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Peter Labuza

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  1. I think a good question right now is why isn't Winder being used as a long relief guy or another one of the starters. Rather than go six innings, couldn't he become a third time through the rotation guy and go 3 innings every few days, maybe tie him around Bundy and Archer starts? The Twins currently are using six starters and Ober is on his way back. Seems like there's an essential opportunity to use there.
  2. Just quietly wondering what it would have looked like with Duffy in the 10th last night.
  3. If you go back to the reports around the hiring of Wes Johnson, all of them are data analytic-obsessed articles. Not surprising: as late as 2019, signaling that Big Data was the future of everything still seemed like a good bet. The New York Times headline reads: "The Science of Building a Better Pitcher." Often noted, but still somewhat sidelined, is Johnson and his own personality. “He’s so bubbly, and he just bounces off the walls with energy,” described Texas Baseball Ranch found Ron Wolforth. He was as known for his skills as his nickname creator in college ball. And according to Dallas Baptist University head coach Dan Heefner in 2018, where Johnson often worked with the most scrappy of baseball prospects, it was not about simply reading the charts. "He really understands the numbers, but he can communicate it to a player in a way that simplifies it." The ultimate question of data in sports has been one the entire sport has been grappling with since 2002. There was a traditional way of doing things, and then there was the new way. Even in Joe Maddon’s exit interview with Ken Rosenthal, he had a few key words for upstairs management and their thoughts on how to play the game. This is what made Johnson unique and a critical part of this sports team and perhaps how sports teams continue to build from here on out: good data is only as good as its communication. Johnson, who is leaving for Louisiana State University, was an expert communicator and changed pitchers based not just on what he saw, but how they needed to learn. Going forward, the Twins and other sports will need to find ways to keep coaches like Johnson if they truly want to succeed. Johnson was hired in 2019 in retrospect as part of one particular mistake by the former front office. A struggling Twins team sent Ryan Pressly to the Astros, where his WHIP dropped from 1.33 to a 0.58 as the closer for their World Series contending team. In Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik's The MVP Machine, they reveal some critical details about what was happening in both organizations. The Twins data team knew about the effectiveness of Pressly’s curveball, but for one reason or another, could not find a way to explain it to the young pitcher. Pressly remembers that the Astros did at first throw too many charts with too many axises in trying to explain the effectiveness of his pitch, but the book notes the important role of Brent Strom, the oldest coach in the league and a particular joker as well in telling pitchers what they needed to know. Players might not understand MBAs, but when the right person tells them in the right way, it can transform how they develop. Derek Falvey explained in 2019 that he hired Johnson based on the kinds of data and analytical approaches used in college ball and seemingly hired Johnson on that basis. But in repeated articles of those on the ground since joining the team, Johnson is less a coach than a counselor. Having mentored with young guys barely understanding their mechanics much less how to bathe properly, Johnson had to learn how to talk to kids who might be easily erratic to new information. He developed trust first, and information second. During Sunday's broadcast and before he likely knew of the unexpected news, Chris Archer gushed about how much Johnson had essentially saved his career by developing their unexpected program for him despite the limited workload. As one article on 2020’s Spring Training (before COVID shut it down) suggested, “The key [for Twins pitchers] has been having a coaching staff and analytic department that has worked together to identify and deliver the message to the player in ways that can help them understand how it will help them on the field.” Rather than lead by analytics, he acted as a bridge. More so, what Johnson talks about with pitchers feels very different. Take this Twins Daily profile from 2019: Even though Gibson gets the last word, the joke buried inside is actually revealing of how Johnson connects the body rather than the numbers. It’s one thing to tell a player to throw their slider more and give them the expected batting averages; Johnson sticks close to the thing players understand best: what their body is feeling. A continuing anecdote appears in many of the Johnson profiles: he often let other pitchers do the work for him. This isn’t some lazy choice, but again, thinking about how to create effective communication. As Johnson told FiveThirtyEight in 2019: “I can’t always speak the language that gets them to learn the fastest. When [Martin Perez] first started with the cutter, I said, ‘Hey, you gotta go talk to Jake [Odorizzi].’ Your job as a coach is yes, to coach the guys, but it’s also to close the feedback loop and make it as small as possible.” And with this year’s rotation that barely knew each other, Johnson ensured the team fed of each other’s energy and made them into a family (likely leading to the $500 foul out competition) There is no rule against more coaches. Just ask the San Francisco Giants, who outperformed their projections by a stunning 20 games and the dozen or so they employ (according to a recent interview with Fernando Perez on Effectively Wild, he explained they use a log system to avoid contradictory information). Data has changed baseball, in some ways for the better. But replacing Wes Johnson might not be as easy as it looks, particularly during the midstream moment. These players—just like anyone playing baseball at any level—don't need to know the numbers. They need to know their own bodies. And coaching is a skill that might have changed over the last decades of baseball, but Johnson understood the critical skill: knowing how to tell players in the right moment.
