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Blake

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  1. Like
    Blake reacted to sethmoko for a blog entry, Brusdar Graterol's Velocity in Context   
    Brusdar Graterol made his much-anticipated debut this afternoon as part of the Twins' 8-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The 21-year old has been raising eyebrows and expectations primarily because of his velocity and the impact he could make down he stretch run and hopefully a long run into the playoffs. Comparisons have been made and dreams have been dreamt of the Twins striking gold for this year in much the same way the Angels did in 2004 with Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez.
     
    Graterol pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the victory for the Twins, as they were able to stretch the lead in the AL Central over Cleveland to 5.5 games. This was a great way for a guy like Graterol to make his debut: a low leverage situation against a weak offense. And he performed. His first pitch as a big leaguer was advertised on TV broadcasts at 100 MPH because of rounding. Baseball Savant had it at 99.6. This would be a good time to note that I am not projecting anything about how hard Graterol may throw in the future or analyzing how hard he threw in the minors - just a few thoughts on how hard he threw today.
     
    Graterol began his outing with a four-pitch strikeout of Dawel Lugo. Lugo didn't swing at any of the four, which came in at 99.6, 99.3, 99, and 98.5 MPH. Graterol then faced Brandon Dixon, who hit a single on the fifth pitch of the AB and second slider. To Dixon, Graterol threw three fastballs at 98.5, 99.1, and 98.6 MPH. Then Jordy Mercer saw two fastballs at 99.3 and 98.5, a slider at 88.1 and hit a 98.7 MPH fastball for an infield single. The first pitch to Jake Rogers was another 99.6 MPH fastball (tying his first pitch for the fastest of the outing) for a game-ending double play.
     
    So what did he throw today? Overall, there were 14 pitches with 10 for strikes. His fastball accounted for 11 pitches and 8 strikes. He topped out twice at 99.6 MPH with his first and final pitches. His fastball averaged 99 MPH and none were thrown slower than 98.5 MPH.
     
    And here is why that matters to Twins fans. After 14 pitches, Brusdar Graterol now sits in positions 2-7 for individual pitch velocity by Minnesota Twins this year. Position #1 is still held (for now) by Trevor May who hit 99.8 MPH on August 5 against Atlanta's Johan Camargo. Extend that out throughout the Statcast era (since 2015) and Graterol is tied for third in individual pitch velocity behind that May 99.8 MPH pea, a 99.7 MPH fastball thrown by Ryan Pressly in 2016 and tied with a 99.6 MPH pitch thrown by JT Chargois in 2016 also.
     
    For a long time, the Twins have been left out (somewhat intentionally and also unintentionally) from baseball's growing velocities. In Brusdar Graterol, Twins fans have someone exciting to watch who has the potential for missing lots of bats. Ironic note to end: Graterol missed exactly zero bats today against the Tigers. But that will change.
  2. Like
    Blake reacted to Heezy1323 for a blog entry, Buxton Shoulder Q&A- What is a shoulder 'subluxation'?   
    Byron Buxton Shoulder Injury Q&A
    heezy1323
     
     
    Byron Buxton, as we all know, is an outstanding center fielder for our Twins. Unfortunately, he has dealt with a variety of injuries that have cost him significant time over the past few seasons. This weekend he sustained an injury to his left shoulder that was termed a ‘subluxation’ and is headed back to the IL. By the sound of things, he is likely to be away from the big club for at least a few weeks. This is a tough blow for the Twins as the Indians make a push to catch up to a team that has led the division essentially all season.
     
    Medical terminology can be confusing, so I thought a post about shoulder subluxations might be of interest to TD readers. As usual- my disclaimer is that I am not a Twins team physician. I have not examined Byron nor seen any imaging of his injury. I am not speaking on behalf of the Twins. I am only hoping to familiarize TD readers with some of the concerns that may be ahead regarding injuries similar to Buxton’s.
    Question 1: How does the shoulder normally work?
    The shoulder is considered a ball-and-socket joint. The round ball (humeral head) sits in the socket (glenoid) similar to how a golf ball sits on a golf tee. Around the perimeter of the golf tee is a strong cartilage tissue called a labrum. The labrum surrounds the socket similar to the red gasket on a mason jar lid. Its function is to help act as a ‘bumper’ to hold the golf ball on the golf tee. It is also an attachment point for ligaments around the shoulder that also contribute to shoulder stability. The ligaments make up the ‘capsule’ of the shoulder joint. I often tell patients that the capsule is like a water balloon that surrounds the joint. The ligaments that make up the capsule form the connection between the ball and the socket.
     
    Question 2: What is a shoulder subluxation?
     
    The term ‘subluxation’ is typically used in situations where a joint partially (or nearly) dislocates. This is not specific to the shoulder and can happen in a number of other areas of the body as well (such as the kneecap, for example). This is distinct from a true ‘dislocation’ where the ball comes completely out of the socket and then goes back in.
     
    If someone dislocates their shoulder and it stays dislocated, it is typically clear what has happened. Xrays will show the ball dislocated from the socket and the shoulder will be manipulated to ‘reduce’ the ball back to its normal position. However, in some cases cases the ball can completely dislocate and go back in on its own very quickly. In these cases, an xray would often look normal. In most cases when there is concern about an injury of this type, an MRI is ordered. This of course shows additional details of the bone and soft tissue that cannot be seen on an xray alone. Usually an MRI will allow for a pretty solid conclusion as to whether the injury that occurred was a ‘subluxation’ (less severe) or a true ‘dislocation’ (more severe).
     
