Unwinder reacted to bean5302 for a blog entry, Is Brent Rooker Better Than His Stats?
Among Twins fans, few players have been given a shorter leash despite showing flashes of solid play than Brent Rooker. While Rooker’s results in 2021 have hardly been inspiring, the underlying data says Rooker may be much better than his weak triple slash has shown so far.
So what are his “results” so far? Regardless of the metrics you want to use, be it the traditional triple slash or others: .201/.294/.397, OPS .691, wRC+ 91, wOBA .302 or OPS+ 90, Rooker’s offensive production has been below par. In fact, for somebody who is touted as a glorified DH, way below par. Rooker would really be expected to produce an OPS above .750 to remain viable and over .800 to produce good value. Of the 15 players who qualify as “DH” with more than 300 plate appearances in MLB this year on Fangraphs, the median OPS is Josh Donaldson’s .816.
On his way to the triple slash he’s produced, Rooker has struck out 32.5% of the time while walking in just 7.6% of his plate appearances. That’s not a great ratio, but for a power hitter, 32.5% K rate isn’t unusual and it’s also in only 197 plate appearances so far this year. This is, for all intents and purposes, Rooker’s rookie season and his first taste of MLB action after showing far above average production in the high minors for years now. The question at this point is not whether Brent Rooker is too good for AAA, it’s whether or not he’s destined to be labeled a AAAA player.
I’ve seen some other posts suggesting Brent Rooker may be cooked already, but a dive into some of the advanced metrics show a very different set of numbers.
AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA Actual .201 .294 .397 .691 .312 Expected* .236 .325 .448 .773 .345 *BaseballSavant has xBA at .237 and xSLG at .449 which result in 41.24 hits and 78.13 total bases. Those aren’t real numbers so I rounded them down to 41 hits and 78 total bases. I used Rookers actual walks and hit by pitch numbers to calculate his new xOBP so I could calculate his xOPS.
So Rooker’s expected batting line numbers are far better than his actual results, but that can be true for a lot of hitters who don’t use the whole field because of the shift; however, Rooker is not the typical dead pull hitter who is helpless against the shift. Of course, Rooker does pull the ball a lot, 44% of the time in fact, but he also goes to the opposite field 26% of the time. Among qualified hitters, Rooker is actually in the top half of hitters going to the opposite field and he’s not in the top 25% in pull hitting. Fangraphs has limited data on Rooker’s plate appearances, but he gets shifted against about 59% of the time vs. say Max Kepler who gets shifted against 97% of the time (yes, 97% is the real number). Another consideration is whether or not the shift should even actually hurt a hitter. Ground ball hitters are hurt the most, then fly ball hitters, then line drive hitters. The shift is less effective against line drive hitters because the balls generally have high exit velocities and hit the ground quickly so even if defenders are “shifted,” the ball really has to be hit directly at the defender in order to have a play. Despite his excellent power, Rooker is more a line drive hitter than a pure fly ball hitter. He very rarely pops the ball up, and Fangraphs has him at 26% line drive and 38% fly ball with Baseball Savant having him at 31% line drive and 31% fly ball. With Rooker’s batted ball profile, the shift should not be highly effective against him.
Beyond Rooker being somewhat shielded from the shift, there are other things to consider when it comes to hitting. Exit velocity, launch angle, hard hit and barrel rates are extremely important when trying to figure out whether or not a hitters bad luck is actually bad luck and not a function of just a lot of weak contact. Rooker’s average exit velocity is very good at 90.9mph (top 82% in baseball). His launch angle is 12.8% this year which reflects the high line drive rate, but it’s not quite high enough to be “optimal” for a hitter with Rooker’s power. There’s a hard core, in depth article on Fangraphs if you’re interested in getting into the deep end of the pool (I’m not, haha). https://fantasy.fangraphs.com/lets-talk-about-launch-angle-generally/ Rooker would probably experience better slash lines and an increase in home runs with a launch angle closer to 20* because of his power, but he should be very close to having his optimal batting average where he is. What about hard hit rate? Fangraphs says Rooker is 35.5% hard hit rate based on Baseball Info Solutions algorithms, which is good for the top 37% of hitters with 300 plate appearances, but BaseballSavant has Rooker with a higher 47.6% hard hit rate (different definition at 95mph+) and puts him in the top 15% of hitters with 100+ batted ball events. When it comes to barrel rate, Rooker is showing up as 11.8% putting him in the top 16% of hitters for Fangraphs and BaseballSavant. Btw, think of barrel rate as absolutely crushing a ball. The baseline is a launch angle of 25-31* and an exit velocity of at least 98mph. For every 1mph of exit velocity you add, you get about 2 degrees more leniency in the launch angle. Like 100mph gets you to 24-33*. It’s that no doubter home run or absolute rocket off the bat where no amount of shift makes any difference because the ball is in the outfield before the infielders even know what happened.
