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Matthew Taylor

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  1. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from Oldgoat_MN for a blog entry, How the Twins Can Sign the Next Justin Verlander   
    For the first time in a long time the Minnesota Twins are entering the offseason in a prime position to sign top of the market starting pitchers. While Twins fans are (understandably) fantasizing about the prospect of signing Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, I’m here to discuss another free agent starting pitcher who I believe would be more likely to come to Minnesota, would cost significantly less, and could be the next Justin Verlander...Madison Bumgarner.
     
    When looking at the peripheral career trajectories of Bumgarner and Verlander, the similarities between the two are undeniable - starting pitchers in their 30s who debuted at a young age and are both multi-year all stars with playoff experience. Verlander was 34 years old with 12 years of big league experience when he was traded to the Astros while MadBum is 30 years old with 10 years of big league experience as he enters free agency. The Verlander acquisition obviously worked out wondrously for the Astros, so in this article I’ll be digging deeper into the careers of these two pitchers to find out if there could be some Verlander-type upside with the Twins signing Madison Bumgarner this offseason.
     


     
    Years 1-10
     
    The first thing I wanted to look at when comparing these two star pitchers was where Verlander was at in his career through his first ten full seasons in the MLB, as Bumgarner just finished his tenth full season. If these numbers showed that Verlander was a drastically better pitcher than Bumgarner, then this whole exercise would be moot, but as you can see in the chart above, this is not the case. The numbers actually show that through their first 10 full seasons, Bumgarner has been the better pitcher, according to ERA, FIP and K/9. That this is the case allows us to further dig into this comparison and see if we can continue to project Verlander’s career arc onto Bumgarner.
     


     
    Years 8-10
     
    The next thing that we should look at when comparing Verlander and Bumgarner was their performance in years 8-10 of their careers. At the time of the trade deadline when Twins fans were discussing the prospect of trading for MadBum, the criticism that I heard from many was that Bumgarner is no longer the pitcher that he used to be and that he has now settled into a new phase of his career. While Bumgarner has experienced a dip in his numbers the past three years, the drop is smaller than what most folks made it out to be, and is a very similar drop to Verlander’s in his years 8-10.
     


     
    Years 11-14
     
    Since the past stats for Verlander and Bumgarner that we analyzed seem to follow a similar trajectory, it’s worth giving a look at how Verlander performed in his years 11-14 to get an idea of what the next three years of Bumgarner could look like if everything breaks right, like they did with Justin. As you can see above, Verlander improved in every way in years 11-14 of his career, dropping his ERA a full run and raising his K/9 a full three strikeouts from the previous three seasons.
     
    What changed for Verlander to cause his numbers to improve so much, so late in his career? Changing teams.
     
    Half way through 2017, Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros, an organization that values numbers and analytics and has shown time and time again it’s ability to work with pitchers and get the very most out of their talent. The new regime of the Twins front office has acted in a very similar way, putting a huge priority into analytics and talent development. While the sample size with Wes Johnson as pitching coach has only been one season, I definitely think it’s reasonable to assume that Johnson could have an impact on Bumgarner similar to the impact that Houston’s organization and pitching coach, Brent Strom, had on Verlander.
     
    Justin Verlander is a future hall-of-fame pitcher that the Astros acquired in spite of him having some down years through the middle of his career. They saw his track record and believed that they could get him back to the Cy Young pitcher that he once was. I truly believe that the Minnesota Twins could do a similar job in using their player development and infrastructure to turn Madison Bumgarner back into a star and earn him another World Series MVP honor. This time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
  2. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from RaoulDuke for a blog entry, How the Twins Can Sign the Next Justin Verlander   
    For the first time in a long time the Minnesota Twins are entering the offseason in a prime position to sign top of the market starting pitchers. While Twins fans are (understandably) fantasizing about the prospect of signing Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, I’m here to discuss another free agent starting pitcher who I believe would be more likely to come to Minnesota, would cost significantly less, and could be the next Justin Verlander...Madison Bumgarner.
     
    When looking at the peripheral career trajectories of Bumgarner and Verlander, the similarities between the two are undeniable - starting pitchers in their 30s who debuted at a young age and are both multi-year all stars with playoff experience. Verlander was 34 years old with 12 years of big league experience when he was traded to the Astros while MadBum is 30 years old with 10 years of big league experience as he enters free agency. The Verlander acquisition obviously worked out wondrously for the Astros, so in this article I’ll be digging deeper into the careers of these two pitchers to find out if there could be some Verlander-type upside with the Twins signing Madison Bumgarner this offseason.
     


     
    Years 1-10
     
    The first thing I wanted to look at when comparing these two star pitchers was where Verlander was at in his career through his first ten full seasons in the MLB, as Bumgarner just finished his tenth full season. If these numbers showed that Verlander was a drastically better pitcher than Bumgarner, then this whole exercise would be moot, but as you can see in the chart above, this is not the case. The numbers actually show that through their first 10 full seasons, Bumgarner has been the better pitcher, according to ERA, FIP and K/9. That this is the case allows us to further dig into this comparison and see if we can continue to project Verlander’s career arc onto Bumgarner.
     


     
    Years 8-10
     
    The next thing that we should look at when comparing Verlander and Bumgarner was their performance in years 8-10 of their careers. At the time of the trade deadline when Twins fans were discussing the prospect of trading for MadBum, the criticism that I heard from many was that Bumgarner is no longer the pitcher that he used to be and that he has now settled into a new phase of his career. While Bumgarner has experienced a dip in his numbers the past three years, the drop is smaller than what most folks made it out to be, and is a very similar drop to Verlander’s in his years 8-10.
     


     
    Years 11-14
     
    Since the past stats for Verlander and Bumgarner that we analyzed seem to follow a similar trajectory, it’s worth giving a look at how Verlander performed in his years 11-14 to get an idea of what the next three years of Bumgarner could look like if everything breaks right, like they did with Justin. As you can see above, Verlander improved in every way in years 11-14 of his career, dropping his ERA a full run and raising his K/9 a full three strikeouts from the previous three seasons.
     
    What changed for Verlander to cause his numbers to improve so much, so late in his career? Changing teams.
     
    Half way through 2017, Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros, an organization that values numbers and analytics and has shown time and time again it’s ability to work with pitchers and get the very most out of their talent. The new regime of the Twins front office has acted in a very similar way, putting a huge priority into analytics and talent development. While the sample size with Wes Johnson as pitching coach has only been one season, I definitely think it’s reasonable to assume that Johnson could have an impact on Bumgarner similar to the impact that Houston’s organization and pitching coach, Brent Strom, had on Verlander.
     