    There is, of course, a spectrum of damage that can occur with any injury and this is no exception. It’s possible that there was some minimal stretch to the ligaments around the shoulder and no other significant damage (best case). It’s also possible that there was more significant damage to the ligaments and potentially even a tear of the labrum (more worrisome). The MRI would typically give a good approximation of these issues. In most cases, the damage that occurs with a subluxation is less significant than that which occurs with a dislocation.
    Question 3: Does it make a difference that the injury is to his left shoulder rather than his right?
     
    In my opinion, absolutely. Because it is his non-throwing shoulder, the stresses placed on it are less. Even small issues with the ligaments can be problematic in the throwing shoulder- particularly someone who can approach 100mph on throws from the outfield.
     
    That said, the left shoulder is Byron’s front shoulder when hitting. In most hitters it is the front shoulder that is more stressed. It is possible that Buxton’s recovery is more affected at the plate than in the field (though that’s impossible to predict with certainty, of course).
     
    Question 4: Does this injury make it more likely that Byron will dislocate his shoulder in the future?
     
    Possibly. As discussed above, there is a spectrum of damage that can occur with this injury. If the damage is near the minimal end, it probably doesn’t have a significant effect on his likelihood of injuring this shoulder in the future. If there is more significant structural damage, it may place him at higher risk.
     
    Question 5: What is the purpose of the rehab?
     
    In addition to the capsule and labrum discussed above in question 1, the muscles around the shoulder also contribute to stability. I often tell patients to imagine that there is canopy over the top of the golf ball pulling it down onto the golf tee and helping to hold it in place. This is similar to the way your rotator cuff functions. I suspect rehab for Buxton will include strengthening exercises for a number of muscles around the shoulder that contribute to stability.
     
    Also, these muscles can be strained during the injury, so they can sometimes need additional time to recover along with the ligaments.
     
    Question 6: Will Buxton need surgery?
     
    This is essentially impossible to answer right now, likely even for the physicians and training staff involved in Byron’s care. As I sometimes tell my patients, “The crystal ball is a little murky.” Without knowing the extent of any structural issues in Byron’s shoulder, I would say that it is somewhat unlikely this will require surgery. I would expect that even if surgery is required, it would only occur after an attempt at non-surgical treatment has been unsuccessful.
     
    Question 7: How long will it be before he is able to return to play?
     
    This is also a difficult question to answer. The fact that the early word is that he will be out a few weeks is consistent with what I would expect from an injury like this. The rehab often takes time to regain full motion and strength. I would hope he can be back patrolling center field before the end of August, but it’s certainly possible this lingers into September. It seems unlikely that this would be a season-ending injury, but only time will tell.
     
     
    Clearly this Twins team is better when Byron is on the field rather than on the IL. Let’s hope he heals quickly and can help the Twins down the stretch. GO TWINS!
  3. Like
    Blake reacted to Danchat for a blog entry, Strat-O-Matic Baseball: Yankees at Twins 7/22/19   
    The first place Twins and the first place Yankees clash in a Strat-O-Matic battle of epic proportions! Both teams carry high-powered offenses in, and the while the real life game was exciting, this one was too... for a while.
     
    Game Summary
     
    You would expect the Twins and Yankees to score a lot of runs. Well, you won't be disappointed by this result!
    The first inning went off with a bang, as both teams loaded the bases with no outs, and both teams came up with 3 runs out of the 1st. The Yankees got a RBI single from Gary Sanchez, an RBI walk Luke Voit, and an RBI groundout from Gleyber Torres. Meanwhile, the Twins got an RBI single from Rosario, and LF Tauchman errored another run in, and then Gonzalez hit a sac fly.
    --
    The second inning didn't have a baserunner, oddly enough. Then the Yankees struck back in the 3rd inning - Sanchez singled, Sano errored a ball at 1st base, and Luke Voit crushed a 3 run HR to make it 6-3. But that's not all! Perez inexplicably allowed the bases to get loaded again, just for Judge to hit a 2 RBI double to make it 8-3. Ouch. And now I'll have to dive into the bullpen!
    --
    Sano nailed a solo HR in the 3rd, inching the Twins closer at 8-4. Then the Yankees piled on 3 more runs in the top of the 4th with Tyler Duffey pitching, with a 2 run HR from Voit and a solo shot from Tauchman. The Twins scratched one more run across in the 4th with a Schoop triple and a Polanco triple... very unlikely to happen in real life, but I'll take it.
    --
    I got Lewis Thorpe to pitch clean 5th and 6th innings, which was nice, for a change. The Twins hitters found some life in the bottom of the 6th against Luis Cessa, as Arraez led things off with single, followed by two more singles from Garver and Polanco, making it 11-6. Cruz struck out, but Rosario was able to hit a sac fly, making it 11-7.
    And in the 7th, Cessa returned to give up a double to Gonzalez, an RBI single to Kepler, and a double to Schoop, making it 11-8 with runners on 2nd and 3rd one out. Unfortunately, Chad Green was able to come in and save the day, getting three outs in that RISP situation.
    --
    Cody Stashak took the 8th and 9th and did a great job in his first MLB appearance, giving up just a single hit and a walk. However, being up by just 2 runs caused the Yankees to get Ottavino and Aroldis Chapman pitching, and the Twins' batters were blown away by these two. We've lost again, dropping our Strat-O-Record to 1-4. Very disappointing, boys!
    --
    Box Score
    --

  4. Like
    Blake reacted to Thiéres Rabelo for a blog entry, Taylor Rogers Deserves to Be an All-Star   
    I think Taylor Rogers may have been the greatest Twin to be snubbed from anything since Joe Mauer didn’t get the 2017 Gold Glove. After earning the longest save from any Twins pitcher since 2000 yesterday against the Rangers (he retired all seven batters he faced) and becoming the pitcher with the most saves of three or more outs for the club this century, he made it clear once again that he’s definitely one of the best relievers in the game.
     