Some charts to help folks who don’t follow metrics closely. This data was pulled from Fangraphs using Statcast numbers for the 252 players with at least 300 plate appearances this year prior to today. Rooker himself was not included as he only has 197.
Now we can discuss his plate discipline. Does Rooker have the hit tool to play at the MLB level? How do opposing pitchers view him? BaseballSavant shows pitchers have become wary of testing Rooker, throwing him fewer fastballs and more breaking balls while avoiding the strike zone as much as possible. Interestingly enough, Rooker has better results against the breaking balls than fastballs, but according to the expected data, it should be the exact opposite. Rooker against the fastball is batting just .177 with a SLG of .375, but his xBA is 80 points higher at .256 and his xSLG is .487. Rooker’s performance against breaking balls is closer to where it should be with a .245 AVG vs. xBA of .225 and a SLG of .434 vs. an xSLG of .418. His bat is not a black hole against breaking pitches in practice or theory and his bat looks like it should be downright dangerous against fastballs and changeups. In regard to plate discipline, Fangraphs shows his O-swing% (swing percentage of pitches outside the zone) at 30.6-32.3% depending on the source, but that’s not bad at all. His PitchFX data shows Rooker swinging outside the zone at 32.3%, which would rank as better than 43.5% of MLB hitters with more than 300 plate appearances so far this year. A tick below average. His contact rate on balls outside the zone does need some work suggesting he can be completely fooled a bit too easily. His Z-swing% (swing percentage of pitches inside the zone) rates are a little lower than they should be and Rooker takes too many called strikes because he’s not aggressive enough when he gets a pitch in the zone. Again, based on players with 300+ plate appearances from PitchFX data on Fangraphs.
Lastly, something pretty interesting to me. Defense. While Rooker carries with him the expectation he’s a lost cause at the corners, BaseballSavant hints at Rooker not being a guaranteed waste in the outfield. Rooker’s sprint speed is above average. Yes. You read that right. His sprint speed on BaseballSavant shows 27.3 ft/sec, above average for an MLB player or left fielder for that matter. His defensive metrics show Rooker is above average when it comes to route running, but his reaction is terrible (feet in 0 to 1.5 seconds) with Rooker’s acceleration in sprint speed being iffy. The combination of Rooker not recognizing the ball off the bat quickly enough and his mediocre acceleration is what is hurting Rooker defensively. Some of that can be improved with work and experience, though it’s a little bit late for Rooker to take an active role in becoming a better fielder.
In summary, What does all of this mean? Well, for starters, we don’t have a ton of data on Brent Rooker. He’s only at 197 plate appearances this season and a paltry 21 from 2020. At about 200 plate appearances in a season is where the first set of luck metrics just start stabilizing and they move quite a bit to 300 plate appearances where things start to get pretty stable. Rooker shows adequate plate discipline, his batted ball profile suggests he’s having terrible luck, but he’s frequently shown off his power. Opposing pitchers have formed enough respect for Rooker that they’ve made the adjustment to try to avoid throwing him anything decent to hit and Rooker hasn’t turned into a strikeout machine in the process. Rooker is primarily a pull hitter, but he’s gone to the opposite field enough to keep defenses semi-honest on the shift. Rooker also hits the ball much harder than the average major leaguer, he barrels up the ball well enough and doesn’t make a lot of weak contact. It seems like Rooker needs to be more aggressive when he gets a strike rather than waiting for a meatball because MLB pitchers are definitely being extra careful not to give him something easy to hit and MLB pitchers do not make mistakes like MiLB pitchers do. An MLB hitter might see 1 mistake pitch per game vs seeing several in the minors. Defensively, he waits a little too long to make a jump on the ball and he could work on improving his running technique to get better off the line acceleration, but he has the speed to cover a corner outfield position. With a little opportunity for his luck to even out and some minor adjustments, Rooker may turn into a real force at the plate with adequate corner outfield defense. Despite his limitations, it’s too soon to pull the plug on Rooker as he’s definitely got the potential to be a legitimate every day starting MLB player.
Unwinder reacted to BaseballGenius123 for a blog entry, Why Am I a Twins Fan, And a Little About Myself
This post will be about why I am a Twins fan and some memories of the Twins, and a little about me. My name is Levi Hansen, I am 24 years old and I am from Rochester, Minnesota. I went to high school at Mayo High School and graduated in 2016. When I was in high school I knew that after I graduated I wanted to go to college and major in something that involved sports, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to go for. My senior year I decided I wanted to go to school and major in Athletic Training, after a couple years of doing this I found out that this wasn’t right for me, so I switched my major to Mass Communications, I graduated from Rochester Community and Technical College for my Associates Degree this last Spring Semester after I was done with my internship. For my internship I did play-by-play for the Yellowjackets at Rochester Community and Technical College men’s and women’s basketball team’s. At first I was really scared to do play-by-play because I am not a huge basketball fan in general, but halfway through the season the Athletic Director at school stopped me in the hallway after one of the games and told me that an assistant coach from one of the team’s really enjoyed listening to my play-by-play announcing, but the one thing I could change is to say the player’s names more instead of saying the jersey number. At the end of season I was really mad because I think I improved a lot throughout the season and I didn’t want the season to end.