    Justin Verlander is a future hall-of-fame pitcher that the Astros acquired in spite of him having some down years through the middle of his career. They saw his track record and believed that they could get him back to the Cy Young pitcher that he once was. I truly believe that the Minnesota Twins could do a similar job in using their player development and infrastructure to turn Madison Bumgarner back into a star and earn him another World Series MVP honor. This time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
  3. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from glunn for a blog entry, How the Twins Can Sign the Next Justin Verlander   
    For the first time in a long time the Minnesota Twins are entering the offseason in a prime position to sign top of the market starting pitchers. While Twins fans are (understandably) fantasizing about the prospect of signing Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, I’m here to discuss another free agent starting pitcher who I believe would be more likely to come to Minnesota, would cost significantly less, and could be the next Justin Verlander...Madison Bumgarner.
     
    When looking at the peripheral career trajectories of Bumgarner and Verlander, the similarities between the two are undeniable - starting pitchers in their 30s who debuted at a young age and are both multi-year all stars with playoff experience. Verlander was 34 years old with 12 years of big league experience when he was traded to the Astros while MadBum is 30 years old with 10 years of big league experience as he enters free agency. The Verlander acquisition obviously worked out wondrously for the Astros, so in this article I’ll be digging deeper into the careers of these two pitchers to find out if there could be some Verlander-type upside with the Twins signing Madison Bumgarner this offseason.
     


     
    Years 1-10
     
    The first thing I wanted to look at when comparing these two star pitchers was where Verlander was at in his career through his first ten full seasons in the MLB, as Bumgarner just finished his tenth full season. If these numbers showed that Verlander was a drastically better pitcher than Bumgarner, then this whole exercise would be moot, but as you can see in the chart above, this is not the case. The numbers actually show that through their first 10 full seasons, Bumgarner has been the better pitcher, according to ERA, FIP and K/9. That this is the case allows us to further dig into this comparison and see if we can continue to project Verlander’s career arc onto Bumgarner.
     


     
    Years 8-10
     
    The next thing that we should look at when comparing Verlander and Bumgarner was their performance in years 8-10 of their careers. At the time of the trade deadline when Twins fans were discussing the prospect of trading for MadBum, the criticism that I heard from many was that Bumgarner is no longer the pitcher that he used to be and that he has now settled into a new phase of his career. While Bumgarner has experienced a dip in his numbers the past three years, the drop is smaller than what most folks made it out to be, and is a very similar drop to Verlander’s in his years 8-10.
     


     
    Years 11-14
     
    Since the past stats for Verlander and Bumgarner that we analyzed seem to follow a similar trajectory, it’s worth giving a look at how Verlander performed in his years 11-14 to get an idea of what the next three years of Bumgarner could look like if everything breaks right, like they did with Justin. As you can see above, Verlander improved in every way in years 11-14 of his career, dropping his ERA a full run and raising his K/9 a full three strikeouts from the previous three seasons.
     
    What changed for Verlander to cause his numbers to improve so much, so late in his career? Changing teams.
     
    Half way through 2017, Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros, an organization that values numbers and analytics and has shown time and time again it’s ability to work with pitchers and get the very most out of their talent. The new regime of the Twins front office has acted in a very similar way, putting a huge priority into analytics and talent development. While the sample size with Wes Johnson as pitching coach has only been one season, I definitely think it’s reasonable to assume that Johnson could have an impact on Bumgarner similar to the impact that Houston’s organization and pitching coach, Brent Strom, had on Verlander.
     
    Justin Verlander is a future hall-of-fame pitcher that the Astros acquired in spite of him having some down years through the middle of his career. They saw his track record and believed that they could get him back to the Cy Young pitcher that he once was. I truly believe that the Minnesota Twins could do a similar job in using their player development and infrastructure to turn Madison Bumgarner back into a star and earn him another World Series MVP honor. This time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
  4. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from 3balls2strikes for a blog entry, How the Twins Can Sign the Next Justin Verlander   
    For the first time in a long time the Minnesota Twins are entering the offseason in a prime position to sign top of the market starting pitchers. While Twins fans are (understandably) fantasizing about the prospect of signing Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, I’m here to discuss another free agent starting pitcher who I believe would be more likely to come to Minnesota, would cost significantly less, and could be the next Justin Verlander...Madison Bumgarner.
     
    When looking at the peripheral career trajectories of Bumgarner and Verlander, the similarities between the two are undeniable - starting pitchers in their 30s who debuted at a young age and are both multi-year all stars with playoff experience. Verlander was 34 years old with 12 years of big league experience when he was traded to the Astros while MadBum is 30 years old with 10 years of big league experience as he enters free agency. The Verlander acquisition obviously worked out wondrously for the Astros, so in this article I’ll be digging deeper into the careers of these two pitchers to find out if there could be some Verlander-type upside with the Twins signing Madison Bumgarner this offseason.
     


     
    Years 1-10
     
    The first thing I wanted to look at when comparing these two star pitchers was where Verlander was at in his career through his first ten full seasons in the MLB, as Bumgarner just finished his tenth full season. If these numbers showed that Verlander was a drastically better pitcher than Bumgarner, then this whole exercise would be moot, but as you can see in the chart above, this is not the case. The numbers actually show that through their first 10 full seasons, Bumgarner has been the better pitcher, according to ERA, FIP and K/9. That this is the case allows us to further dig into this comparison and see if we can continue to project Verlander’s career arc onto Bumgarner.
     


     
    Years 8-10
     
    The next thing that we should look at when comparing Verlander and Bumgarner was their performance in years 8-10 of their careers. At the time of the trade deadline when Twins fans were discussing the prospect of trading for MadBum, the criticism that I heard from many was that Bumgarner is no longer the pitcher that he used to be and that he has now settled into a new phase of his career. While Bumgarner has experienced a dip in his numbers the past three years, the drop is smaller than what most folks made it out to be, and is a very similar drop to Verlander’s in his years 8-10.
     


     
    Years 11-14
     
    Since the past stats for Verlander and Bumgarner that we analyzed seem to follow a similar trajectory, it’s worth giving a look at how Verlander performed in his years 11-14 to get an idea of what the next three years of Bumgarner could look like if everything breaks right, like they did with Justin. As you can see above, Verlander improved in every way in years 11-14 of his career, dropping his ERA a full run and raising his K/9 a full three strikeouts from the previous three seasons.
     