    If you look at the group of relievers that were invited to take part in the Midsummer Classic playing for the American League, it doesn’t seem so absurd that Rogers wasn’t there. Aroldis Chapman, Shane Greene, Brad Hand, Liam Hendriks and Ryan Pressly all have very similar stats, with most of them being better than Rogers’. The only one of them who has a worse ERA than the Twins star (now at 1.82) is Hand (with 2.17). Only Chapman (12.98) and Hand (13.26) are striking out more batters than him (11.57).
     
    So, if you think about it, it’s not absurd that he didn’t make the team. But it wouldn’t be absurd if he did either. He’s being at least as effective as the five of them. But Rogers has one difference which could give him the upperhand in a closer comparison with those pitchers. And I don’t think this angle would ever (or even should) be used to decide who an All Star will be. But it’s nice to look at it and have fun with the realization that the Twins have one of the best arms in the game.
     
    Going straight to the point: Rogers is used in more important situations than those guys and he is more responsible for his team’s wins than any reliever in the AL. Like we saw before, his overall numbers are very similar or even slightly worse than the All Star relievers. But when you look at high leverage situations, none of them are a match for Rogers.
     
     
    Talking about quantity, none of them was used in those situations as much as him. He pitched a total of 14 2/3 innings of high leverage, which currently ranks third in the AL. The AL All Star reliever who comes closest is Hand, who pitched 11 2/3. But the Indians pitcher posts a 6.17, whereas Rogers has a 3.07 ERA. The only AL pitcher who has pitched as many innings (15 1/3) and has a better ERA (2.35) than him is Houston’s Roberto Osuna.
     
     
    No other pitcher in the AL has been more responsible for his team’s wins than Rogers has. Currently, he leads all of them in Win Probability Added (WPA), with 2.56. The second AL pitcher in that rank is Chicago’s Álex Colomé, at 1.86, which is still better than the first of the 2019 All Star relievers, Hendriks, at 1.82. Superstar Yankee closer, Chapman doesn’t have even one third of Rogers’ WPA, standing at 0.62. So, it’s safe to say that it would have been absolutely fair if Rogers was chosen over any of the current AL All Star relievers.
     
     
    But now, I have something else to put up for discussion. Taylor is only 28 and, if he continues to pitch like that, I think nobody would have any objection to making him a Twin for the remainder of his career. So I should ask your opinion. Where in Twins history do you think Rogers could end up ranking at the end of his career? Does he have a shot at one day becoming one of the best relievers in club history?
     
     
    Well, to start, I did a quick research, using Fangraphs’ Splits Leaderboard tool. Currently, Taylor has a 1.82 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and is striking out 11.57 batters per nine. The season is only at its midpoint and these numbers could very well get worse. But, if the season ended today, this would be only the second time in Twins history that a reliever has up to 1.82 ERA, over 11 strikeouts per nine and a WHIP of 0.98 or lower. The only other time that happened was in 2006, when Joe Nathan posted 1.58 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and struck out 12.5 batters per nine. Let me repeat myself: that only happened one other time in club history.
     
     
    Nathan is the consensual choice any time someone asks who is the best reliever in Twins history. But interestingly enough, when you compare Rogers’ current career numbers and Nathan’s when he was 28, it gets scary. By the end of the 2002 season, when Nathan was still with the Giants, he had only one career save and -0.52 WPA. Rogers earned against the Rangers this Saturday his 14th career save and holds a 6.69 career WPA, which already ranks fourth in club history. Nathan has the lead with 24.55, but he didn’t throw a single pitch in a Twins uniform before he was 29.
     
     
    Another angle through which we can also speculate that Rogers can surpass Nathan in the competition for best reliever in Twins history are their Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR). Rogers currently is currently worth 4.2 career fWAR, at age 28, in his fourth year as a Major League pitcher. At age 28, Nathan was worth -0.4 and after his fourth season in the Majors he was worth 0.8.
     
     
    So everytime this Colorado kid comes up to the mound this year, Twins fans should be extra grateful for the opportunity. Chances are we might be witnessing one of the greatest pitchers to ever play for Minnesota. Too bad All Star game won’t have this opportunity this year.
  5. Like
    Blake reacted to Mike Sixel for a blog entry, Why Didn't the Twins Make a Trade Already?   
    Edit to note: the tables are now fixed, I believe.
     
    Fans, we are a demanding bunch! We want fixes now, and we want them cheap, so our favorite teams can do more fixing. I maybe spend too much time on Twins Daily, and I post a lot. That makes me wrong a lot……or maybe I’m just not all that good at this baseball thing, who knows. One of the main things being discussed right now is that the Twins should add some pitching, and I’ve been wondering just how realistic that is.
     
    What does it cost to get pitching? What kind of pitchers are actually traded before the deadline? When are they traded?
     
    Basically, in this series of blogs, I want to know what seems realistic in terms of trades, because I’d rather be informed when posting than not. Because baseball seems to have changed, I’ll be using data from 2013 on.
    First up in the analysis? So, how soon can we realistically expect trades in MLB?
     
    We’ll be looking at trades in June and July to see when players change hands, and the kinds of players that change teams. Given that the August deadline has gone away, we will be ignoring those trades, which admittedly may or may not change how one views the analysis…….
     
    June 1-15
     
    There isn’t much action in the first two weeks of June involving major league players.
     