I think I got the love of sports, mostly baseball and football from my father, both my parents are from Trempealeau, Wisconsin, my dad grew up a huge Vikings fan, and when my mom was pregnant with me my dad would read the sports section of the newspaper to my mom’s growing stomach. I like to thank my dad for doing that because I love my Minnesota Twins no matter if they are one of the best teams in the regular season and sadly 0-18 in the last 18 playoff games, or if they are having a disappointing season like they are having this season. Ever since I was in Kindergarten my dad would ask myself, along with my younger brother and sister if we wanted to play youth sports, I played baseball, football, from Kindergarten thru my freshman year of high school and I wrestled from Kindergarten thru my 8th grade year, I truly miss playing all these sports. I also did Boy Scouts for a couple years and they would do a fun night at the Metrodome watching the Twins game and have some fun activities and at the end of the night the Boy Scouts could sleep on the turf. Those times were very fun.
All good things come to an end. I decided I didn’t want to play football anymore after my freshman year, and I wasn’t good enough to make the high school team my freshman year, the players wanted me to stay and be the student manager my Sophomore year, I knew this was an easy choice I ended up managing the baseball team my sophomore year through my senior year for the baseball team and I ended up managing the football team my senior year both of them were so much fun being around a good group of guys and some good coaches. A little story. The Twins drafted Bradley Mathiowetz in the 2014 draft in one of the later rounds. Bradley was a couple years older than me in high school. I thought that was pretty cool that I went to high school and knew a Twins draftee either though he ended up not signing. Bradley ended up being Mr. Baseball for Minnesota in 2014, Bradley was a treat to watch it seemed he hit a home run every at bat and he was a pretty great defensive catcher as well.
Over my 24 years of being a Twins fan, there have been several good players, however my favorite Twins fan of all time is power hitting, gods defensive first basemen Justin Morneau. I think Justin could’ve been in the Hall Of Fame if it wasn’t for all the concussions he suffered while playing the game tough. Justin ended his playing career with 1,545 games played, 5,699 at- bats, 247 Home Runs with a .281 Batting Average, those are pretty good career numbers if you ask me. There was a time I got to meet Justin Morneau at the Metrodome. Years ago there was a reading contest through Cub Foods and people had to read a certain number of minutes to meet Justin, I completed the assignment not because I love to read (I only like to read sports books.) It was because I wanted to meet my favorite player. I remember going through the line as a little kid telling him he was my favorite player it was very fun meeting my favorite player.
The year 2020 was a very sad year with COVID making the world a not so very fun place to live. Spring Training was cut short because of it. When I heard there might not be baseball played last year I felt sick to my stomach and didn’t know what to do in my free time. When there wasn’t any baseball I found some fun baseball podcasts to listen to, I really enjoy Nash Walker’s podcasts and really like Aaron Gleeman and John Bonnes’s podcasts both podcasts are a treat to listen to, another podcast I love listening to are Twins Daily offseason podcasts. If there is ever a time that I could join a Twins Daily offseason podcast it would be so fun. I like listening to the podcasts because I just really like listening to people’s takes on my favorite sports team, most of their takes I agree with but, some I don’t. I wanted to pick up my blog I took a break off from writing on Twins Daily, but a couple months ago I stated blogging again. I love to blog on Twins Daily because I can write whatever comes to mind about the Twins, and people can comment on posts. When I found out there was going to be baseball, but only 60 games, without any fans I was really happy that ”America’s Favorite Pastime” was coming back. Other Twins fans can follow me on Twitter my handle is LeviHansen11
Hopefully you guys like this post. My next post will be about the trades the Twins made at the trade deadline and if I like them or not.
Unwinder reacted to Tim for a blog entry, The Grand "Re-Tool" Experiment
The conversation on this site as of late has been centered around should we trade player X, should we keep player Y, etc.
We don’t have much else to talk about.
If we are talking about trading assets, especially ones that are controllable and add value to your club next year and beyond, it raises the question – are you re-tooling or are you re-building?
Now I know that a lot of people might say its too early to even think about what next years team might look like, it might be. But if your argument is “re-tool” then we need to look at what that might look like.
We all are aware that Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, and Taylor Rogers are set to become free agents following next season.