    What changed for Verlander to cause his numbers to improve so much, so late in his career? Changing teams.
     
    Half way through 2017, Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros, an organization that values numbers and analytics and has shown time and time again it’s ability to work with pitchers and get the very most out of their talent. The new regime of the Twins front office has acted in a very similar way, putting a huge priority into analytics and talent development. While the sample size with Wes Johnson as pitching coach has only been one season, I definitely think it’s reasonable to assume that Johnson could have an impact on Bumgarner similar to the impact that Houston’s organization and pitching coach, Brent Strom, had on Verlander.
     
    Justin Verlander is a future hall-of-fame pitcher that the Astros acquired in spite of him having some down years through the middle of his career. They saw his track record and believed that they could get him back to the Cy Young pitcher that he once was. I truly believe that the Minnesota Twins could do a similar job in using their player development and infrastructure to turn Madison Bumgarner back into a star and earn him another World Series MVP honor. This time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
  5. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from nclahammer for a blog entry, Let’s Take a Ride on the 2019 Twins Bullpen Coaster   
    The Minnesota Twins bullpen of 2019 was a roller coaster ride that would rival even the most thrilling attraction at Valley Fair. In this article, we’ll be taking a ride on the 2019 Twins "bullpen coaster" as I go through all the various peaks and valleys that the relief group experienced in 2019.
     
    Prior to the start of the season, expectations for the Twins bullpen were certainly a mixed bag following a disappointing 2018 which saw the Twins relievers finish 22nd in the majors with a 4.45 ERA. After Twins fans pleaded with Falvey and Levine all offseason to acquire relief arms, the 33-year old journeyman, Blake Parker, was the only reliever that the front office duo signed. While the Twins knew they had a budding star in Taylor Rogers, it appeared that the Twins would otherwise be leaning heavily on a bunch of unproven question marks the likes of Parker, Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Adalberto Mejia and Fernando Romero. Names like Tyler Duffey and Zack Littell were starting the season in the minor leagues and Cody Stashak was a complete unknown. Fangraphs, however, was more bullish than most on the Twins bullpen, ranking the unit 11th in the majors in their pre-season power rankings.
     


     
    Peak #1: Hot start
     
    Just like the rest of the Twins ballclub, the bullpen exceeded any and all expectations to kick off the 2019 season. The bullpen coaster reached its first peak of the year, though, on May 26 when the Twins shut out the Chicago White Sox, 7-0. On this day, the Twins bullpen recorded 3.2 scoreless innings from Magill, May, Rogers and Duffey to push the Twins to 20 games over .500 with a 36-16 record. Through this point in the season the Twins were seventh in the American League in ERA at 4.07 and fifth in the American league in FIP at 3.89. This great performance was thanks in large part to the four relievers who pitched in the May 26 shut out who had to this point posted ERAs of 1.54 (Magill), 3.79/3.79 (May), 1.31 (Rogers) and 2.63 (Duffey).
     


     
    Valley #1: The Yankee Debacle
     
    The Bullpen stayed hot through the month of June, but as the calendar flipped from June to July our bullpen coaster began it’s steep decline. In a period of 17 games from July 1 - July 23 the Twins relievers posted an ERA/FIP of 5.32/4.31 with a -1.61 WPA during that time. During this same stretch, three Twins relievers were DFA’d due to poor performance - the previously mentioned Matt Magill, Adalberto Mejia, and Mike Morin. The culmination of poor bullpen performance, and the first valley on our bullpen coaster, was the 14-12 heartbreaking loss to the Yankees on July 23. In a game that featured 16 runs, 35 hits, and 6 bombas, the stats that will stick with Twins fans from this game are the two blown saves and nine earned runs from the bullpen. Blake Parker surrendered four runs to turn a 9-5 lead to a 10-9 deficit. Then, after a heroic Sano bomba, Taylor Rogers surrendered two runs to turn a 11-10 lead to a 12-11 deficit. Finally, after Polanco tied the game to force extra innings, Kohl Stewart surrendered two runs to turn a 12-12 tie game to a demoralizing 14-12 loss. Following the game, the Twins DFA’d their fourth reliever in 11 days by letting Blake Parker go and all of a sudden the Twins bullpen found themselves at rock bottom.
     


     
    Peak #2: The Trade Deadline
     
    The silver lining to the July decline and the Yankee debacle was that it forced the front office to realize that acquiring relief arms at the deadline was no longer a luxury, but a necessity. The voices clamoring for bullpen help were getting louder, and lo and behold the front office acted. First by acquiring the 36-year old, right handed reliever, Sergio Romo. In Romo the Twins acquired a proven winner with a nasty slider that killed right handed hitters. The general feeling, though, was that the Romo acquisition wasn’t enough and we needed more arms. Then, in the 11th hour of the trade deadline, news broke that the Twins acquired veteran reliever, Sam Dyson, and things were looking up for this bullpen. Dyson was arguably the best arm that was moved at the deadline and filled the missing setup man role for the Bomba Squad. Falvey and Levine got us the help we needed, we were primed for a resurgent second half of the season, and the bullpen coaster reached its final peak. Or so we thought...
     


     
    Valley #2: Damaged Goods
     
    While the Romo acquisition was looking like a slam dunk for the Twins, the Dyson experiment was not quite looking the same. In his first appearance with the Twins on August 3rd, Dyson didn’t record a single out, allowed 3 runs, and posted a -0.46 WPA. The following day, after a second straight shaky performance, Dyson was placed on the injured list with bicep tendonitis in what turned out to be a chronic issue that he had been experiencing since before coming to Minnesota (AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE?!). At this point Twins fans across Minnesota feared that Dyson was damaged goods, and finally on September 26 their fears were realized when Dyson was shut down for good. What was the final piece to the Twins bullpen turned out to be a net-negative and Minnesota was once again stuck in a valley, needing guys from within the organization to hold on for dear life as they fought for the AL Central crown.
     


     
    Peak #3: Late Season Resurgence
     
    The Twins needed the current crop of arms in the organization to step up in Dyson’s absence, and step up they did. The group that got it done for the Twins in August and September was a mix of guys who contributed throughout the year (Duffey, Rogers and May) along with a group of kids who played far above their age and expectations (Littell, Stashak and Graterol). The bullpen coaster peaked, though, on September 14 when the Twins played a bullpen game to complete a double header sweep of the Indians and all but seal up the AL Central. After 3.2 mediocre innings from Lewis Thorpe, the Twins blanked the Indians for the final 5.1 innings thanks to scoreless outings from Stashak, Graterol and May. Overall, in August and September the Twins bullpen posted a 3.51 FIP, best in the American League. The unit that Twins fans thought would cost them the division ended up winning them the division in a bullpen game. Pretty cool.
     