  4. Why was Wes Johnson so critical to this team's recent success? A look back at the changing perception of how he was brought on and how he's leaving. If you go back to the reports around the hiring of Wes Johnson, all of them are data analytic-obsessed articles. Not surprising: as late as 2019, signaling that Big Data was the future of everything still seemed like a good bet. The New York Times headline reads: "The Science of Building a Better Pitcher." Often noted, but still somewhat sidelined, is Johnson and his own personality. “He’s so bubbly, and he just bounces off the walls with energy,” described Texas Baseball Ranch found Ron Wolforth. He was as known for his skills as his nickname creator in college ball. And according to Dallas Baptist University head coach Dan Heefner in 2018, where Johnson often worked with the most scrappy of baseball prospects, it was not about simply reading the charts. "He really understands the numbers, but he can communicate it to a player in a way that simplifies it." The ultimate question of data in sports has been one the entire sport has been grappling with since 2002. There was a traditional way of doing things, and then there was the new way. Even in Joe Maddon’s exit interview with Ken Rosenthal, he had a few key words for upstairs management and their thoughts on how to play the game. This is what made Johnson unique and a critical part of this sports team and perhaps how sports teams continue to build from here on out: good data is only as good as its communication. Johnson, who is leaving for Louisiana State University, was an expert communicator and changed pitchers based not just on what he saw, but how they needed to learn. Going forward, the Twins and other sports will need to find ways to keep coaches like Johnson if they truly want to succeed. Johnson was hired in 2019 in retrospect as part of one particular mistake by the former front office. A struggling Twins team sent Ryan Pressly to the Astros, where his WHIP dropped from 1.33 to a 0.58 as the closer for their World Series contending team. In Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik's The MVP Machine, they reveal some critical details about what was happening in both organizations. The Twins data team knew about the effectiveness of Pressly’s curveball, but for one reason or another, could not find a way to explain it to the young pitcher. Pressly remembers that the Astros did at first throw too many charts with too many axises in trying to explain the effectiveness of his pitch, but the book notes the important role of Brent Strom, the oldest coach in the league and a particular joker as well in telling pitchers what they needed to know. Players might not understand MBAs, but when the right person tells them in the right way, it can transform how they develop. Derek Falvey explained in 2019 that he hired Johnson based on the kinds of data and analytical approaches used in college ball and seemingly hired Johnson on that basis. But in repeated articles of those on the ground since joining the team, Johnson is less a coach than a counselor. Having mentored with young guys barely understanding their mechanics much less how to bathe properly, Johnson had to learn how to talk to kids who might be easily erratic to new information. He developed trust first, and information second. During Sunday's broadcast and before he likely knew of the unexpected news, Chris Archer gushed about how much Johnson had essentially saved his career by developing their unexpected program for him despite the limited workload. As one article on 2020’s Spring Training (before COVID shut it down) suggested, “The key [for Twins pitchers] has been having a coaching staff and analytic department that has worked together to identify and deliver the message to the player in ways that can help them understand how it will help them on the field.” Rather than lead by analytics, he acted as a bridge. More so, what Johnson talks about with pitchers feels very different. Take this Twins Daily profile from 2019: Even though Gibson gets the last word, the joke buried inside is actually revealing of how Johnson connects the body rather than the numbers. It’s one thing to tell a player to throw their slider more and give them the expected batting averages; Johnson sticks close to the thing players understand best: what their body is feeling. A continuing anecdote appears in many of the Johnson profiles: he often let other pitchers do the work for him. This isn’t some lazy choice, but again, thinking about how to create effective communication. As Johnson told FiveThirtyEight in 2019: “I can’t always speak the language that gets them to learn the fastest. When [Martin Perez] first started with the cutter, I said, ‘Hey, you gotta go talk to Jake [Odorizzi].’ Your job as a coach is yes, to coach the guys, but it’s also to close the feedback loop and make it as small as possible.” And with this year’s rotation that barely knew each other, Johnson ensured the team fed of each other’s energy and made them into a family (likely leading to the $500 foul out competition) There is no rule against more coaches. Just ask the San Francisco Giants, who outperformed their projections by a stunning 20 games and the dozen or so they employ (according to a recent interview with Fernando Perez on Effectively Wild, he explained they use a log system to avoid contradictory information). Data has changed baseball, in some ways for the better. But replacing Wes Johnson might not be as easy as it looks, particularly during the midstream moment. These players—just like anyone playing baseball at any level—don't need to know the numbers. They need to know their own bodies. And coaching is a skill that might have changed over the last decades of baseball, but Johnson understood the critical skill: knowing how to tell players in the right moment. View full article
  5. Fwiw, this story from The Athletic in May does not sound like someone particularly upset with his job. It may just be a preference for college ball: Baldelli has one rule: Respect your teammates. Johnson has only one, too: He can’t be the only one in that dugout believing in you. It’s one of the first things he said to Paddack when he came over: You’re one of the best in the world, don’t forget that. It resonated. “The past few years I’ve been searching with a little doubt on the mound not having that conviction and confidence every single pitch. Getting hit around a little bit you can search up there on the mound,” Paddack said. “(Johnson) was like, ‘Look at what you did in ’19 before you had a curveball and a slider.’ He said, you’re a better pitcher than you were in ’19. Our goal is to put it all together now.” Paddack calls Johnson “a little firecracker” infusing the clubhouse with positive energy. Johnson is quick to credit the staff Baldelli has assembled and the way all the new pitchers have quickly bought into what the Twins are doing. The learning is just beginning. The competition to constantly one-up the last guy and push the Twins rotation and the team forward — what Buxton dubs the “bulldog mentality” — is something Minnesota’s starters aim to continue all season.
  6. Two teams fired managers in the middle of the season already. These are jobs and workers have as much right to leave as the employer has to fire them.
  7. Hayes is reporting Johnson did not ask for a counter offer from the Twins, which means it is not necessarily about money. Johnson began his career at LSU, and there is obviously it is a Top 5 baseball program. Baseball America noted that Detroit had some pitching staff leave for college jobs, but what is surprising here is (a) timing in the middle of the season and (b) the fact Johnson is not leaving for a head coaching job. I wouldn't necessarily put this all on what might be happening with the Twins org as much as LSU obviously has a lot of cultural and financial power and prestige...
  8. Anyone watching this team meanwhile can see a different problem: a shaky bullpen in need of backup. The Twins currently have a high win percentage but a notably high FIP, which we have already seen act as a recipe for disaster (especially against playoff contending teams). The Twins might be in a better position to snatch a high-caliber arm to slot in every other day—if not two of them—to fill in some of their more questionable pieces. I’ve decided to highlight five arms from teams likely to be sellers at the deadline that the Twins might pursue. David Robertson (Chicago Cubs) K/9: 12.4, BB/9: 4.7 Like Joe Smith, David Robertson is a veteran pitcher at 37 with his fifth major league ball club, filling in a small role for the depleted Cubs as they enter what can only be described as their Pirates phase. After Tommy John, Robertson played a critical role on the 2021 Olympics squad, before signing with the Rays where he demonstrated a strong strikeout rate and low walk