Contract extensions for both Buxton and Berrios seems incredibly unlikely at this point. Both players have their flaws but are absolutely pieces you can build around. Taylor Rogers is one of the best relievers in the game, but is set to become a free agent, is going on age 32, and the front office has never paid more than 6.5 million for a reliever aside from two occasions (Reed and Colome)
But throw all that out the window.
What if they decide to give next year a go with Buxton, Berrios, and Rogers?
What does a retool look like?
I am ignoring the return that the pending free agents might be able to get you at the upcoming deadline, mostly because It’s not a given that can contribute next year. It could be a few low A prospects for all we know.
I will also be using John Bonnes’s article on how much the Twins might have to potentially spend next year, that you can read here, as reference for my spending – 45 million dollars.
The lineup, bench, and pitching staff I have put together is just a projection and very well could be different then what the Twins or you think it might look like. Please don’t roast me too harshly in the comments.
Andrelton Simmons SS
Nelson Cruz DH
Here are the holes the Twins are going to need to fill entering 2022 season.
Shortstop Designated Hitter Starter x2 Bullpen x4 __________
I am spending most of my 45 million dollar budget I have available on the rotation, as I view that as the biggest need the Twins have if they hope to compete in 2022. So, forgive me for slightly skimming over DH and Shortstop.
Let’s start with how the Twins can round out the empty spots in the rotation and bullpen with what they presently have in the organization and who they could potentially add from outside the organization.
Jhoan Duran *
Matt Canterino *
Blayne Enlow *
These are the Twins top 5 pitching prospects
Duran is currently on the shelf with elbow soreness, something you never want to hear. The Twins shut him down for 6 weeks and we have 4 weeks remaining. To this point control has been a huge issue at AAA for him. Josh Winder has been fantastic. One of the lone bright spots for the Twins pitching prospects this season and I think you could expect him to contribute on some level in 2022. Balazovic has only made 6 starts this season working back from injury. Currently at AA, he has yet to make it through 6ip in any start this season. Canterino has not pitched since May but was having a great year at A+. I have not seen any reports on what a timetable looks like for his return. Enlow was off to a great start as well, but elbow soreness led to Tommy John so he’s out for the foreseeable future.
It is only July, so things can change. But the top pitching prospects the Twins have are all dealing with stunted development timelines due to injuries. Duran is not coming back till August and has the dreaded elbow soreness so who knows what that means long term. He has not pitched more than 16 innings at AAA. Balazovic is still at AA and has only thrown 24 innings. Canterino has not pitched since May and Enlow is done for 2022 and 2023.
Josh Winder is the only prospect you have of the 5 that has pitched well above the AA level in 2021.
That's 1/5 of your top 5 pitching prospects you can truly count on to make some sort of impact in 2022 for the Twins. I do want to say that I believe in this group a lot, I think they all will be assets the Twins can count on for years to come. But is that in 2022? Don’t bank on it.
This was worse than I thought. Not really prospects, more so “candidates” to fill out spots for the 2022 Twins pitching staff. Anyways, I just went with their career numbers because all 4 players have been hurt throughout the 2021 season. I don’t even want to write out the numbers they have posted thus far, it’s painful.
If you confidently think one of these guys will help you win games during the 2022 season, I’d love to hear why in the comments below. Anyways, moving on.
Here is a look at what the Twins could bring in from outside the organization for pitching help.
The old fellas (37+)
Max Scherzer Zach Greinke Justin Verlander Charlie Morton Highly, highly doubt any of these guys have interest in signing with the Twins. Aside from Scherzer, do you want the Twins to make a run at them? Pass, and they all say no thanks too.
Lance Lynn Marcus Stroman Kevin Gausman Carlos Rondon Tier 1 does not make much sense to me. None of them are better than Berrios and if you are not going to pay him the 5 / 115mil we all expect him to get, why would you pay Marcus Stroman or Kevin Gausman somewhere in the range of 5 / 90mil? I think the sox can and will retain both Rondon and Lynn as well.
Jon Gray Michael Pineda Robbie Ray Martin Perez Danny Duffy Zach Davies Not super inspiring. Jon Gray and Robbie Ray are probably the most appealing options. Pineda’s recent arm injury puts things up in the air for his future.
We can skip the Martin Perez option as I cannot imagine the Twins getting back into that.
Danny Duffy would be nice, but do you really want to commit something like 3 / 40mil to a guy going on 35?
Noah Syndergaard Chris Archer Corey Kluber None of them are currently healthy, nor have they been the past 2 years. Syndergaard is interesting but even he is a question mark going into next year as he’s on the IL right now after issues following TJ.
German Marquez John Means Zach Gallen The Rockies, Orioles, and Diamondbacks are all rebuilding. They are not moving assets for someone like Max Kepler or Jorge Polanco. So, what can you offer up?
Royce Lewis? Then your selling low on your best prospect. Balazovic or Duran? Welp, that would be, um, something when your desperate for pitching. Arraez? Jose Miranda? One of Jeffers / Garver? Not sure that moves the needle, nor are they prospects teams would covet…. After that, nothing is getting you a Marquez, Means, or Gallen.