     


     
    Valley #3: October Disappointment
     
    Heading into the Playoffs, the Twins had a plethora of question marks. They had just two viable starting pitchers, Arraez’s ankle was a question mark, Kepler hadn’t played in weeks, the list goes on and on. What Twins fans were confident in, though, was our group of bullpen arms. The same group that carried the team through August and September seemed primed to carry them through October. The narrative flipped quickly, though, when Baldelli brought in Zack Littell to start the fifth inning of game one. Littell clearly was not up to the moment as he faced three batters, while allowing two runs. The next inning, Baldelli brought in Cody Stashak who allowed home runs to LeMahieu and Gardner to seal a game one loss. Game two of the ALDS was even worse for the Twins bullpen thanks mostly in part to Tyler Duffey serving up a grand slam to Gregorius, all but ending the game (and series) before it even started. All in all, the Twins bullpen posted a 7.56 ERA in 25 innings and, unfortunately, the bullpen coaster ended the 2019 campaign in a valley.
     
    You can say a lot of different things about the 2019 season for the Minnesota Twins bullpen, but you can’t say that it was boring. As you can see, the season was truly a roller coaster ride unlike any that I can remember. Although we ended 2019 in a valley, I look forward to the 2020 group climbing up the chain and reaching new peaks.
  6. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from alphanumeric for a blog entry, How the Twins Can Sign the Next Justin Verlander   
    For the first time in a long time the Minnesota Twins are entering the offseason in a prime position to sign top of the market starting pitchers. While Twins fans are (understandably) fantasizing about the prospect of signing Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, I’m here to discuss another free agent starting pitcher who I believe would be more likely to come to Minnesota, would cost significantly less, and could be the next Justin Verlander...Madison Bumgarner.
     
    When looking at the peripheral career trajectories of Bumgarner and Verlander, the similarities between the two are undeniable - starting pitchers in their 30s who debuted at a young age and are both multi-year all stars with playoff experience. Verlander was 34 years old with 12 years of big league experience when he was traded to the Astros while MadBum is 30 years old with 10 years of big league experience as he enters free agency. The Verlander acquisition obviously worked out wondrously for the Astros, so in this article I’ll be digging deeper into the careers of these two pitchers to find out if there could be some Verlander-type upside with the Twins signing Madison Bumgarner this offseason.
     


     
    Years 1-10
     
    The first thing I wanted to look at when comparing these two star pitchers was where Verlander was at in his career through his first ten full seasons in the MLB, as Bumgarner just finished his tenth full season. If these numbers showed that Verlander was a drastically better pitcher than Bumgarner, then this whole exercise would be moot, but as you can see in the chart above, this is not the case. The numbers actually show that through their first 10 full seasons, Bumgarner has been the better pitcher, according to ERA, FIP and K/9. That this is the case allows us to further dig into this comparison and see if we can continue to project Verlander’s career arc onto Bumgarner.
     


     
    Years 8-10
     
    The next thing that we should look at when comparing Verlander and Bumgarner was their performance in years 8-10 of their careers. At the time of the trade deadline when Twins fans were discussing the prospect of trading for MadBum, the criticism that I heard from many was that Bumgarner is no longer the pitcher that he used to be and that he has now settled into a new phase of his career. While Bumgarner has experienced a dip in his numbers the past three years, the drop is smaller than what most folks made it out to be, and is a very similar drop to Verlander’s in his years 8-10.
     


     
    Years 11-14
     
    Since the past stats for Verlander and Bumgarner that we analyzed seem to follow a similar trajectory, it’s worth giving a look at how Verlander performed in his years 11-14 to get an idea of what the next three years of Bumgarner could look like if everything breaks right, like they did with Justin. As you can see above, Verlander improved in every way in years 11-14 of his career, dropping his ERA a full run and raising his K/9 a full three strikeouts from the previous three seasons.
     
    What changed for Verlander to cause his numbers to improve so much, so late in his career? Changing teams.
     
    Half way through 2017, Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros, an organization that values numbers and analytics and has shown time and time again it’s ability to work with pitchers and get the very most out of their talent. The new regime of the Twins front office has acted in a very similar way, putting a huge priority into analytics and talent development. While the sample size with Wes Johnson as pitching coach has only been one season, I definitely think it’s reasonable to assume that Johnson could have an impact on Bumgarner similar to the impact that Houston’s organization and pitching coach, Brent Strom, had on Verlander.
     
    Justin Verlander is a future hall-of-fame pitcher that the Astros acquired in spite of him having some down years through the middle of his career. They saw his track record and believed that they could get him back to the Cy Young pitcher that he once was. I truly believe that the Minnesota Twins could do a similar job in using their player development and infrastructure to turn Madison Bumgarner back into a star and earn him another World Series MVP honor. This time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
  7. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from puckstopper1 for a blog entry, Twins Hitters 2019: By the Numbers   
    Part of what makes baseball such a special sport is that it, more than any other sport, is almost completely driven by numbers. Numbers will teach us who are the superstars of our sport and will expose players who are not. Because of this, it only seems fitting for my second blog post on Twins Daily to take a look back on the 2019 season and choose one number for each Minnesota Twins hitter that I think best encapsulates the season for that player. The players discussed in this post were the top 10 team leaders in plate appearances this season.
     
     
    1. Jorge Polanco
    Number: 153
     
    GAMES PLAYED. In a Minnesota Twins season ravaged with injuries where the Twins saw 5 of their top 6 batters in fWAR spend time on the injured list, Polanco was the one constant in the Twins lineup. Polanco played in 94% of Twins games this season which actually undersells his availability as 2 of his 9 games on the bench came in the final week of the season when the Central had already been wrapped up. In a season where Polanco was an AL All-Star starter and a team leader in many batting statistics (R, H, 2B, 3B) it was difficult to not assign a hitting statistic as Polanco’s number, but as the old adage goes, “the best ability is availability” and Polanco’s availability was the most significant contribution to the Twins this season.
     