    [table]


    Year
    Number of Trades
    MLB Pitchers
    MLB HItters
    Impact Trades


    2013
    2
    1
    1
    0


    2014
    1
    0
    1
    1*


    2015
    3
    3
    2
    1


    2016
    2
    0
    3
    1


    2017
    2
    1
    1
    1


    2018
    1
    0
    1
    1


    2019
    2
    1
    2
    1


    Total[td15][/td]

    6
    11
    6
    [/table]
     
    The MLB hitter and pitcher columns show the number of major league players involved. Impact trades could be either the major league player was good the year of the deal and/or after the deal, or one or more the minor league players is/was. Good is subjective, but I’m going for more than 1 fWAR in any given year as the litmus test.
     
    Not surprisingly, there just aren’t that many trades in the first half of June. Teams aren’t sure if they are in or out of the race, and those that are sure aren’t certain what they really need yet. More importantly, most articles and analyses on the internet indicate that teams wait until later to deal, in hopes of having more leverage (and getting a better deal). This aligns well with options theory, but we’ll have to do more analysis to see if waiting works or not.
     
    *In 2014, Manny Pina was traded. He was not a major league player at the time, so he doesn’t appear in the table above. But, he was pretty good for Milwaukee in 2017 and 2018.
     
    Mark Trumbo was part of a deal in 2015. He put up decent numbers after the trade, then a good season in the next year. Now? Not so much. But, he put up half a fWAR after the deal, and 2.2 in 2016. The other side of that deal? Welington Castillo went to Arizona. He was good that year, and in 2016 and 2017. Luckily for Twins fans, he’s not been as good in Chicago! Dominic Leone also went to AZ. He had one good year, but it wasn’t for them…..
     
    Chris Coghlan was traded in 2016, back to the Cubs. He put up .9 fWAR after the deal, but was hitless in 9 post season at bats. He fell off a cliff after that year. The player traded for him played parts of two seasons, and has bounced around the minors.
     
    2017 saw a name that might be in trade talks again in 2019 move in early June….Sam Dyson. He and cash were dealt for a player that is currently 26 and in AAA. Dyson has been good, but not great, though this year he has put up .5 fWAR in half a season. His traditional numbers are more impressive, probably, than his WAR would show…..Why was he so cheap? He was awful in Texas. Did his current team fix something, or is it the park/league?
     
    Last year? One reason C. J. Cron was available this off season is that Tampa traded for Ji-Man Choi in early June of 2018. They got him for cash and Brad Miller. I bet Milwaukee would like to have that trade back…….
     
    Edwin Encarcion was recently traded for a minor leaguer, but mostly because the Yankees absorbed a good chunk of EE’s salary. The Mariners are all in on the all-important financial flexibility thing right now….
     
    I’m actually surprised that six years in a row there were some impactful major league players traded. Now, not one of those had been consistently good, but it does show that some good players move in early June. Not many of those were pitchers, btw.
     
     
    June 16-30
     
    [table]


    Year
    Number of Trades
    MLB Pitchers
    MLB HItters
    Impact Trades


    2013
    5
    0
    5
    3


    2014
    2
    2
    1
    1


    2015
    3
    1*
    2
    0


    2016
    3
    1
    2
    1


    2017
    3
    0
    4
    0


    2018
    2
    0
    2
    1


    2019
    0
    0
    0
    0


    Total
    18
    [4
    16
    6
    [/table]
     
    In 2013, Colin McHugh was traded (not to the Astros) and he became quite good with the Astros. But, it was not an impactful deal for either team involved in the deal. He is an impactful player in the deal, so it counts. Eric Thames was also dealt that year, and put up a couple decent years after that. No one else in those five deals has done much, though Colin Cowgil managed to barely clear the 1 fWAR line in 2014…..so three impactful players were dealt that year!
     
    2014 saw a rare pitcher for pitcher trade. One of them just cleared 1 fWAR the following year, but neither did anything much. Neither did the hitter traded that year. Really, calling 1 year of fWAR impactful seems like maybe too low a bar…….I’d call it almost useful for 1 year, but barely.
     
    In 2015 AZ sent the injured *Bronson Arroyo and Touki Toussaint to Atlanta for a guy. Touki could be a real piece for Atlanta. This was clearly a salary dump situation, where Atlanta basically bought Toussaint for Arroyo’s contract. So far, though, he’s not produced even one half WAR, so maybe not.
     
    Chris Paddack and Fernando Rodney were traded for each other (so maybe pitcher for pitcher trades aren't rare?) in 2016. This looks like a great trade for the Padres for sure. Rodney, of course, has been ok to effective after that but was terrible in Miami. I’m still trying to figure out what Miami was doing…..No other trade that year mattered, unless you still pine for Oswaldo Arcia….
     
    There were no interesting trades in 2017 in the second half of June.
     
    Steve Pearce was quite good last year for Boston. He was traded for an ok AA player. The other trade last year was not all that interesting.
     
    This year? Well….there were zero trades in the second half of June.
     
    So, the second half of June saw one really good player change hands, plus Steve Pearce who was quite good last year for Boston. Other than that, not many players/trades mattered all that much. It’s an odd coincidence that there were six trades that cleared the approximately 1 fWAR barrier in both parts of June, but it’s just a coincidence.
     
    What did we learn?
     
    That depends on what you already knew, I guess……But here’s a summary of what I learned!
     
    Some good players have been traded in June. Most of those involved salary dumps, or odd decisions by poorly run teams (Miami, for example). There just are not many trades in June at all, and most of them amount to nothing much. It’s hard to criticize any team for not making deals before July, given this data. The best players were either picked up in salary dumps, or were near MLB ready minor league players (admittedly, those in the lower minors have not had a chance to do much yet. That said, in a quick glance, none look like big time prospects either).
     
    In other words, I'm not surprised nothing has happened much this year, given what has happened in recent history.
     