Now how about one of Trevor Larnach or Alex Kirilloff for pitching? It is an interesting idea and could dramatically change the Twins long term question mark at the position. You would have to be really sold on Max Kepler bouncing back.
Let’s fill out the rotation with 2 players from each tier 1 & 2 of starting pitchers.
Gausman/Stroman/Lynn/Rondon Gray/ /Ray/ /Duffy Ok that realistically will command something in the range of 28 million. Take your pick of who that may be.
I do want to point this out, you are not going to be able to sign anyone from Tier 1 to a 1-year deal. You will have to sign them to multiyear commitments with real money involved.
Even Tier 2, id imagine most players will take no less than 2-year deals.
You could sign 3 players from tier 2. Go a similar direction as they have in the past bargain shopping (Happ, Lynn, Shoemaker, etc.)
Though that has not really worked out, so I am switching things up in my scenario.
As for the bullpen. It is anyone’s best guess. They are not signing Craig Kimbrel and after that its just a bunch of names to be quite honest. You can check out the list here.
For the sake of the “re-tool” argument
I am committing 3 million to signing 2 no name relievers like the front office has done every year.
We have now committed something in the ballpark of 31 million to revamp the pitching staff, with 2 new starters and 2 no name relievers (it’s anyone’s guess).
They now have 14 million remaining to fill the holes at Shortstop and DH.
The Designated Hitter class, surprise, is also poor.
Nelson Cruz is going to probably be too expensive and may even retire. Id love him back though. But we have more pressing needs.
After that, we can choose between Jorge Soler or Khris Davis. But why sign either of those guys when you have Miguel Sano on the roster?
Brent Rooker? You could let em duke it out in Spring Training.
Lets scratch signing a DH.
On to Shortstop. They could move Jorge Polanco from 2nd base back to short and slide Luis Arraez in at 2nd. But I am not sure they want that defensive plan up the middle again.
Nick Gordon, who was drafted as a shortstop, does not seem to be viewed as shortstop anymore. Other than Royce Lewis, who has question marks already staying at short long-term, has never played above AA, and coming off an ACL injury, the Twins lack internal options.
We do not have the money to sign one of the crown jewels of the class so you can forget about Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story and Brandon Crawford.
I do think Javier Baez is a notch below those guys and he probably would be open to a shorter-term deal. Maybe something like 1 / 14 mil? He has a .282 OBP to this point, though slugging .778. It will be interesting to see what the market is for him.
The 2nd Tier in the SS class consists of Freddy Galvis, Alcides Escobar, Andrelton Simmons and Jose Iglesias.
As for trade options, Dansby Swanson could be available if the Braves decide to go after a big name. Other than that, I do not see a ton being available or frankly anything that intriguing.
I am rolling with Javy Baez on the 1yr / 14 mil deal. Twins get lucky, sign Berrios’s brother in-law, and see how it plays out. It is a nice bridge while we wait for Royce Lewis.
We have run through the options, lets look at what we got to compete in 2022.
No Name #1
No Name #2
Again, this is in no way what the Twins are going to do, merely an idea of what a “re-tool” might look like. So, before you rip me in the comments for signing the wrong guys or not doing what you think they should or should not do, this exercise gives you a glimpse into the options the Twins have both internally and externally to build a competitive team in 2022 for one last run with Buxton, Berrios, and Rogers all together.
So now you can ask yourself the questions that matter.
Does that team win the central? Does it win a wild card berth? Are you putting the organization in the best possible to position to compete with the White Sox the next 4-5 years? Do we have a pipeline of pitching prospects we are confident in? I think that this team can be competitive. 85-88 wins? thats barring everyone being healthy. This is all hinging on Polanco continuing to swing the bat well, Kepler being more consistent, Maeda returning somewhat to his old self, Bailey Ober continuing to pitch as well as he has, Thielbar, Duffey, and Alcala continue being trusted options, etc.
There's a lot of question marks. My concerns mainly start with depth of the minor league system, specifically pitching.
Where do they stand with Berrios and Buxton on extensions? If I'm either player, im a year away from free agency, why would I take an extension now? If you sign the players to help you compete in 2022, do you even have enough money left to try and pay them?
At the end of the day the front office’s job is to do what’s best for the organization. The last thing any GM wants to do is plays catch up because they were not proactive. If you have doubts about any of those questions you need to shift your focus to 2023 and beyond.
That might mean moving Jose Berrios and Taylor Rogers at the deadline.
Which is a hard pill to swallow for some fans, but it is the smart thing and the right thing to do.