    2. Max Kepler
    Number: .880
     
    OPS VS. LEFT HANDED PITCHING. Prior to this season, Max Kepler struggled mightily against left-handed pitchers. From his MLB debut through the end of last season, Max had posted a career .605 OPS versus left handed pitchers, well below league average. He performed so poorly versus southpaws that there was much talk through his early development that he might be limited to a platoon-type role with the Twins. This year, though, Kepler turned it all around and posted a well-above average .880 OPS versus lefties, even better than his excellent .845 OPS versus righties. Last offseason, Kepler signed an extremely team-friendly 5-year, $35M contract. If he continues to mash lefties the way he did in 2019 that contract will only continue to look better and better.
     
    3. Eddie Rosario
    Number: 3.51
     
    PITCHES PER PLATE APPEARANCE. This is the first number on this list that should be taken negatively. While Eddie Rosario posted a career high in R, HR and RBI this season, what I will remember most from Rosario’s 2019 season is his impatience at the plate. A huge gripe among Twins’ faithful this season was Baldelli’s stubbornness with keeping Rosario in the cleanup spot all season. It was maddening to have Kepler, Polanco and Cruz work the opposing pitcher into 7 or 8 pitch ABs and mount a rally only to have Rosie bail the pitcher out with a pop out on the first pitch of the at bat. The 3.51 P/PA illustrates this feeling perfectly as he finished dead last on the club in this statistic.
     
    4. Nelson Cruz
    Number: 1.031
     
    OPS. This was by far the easiest number for me to choose in this exercise. Anytime a player finishes with an OPS greater than 1, you know they had a special season. Not only did Cruz finish with the 2nd highest OPS in the American league this season, he finished with the 4th highest OPS EVER for a 38-year-old baseball player (behind Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Ty Cobb). Cruz was an unbelievable addition to this Minnesota Twins ball club. Most times when a team signs a 38 year old, they bring him in to be a veteran presence and a mentor in a young clubhouse. While Cruz was a great mentor and a fan-favorite, he was brought in to mash and he indeed mashed in 2019.
     
    5. C.J. Cron
    Number: .700
     
    OPS AFTER JULY 6 THUMB INJURY. C.J. Cron, more than any other Twins player this season, had a Jekyll and Hyde season. Unfortunately for Cron, the Hyde to his Jekyll was completely injury related. Prior to July 6, C.J. was having a very solid season for the Twins as evidenced by his .821 OPS in 331 plate appearances. After management’s bungling of his thumb injury, though, Cron’s play suffered significantly as he saw his OPS dip 121 points and his K% increase from 19.3% to 25.6%. Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say, but I would love to see how Cron’s 2019 season would have played out if Baldelli & Crew would have allowed Cron’s thumb to heal completely instead of rushing him back into the lineup as they did.
     
    6. Jonathan Schoop
    Number: .000/.000/.000
     
    BATTING WITH BASES LOADED. There was a lot of talk this season about how poorly the Twins performed in bases loaded situations, and rightly so. While the Twins were second in baseball this season with a .832 overall OPS, they managed to wind up 28th in baseball with a .568 OPS with the bases loaded. Nobody embodied this struggle with bases loaded better than Jonathan Schoop who ended the season with a goose egg in AVG, OBP and SLG% this season with the bases loaded in 8 trips to the plate. Of all the wild things that happened this Twins season, their complete ineptitude with the bases loaded tops the list for me, and Jonathan Schoop is the poster boy for it.
     
    7. Marwin Gonzalez
    Number: 6
     
    NUMBER OF FIELDING POSITIONS PLAYED. When Marwin Gonzalez signed with the Twins on February 22, Twins fans were excited to bring in a good player who has played in pressure games on the biggest stage. What excited Twins fans most, though, was the versatility that Gonzalez would bring to the club, and we saw that play out all season. With so many injuries popping up throughout the year, Gonzalez’ ability to play anywhere on the diamond allowed the team to continue to fill in a potent lineup even without its biggest stars for much of the year. Gonzalez was able to fill in for Sano at third base for a month to start the season, fill in for Cron when he was hampered with his thumb injury, and ended the season playing in the corner outfield when Buxton’s shoulder injury forced Kepler into CF. Marwin certainly didn’t have his strongest hitting season and suffered his fair share of injuries throughout the year, but his ability to fill in across the diamond and in the outfield covered up a lot of holes and made Rocco Baldelli’s job a heck of a lot easier filling out his lineup card.
     
    8. Miguel Sano
    Number: .994
     
    OPS AFTER JUNE 27. On June 26, the Twins suffered a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays in 18 innings. The bigger story that day, though, was Miguel Sano going 0-for-7 with 3 strikeouts. It was his second 0-for-7 performance in the last 10 days and brought his season batting totals down to .195/.278/.761. At this point, much of Twins twitter was clamoring for the Twins to send Sano down or even outright cut him. What Twins fans didn’t know, though, was that Sano was going through a complete swing transformation with hitting coach, James Rowson, and literally learning a completely new swing on the fly. Well, Rowson’s coaching and Sano’s hard work paid off in a big, big way as Sano posted a .271/.376/.618 line with a .994 OPS beginning the day after his 0-for-7 Tampa Bay performance through the end of the season. Needless to say, there’s not much clamoring from Twins Twitter for Sano to be cut anymore.
     
    9. Luis Arraez
    Number: 22
     
    AGE. There are so many numbers that you could come up with for Arraez’s 2019 season and I wouldn’t blame for you picking any of them. The .334 average, the .399 OBP, the 29 (!!!) strikeouts, Arraez had a truly special season. The number that I settled on for “La Regadera”, though, was his age of 22. The Twins were able to generate an everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter from a rookie and with the way he has put up excellent numbers at every level of baseball in which he has played, there is no reason to believe that his 2019 season was any sort of mirage. Arraez’s 2019 season would have been considered incredible from a 32 year old, the fact that he put up the numbers he did at 22 years old should excite Twins everywhere.
     
    10. Mitch Garver
    Number: .995
     
    OPS. It’s nice when you get to end an article like this with a player who had one of the greatest seasons of all time by a catcher and posted numbers that will blow away even the casual baseball fan. The number that encapsulates Garver’s 2019 season the most for me is his .995 OPS. This not only led all catchers this season (min. 350 PAs), but placed him 17th all-time in OPS for a catcher in a season (min. 350 PAs). Health certainly slowed down the end of Garver’s 2019 season, and unfortunately Garver wasn’t able to showcase his skills in front of a national audience in the postseason, but if Garver continues to hit the way he did this season he will become a household name in no time. Not bad for a guy who just finished his second full season in the majors.
     
