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Andrew Gebo

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Blog Entries posted by Andrew Gebo

  1. Andrew Gebo
    Across all sports the term “underdog” is typically given to teams who lack elite talent but are good enough to be relevant. It is rare when a team leads their respective sport in most major statistical categories and fighting for the number one seed in the postseason to be given the “underdog” label. The 2019 Minnesota Twins are the exception to that rule.
     
    As a fan, it is very easy and understandable to be blinded by emotion when talking about your favorite team. We all think our favorite team is the best - unless you’re a Marlins or Orioles fan but then you wouldn't be reading this anyway. Fans also tend to overreact to minor mishaps or punch a hole in the wall when their team doesn’t commit $45million over three years to a 31 year old reliever with declining peripherals.
     
    This article will not be an emotionally driven rant about media biases and the Twins not getting respect because they’re a small market team. Rather, my goal is to present an objective analysis of how absurd it is that this team is already an “underdog” to make a deep postseason run.
     
    Let’s first look at the current playoff odds of AL division leaders, provided by FanGraphs.
     
    Houston Astros: (42-21), 99.9% chance of a postseason appearance, 20.1% chance of winning the World Series.
    Minnesota Twins: (40-20), 96.5% chance of a postseason appearance, 7.7% chance of winning the World Series.
    New York Yankees: (38-22), 95% chance of a postseason appearance, 12% chance of winning the World Series.
     
    Now let’s compare how these teams have performed so far in terms of offense and pitching, beginning with offense. It’s no secret the Twins have crushed the ball this year and you may not be surprised to see them at the top of the AL, but here it is anyway.
     
    Minnesota Twins: .272/.339/.510 .850 OPS, 114 HR, 14.7 WAR
    Houston Astros: .271/.344/.478 .822 OPS, 100 HR, 14.5 WAR
    New York Yankees: .257/.334/.448 .781 OPS, 97 HR, 8.7 WAR
     
    You probably didn’t need me to tell you how good their offense has been. If you follow this team then you should (hopefully) already know that. There you have it though, of the current AL division leaders, the Minnesota Twins are the best offensive team. Now let’s look at pitching, beginning with starting pitching.
     
    Minnesota Twins: 3.56 ERA, 1.28 HR/9, 1.16 WHIP
    Houston Astros: 3.68 ERA, 1.55 HR/9, 1.06 WHIP
    New York Yankees: 3.89 ERA, 1.65 HR/9, 1.22 WHIP
     
    Let that sink in for a second - the Minnesota Twins not only have the best offense but one of the best starting rotations as well. Bullpen stats aren’t as favorable but they’re also not as bad as most people in Twins territory seem to believe.
     
    Minnesota Twins: 4.67 ERA, 1.26 HR/9, 1.41 WHIP
    Houston Astros: 3.32 ERA, 1.18 HR/9, 1.12 WHIP
    New York Yankees: 3.74 ERA, 1.04 HR/9, 1.26WHIP
     
    If you’re reading this then you likely follow baseball. If you follow baseball you likely already knew the Yankees have a great bullpen and the Astros turned Ryan Pressly into a super reliever - it’s okay to be sad about that one Twins fans, I’ll allow it. However, the Twins bullpen has been respectable and Taylor Rogers is emerging as a super reliever.
     
    Let’s recap - of the three current AL division leaders, the Twins have the lowest odds of winning the World Series, according to FanGraphs. Minnesota also currently boasts the best offensive production among AL division leaders and their starting rotation has the lowest ERA and has surrendered the least amount of home runs per 9 innings. Also, if the season ended today, Jake Odorizzi is the AL Cy Young winner.
     
    Their bullpen has been good but not great and ranks last among current AL division leaders but they’ve still gotten solid production from the bullpen. 10th best bullpen ERA in the league type of production - which by the way, is pretty darn good.
     
    Here’s a quick look at how they stack up against all of MLB in pitching and hitting. Minnesota currently leads the league in the following offensive categories: AVG, SLG, OPS, and wOBA. They’re tied for first in wRC+ and HR. Minnesota has been an offensive juggernaut.
     
    FanGraphs currently has the Twins ranked as the 4th best starting rotation in the league. They don’t lead the league in any statistical categories other than Wins - which for the most part is a useless stat when evaluating a pitchers individual performance - but their overall starting pitching production has been very strong. Any time you can rank in the top 5 of the league you’re doing something right - thank you, Wes Johnson.
     
    Minnesota’s bullpen currently ranks 11th in the league, according to FanGraphs. Top 10 would sound a lot better but 11th is still pretty good. Considering the bullpen expectations were extremely low going into the season, being the 11th best bullpen in the league is a pleasant surprise.
     
    If you have read this far you’ve hopefully learned or confirmed your own beliefs that the 2019 Twins are an offensive powerhouse with a top 5 starting rotation and a bullpen that ranks in the top half of the league - Go Twins!
     