    In the next post, we’ll look at the first three weeks of July…..
  6. Like
    Blake reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, The Come Up and Buy in for Odorizzi   
    Needing a starting pitcher, the Minnesota Twins front office send minor leaguer Jermaine Palacios to the Tampa Bay Rays for Jake Odorizzi. Palacios had some hype but was never a top prospect, while Odorizzi had been largely mediocre and was set to turn 28. It’s hard not to see more upside in a big-league starter under team control, but this leap forward has been immense for the former Tampa starter.
     
    Odorizzi was often chided for his efforts by Twins fans last season. He posted a 4.49 ERA backed by a 4.20 FIP. The 8.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 were right in line with career norms. On a bad team he was hardly a large issue and generally pitched better than the surface level numbers suggested. In 2019 he’s gone gangbusters though, and he’s made his first All Star game to show for it.
     
    Cooling off some over the last few weeks, Odorizzi still owns a 2.73 ERA and 9.9 K/9 across 85.2 IP. His FIP and xFIP suggest a bit more regression could be coming, but there’s a visible change that’s been made by the pitcher Minnesota trots out as their number two starter. Having been a low 90’s guy his whole big-league career, Odorizzi has added two mph of velocity under the tutelage of Wes Johnson and is now averaging 93.1 mph on the pitch this season. Not only is he throwing harder, but Odorizzi has shifted his repertoire to flip a career high number of sinkers, taking away from both his cutter and splitter.
     
    This new version of Odorizzi is giving up a career high percentage of hard-hit balls, but he’s missing bats at record marks as well. The 12.4% whiff rate is a new high-water mark, while his contact rate is down to just 74.3% and the zone contact rate stands under 80% (78.5%) for the first time in his career. A slight jump in hard hit rate could be explainable through the increased velocity, but even still with that development, missing more barrels is the key component here.
     
    Over the course of his career Odorizzi has averaged 1.2 HR/9 and has never been below the 1.0 mark. Through his first 16 starts he’s allowed just eight homers and is at 0.8 HR/9 on the season. Shedding hits and walks as well, the 1.074 WHIP stands out on its own. Having been integrated into the Twins system a year ago, and now working with a pitching thinktank that’s been overhauled, he’s reaping the rewards.
     
    Next season Odorizzi will find himself on the open market for the first time in his career. The Twins have a couple of holes in their rotation that they’ll need to commit arms to. We don’t yet know how the club will navigate the trade market but extending a guy they already have in house may certainly make some sense.
     
    Last season Jake Odorizzi was getting his feet wet with Minnesota and simply going through the motions he had always practiced to compete. This season he’s been given a few new tools that have taken his game to the next level and everyone involved has benefitted from it.
     
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  7. Like
    Blake reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Odorizzi Confirming What’s Always Been   
    Prior to the 2018 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins acquired Jake Odorizzi in exchange for Jermaine Palacios. At the time, Palacios was a second or third tier prospect that had some internal fanfare. Swapping him for a big-league starter was a no-brainer though. Jake’s first season with the Twins was mostly mediocre, but there was reason to believe he was better than the numbers.
     
    Across 32 starts a season ago Odorizzi owned a 4.49 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and a 3.8 BB/9. He dropped his home run rate significantly, and while the WHIP was a career worst, a 4.20 FIP suggested a bit more was in the tank. Fast forward to where we are today and Odorizzi owns a league best 1.96 ERA, 9.8 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9. His 226 ERA+ leads the league and he has all the makings of a Cy Young candidate.
     
    In terms of increased production, nothing has substantially jumped off the page. The step forward has been the culmination of tweaks made across the board. Jake now owns a strikeout rate of 28%, a 6% increase over his 2018 mark. The walks are down while both the homers and hits have tailed off as well. If there’s something substantial to note, it’s the incredible 83.6% strand rate.
     
    Batted ball profiles suggest that hitters are producing the same type of contact against the former Rays starter. Hard hit rates are static over the past two years, and trajectories are also all in line. The difference in induced contact likely comes in the form of velocity and offering. Odorizzi has added 2 mph to his average fastball, and the 11% curveball usage is over double the rate that it’s been since any point following 2013.
     
    You’d have been hard pressed to see comments with a positive tone regarding many of Odorizzi’s starts a season ago. Despite the mediocre results, and a bit better in terms of peripherals, there wasn’t much excitement about the possibility of a 2019 rebound. Today we’re in a place that Odorizzi is often looked upon as a certainty when toeing the rubber, and the results have followed. It’s hard not to be happy about the reality that the changes haven’t been dramatic.
     
    If there’s an extension candidate in the Twins rotation, then Odorizzi is it. Still just 29 years old, he should have more than a few years of high-level production still ahead of him. Knowing Minnesota has a few rotation holes to fill for the year ahead, Odorizzi slotting in as one of the guarantees would be a welcomed presence. Unfortunately, by waiting through this season Minnesota will have to deal with an inflated price tag. At the end of the day though, the Twins aren’t hurting for cash flow and wrapping up a starter this good is something they should jump at.
     
    Derek Falvey and Wes Johnson have helped to overhaul the Twins pitching process, and the infrastructure set up throughout the system makes it a sustainable solution for years to come.
     
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  8. Like
    Blake reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, Miguel Sanó--Hitter and Fielder   
    With the announcement that Nelson Cruz suffered a wrist injury yesterday, my immediate thought was who would replace him in the lineup and on the roster if he had to go on the injured list. It would appear to me that the answer is the much-discussed Miguel Sanó, who is on his third and last stop in his rehab program.
     
    Much has been written about Sanó. I wish to confine this discussion to the ballplayer between the lines. The other stuff has been beaten to death IMHO. What will the Twins get when a healthy Sanó is on the active roster?
     