     
    What makes this list fun is that there are many different numbers that could be chosen for each hitter. I would love to hear in the comments what numbers you would have selected for the players I highlighted.
  8. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from Patrick Wozniak for a blog entry, Let’s Take a Ride on the 2019 Twins Bullpen Coaster   
    The Minnesota Twins bullpen of 2019 was a roller coaster ride that would rival even the most thrilling attraction at Valley Fair. In this article, we’ll be taking a ride on the 2019 Twins "bullpen coaster" as I go through all the various peaks and valleys that the relief group experienced in 2019.
     
    Prior to the start of the season, expectations for the Twins bullpen were certainly a mixed bag following a disappointing 2018 which saw the Twins relievers finish 22nd in the majors with a 4.45 ERA. After Twins fans pleaded with Falvey and Levine all offseason to acquire relief arms, the 33-year old journeyman, Blake Parker, was the only reliever that the front office duo signed. While the Twins knew they had a budding star in Taylor Rogers, it appeared that the Twins would otherwise be leaning heavily on a bunch of unproven question marks the likes of Parker, Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Adalberto Mejia and Fernando Romero. Names like Tyler Duffey and Zack Littell were starting the season in the minor leagues and Cody Stashak was a complete unknown. Fangraphs, however, was more bullish than most on the Twins bullpen, ranking the unit 11th in the majors in their pre-season power rankings.
     


     
    Peak #1: Hot start
     
    Just like the rest of the Twins ballclub, the bullpen exceeded any and all expectations to kick off the 2019 season. The bullpen coaster reached its first peak of the year, though, on May 26 when the Twins shut out the Chicago White Sox, 7-0. On this day, the Twins bullpen recorded 3.2 scoreless innings from Magill, May, Rogers and Duffey to push the Twins to 20 games over .500 with a 36-16 record. Through this point in the season the Twins were seventh in the American League in ERA at 4.07 and fifth in the American league in FIP at 3.89. This great performance was thanks in large part to the four relievers who pitched in the May 26 shut out who had to this point posted ERAs of 1.54 (Magill), 3.79/3.79 (May), 1.31 (Rogers) and 2.63 (Duffey).
     


     
    Valley #1: The Yankee Debacle
     
    The Bullpen stayed hot through the month of June, but as the calendar flipped from June to July our bullpen coaster began it’s steep decline. In a period of 17 games from July 1 - July 23 the Twins relievers posted an ERA/FIP of 5.32/4.31 with a -1.61 WPA during that time. During this same stretch, three Twins relievers were DFA’d due to poor performance - the previously mentioned Matt Magill, Adalberto Mejia, and Mike Morin. The culmination of poor bullpen performance, and the first valley on our bullpen coaster, was the 14-12 heartbreaking loss to the Yankees on July 23. In a game that featured 16 runs, 35 hits, and 6 bombas, the stats that will stick with Twins fans from this game are the two blown saves and nine earned runs from the bullpen. Blake Parker surrendered four runs to turn a 9-5 lead to a 10-9 deficit. Then, after a heroic Sano bomba, Taylor Rogers surrendered two runs to turn a 11-10 lead to a 12-11 deficit. Finally, after Polanco tied the game to force extra innings, Kohl Stewart surrendered two runs to turn a 12-12 tie game to a demoralizing 14-12 loss. Following the game, the Twins DFA’d their fourth reliever in 11 days by letting Blake Parker go and all of a sudden the Twins bullpen found themselves at rock bottom.
     


     
    Peak #2: The Trade Deadline
     
    The silver lining to the July decline and the Yankee debacle was that it forced the front office to realize that acquiring relief arms at the deadline was no longer a luxury, but a necessity. The voices clamoring for bullpen help were getting louder, and lo and behold the front office acted. First by acquiring the 36-year old, right handed reliever, Sergio Romo. In Romo the Twins acquired a proven winner with a nasty slider that killed right handed hitters. The general feeling, though, was that the Romo acquisition wasn’t enough and we needed more arms. Then, in the 11th hour of the trade deadline, news broke that the Twins acquired veteran reliever, Sam Dyson, and things were looking up for this bullpen. Dyson was arguably the best arm that was moved at the deadline and filled the missing setup man role for the Bomba Squad. Falvey and Levine got us the help we needed, we were primed for a resurgent second half of the season, and the bullpen coaster reached its final peak. Or so we thought...
     


     
    Valley #2: Damaged Goods
     
    While the Romo acquisition was looking like a slam dunk for the Twins, the Dyson experiment was not quite looking the same. In his first appearance with the Twins on August 3rd, Dyson didn’t record a single out, allowed 3 runs, and posted a -0.46 WPA. The following day, after a second straight shaky performance, Dyson was placed on the injured list with bicep tendonitis in what turned out to be a chronic issue that he had been experiencing since before coming to Minnesota (AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE?!). At this point Twins fans across Minnesota feared that Dyson was damaged goods, and finally on September 26 their fears were realized when Dyson was shut down for good. What was the final piece to the Twins bullpen turned out to be a net-negative and Minnesota was once again stuck in a valley, needing guys from within the organization to hold on for dear life as they fought for the AL Central crown.
     


     
    Peak #3: Late Season Resurgence
     
    The Twins needed the current crop of arms in the organization to step up in Dyson’s absence, and step up they did. The group that got it done for the Twins in August and September was a mix of guys who contributed throughout the year (Duffey, Rogers and May) along with a group of kids who played far above their age and expectations (Littell, Stashak and Graterol). The bullpen coaster peaked, though, on September 14 when the Twins played a bullpen game to complete a double header sweep of the Indians and all but seal up the AL Central. After 3.2 mediocre innings from Lewis Thorpe, the Twins blanked the Indians for the final 5.1 innings thanks to scoreless outings from Stashak, Graterol and May. Overall, in August and September the Twins bullpen posted a 3.51 FIP, best in the American League. The unit that Twins fans thought would cost them the division ended up winning them the division in a bullpen game. Pretty cool.
     