    Yet for some reason, of the current AL division leaders they have the lowest odds to win the World Series (only 7.7% if you can’t remember that far back). Chris Russo of MLB Network thinks Minnesota is a “regular season team that isn’t built for the postseason”. He’s not alone in that sentiment, either.
     
    Most of the publications I have read and TV analysts I’ve listened to seem to echo the same feelings. They don’t believe the 2019 Minnesota Twins are legitimate World Series contenders and it’s shocking.
     
    Most of the time when a team is this good they are a consensus World Series favorite - except that doesn’t seem to apply to the 2019 Minnesota Twins. Maybe it’s because the roster lacks household names. Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, C.J. Cron and Mitch Garver aren’t going to be on the cover of Sport Illustrated anytime soon. The Astros, Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees (when healthy) feature a lineup full of MVP winners, All Stars and future HOFers. This could be why the Twins are overlooked but that’s an idiotic reason.
     
    Perhaps it’s because Minnesota has been relatively irrelevant since 2010 - other than the brief postseason cameo in 2017. The Tigers, Royals, White Sox and Indians have all appeared in or won a World Series over the last two decades. The Twins, on the other hand, haven’t reached the ALCS since they were defeated by Anaheim in 2002. Maybe everyone forgot about Minnesota and now that they’re a juggernaut they don’t believe it, but again, that’s idiotic.
     
    Could it be because they don’t believe their current production is sustainable? This would be the least-idiotic reason to doubt this team. Jake Odorizzi has been a good but not great pitcher over his career. Now suddenly he’s a front runner for the AL Cy Young. Byron Buxton is putting together his best season as a pro, Jorge Polanco is an MVP candidate and up until his last couple starts, Martin Perez has been a completely different pitcher.
     
    As I write this on June 6th, the Minnesota Twins currently have five position players with a top 10 WAR for their respective positions. Those five are Polanco, Schoop, Kepler, Buxton, and Rosario. Top 10 doesn’t do enough justice for Jorge Polanco, he has the highest WAR of all shortstops and the 9th highest WAR in the entire league. He’s on pace to win a batting title and possibly the MVP.
     
    Minnesota is also one of only three teams in the league with two starting pitchers who rank top 20 in ERA - Jake Odorizzi (2nd) and Jose Berrios (20th).
     
    It is very possible that this level of production from relatively unproven players is not sustainable but even that is a bit of a stretch. Byron Buxton was the number one prospect in baseball, so seeing him produce like this isn’t outrageous. Jorge Polanco has always been able to hit and he’s just now entering his prime at age 25. It’s not uncommon for players to have a breakout season after having spent parts of five years in the big leagues and over 1,000 career plate appearances. Jake Odorizzi and Martin Perez, however, are performing significantly better than they have over their careers which does make it harder to believe it is sustainable.
     
    The 2019 Minnesota Twins are a legitimate championship contender. By no means am I saying they’re a lock for the World Series and will cruise through the postseason. It’s very possible they get bounced in the ALDS. It’s baseball, anything can happen but this is a very good baseball team that deserves more respect and should not be viewed a consensus underdog.
     
    Thank you for reading! If you’d like more Twins news and articles follow me on Twitter @Gebo__
  2. Andrew Gebo
    Recently I have seen a lot of chatter on various social media sites about what the Twins should do at the deadline. Even though it’s only May, let’s talk about it.
     
    You’ve probably all heard or taken part in the cries for this team to be buyers. The other day I saw a tweet claiming they should trade Sano for Madison Bumgarner. This type of unrealistic fantasy trades aren’t worth discussing so let’s focus on much more practical moves.
     
    History will tell us that contending teams will almost certainly be buyers at the deadline. Cubs traded for Chapman, Astros acquired Verlander and the Dodgers made a deal for Yu Darvish. However, this doesn’t mean contending teams are obligated to make a blockbuster acquisition at the deadline. In some cases marginal improvements or staying quiet at the deadline makes sense and that’s where the Twins should be.
     
    Yeah, yeah, I know… “but we need pitching!!” … It’s no secret good pitching is important. News flash though, the Twins already have excellent pitching. Berrios, Perez, and Odorizzi are a very solid front end of a rotation. There’s likely not a single GM that would scoff at Kyle Gibson as their number four starter. Pineada from what he’s shown so far is the weak link in the rotation, but that’s generally always the case with your number 5 starter. Also, in his defense he’s pitched in less than ideal weather conditions and is still building up his stamina after missing a year and a half. It’s reasonable to expect him to be at least a little better than he has been as the season progresses. So if we’re going to add pitching it likely won’t be to the starting rotation, injuries aside, of course. Bumgarner would be great, sure, but if we’re being honest he’s not any better than the top three guys in the rotation. Do we really want to see the Twins give up prospects to get Bumgarner as a rental when he wouldn’t even be the staff ace?
     