rate in his twelve appearances and four postseason appearances. Now with the Cubs, Robertson looks even better, quickly working his way to the closer role, where hitters are going .150 against him with a single home run in 23 innings of work. Unlike the younger pitchers like Duran who just throw for heat, Robertson is all about that spin. His cutter is now mixed into both a slider and a curveball, the latter two which have produced two hits total. Robertson basically is moving his ball all over the plate and players cannot get a barrel on it. The Cubs are eager for some prospects to rebuild the greatness of 2016 and following the model of quick signings they can flip for a high caliber prospect. Robertson’s surprising bargain contract is one the Twins should be immediately eying, either to play a late inning against the heart of the order. Anthony Bass (MIA) K/9: 8.3, BB/9: 2.1 Kim Ng’s Marlins are yet to become a playoff contending team, but she’s slowly building a set of arms that are just waiting to see the Phillies or Mets do the things that have made those fan bases literally a health hazard and sneak into the NL East top spot. But until then, they will need to flip some players and hope the owners actually allow for some serious spending. I tracked Anthony Bass while listening to some spring training games and the booth seems quite enthused. After struggling in 2021, Bass has become an eighth inning set up man with one of the hardest to hit pitches in the game. Hitters are barely making contact with his slider, which has produced a 38% whiffs. His sinker can be a problem, when pitchers are making solid contact. Miami hasn’t had too many competitive games, but Bass seems like a more reliable swing and miss guy to throw into the pen to come out maybe for the third time through the order. Plus, Bass has a $3 million club option for 2023, and it might be the right time to bring his arm into the Twins. Michael Fulmer (DET) K/9: 9.4, BB/9: 4.1 It’s not usual that the competition deals a player to their division rivals, but I don’t think the Detroit Tigers will be too picky about who gets one of their bright stars of their bullpen. Two seasons ago, the former Rookie of the Year was getting lit up for an ERA just under 9.00. Now he’s sitting at 2.35 over 23 innings with a slider that batters are barely touching and a fastball that’s touching 100 while becoming a bit of a mentor for the young arms out in Detroit. The walk rate is a problem—Fulmer is great with getting into the zone but hitters are rarely chasing anything out—and he hasn’t performed well in high leverage situations, so Fulmer might slide in for a mid-inning appearance against the bottom of a few line ups as the Twins make it through the dog days of summer. Given the necessity of the divorce from the Tiger, this might just be the cheapest trade the Twins can do and one they can easily depart if it doesn't work out. Daniel Bard (COL) K/9: 11.6, BB/9: 4.1 Daniel Bard plays at Coors Field, but he’s also kept players to a BABIP under 200 in the hitter friendly park (on the road, it’s .130). Bard’s basically abandoned his fastball by throwing a 98mph sinker alongside a much slower slider that hitters can’t tell the difference. Bard at once seemed done with the majors, but the success of that sinker with its incredible change up movement has been a secret sauce in his comeback in Colorado. Sporting a WHIP under 1.00 and almost as many strikeouts as the Rockies’ starters, opponents are averaging a paltry .141. He’s turning numerous ground balls, which is a perfect concoction when you had a defensive line of Carlos Correa and Gio Urshela to work with. Now we just need to get the Rockies to actually pick up their phones this year. Tanner Rainey (WSN) K/9: 11.1, BB/9: 3.4 On paper, Tanner Rainey might not look like the kind of player you trade for, but relief trades are about experimentation. Rainey mostly depends on a fastball that tops around 97 and a slider that hitters are missing half the time he throws it. Rainey essentially abandoned his change up from last year, focusing on increasing the spin on his fastball. He strikes players out about the same level as Griffin Jax with just a dent of a higher walk rate. Rainer has saved seven games in his 20 innings of work, and he hasn’t been as sharp in June, but he might be a critical piece for the bullpen in need of revival. Any other relievers you’ve been eyeing this season? Sound off in the comments.