     


     
    Valley #3: October Disappointment
     
    Heading into the Playoffs, the Twins had a plethora of question marks. They had just two viable starting pitchers, Arraez’s ankle was a question mark, Kepler hadn’t played in weeks, the list goes on and on. What Twins fans were confident in, though, was our group of bullpen arms. The same group that carried the team through August and September seemed primed to carry them through October. The narrative flipped quickly, though, when Baldelli brought in Zack Littell to start the fifth inning of game one. Littell clearly was not up to the moment as he faced three batters, while allowing two runs. The next inning, Baldelli brought in Cody Stashak who allowed home runs to LeMahieu and Gardner to seal a game one loss. Game two of the ALDS was even worse for the Twins bullpen thanks mostly in part to Tyler Duffey serving up a grand slam to Gregorius, all but ending the game (and series) before it even started. All in all, the Twins bullpen posted a 7.56 ERA in 25 innings and, unfortunately, the bullpen coaster ended the 2019 campaign in a valley.
     
    You can say a lot of different things about the 2019 season for the Minnesota Twins bullpen, but you can’t say that it was boring. As you can see, the season was truly a roller coaster ride unlike any that I can remember. Although we ended 2019 in a valley, I look forward to the 2020 group climbing up the chain and reaching new peaks.
  9. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from nclahammer for a blog entry, Twins Hitters 2019: By the Numbers   
    Part of what makes baseball such a special sport is that it, more than any other sport, is almost completely driven by numbers. Numbers will teach us who are the superstars of our sport and will expose players who are not. Because of this, it only seems fitting for my second blog post on Twins Daily to take a look back on the 2019 season and choose one number for each Minnesota Twins hitter that I think best encapsulates the season for that player. The players discussed in this post were the top 10 team leaders in plate appearances this season.
     
     
    1. Jorge Polanco
    Number: 153
     
    GAMES PLAYED. In a Minnesota Twins season ravaged with injuries where the Twins saw 5 of their top 6 batters in fWAR spend time on the injured list, Polanco was the one constant in the Twins lineup. Polanco played in 94% of Twins games this season which actually undersells his availability as 2 of his 9 games on the bench came in the final week of the season when the Central had already been wrapped up. In a season where Polanco was an AL All-Star starter and a team leader in many batting statistics (R, H, 2B, 3B) it was difficult to not assign a hitting statistic as Polanco’s number, but as the old adage goes, “the best ability is availability” and Polanco’s availability was the most significant contribution to the Twins this season.
     
    2. Max Kepler
    Number: .880
     
    OPS VS. LEFT HANDED PITCHING. Prior to this season, Max Kepler struggled mightily against left-handed pitchers. From his MLB debut through the end of last season, Max had posted a career .605 OPS versus left handed pitchers, well below league average. He performed so poorly versus southpaws that there was much talk through his early development that he might be limited to a platoon-type role with the Twins. This year, though, Kepler turned it all around and posted a well-above average .880 OPS versus lefties, even better than his excellent .845 OPS versus righties. Last offseason, Kepler signed an extremely team-friendly 5-year, $35M contract. If he continues to mash lefties the way he did in 2019 that contract will only continue to look better and better.
     
    3. Eddie Rosario
    Number: 3.51
     
    PITCHES PER PLATE APPEARANCE. This is the first number on this list that should be taken negatively. While Eddie Rosario posted a career high in R, HR and RBI this season, what I will remember most from Rosario’s 2019 season is his impatience at the plate. A huge gripe among Twins’ faithful this season was Baldelli’s stubbornness with keeping Rosario in the cleanup spot all season. It was maddening to have Kepler, Polanco and Cruz work the opposing pitcher into 7 or 8 pitch ABs and mount a rally only to have Rosie bail the pitcher out with a pop out on the first pitch of the at bat. The 3.51 P/PA illustrates this feeling perfectly as he finished dead last on the club in this statistic.
     
    4. Nelson Cruz
    Number: 1.031
     
    OPS. This was by far the easiest number for me to choose in this exercise. Anytime a player finishes with an OPS greater than 1, you know they had a special season. Not only did Cruz finish with the 2nd highest OPS in the American league this season, he finished with the 4th highest OPS EVER for a 38-year-old baseball player (behind Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Ty Cobb). Cruz was an unbelievable addition to this Minnesota Twins ball club. Most times when a team signs a 38 year old, they bring him in to be a veteran presence and a mentor in a young clubhouse. While Cruz was a great mentor and a fan-favorite, he was brought in to mash and he indeed mashed in 2019.
     
    5. C.J. Cron
    Number: .700
     
    OPS AFTER JULY 6 THUMB INJURY. C.J. Cron, more than any other Twins player this season, had a Jekyll and Hyde season. Unfortunately for Cron, the Hyde to his Jekyll was completely injury related. Prior to July 6, C.J. was having a very solid season for the Twins as evidenced by his .821 OPS in 331 plate appearances. After management’s bungling of his thumb injury, though, Cron’s play suffered significantly as he saw his OPS dip 121 points and his K% increase from 19.3% to 25.6%. Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say, but I would love to see how Cron’s 2019 season would have played out if Baldelli & Crew would have allowed Cron’s thumb to heal completely instead of rushing him back into the lineup as they did.
     
    6. Jonathan Schoop
    Number: .000/.000/.000
     
    BATTING WITH BASES LOADED. There was a lot of talk this season about how poorly the Twins performed in bases loaded situations, and rightly so. While the Twins were second in baseball this season with a .832 overall OPS, they managed to wind up 28th in baseball with a .568 OPS with the bases loaded. Nobody embodied this struggle with bases loaded better than Jonathan Schoop who ended the season with a goose egg in AVG, OBP and SLG% this season with the bases loaded in 8 trips to the plate. Of all the wild things that happened this Twins season, their complete ineptitude with the bases loaded tops the list for me, and Jonathan Schoop is the poster boy for it.
     
    7. Marwin Gonzalez
    Number: 6
     
    NUMBER OF FIELDING POSITIONS PLAYED. When Marwin Gonzalez signed with the Twins on February 22, Twins fans were excited to bring in a good player who has played in pressure games on the biggest stage. What excited Twins fans most, though, was the versatility that Gonzalez would bring to the club, and we saw that play out all season. With so many injuries popping up throughout the year, Gonzalez’ ability to play anywhere on the diamond allowed the team to continue to fill in a potent lineup even without its biggest stars for much of the year. Gonzalez was able to fill in for Sano at third base for a month to start the season, fill in for Cron when he was hampered with his thumb injury, and ended the season playing in the corner outfield when Buxton’s shoulder injury forced Kepler into CF. Marwin certainly didn’t have his strongest hitting season and suffered his fair share of injuries throughout the year, but his ability to fill in across the diamond and in the outfield covered up a lot of holes and made Rocco Baldelli’s job a heck of a lot easier filling out his lineup card.
     