    Sanó came up to the big leagues with much hype in 2015. He was going to be the power hitter the Twins hadn't had since Harmon Killebrew. Another comparison, because of size, was Frank Thomas. Sanó's rookie year was excellent. Despite being called up only at midseason, he was a contender for Rookie-of-the-Year. His traditional state line--.269 BA, 18 homers, 52 RBI was very good. Double the homers and RBIs for a full season, and there is a perennial All-Star, future Hall of Famer. Plus, he was only 22 years of age. A deeper look at his rookie stats was probably even more encouraging, while Miguel struck out over 100 times (in a half season), he also walked more than 50 times, giving him a solid OBP of .385. His OPS was a stellar .916 which yielded an OPS+ of 149. After a minor injury, Miguel only played 11 games in the field, so we couldn't be sure about his defense. For his superior half-season of work, Miguel Sanó was voted the Twins' Player of the Year.
     
    2016 started with Sanó installed as the new right fielder. He was never competent or comfortable there and it seemed to affect his hitting. After a month and a half of futility in right field, Miguel moved back to third to demonstrate a rocket arm, but less-than-soft hands. His metrics at third came in below average, but at least he could hit. Well, the hitting didn't go as well either. Sanó ended up playing in 116 game, having an OPS of .781 with 19 homers and 51 RBI as the Twins flailed and failed and lost over 100 games. Sanó missed over 30 games due to injuries. Again, a deeper look into Sanó's numbers is a mixed bag. In 160 additional plate appearances, Sanó only hit one more homer than 2015, his walk rate plummeted while his strikeout rate stayed basically steady. The batting average ended at .236 and his OBP fell to.319.
     
    Sanó was a deserved All-Star in 2017. He came to camp as the third baseman, healthy and came out of the gate on fire. His first-half stats were outstanding--.276, 21 homers, 62 RBI and his defense at third was satisfactory. The strikeout rate remained about the same (35%), but he also walked 44 times, a big improvement over 2016 and the OBP was .368 at the break.
     
    Since the 2017 All-Star break, Miguel Sanó hasn't been very good. The combined numbers from the second half of '17 and 2018 are .211 BA, 20 homers, 56 RBI. OBP at .292, slugging .408, with an OPS of .700. The walk rate is below 10% and the strikeout rate is 38%. These are not future Hall-of-Fame numbers. They aren't even starter numbers. In addition, according to metrics (and my eyes) Sanó remains a below-average third baseman, despite a plus-plus arm.
     
    To summarize this rather elongated prologue, Sanó's on-field performance has been a roller coaster. He started looking like one of the brightest stars, faded, came back to that level again and faded again. Does this up-and-down have to do with injuries? Certainly. The point here is to suggest that the Twins shouldn't be counting on Sanófor too much. Expectations of another Frank Thomas or Miguel Cabrera should be tempered by now. I think they should expect more than they gotten since the All-Star break of 2017. They should get more than Mark Reynolds-like production. If the strikeouts keep coming and the homers are too infrequent, he can still be optioned. This club looks like at least a contender for postseason. If that is the case, they shouldn't be playing guys based on potential or upside.
     
    Miguel Sanó is at a crossroads in his career (in my opinion). He soon will have a chance to step on stage with a good team and help them make postseason, and maybe have success there. He's now 26 and shouldn't be judged on what he might do, he should be judged by how he is actually performing on the field.As a Twins fan and a baseball fan, I hope he can find his earlier success. As someone who has seen a lot of hyped players come and go, I am a bit skeptical.
  9. Like
    Blake reacted to jorgenswest for a blog entry, Third Time Through The Order: Established Knowledge or Statistical Illusion?   
    Everyone knows that pitchers have much more difficulty the third time through the lineup. Right? Isn't this established baseball knowledge?
     
    Data does back it up. Anecdotally we hear stats on almost every baseball broadcast about how much poorer a pitcher performs his third time through the order. League wide there is data to support this claim. According to OPS+ here is how starting pitchers have performed the first, second and third time through the order this season.
     
    PA#1: 91 OPS+
    PA#2: 101 OPS+
    PA#3: 117 OPS+
     
    Wow! There is a huge difference between a 91 OPS+ batter and a 117 OPS+ batter.
     
    We can see it in the ERA also.
     
    PA#1: 4.08
    PA#2: 4.20
    PA#3: 4.57
     
    Teams may be making significant decisions based on this data.
     
    I am skeptical. I think the data is very skewed by the group. A pitcher facing a team the third time through is guaranteed to face the better hitters on the team and unlikely to face the weaker hitters on a team the third time through. We can see it in the data.
     
    PAs 1st time through: 37803
    PAs 3rd time through: 22470
     
    The majority of those missing 15333 plate appearances come from players who would have been batting at or near the bottom of the order. The top 6 position is the batting order have an OPS+ of 110. The bottom 3 (excluding pitchers) have an OPS+ of 87. I don't have data including pitchers for the group but the 9th place hitters have an OPS+ of 56 with pitchers so that 87 would certainly be lower.
     
    That OPS+ range of 23 between the early part of the order and the bottom of the order nearly matches the OPS+ range of 26 between the first time through the order and the third time through the order.
     
    Maybe this shouldn't be established baseball knowledge. Maybe a pitcher's performance really hasn't dropped significantly the third time through. Maybe it is the statistical illusion created by the group. The majority of the hitters in the third time through group are simply the better hitters.
     
    I wondered if there might be a different angle to attack the question of whether a pitcher's skill level really drops the third time he sees a hitter.
     
