nowhere as an All-Star closer and the ageless Bartolo Colon contributing as a starter in the second half, the Twins were massively improved from 2016. Still, they found themselves three games under .500 and seven games out of first place when the deadline arrived. Here, a clash between the clubhouse leader and his new bosses emerged. The new front office, led by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, went into sell mode, trading newly acquired starter Jaime García for to New York for prospects (including right-hander Zack Littell). Clubhouse leader Brian Dozier, sporting a .767 OPS at the end of July in a stark dropoff from 2016's brilliance, voiced his dismay. And he backed it up. Dozier slashed .314/.411/.605 with 17 homers in 56 games after August 1st as the Twins went 34-22 and locked up one of the American League's two wild-card bids. Come October 3rd, they found themselves facing off against the league's other wild-card winner: the New York Yankees. Minnesota had lost nine straight playoff games to the Yankees. In the top of the first, it looked like things might be different this year. Dozier did exactly what he did best: leadoff home run. (He toppled Jacque Jones' team record with his 21st in July.) Soon after, Rosario sent a ball out for a two-run homer and the Twins had an early 3-0 lead. Yankees stud right-hander Luis Severino didn’t even finish the first inning. But Santana – who it later turned out was bothered by a finger issue – fell just like his opponent did, and the game was tied after the first. By the fourth inning the Yankees had a 7-4 lead, and by the time it was over the Twins lost 8-4. Another fun season ended at the hands of New York. Team MVP: Brian Dozier (2B) Other Contenders: Byron Buxton (CF), Ervin Santana (SP), Joe Mauer (1B), Eddie Rosario (LF) Dozier was a menace at the plate and in the field in the 2017 season. He turned 30 in the second month of the season but continued to show improvements on offense. While he didn't match his 42 home runs from 2016, his late surge allowed him to knock out a team-high 34. That wasn’t the only category he led in. Dozier also paced the lineup in RBIs (93), runs scored (106), and walks (78). He finished second behind Buxton with 16 steals. With a strong defensive showing, Dozier won his first Gold Glove award, committing only five errors in 151 starts at second. Alongside Buxton he became the first Twins Gold Glover since Mauer in 2010. Dozier's individual performance in 2017 wasn't quite as amazing as 2016, but it was infinitely more impactful for the team as he – with help from Buxton, Santana, Mauer, Rosario and others of course – willed the Twins to their first postseason berth in seven years. 3 Most Pivotal Games July 30th: Lost @ Oakland Athletics, 6-5 After resiliently battling through the first four months, the Twins saw their season slipping away as the trade deadline arrived. Ten days earlier, they were a half-game out of first place, and now suddenly that deficit had grown to seven games. On this date, July 30th, the Twins traded Garcia – whom they'd acquired less than a week earlier – to New York in a clear pivot from buy to sell mode. Meanwhile, the team suffered its third walk-off loss in four games, with Yonder Alonso's homer off Tyler Duffey in the 12th sealing Minnesota's 15th loss of July. Dozier, who openly begrudged the García trade, struck out five times. August 6th: Won vs Texas Rangers, 6-5 One week later, Minnesota was four games under .500. After Berríos gave up five runs in the first inning courtesy of two home runs, the Twins were on the ropes. Berríos bounced back with four shutout innings while Kepler and Dozier each hit two-run homers to cut the lead. Rosario drew things tied with a solo shot in the third, Robbie Grossman added a go-ahead RBI single in the fifth, and the bullpen shut down Texas to close out the game. This began a season-high six-game win streak for the Twins, during which they moved above .500 for good and cut Cleveland's division lead down to 3 1/2 games. September 17th: Won vs Toronto Blue Jays, 13-7 With only 14 games left in the season, and the division out of reach thanks to Cleveland's 22-game win streak, Minnesota sat just one game ahead for the second wild-card spot. In this contest against Toronto, the Twins scored in only two innings but made 'em count, with seven runs in the second and six in the fifth. Rosario homered twice while Mauer drove in five. Though the Twins followed with a sweep in New York (foreshadowing!), they never saw their wild-card lead drop below 1 1/2 games again. They would finish five games ahead of the Angels to secure the second spot. Unforgettable Highlights Mauer’s First Career Walk-off Home Run In his 14th MLB season, the Minnesota legend Mauer was still without a walk-off home run. On May 5th, that all changed. The Twins took a 3-1 lead into the ninth, but Kintzler blew a rare save by giving up two runs to tie the game. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Mauer stepped up to the plate. On a 1-2 count, he belted a high fastball out into the right-field bullpen for his first ever walk off home run in a 4-3 win. Ervin Santana's Shutouts In a career season, the veteran Santana pitched recorded three complete-game shutouts. His first came against the White Sox on April 15th, when he gave up just one hit and walked one batter. On May 23rd, he walked two and gave up two hits against the Baltimore Orioles. His last came on June 9th, against the San Francisco Giants where he gave up four hits and walked just one batter. Byron Bustin' Around the Bases The year prior, Buxton went from home-to-home for an inside-the-park homer in 14.05 seconds for a Statcast record. On August 18th against the Diamondbacks, Buxton broke his own record by racing around the bases in just 13.85 seconds. Gold Glove Double Dip As mentioned earlier, Buxton and Dozier both received of Gold Glove Awards, ending a six-year dry spell for the franchise. It was the first time since 2007, when Torii Hunter and Johan Santana earned the honor, that the Twins had two Gold Glove winners in the same season. Paul Molitor's Redemption After one of the worst seasons in Twins history, Molitor turned his team completely around. While working under new baseball ops leadership (which had been mandated to keep him in place), he oversaw a 26-win improvement on his way to winning AL Manager of the Year. The Twins became the first team to ever make the playoffs following a 100-loss season, even if it was short-lived. One Detail You Probably Forgot Though he didn’t do much in this season, and wasn’t called up until the middle of August, a future stud arrived. Mitch Garver made his debut on August 19th when he came in to pinch-hit against the Diamondbacks in a 5-0 win. He totaled only 52 plate appearances with nine hits for slash line of .196/.288/.348. Two years later he would turn in one of the better offensive seasons by a catcher in team (and league) history. Fun Fact The Twins started out the season with a three-game sweep against the Kansas City Royals. It was Minnesota's first time opening with brooms since 2007 when they swept the Orioles. ~~~ Previous Installments: The 2000 Season The 2001 Season The 2002 Season The 2003 Season The 2004 Season The 2005 Season The 2006 Season The 2007 Season The 2008 Season The 2009 Season The 2010 Season The 2011 Season The 2012 Season The 2013 Season The 2014 Season The 2015 Season The 2016 Season
  11. With the Minnesota Twins’ starting rotation most likely losing some of its pitchers from last season, Randy Dobnak is the best internal option to remain in the rotation with Jose Berrios. Though he didn’t join the team until late in the season, he looked like a viable option for the future.Randy Dobnak was a guy many baseball fans didn’t know about until he was announced the starter of Game 2 of the ALDS. Even at that point, it was his 4.99 Uber rating or beautiful mustache that was getting talked about more than his pitching. What Dobnak does well Dobnak relies on four pitches: sinker, curveball, four seamer and changeup. His two favorite pitches are the sinker and curve which he uses 64.4% of the time. His curveball is also his best strikeout and put-away pitch. When throwing the curve, he strikes out batters 50% of the time and puts them away 27.5%. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, which averages 93.4 MPH, but he is able to get batters to chase and whiff at the ball at an above-average rate. His chase rate is 37.8% compared to a league average of 28.3% and a whiff rate of 27.0% compared to a league average of 24.3%. This also helps him set up his curveball for that putout pitch. Another aspect of Dobnak’s game that is very appealing is his low walk rate. He had a walk rate of 4.2% while league average was 8.3%. Though he does have a below-average strikeout rate, keeping the walks down ensures a lower WHIP, which helps keep runners off the bases. Dobnak also had a LOB% of 77.4 LOB% (league average is 71.43). Another reason why I think Dobnak should be in the first man in the rotation over the other internal candidates is he's proven capable of going longer in games. In the three games he started, not opened, Dobnak gave up just two earned runs while going at least five innings. I don’t think there was much surprise that Dobnak didn’t go deeper into games, even though he pitched well enough and seemed able to continue the game. With how he pitched in games he started this season, however he deserves to have the best chance from the internal candidates to have the starting spot. I asked Twitter who they thought the best candidate was and here are the results: Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and let me know who you think is the best internal candidate. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY 4 Off-the Radar Pitching Trade Targets for the Twins Should Twins Consider Moving Mitch Garver to 1B? Excellent Plate Discipline Emphasizes Why Luis Arraez Deserves Starting Spot on 2020 Twins Click here to view the article