  9. When it comes to the looming trade deadline, most Twins mostly have their eyes on a number of high level starting pitchers. Of course, the Twins will be contending with a number of other teams for those players and haven't necessarily outbid in the past. As strong as the farm system is, the Twins have been less keen to trade core pieces in the past, while teams like the Dodgers and the Rays can easily depart with a literal starting ace pitcher in the hope of October glory (call it a bad trade that the Twins scored on, but the Rays are still playoff contenders and are hardly crying over the loss). Anyone watching this team meanwhile can see a different problem: a shaky bullpen in need of backup. The Twins currently have a high win percentage but a notably high FIP, which we have already seen act as a recipe for disaster (especially against playoff contending teams). The Twins might be in a better position to snatch a high-caliber arm to slot in every other day—if not two of them—to fill in some of their more questionable pieces. I’ve decided to highlight five arms from teams likely to be sellers at the deadline that the Twins might pursue. David Robertson (Chicago Cubs) K/9: 12.4, BB/9: 4.7 Like Joe Smith, David Robertson is a veteran pitcher at 37 with his fifth major league ball club, filling in a small role for the depleted Cubs as they enter what can only be described as their Pirates phase. After Tommy John, Robertson played a critical role on the 2021 Olympics squad, before signing with the Rays where he demonstrated a strong strikeout rate and low walk rate in his twelve appearances and four postseason appearances. Now with the Cubs, Robertson looks even better, quickly working his way to the closer role, where hitters are going .150 against him with a single home run in 23 innings of work. Unlike the younger pitchers like Duran who just throw for heat, Robertson is all about that spin. His cutter is now mixed into both a slider and a curveball, the latter two which have produced two hits total. Robertson basically is moving his ball all over the plate and players cannot get a barrel on it. The Cubs are eager for some prospects to rebuild the greatness of 2016 and following the model of quick signings they can flip for a high caliber prospect. Robertson’s surprising bargain contract is one the Twins should be immediately eying, either to play a late inning against the heart of the order. Anthony Bass (MIA) K/9: 8.3, BB/9: 2.1 Kim Ng’s Marlins are yet to become a playoff contending team, but she’s slowly building a set of arms that are just waiting to see the Phillies or Mets do the things that have made those fan bases literally a health hazard and sneak into the NL East top spot. But until then, they will need to flip some players and hope the owners actually allow for some serious spending. I tracked Anthony Bass while listening to some spring training games and the booth seems quite enthused. After struggling in 2021, Bass has become an eighth inning set up man with one of the hardest to hit pitches in the game. Hitters are barely making contact with his slider, which has produced a 38% whiffs. His sinker can be a problem, when pitchers are making solid contact. Miami hasn’t had too many competitive games, but Bass seems like a more reliable swing and miss guy to throw into the pen to come out maybe for the third time through the order. Plus, Bass has a $3 million club option for 2023, and it might be the right time to bring his arm into the Twins. Michael Fulmer (DET) K/9: 9.4, BB/9: 4.1 It’s not usual that the competition deals a player to their division rivals, but I don’t think the Detroit Tigers will be too picky about who gets one of their bright stars of their bullpen. Two seasons ago, the former Rookie of the Year was getting lit up for an ERA just under 9.00. Now he’s sitting at 2.35 over 23 innings with a slider that batters are barely touching and a fastball that’s touching 100 while becoming a bit of a mentor for the young arms out in Detroit. The walk rate is a problem—Fulmer is great with getting into the zone but hitters are rarely chasing anything out—and he hasn’t performed well in high leverage situations, so Fulmer might slide in for a mid-inning appearance against the bottom of a few line ups as the Twins make it through the dog days of summer. Given the necessity of the divorce from the Tiger, this might just be the cheapest trade the Twins can do and one they can easily depart if it doesn't work out. Daniel Bard (COL) K/9: 11.6, BB/9: 4.1 Daniel Bard plays at Coors Field, but he’s also kept players to a BABIP under 200 in the hitter friendly park (on the road, it’s .130). Bard’s basically abandoned his fastball by throwing a 98mph sinker alongside a much slower slider that hitters can’t tell the difference. Bard at once seemed done with the majors, but the success of that sinker with its incredible change up movement has been a secret sauce in his comeback in Colorado. Sporting a WHIP under 1.00 and almost as many strikeouts as the Rockies’ starters, opponents are averaging a paltry .141. He’s turning numerous ground balls, which is a perfect concoction when you had a defensive line of Carlos Correa and Gio Urshela to work with. Now we just need to get the Rockies to actually pick up their phones this year. Tanner Rainey (WSN) K/9: 11.1, BB/9: 3.4 On paper, Tanner Rainey might not look like the kind of player you trade for, but relief trades are about experimentation. Rainey mostly depends on a fastball that tops around 97 and a slider that hitters are missing half the time he throws it. Rainey essentially abandoned his change up from last year, focusing on increasing the spin on his fastball. He strikes players out about the same level as Griffin Jax with just a dent of a higher walk rate. Rainer has saved seven games in his 20 innings of work, and he hasn’t been as sharp in June, but he might be a critical piece for the bullpen in need of revival. Any other relievers you’ve been eyeing this season? Sound off in the comments. View full article
  10. I think worth considering that if Correa were to sign long term (a) he would accept a lower year average (not by much, but think $31-32, at 10 years; if the Twins can afford him at this level, they can afford him a bit lower). This is a team currently with two of its three biggest contracts ever, but it's still about $10 million below its highest total. Secondly, if Correa signs, all the SS prospects become either backup candidates or trade candidates. At some point, the Twins are going to need to trade for something, whether starting pitchers or most likely a top catching candidate. Of course you want a back up SS, but it will make it useful to have these players who could be used by other teams if Correa becomes a long term figure in this org.