    I used baseball reference play index and looked at the group of batters instead. Using the season 2015-2017 and selecting a minimum of 570 plate appearances in those seasons I created a group of 294 batting seasons. I wondered if those batters as a group performed significantly better the third time they saw a pitcher.
     
    Here is the median OPS+ of the group according to time through the order.
     
    PA#1: 101 OPS+
    PA#2: 102 OPS+
    PA#3: 105.5 OPS+
     
    The third plate appearance was better the third time through. The range as we often hear when reported in terms of pitchers is not nearly as vast. In fact it might not be worthy of comment on a broadcast.
     
    Of the 294 seasons for a batter in 2015-2017, 113 of those seasons the batter had their best OPS in their third at bat.
     
    PA#1 - Best OPS 31% of batters
    PA#2 - Best OPS 31% of batters
    PA#3 - Best OPS 38% of batters
     
    More batters had their best OPS+ the third time they saw a pitcher. I wouldn't describe it as many more though. I am not sure that a pitcher's ability drops that significantly the third time through the order. I think much of the reported difference is simply the group of batters who they happen to see the third time through.
     
    Batters do seem to perform slightly better the third time they see a pitcher over the last three seasons. Is that difference enough to drive decisions about a pitching staff? Is the opener a solution to this problem? Does a real problem exist? Those better hitters at the top of the order are likely to get an extra at bat against someone every game. If the solution is using an opener, that opener is going to have to be a really good pitcher to get through a team's best hitters.
     
    Note: Baseball Reference Play Index was used to gather the data.
  10. Like
    Blake reacted to Thrylos for a blog entry, Back to the future: Twins RHP Kyle Gibson has returned to his roots and quietly has become the pitcher we hoped he would be.   
    Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch
    ----
    In a cold May evening about 5 years go, give or take a week, I witnessed one of the most dominating pitching performances I have seen in person: Twins' first round draft pick in 2009, righty Kyle Gibson, about a year removed from his return from Tommy John surgery, shut down the Lehigh Valley IronPigs with a three-hitter, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning. This was when the Twins were on their way to another season flirting with 100 losses and were conflicting reports regarding Gibson's pitching, so I really wanted to see what Gibson could do. In person. Here is how I described his performance 5 years ago:
     
    I was very lucky to be there because this was a magnificent pitching performance by Gibson. I came in with an open mind and nothing to expect and I left a strong believer in that Gibson is the best starting pitcher the Twins have today. A bit about his performance, and I am not going to get into things like numbers, which you can read elsewhere: He had four pitches that he threw when he wanted with a great command. His fastball was his primary pitch and was sitting from 92-94 all night long. It spiked to 95 a few times and went to 91 a couple. It was at 94 in the 9th inning as well. in the first 5 innings he mostly threw his fastball and his slider, which ran from 84 to 86 and really kept the IronPigs' hitters off balance, causing a lot of swings and misses. Have to mention that Gibson had impeccable command of the fastball: he would locate it up and down and inside and out. And throw it at the dirt when he wanted to. In the latest innings he started throwing more his change up that was running from 81-83 mph with a good late motion; also he featured a tight slow curve (78-80 mph) that I did not realize he had. He threw that pitch a few times late in the game. He was totally on top of his game today. In addition to what he did on the field, a thing that really impressed me was his composure in the dugout, knowing that he was having a no-hitter: he was sitting there cheering his teammates and clapping when they were batting, instead of being "in his own world" and apathetic about the game. This was a dominating performance that, I think that won him his first trip to the majors. Frankly, I thought that I will witness history and it was that close...
     
    After the game ended, Gibson was interviewed in the dugout after the game, and when that was done, I yelled something like "Great game! See you in Minnesota soon, Kyle!" towards him, and he smiled and dismissed the Minnesota part with a hand gesture. My answer was a "We'll see!".
     
    LENIII penned this about that game the next day:
     
    Class AAA Rochester righthander Kyle Gibson had his best outing of the year on Sunday, taking a no hitter into the eighth inning before finishing with a three-hit complete game shutout as the Red Wings beat Lehigh Valley 11-0. Gibson needed just 93 pitches for his gem – 58 were strikes, 35 were balls. He walked two and struck out eight as his record Improved to 3-5 with a 3.25 ERA
     
    In retrospect nobody noticed the fact that Gibby threw only 62% of his pitches for strikes or noted that it might have been something undesirable, because you cannot argue with the results.
     
    Fast forward a bit over a month. June 29th. I was happened to be in the East suburbs of St. Paul that week for work. A friend of mine who is a season ticket holder treated me to one of his tickets at the Delta sky360 club, so I got to witness, Gibson's first major league start. In that game, he beat the Royals (who were actually starting Wade Davis) in a six inning, 8 hit, 5 strikeout, 2 run performance. He threw 91 pitches and 64 for strikes (70%).
     
    The next several years have been up and down for Gibson, until his 3 game demotion to Rochester last season. He came back and pitched 11 games, of which the Twins won 9, striking out 8.4 per 9 innings, and walking about 2.1 per nine, while throwing only 63% of his pitches for strikes. And nobody thought that this was a bad thing. In 8 games that season, of which the Twins have won 5, he has been striking out 10.1 per nine, walking 4.4 per nine, and throwing 59% of his pitches for strikes (which only some Twins' TV broadcasters think its a bad thing, based on the comments in his Angel's start.)
     
    What happened to that Kyle Gibson of five years ago in my back yard, and what happened for him to slowly appear to be back?
     
    My hypothesis is that Kyle Gibson got Ricked and Neiled out of shape, being forced to be a pitcher he is not. Both Rick Anderson and Neil Allen, his previous pitching coaches have been stressing "pounding the strike zone" and inducing soft contact either with the sinker or the changeup. And this approach had been a top to bottom approach in the organization, in the previous Twins' front office. Change happened and it is a good thing. The new pitching approach throughout the organization is try to get ahead of the count and then let them chance, either outside, or inside or high.
     