    8. Miguel Sano
    Number: .994
     
    OPS AFTER JUNE 27. On June 26, the Twins suffered a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays in 18 innings. The bigger story that day, though, was Miguel Sano going 0-for-7 with 3 strikeouts. It was his second 0-for-7 performance in the last 10 days and brought his season batting totals down to .195/.278/.761. At this point, much of Twins twitter was clamoring for the Twins to send Sano down or even outright cut him. What Twins fans didn’t know, though, was that Sano was going through a complete swing transformation with hitting coach, James Rowson, and literally learning a completely new swing on the fly. Well, Rowson’s coaching and Sano’s hard work paid off in a big, big way as Sano posted a .271/.376/.618 line with a .994 OPS beginning the day after his 0-for-7 Tampa Bay performance through the end of the season. Needless to say, there’s not much clamoring from Twins Twitter for Sano to be cut anymore.
     
    9. Luis Arraez
    Number: 22
     
    AGE. There are so many numbers that you could come up with for Arraez’s 2019 season and I wouldn’t blame for you picking any of them. The .334 average, the .399 OBP, the 29 (!!!) strikeouts, Arraez had a truly special season. The number that I settled on for “La Regadera”, though, was his age of 22. The Twins were able to generate an everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter from a rookie and with the way he has put up excellent numbers at every level of baseball in which he has played, there is no reason to believe that his 2019 season was any sort of mirage. Arraez’s 2019 season would have been considered incredible from a 32 year old, the fact that he put up the numbers he did at 22 years old should excite Twins everywhere.
     
    10. Mitch Garver
    Number: .995
     
    OPS. It’s nice when you get to end an article like this with a player who had one of the greatest seasons of all time by a catcher and posted numbers that will blow away even the casual baseball fan. The number that encapsulates Garver’s 2019 season the most for me is his .995 OPS. This not only led all catchers this season (min. 350 PAs), but placed him 17th all-time in OPS for a catcher in a season (min. 350 PAs). Health certainly slowed down the end of Garver’s 2019 season, and unfortunately Garver wasn’t able to showcase his skills in front of a national audience in the postseason, but if Garver continues to hit the way he did this season he will become a household name in no time. Not bad for a guy who just finished his second full season in the majors.
     
     
    What makes this list fun is that there are many different numbers that could be chosen for each hitter. I would love to hear in the comments what numbers you would have selected for the players I highlighted.
  10. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from mikelink45 for a blog entry, Hope is a Good Thing   
    In the Academy Award-winning classic, The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman’s character famously said, “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane”. While Morgan Freeman was talking about hope in reference to prison life, I related with this quote so much in reference to the Minnesota Twins.
     
    As I navigated my way through the Target Field concourse and exited through Gate 34 Monday night, I was heartbroken. My favorite baseball team managed to break my heart again. Surely, you’ve heard all of the stats by now – 16 straight playoff losses, 13 straight to the Yankees, 4 straight sweeps, etc., etc., etc. For some reason, though, this playoff exit hurt more than any other for me. No, there weren’t any Joe Nathan blown saves or Phil Cuzzi missed calls, or Mark Teixeira walk-off homers, but this playoff exit hurt me for a different reason. I had hope.
     
    In prior seasons, I had always been a classic Minnesota sports pessimist. I would prevent myself from having any sense of hopefulness so that when the Twins inevitably lost in soul-crushing fashion, I wouldn’t get hurt as badly. Sure enough, year after year my pessimistic expectations proved correct and my heart was spared.
     
    This year, though, the team felt different. And I allowed myself to have hope. I don’t know if it was the 40-18 start, the bombas, the rally squirrel or what, but this year I allowed myself to completely buy in and be a part of something exciting. I truly could not get enough of this team all season. I couldn’t read enough articles, listen to enough podcasts, or watch enough innings of ball. I lived and died on each and every pitch and it was exhilarating. Until October came and the Yankees knocked us out of the playoffs again. It sucked, and it hurt so bad this time. More than ever before. But you know what? It was so worth it. I’ve never had so much fun watching a Twins team and these 6 months of baseball have been so memorable that I would trade the excitement from this season for the eventual playoff heartbreak and misery every time.
     
    At the end of The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman receives a letter from Tim Robbins’ character that concludes with the line, “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies”. This Twins season taught me that, indeed, hope is the best of things and that my memories from this Twins season will never die.
     
    Here’s to a 2020 season full of hope.
  11. Like
    Matthew Taylor got a reaction from nclahammer for a blog entry, Hope is a Good Thing   
    In the Academy Award-winning classic, The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman’s character famously said, “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane”. While Morgan Freeman was talking about hope in reference to prison life, I related with this quote so much in reference to the Minnesota Twins.
     
    As I navigated my way through the Target Field concourse and exited through Gate 34 Monday night, I was heartbroken. My favorite baseball team managed to break my heart again. Surely, you’ve heard all of the stats by now – 16 straight playoff losses, 13 straight to the Yankees, 4 straight sweeps, etc., etc., etc. For some reason, though, this playoff exit hurt more than any other for me. No, there weren’t any Joe Nathan blown saves or Phil Cuzzi missed calls, or Mark Teixeira walk-off homers, but this playoff exit hurt me for a different reason. I had hope.
     
    In prior seasons, I had always been a classic Minnesota sports pessimist. I would prevent myself from having any sense of hopefulness so that when the Twins inevitably lost in soul-crushing fashion, I wouldn’t get hurt as badly. Sure enough, year after year my pessimistic expectations proved correct and my heart was spared.
     
    This year, though, the team felt different. And I allowed myself to have hope. I don’t know if it was the 40-18 start, the bombas, the rally squirrel or what, but this year I allowed myself to completely buy in and be a part of something exciting. I truly could not get enough of this team all season. I couldn’t read enough articles, listen to enough podcasts, or watch enough innings of ball. I lived and died on each and every pitch and it was exhilarating. Until October came and the Yankees knocked us out of the playoffs again. It sucked, and it hurt so bad this time. More than ever before. But you know what? It was so worth it. I’ve never had so much fun watching a Twins team and these 6 months of baseball have been so memorable that I would trade the excitement from this season for the eventual playoff heartbreak and misery every time.
     
    At the end of The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman receives a letter from Tim Robbins’ character that concludes with the line, “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies”. This Twins season taught me that, indeed, hope is the best of things and that my memories from this Twins season will never die.
     
    Here’s to a 2020 season full of hope.
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