  11. I think as Nick Nelson pointed out on Twitter, we can maybe be frustrated with how Rocco is resting players, but at least he isn't doing an intentional walk on a 1-2 count and literally getting a "Fire Rocco" chant going.
  12. My thought is this wouldn't be a bad off season for the Twins to court Willson Contreras.
  13. Like many teams throughout the league, the Twins have forgone a typical Designated Hitter, instead using the position to help some of the usual starters find a semi-rest day. The decision to forgo a permanent hitter in the decision has paid off— with MLB's strange ball tactics this season flying them barely out to the warning tracks, only three DHs are above .300. and it certainly looks like Father Time has finally caught up to Nelson Cruz. But if the Twins would like to see more than a pair of Wild Card games and a continued playoff losing streak, they need to find an effective way to use the DH. Without Cruz this year, the Twins have given a number of players a parade through the position. However, these hitters are currently batting around .234, which is essentially middle of the league. By breaking down who is taking those plate appearances, it becomes clear who has excelled in the position and who might just be better taking a full day of rest. I removed those who basically have a game or two to their name and looked at how these players have faired, and it will of course be seen how returning minor leaguers like Alex Kirilloff or Royce Lewis might fare down the stretch. 5. Byron Buxton As DH: 41 PAs, .114/.244/.200 As CF: 124 PAs, .250/.315/.607 It actually seems quite surprising in retrospect, but Byron Buxton never stood in the plate as DH a single time before this season. His 41 appearances at the plate are the definition of small sample, particularly when most have come after his unfortunate knee injury, but one thing is clear: the Twins could just rest Buxton when it comes to when he’s not playing CF. I’m as big of a Buxton defender as they come, but something doesn’t seem to sit right when he only appears from the bench. All reports about his continued knee injury seem to point to it effecting his hitting more than his defense. Does getting loose out in CF help him out? Again, we probably need to see Buxton look like April Buxton before we can make a final ruling, but it is clear that he might not be needed in this position if he can play full time in the field. 4. Ryan Jeffers As DH: 20 PAs, .167/.250/.167 As Catcher: 117 PAs, .165/.259/.301 It was close to see who was worse between Buxton and Jeffers, but I'm giving the edge to Jeffers on the advantage that he has only appeared as DH three times since the beginning of May, and two in these last couple weeks where bats have been depleted, But Jeffers has struggled at the plate; his WRC+ in the last month is a brutal 16 (where 100 is league average). The Twins have a troubling lack of prospects underneath their pair of catchers, meaning Jeffers is here to stay as long as he can frame. But given their plan to forgo a backup catcher in the roster, his lack of DH hitting should be a clear sign to keep him on the bench in case Gary Sánchez goes down. With only three singles in his 20 PAs, Jeffers doesn’t belong in the role, which seems to be now in the plan. 3. Kyle Garlick and Luis Arráez Garlick as DH: 11 PAs, .375/.455/.750 Garlick as Outfielder: 48 PAs, .250/.313/.614 Arráez as DH: 17 PAs, .333/.412/.333 Arráez as Infielder: 159 PAs, .348/.434/.406 I’m pairing the two mashers here for this team given their similarities: they have barely played more than a few games each as DH, yet both have shown tremendous numbers. Their problem is they could easily be put in the field. Garlick has proven himself entirely capable as an outfielder, while Arráez has triumphed at first base in his unexpected role. Garlick's three hits as DH have all scored runs, cementing his role as a bench weapon. Arráez DH role—particularly minimized after Miguel Sanó’s exit gave him a more permanent position,, essentially matched his now league leading batting average. But his DH performance on Sunday was the kind that makes him essential, reaching base in every at bat with four singles and a walk. As the Twins shuffle the line up through the season, having Arráez out of any line up will seem insane. 