    That brings us to the bullpen, everyone’s favorite thing to gripe about. While yes, expectations were low for that group coming into the season they’ve actually performed really well. Taylor Rogers, to his credit, is quietly becoming the next Andrew Miller. I have full confidence in May, Hildenberger, and Parker. Now, this isn’t to say there’s no room for improvement in the bullpen. As I mentioned in a previous post, Will Smith of the Giants would make sense. That’s the type of marginal pitching addition this team should be seeking. No sense in selling the farm for an elite level arm when there’s no glaring need.
     
    Now for the lineup. I would hope we can all agree there’s really no need to add a power bat to the existing group. Also, there’s no room to add a guy. With Sano coming back every position is occupied with more than capable hitters. Let’s do ourselves a favor and not even entertain the idea of adding a position player unless the injury bugs jumps out from the behind the curtain and wrecks damage on this squad.
     
    Last note regarding the deadline talk, there’s one more thing to keep in mind. Top tier players don’t come cheap at the deadline. Yes, the Twins have a really good farm system but given the way this current roster is constructed it really doesn’t make much sense to sell off some of that organizational depth. The core group of the team is still very young. Berrios, Polanco, Buxton are all 25 or younger. Kepler is 26 and Rosario is the elder statesman at 27. The veteran guys on this team are all on short terms deals. Cruz, Cron and Schoop are one year deals. Marwin Gonzalez is on a two year deal. There will be turnover on this roster and a need to dip into that minor league depth in the not so distant future. This team is built to win now, yes, but they’re also built to win over the next 5 years or so. Maximizing on any opportunity to win is important but so is taking advantage of a multi year window. For all those reasons it would make sense for the Twins to be marginal buyers, if not spectators at the deadline.
     
    Quick note on Rosario. I did some digging into his numbers over his recent cold stretch and if the two homers in Toronto don’t indicate it’s a matter of time before he snaps out of it, maybe these stats will. Overall, his GB%, LD%, and FB% has remained around his career average. He’s continuing to produce hard contact at the same rate he always has. His K% for the season is the lowest of his career and his BB% is the highest. Those are all very good sings. The one glaring stat is his BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which has been hovering below .200 most of the year. For reference, .300 BABIP is about league average and for his career, Rosario has been slightly above that number. It’s pretty safe to say his recent cold snap (much like the Polar Vortex) will soon pass and he will begin to heat up again. Hopefully faster than the weather has this spring. Last note regarding Rosario, opposing pitchers have been throwing him a lot, and I mean, a lot more change ups. Once he makes the adjustment to that pitch and gets a little more luck on balls in play he will soon be on another tear.
     
    Thank you all for reading and I look forward to your comments!
  3. Andrew Gebo
    It’s certainly no secret that a strong bullpen is a common trait among championship teams. The Kansas City Royals made back-to-back World Series appearances, in 2014 & 2015, winning it all in 2015 on the backs of a very strong bullpen. The likes of Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland were a major part of their success.
     
    The team that beat them in 2014, the San Francisco Giants, also posted a stellar bullpen. Led by their “Core Four” (Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla) they were able to win three titles in five years. While they had had other key members such as former ROY & MVP Buster Posey and Postseason legend, Madison Bumgarner, the impact of ther bullpen cannot be overlooked.
     
    Now, since this is a Twins site I should probably talk about the Twins. Going into the season the bullpen was supposed to be downfall of this team. They were only going to go as far as the bullpen would let them. This was not an illogical expectation. Strong bullpens are a foundation of really good teams (see above). However, after a month and some pocket change into the season their bullpen is having all the laughs at that early season rhetoric.
     
    For the purpose of this blog post let’s all just close our eyes and pretend Mejia hasn’t pitched in 2019. I usually close my eyes when he pitches anyway so it’s all the same. With the exception of Mejia, the Twins have gotten stellar performances from a numbers of guys in their ‘pen.
     
    Per FanGraphs, here is how some of their relievers have performed so far this year.
     
    Trevor Hildenberger - 10.1ip, 3.48 ERA
    Taylor Rogers - 13.2ip, 1.98 ERA
    Blake Parker - 9.1ip, 0.96 ERA
    Trevor May - 10.2ip, 3.38 ERA
    Ryne Harper - 11.2ip, 2.31 ERA
     
    I do realize it’s only early May and there’s still a lot of baseball left to play. I’m not saying Rogers will have a sub-2 ERA over the course of the full season. Would be awesome if he does but let’s be real about all this.
     
    Now with all this said, I would like to see them add another quality arm or two at the deadline. The guy that jumps to mind right now is lefty Will Smith of the Giants. They’re not going anywhere and they have a surplus of quality bullpen arms. Until then, however, let’s recognize and appreciate what this group has done so far this year.
     
    Thank you for reading!
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