Unwinder reacted to Sherry Cerny for a blog entry, Management Caught Looking....elsewhere...the Continued Over Look of Miguel Sano
Sano has had a love-hate relationship with the Minnesota fans since coming on the scene in 2015, but I don’t believe that it’s because he is a bad player. Home runs are what are keeping the 6’4, 276 pound slugger in the line up, but nothing more than that. He has never been a consistent player whether on the line up or on the field. 2019 was one of Sano’s best years and he swung on a full 34 home runs as a beloved member of the “Bomba Squad”. Sano, for whatever reason, has continually been looked over by either the management or the ownership and it shows everytime he comes up to the plate.
With hot streaks at the plate and streaks of looking lost, last year in 2020, Sano had a season high strike out of 90. Now that can be attributed to the shortened season and no spring training, but last year we really saw Sano struggling. His OPS reached .757 over all in 2020 and .923 the year before. It seems like the management either wasn’t willing to put in the time with him, or they were just good for the minimal hits they were getting, the RBI’s that seemed to really pull the team together.
So why is the management overlooking Sano and his abilities? This season out of our 52 games, we have gone 16-21 with Sano in the line up and only 5-10 with him out. Which means we are losing more without him than we are with him. He is not the problem, as much as the fans probably see him as one, or the management is portraying him to look like one. So what will it take for the management to give Sano a legit chance?
Sano doesn’t get as many games to play as others. In a post game interview Badelli stated that Sano would love to get all the at bat(s) but Willians is giving the team a little more of what they want and that Sano just wants what is best for the team. He also said that Sano is indeed getting help before the games and on the side. That tells me that they are just doing enough to honor his contract and not truly give him the help he needs to be successful. Sano does suffer from occasional injuries, but so do other players that seem to make the line up consistently.
To say that Sano is overlooked is an understatement. We don’t know why the Twins organization seems to hold a grudge for Sano, but it’s evident that if they were to put in the effort to help him or baby him like they do other players such as Donaldson, Kepler or Willians, maybe we would see him be successful. He has the capability to be more than what we see at the plate, and he is great at first base, and worth the money that we are paying him, if the management would just give him the chance to be more than a part time player.
Unwinder reacted to Cormac McCarthy for a blog entry, The Unvoiced: Volume Three, The Leverage Trilogy
Read Volume One here
Read Volume Two here
The phone rang again. No one moved so the visitor took it upon himself to answer. He listened for a moment and then hung up.
Who’d they want, said one of the pitchers.
None of you, said the visitor. He called to say none of you are fit for the purpose at hand. He has chosen the one called La Tortuga.
That mean we’re off the hook?
No. Your fate is entwined in his. Should he allow any runs, all of you must answer for the indignity.
They watched benumbed as Tortuga indolently and repeatedly lobbed the ball skyward in such a fashion so as the batter had time to ruminate on each bloodred stitch and its function in perpetuating the ball’s arc toward his lumber, each revolution drawing it that much nearer to its violent and predestined lot. And yet.
The first two batters made outs and the bullpen thought its deliverance was at hand. Then: three straight misses to the next batter. On the fourth the batter propelled the ball for a home run into the same spot in the smoldering ashes as the one moments earlier.
The visitor turned to the pitchers. It is done. I will give you a choice: to perish under the blade or the cudgel.
Whoa there, said one of the pitchers. That one shouldn’t count. That was on 3-0.
The pitcher went on to explain some recondite edict that decreed that batters should not swing in a situation such as this so as not to give offense to their opponent.
The visitor started to say this fiat was without warrant when he was interrupted by a stir on the field, as Tortuga heaved a fullspeed ball at the next batter, striking him on his backside.
Both teams spilled from their benches and bullpens to meet each other on the field of battle, faceless hordes unconstrained now that nothing of value was at hazard. The visitor and his mount quickly descended upon this legion of horribles, causing them to part and then to listen as the visitor pulled the reins.
This absurdity exists without my consent, he said. The run that just scored means I will now exact my requital.
Hold on. The voice came from a decrepit man, a revenant — the visiting team’s manager. I caint let you do that. That round fella had every right to do what he did. The batter had it comin.
Was the target not one of your own, the visitor asked.
The manager explained that yes this was true, but that he had long ago sworn a blood oath to protect the esoteric precepts that governed all man’s actions on the baseball diamond and that violating them would be like admitting that the common denominator of the universe was not harmony but chaos.
The visitor contemplated the madness that surrounded him and decided it was no longer worthy of his craft. He rode out headed east with the dustveiled sun sinking behind him and vowed to himself that those who were practicing kicking footballs at Vikings OTA’s would not be so fortunate.
Unwinder reacted to Chris Hanel for a blog entry, On Narrative
If you're expected to win, and then fail to do so in spectacular fashion, people are going to have thoughts.
It's also safe to assume that those thoughts don't stay surface level for very long. For the 2021 Twins, the last few weeks have been a long trudge past the acceptance of things as they are, and have begun to approach the next station down the line: Why?