2. Trevor Larnach As DH: 26 PAs, .375/.423/.667 As Outfielder: 102 PAs, .225/.304/.416 In a year where minor leaguers have shown both greatness and questions, Trevor Larnach has quietly proven his weight in the big leagues. His playing time has been limited in right field behind a hot hitting Max Kepler, though he got to show some of his talents this weekend in Toronto because of…choices. Larnach’s lefty bat makes perfect for platooning out in the field, though notably has shown some incredible defensive skill in recent games. But the bat is what matters here, and Larnach has smashed four doubles and a homer alongside a handful of singles and walks when appearing as DH. As the outfield becomes a bit crowded with the likely return of Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis, Larnach will prove himself as capable bat by stepping into DH roles when needed. 1. Gary “El Gary” Sánchez As DH: 75 PAs, .246/.307/.449 As Catcher: 96 PAs, .221/.281/.453 Hot streaks are fickle. Players can burn bright for just a week and then seemingly disappear into the ether. And yet, it is hard not to feel joy when a hitter finds that sweet spot and pretend it might not last forever. Given how it felt like he was kicked to the curb in New York, Gary Sánchez’s hot streak has been the kind that brings a tear to your eye after every launched ball. Let’s put it this way. The Twins have 14 doubles from their designated hitters; Sánchez has hit 8 of them. Beyond the obvious candidates, Sánchez has justified having himself in the batting line up every day right now as the leading catchers in baseball in RBIs. He's hitting a lot like early season Buxton with some of the top percentiles in Hard Hit balls, Exit Velocity, and Barrels off the bat. His ISO during the last month puts him in the same conversation as franchise leaders like Manny Machado and George Springer. His strikeout rate is obviously not the best, but the opportunities it creates is why he has slowly moved up in the batting order. Put it this way: if you erased all the names from baseball, Rocco Baldelli would put Sánchez as lead off DH in lieu of Buxton. Not everything has clicked—most of Sánchez’s home runs have come on his catching days, but this is a man who is making the most of these extra ABs as a catcher. And when these bats are unreliable, Sánchez is proving his worth behind the plate with essentially now the same framing rate as Jeffers. In fact, Sanchez has a 0.5 fWAR to the Yankees' Kyle Higashioka with a -0.1 fWAR. Feeling out of place in New York, Sánchez seems at home in Minnesota according to the recent profile by Dan Hayes. In a line up where the Twins need power, Sánchez has quietly shown what it might look like. Who should DH for the Twins? Sound off in the comments. View full article
  14. But if the Twins would like to see more than a pair of Wild Card games and a continued playoff losing streak, they need to find an effective way to use the DH. Without Cruz this year, the Twins have given a number of players a parade through the position. However, these hitters are currently batting around .234, which is essentially middle of the league. By breaking down who is taking those plate appearances, it becomes clear who has excelled in the position and who might just be better taking a full day of rest. I removed those who basically have a game or two to their name and looked at how these players have faired, and it will of course be seen how returning minor leaguers like Alex Kirilloff or Royce Lewis might fare down the stretch. 5. Byron Buxton As DH: 41 PAs, .114/.244/.200 As CF: 124 PAs, .250/.315/.607 It actually seems quite surprising in retrospect, but Byron Buxton never stood in the plate as DH a single time before this season. His 41 appearances at the plate are the definition of small sample, particularly when most have come after his unfortunate knee injury, but one thing is clear: the Twins could just rest Buxton when it comes to when he’s not playing CF. I’m as big of a Buxton defender as they come, but something doesn’t seem to sit right when he only appears from the bench. All reports about his continued knee injury seem to point to it effecting his hitting more than his defense. Does getting loose out in CF help him out? Again, we probably need to see Buxton look like April Buxton before we can make a final ruling, but it is clear that he might not be needed in this position if he can play full time in the field. 