  12. Randy Dobnak was a guy many baseball fans didn’t know about until he was announced the starter of Game 2 of the ALDS. Even at that point, it was his 4.99 Uber rating or beautiful mustache that was getting talked about more than his pitching. What Dobnak does well Dobnak relies on four pitches: sinker, curveball, four seamer and changeup. His two favorite pitches are the sinker and curve which he uses 64.4% of the time. His curveball is also his best strikeout and put-away pitch. When throwing the curve, he strikes out batters 50% of the time and puts them away 27.5%. https://twitter.com/ajcondon_/status/1188998059797237760?s=20 He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, which averages 93.4 MPH, but he is able to get batters to chase and whiff at the ball at an above-average rate. His chase rate is 37.8% compared to a league average of 28.3% and a whiff rate of 27.0% compared to a league average of 24.3%. This also helps him set up his curveball for that putout pitch. Another aspect of Dobnak’s game that is very appealing is his low walk rate. He had a walk rate of 4.2% while league average was 8.3%. Though he does have a below-average strikeout rate, keeping the walks down ensures a lower WHIP, which helps keep runners off the bases. Dobnak also had a LOB% of 77.4 LOB% (league average is 71.43). Another reason why I think Dobnak should be in the first man in the rotation over the other internal candidates is he's proven capable of going longer in games. In the three games he started, not opened, Dobnak gave up just two earned runs while going at least five innings. I don’t think there was much surprise that Dobnak didn’t go deeper into games, even though he pitched well enough and seemed able to continue the game. With how he pitched in games he started this season, however he deserves to have the best chance from the internal candidates to have the starting spot. I asked Twitter who they thought the best candidate was and here are the results: https://twitter.com/ajcondon_/status/1188819568464150529?s=20 Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and let me know who you think is the best internal candidate. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY 4 Off-the Radar Pitching Trade Targets for the Twins Should Twins Consider Moving Mitch Garver to 1B? Excellent Plate Discipline Emphasizes Why Luis Arraez Deserves Starting Spot on 2020 Twins
  13. In a season where records were set with the long ball, Luis Arraez made a name for himself with his discipline at the plate and contact hitting. The rookie made his debut on May 18 and showed why he deserves the starting spot next season.Arraez showed his discipline at the plate throughout the season, but my favorite example came in a home game against the New York Mets. Some of you might already know which at-bat I am talking about. Arraez inherited an 0-2 count as he entered the game in the ninth inning to replace Jonathan Schoop, who pulled a muscle in his abdomen. Coming cold into a game down one run in the ninth inning isn’t any player's forte, especially being down 0-2. But, Arraez drew an eight-pitch walk like it was normal to him. He fouled off four pitches — three fastballs that were all north of 98.5 MPH and a slider — before the crowd erupted after his battle. That wasn't the only time Arraez impressed with his plate discipline. According to Baseball Savant, out of the 1,471 pitches that Arraez saw, he either fouled off or swung and missed at just 12.4% of pitches out of the zone. There were only four Twins players that had a lower percentage. Mitch Garver and Jason Castro were two of them with a 9% and 11.5% in the 1,502 and 1,146 pitches they saw. The other two players were Ryan LaMarre (10.4%) LaMonte Wade Jr. (5.9%) but they combined for a total of just 371 pitches. This stat referenced above includes swings at balls outside of the zone when there are two strikes, so it could be a little misleading, as Arraez could be expanding his zone to protect. With less than two strikes, his percent drops down to 5.3. In addition to his excellent plate discipline, Arraez also keeps teams from shifting against him. He has the ability to hit to any part of the field, with 26 of his hits going to the pull side, 45 up the middle and 38 to the opposite field. In the box, Arraez also showcases a new approach during the pitch. Instead of waiting back in the box for the ball, at times he would actually scoot up in the box as the pitch was coming. Here is a video of him using this approach in the minors: Twins fans got to see a lot of what Arraez has to offer this year, and it is just the start of his exciting career. Though he doesn’t bring much power to the Bomba Squad, he is a very reliable hitter. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY Handbook Preview: Welcome to the OffseasonTwins Daily 2019 Awards: Most Improved PlayerTwins Daily 2019 Awards: Rookie of the Year Click here to view the article
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