"Why" is an important question that has consumed the game of baseball since its creation. It is a question that drives everyone involved in the game and almost everyone that follows it. Careers are made and broken attempting to answer it. Out of all the major spectator sports in the world, baseball is one of the most random, volatile, and unpredictable. The best team in the league facing off against the worst still isn't as heavy a favorite as you might expect. This makes answering the question even more important. But this game has been played for over a century, and despite front offices being invaded by every Ivy League sabermatrician with programming experience, there's a lot about the game that just cannot be accounted for.
It is within this vacuum that narrative begins to form, and like a gas, expand to fill every available inch of social media. Our emotional investment in the Twins demands an attempt to make sense of a senseless sequence. Words like "implosion" don't feel adequate, because it doesn't do justice to how much it feels like it's a force being inflicted upon the team, rather than the results of internal motivations. Regardless, we try and take an inventory of what hurts, and search for accountability.
Is the roster underperforming? Unquestionably. I can't recall ever seeing so much of a single roster falling to the bottom 20% of their preseason projections with such synchrony. Are the Twins seeing their share of injuries? Yes, and then some. Are the Twins unlucky? According to the stats, they're the unluckiest in the league, and have a lot of production stats in common with the Oakland A's, who have more wins than the Twins have losses. Everything is happening, it's all bad, and it's happening all at once.
And then, to rub salt in the wound, the White Sox got hot. They started their rebuild later, they were on a trajectory to give the Twins a bit more time to contend, and then they leapfrogged them in the standings while destroying them mercilessly along the way. They're doing this while also suffering from their best players sidelined and being managed by a guy who started his pro ball career when John F. Kennedy was in office, and hasn't updated his worldview since. Where the Twins are punished for their faults, the White Sox seem to glide through life. As a Twins fan, this was supposed to be our time, and the spotlight got stolen by the worst possible division rival.
Watching all this transpire, attempting to process it, you're left holding the bag and being asked to put a nice neat bow on a morass of misfortune. Unable to wrap your arms around it, the narrative becomes more and more tempting.
"The coaches are too calm, they need to fire up this team and yell more!"
"Rocco's lost the clubhouse, it's time to fire him."
"The players don't want it enough!"
Any time you hear missives like these, and they aren't accompanied by direct evidence from the clubhouse or a credible source, Colin Cowherd-sized alarm bells should start going off in your head. You are being asked to accept generalities to rationalize a giant sea of inexplicable fate. Explaining data points by assuming the motives of strangers is a task that should be reserved for criminal profilers, not Twins Twitter. Kenta Maeda isn't struggling because of some nebulous lack of leadership, it's because he's lost the ability to locate his slider.
There's a notable clip from ESPN's First Take in 2012, when Mark Cuban came onto the show, and used every available moment to go after Skip Bayless and his notions of 'narrative'.
Throughout the exchange, Cuban lays out his argument for why statements like how the one team "played harder" aren't worth the airtime they're eventually given- because they're not backed up by any meaningful data and are fueled by apathy at best, and intentional ignorance at worst.
If you want to convince me how the Twins got to 13-26 and have someone to blame, you're going to have to do a lot more than sell me on a lack of motivation, clubhouse chemistry, or some kind of failing strategic approach, because in the words of Kronk, it doesn't make any sense.
Baseball is a cruel game. You can assemble the same roster and play the same way, and end up with radically different results by the end of the season. I have a hard time finding obvious fatal flaws in the approach by the front office, management, or the players themselves. Sure, I'll always agree that ownership could stand to spend some more money, but a few million dollars doesn't magically repair Byron Buxton's hamstring, and it doesn't solve why any game that doesn't go exactly 9 innings becomes an automatic loss.
I'm not angry at the team, the coaches, or the FO. I'm just sad. This roster- and by extension, this fanbase- deserves better than the hand they've been dealt, right as the window of contention seemed to be opening wide (and, by some accounts, ahead of schedule). And now, after six weeks of unprecedented horror- which is saying something for a team with this kind of history- the voices are growing louder that it's time to pack it in and start over from scratch.
All that said, I'm going to continue rooting for this team. They clearly want it enough. The clubhouse knows what they're capable of, and would love the opportunity to showcase it, if fate and luck would just get out of the goddamn way. In the meantime, I'll be watching, and screaming into the nearest pillow every time a barreled ball goes straight at an opposing fielder.
The Twins are dead. Long live the Twins.
Unwinder reacted to Cormac McCarthy for a blog entry, Blood Quotidian: Volume Two, The Leverage Trilogy
Read Volume One here
The last time he had been inside in a bullpen was in Coahuila to hold a vaquero accountable for bedding the hacendado’s wife. Yet somehow this bullpen held more misery.