4. Ryan Jeffers As DH: 20 PAs, .167/.250/.167 As Catcher: 117 PAs, .165/.259/.301 It was close to see who was worse between Buxton and Jeffers, but I'm giving the edge to Jeffers on the advantage that he has only appeared as DH three times since the beginning of May, and two in these last couple weeks where bats have been depleted, But Jeffers has struggled at the plate; his WRC+ in the last month is a brutal 16 (where 100 is league average). The Twins have a troubling lack of prospects underneath their pair of catchers, meaning Jeffers is here to stay as long as he can frame. But given their plan to forgo a backup catcher in the roster, his lack of DH hitting should be a clear sign to keep him on the bench in case Gary Sánchez goes down. With only three singles in his 20 PAs, Jeffers doesn’t belong in the role, which seems to be now in the plan. 3. Kyle Garlick and Luis Arráez Garlick as DH: 11 PAs, .375/.455/.750 Garlick as Outfielder: 48 PAs, .250/.313/.614 Arráez as DH: 17 PAs, .333/.412/.333 Arráez as Infielder: 159 PAs, .348/.434/.406 I’m pairing the two mashers here for this team given their similarities: they have barely played more than a few games each as DH, yet both have shown tremendous numbers. Their problem is they could easily be put in the field. Garlick has proven himself entirely capable as an outfielder, while Arráez has triumphed at first base in his unexpected role. Garlick's three hits as DH have all scored runs, cementing his role as a bench weapon. Arráez DH role—particularly minimized after Miguel Sanó’s exit gave him a more permanent position,, essentially matched his now league leading batting average. But his DH performance on Sunday was the kind that makes him essential, reaching base in every at bat with four singles and a walk. As the Twins shuffle the line up through the season, having Arráez out of any line up will seem insane. 2. Trevor Larnach As DH: 26 PAs, .375/.423/.667 As Outfielder: 102 PAs, .225/.304/.416 In a year where minor leaguers have shown both greatness and questions, Trevor Larnach has quietly proven his weight in the big leagues. His playing time has been limited in right field behind a hot hitting Max Kepler, though he got to show some of his talents this weekend in Toronto because of…choices. Larnach’s lefty bat makes perfect for platooning out in the field, though notably has shown some incredible defensive skill in recent games. But the bat is what matters here, and Larnach has smashed four doubles and a homer alongside a handful of singles and walks when appearing as DH. As the outfield becomes a bit crowded with the likely return of Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis, Larnach will prove himself as capable bat by stepping into DH roles when needed. 1. Gary “El Gary” Sánchez As DH: 75 PAs, .246/.307/.449 As Catcher: 96 PAs, .221/.281/.453 Hot streaks are fickle. Players can burn bright for just a week and then seemingly disappear into the ether. And yet, it is hard not to feel joy when a hitter finds that sweet spot and pretend it might not last forever. Given how it felt like he was kicked to the curb in New York, Gary Sánchez’s hot streak has been the kind that brings a tear to your eye after every launched ball. Let’s put it this way. The Twins have 14 doubles from their designated hitters; Sánchez has hit 8 of them. Beyond the obvious candidates, Sánchez has justified having himself in the batting line up every day right now as the leading catchers in baseball in RBIs. He's hitting a lot like early season Buxton with some of the top percentiles in Hard Hit balls, Exit Velocity, and Barrels off the bat. His ISO during the last month puts him in the same conversation as franchise leaders like Manny Machado and George Springer. His strikeout rate is obviously not the best, but the opportunities it creates is why he has slowly moved up in the batting order. Put it this way: if you erased all the names from baseball, Rocco Baldelli would put Sánchez as lead off DH in lieu of Buxton. Not everything has clicked—most of Sánchez’s home runs have come on his catching days, but this is a man who is making the most of these extra ABs as a catcher. And when these bats are unreliable, Sánchez is proving his worth behind the plate with essentially now the same framing rate as Jeffers. In fact, Sanchez has a 0.5 fWAR to the Yankees' Kyle Higashioka with a -0.1 fWAR. Feeling out of place in New York, Sánchez seems at home in Minnesota according to the recent profile by Dan Hayes. In a line up where the Twins need power, Sánchez has quietly shown what it might look like. Who should DH for the Twins? Sound off in the comments.
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