In one corner the pitchers sat on chairs huddled around a few desultory flames and passed around a small roasted animal impaled on a stick, their faces still firelit beneath some kind of soft velvety hood. He walked closer and saw they were all clad in identical robes, like tunics belonging to an ancient heathen sect that stopped believing in their deity after they wearied of their prayers being met instead only with calumny. He walked closer still and saw each of the dark robes had a name and number etched in scarlet on the back. One of the pitchers saw him studying the robes.
All we got left of the time before everything went to hell, he said. He gestured toward the charred remains of the transfixed animal. Used to be we had the rally squirrel too. Not no more.
He started to ask if the visitor would like some but the visitor waved away the request. That is not why I am here, he said. I have taken your measure and I find you wanting.
Hold it. We been doin better last few games. Strikeouts up. Walks down. Still lettin in inherited runners like screech owls into a bored out cactus but —
No. You don’t know what this is.
But our ERA been —
ERA, he said, as if pondering the quaint invention of the kinetoscope or the first webbed mitt. A crude cudgel wielded by false prophets. I am of the elect. I know your barrel rates and your exit velocities. I know who you are.
What are you tellin me?
You will have one more chance to save yourselves. When you are called you must choose and the chosen must be your redeemer.
A deafening crack seemed to split the evening in two. Then silence. Then a white spheroid hurtling toward them. It landed in the smoldering remains of the fire, sending sparks arcing in every direction, once dying ashes now dying faster separated from that which gave them succor.
Thought Shoemaker was goin tomorrow, the pitcher said.
The phone rang. The inevitable progression of things. Like the settling of concrete.
Unwinder reacted to Chris Hanel for a blog entry, Dear Twins: Don't Just Play Better, Be Better
I might love the Twins, and defend them even during some of the darkest times, but that also means being honest even when it hurts. That kind of tough love was exactly what came to mind when Tyler Duffey used his relief appearance in a close contest to 'send a message' by throwing behind Yermin Mercedes on only the fourth pitch of his appearance.
Everyone seemed to know it was coming. Tony La Russa, fresh from using his media time all but telling the Twins they *should* bean Mercedes, had a conversation with the umpiring crew before the incident, likely warning them what was to come. Rookie Twins pitcher Bailey Ober was making his debut that evening, and wasn't going to spoil his first start in the majors by getting involved. But now, with Ober done for the night, Duffey in, and Mercedes up to the plate with 1 out, the ingredients were there. And then, it happened.
This, in a not-so-polite word, was chicken****. For a long time, when other teams or crusty veterans have crowed about 'playing the white right way' or unwritten rules, I've been able to take solace in the fact that the Twins haven't engaged in similar grandstanding since the Falvine era started, and that the roster was young, diverse, and helping usher in a new era of enjoying baseball and reveling in the emotion.
There have been a few speed bumps along the way. Sure, the broadcasters aren't in the clubhouse, but you were sure to hear a lot about what wasn't okay when Bert Blyleven or Jack Morris were in the analyst seat, and Dan Gladden has used his presence on the radio to show his age from time to time. In terms of the actual team, Paul Molitor was never likely to put on a "Let the Kids Play" hoodie, and Brian Dozier got in on the action once with a take so cold that it's a strong candidate to host the next Winter Olympics. But overall, in this most recent era, Rocco's clubhouse has been loose and positive, with none of the toxic tantrums that still plague the sport decades after it should have gone out of style. Intentional HBP's felt alien. You could feel good about cheering on this team if you cared about that sort of thing.
Well, Tyler Duffey put a 93 MPH fastball-shaped dent in that argument with his retaliation, and nobody comes out of this looking good except for the White Sox players more or less in open revolt over their own manager's caveman philosophies. Willians Astudillo's fuming on the mound after the initial home run (Willians! One of the most enjoyable players to spectate in baseball! Chirping about unwritten rules! What is the world coming to?!), Duffey's willingness to jeopardize a close game (and definitely get ejected) when the bullpen desperately needs to turn things around... and I understand that Rocco Baldelli's job is to have his players' backs, but to use the rain and say "our plan was to pitch him inside" as an excuse and feign innocence over any malicious intent feels awful to hear coming out of his mouth. I mean, just say that Duffey got distracted because he thought he saw a raccoon behind home plate. Or maybe it was a rat, he couldn't be sure.
None of this had to happen. Nobody would have thought of the Twins as pushovers or weak had they not decided to exact vengeance. Tony La Russa saw the opportunity to seize all the negative attention from Mercedes's dinger and did so with both hands. Why Rocco, Duffey, Astudillo, or anyone else involved didn't allow him to enjoy that time to himself is baffling to me- Especially when every Twin Cities sportswriter with a hot take to conjure up and column inches to fill needs a reason to complain about the team that doesn't feel like a retread. Well, you gave it to them in spades. And that's on you.
It's not enough to play better, Twins. Please *be* better.