    And this has been working for Kyle Gibson who went back to his roots. In Saturday's game against the Angels, he even brought back his rarely thrown and ever rarer for strikes curveball when he faces certain batters the second time. That description up there of his performance with Rochester, against Lehigh Valley five years ago, would be pretty close to what he did against the Angels, save a hit or few... Gibson has been pitching to his strengths and it took an organizational overhaul to allow him (and the rest of the Twins' pitchers) to do that. Other than Fernando Romero who pitched only two games and will be the Twins' future ace, Gibson leads the Twins' starters in ERA, FIP, K% and K/9, fWAR, and is second only to Berrios in innings pitched per start.
     
    It seems that Gibson is finally the pitcher we all thought that he will be five years ago. Better late than never, and I hope that it is here to stay.
     
    And a parting food for thought about those who might be bothered by the strike percentage and Gibson's walks: This season Gibson's K/9 and BB/9 numbers are up there. The pitcher who struck out the most batters in baseball, has a career 9.5 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9, both worse than Gibson's numbers this season. Not that Gibson is close to Nolan Ryan; however strikeout pitchers walk hitters as well, and hitters strike out often on balls and hit strikes. It is ok. Results are what matters.
  11. Like
    Blake reacted to Vanimal46 for a blog entry, Whine Line Investigation: Explanation for a Boring Off-season   
    http://gentlemint-media.s3.amazonaws.com/images/2012/04/18/6745f59b.jpg.505x650_q85.jpg

     
     
    ANND Welcome! To Minnesota Twins Whine Line: Detective Edition! I'm your LEAD Investigator, Vanimal, along with my trusty sidekick, the intern. Since we last checked in, both of us set down the PS4 controllers, put MLB The Show back in the case, and studied for our Private Investigator license! In the real world, we noticed that it's January 30th, and 8 out of the top 10 free agents have still yet to sign! It's a strange, boring off-season... There's been several STRONG takes about why this is happening... And we're no different! We decided to put on our Deerstalker, and dive deep into the REAL reason why recent off-seasons are boring...
     
    Collusion: It happened once before, so it could happen again, right? That's what we thought too! Until we put it to the test using real world examples... Have you ever arranged a conference call with 30 busy people before? It's NEARLY impossible to do! Plus, they would waste countless hours of time! Owners will be talking over each other, waiting for others to take themselves off mute, jumping on the line 25 minutes late, and needing to "circle back at a later time." All of that sounds exhausting....
     
    Whine Line Verdict: False.
     
    Waiting for a Sale: As consumers, we're accustomed to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, 4th of July BLOWOUTS, or "just because!" sales. Doesn't it feel good to purchase what you wanted, for a 30% discount! Of course it does! General Managers are humans too, and they want to feel like they got a discount... Now these days he could look at MLBTradeRumors, FanGraphs, even the Twins Daily Handbook to find salary projections of free agents. Where's the excitement?! The THRILL of the hunt?! Perhaps they're waiting for their Cyber Monday sale....
     
    Whine Line Verdict: Certainly possible!
     
    Too Many Options: Typically at this time of year, 1 or 2 of the top free agents are left unsigned... If that! This year, there are 4 to 8 times as many options! Is it possible that General Managers are frozen in fear because there's too many players to choose from? We took our investigation on the road to get to the bottom of it!
     
    ANNND Welcome back! We're broadcasting LIVE from the Cheesecake Factory! That's right, the home of a 20 page menu.... If you can't find something to eat here, you're not looking hard enough! In order to test this theory, the intern and I gave ourselves a 30 minute window to decide what to order...
     
    WAITER: "Here are your waters, gentleman. Do you have any questions about the menu? Or know what you want?"
    VAN: "I think we need a little bit of time. There's so many options here. Any specials?"
    WAITER: "Today's soup of the day is split-pea, and we also have a Philly cheese steak with your choice of fries, salad, fruit, onion rings, or vegetable."
    VAN: "Wow, even the sides have a bunch of options to choose from... Okay, we need some time."
     
    8 minutes later...
     
    WAITER: "Are you ready to order? Questions at all?"
    VAN: "Yeah, a few questions. I'm debating between the Avocado BLT, Philly cheese steak, Chicken Parmesan, or Chicken Enchiladas. What would you choose?"
    WAITER: "Hmm, well, our Philly is one of the most popular orders today. The Chicken Parmesan is okay, but I would recommend our Spaghetti and Meatballs over that. And frankly, you're better off going somewhere else for Mexican food."
    VAN: "That helps... And the Cobb Salad?"
    WAITER: "I mean, it's a salad.... So... How about you sir, are you ready?"
    INTERN: "I'll have the uh, chi.... No. Not that. Umm.... Can you come back to me?"
    WAITER: "Guys, I do have other tables to tend to. I'll come back later."
     
    13 minutes later....
     
    WAITER: "Okay, how about now?"
    INTERN: "I.... I...... I JUST CAN'T DECIDE! Please, come back to me, okay?"
    WAITER: "Are you crying, sir?"
    INTERN: "It's your fault! There isn't a perfect option to order... EVERYTHING has flaws!"
    WAITER: "Okay, this is getting weird. What about you, sir?"
    VAN: "I have narrowed it down to 2 items, and I will get back to you by the end of the week."
    WAITER: "This ISN'T how this works, sir. Look, guys, it's only lunch. You're just spending some money now... It's not like you're trading me your watch, or I don't know... a top prospect like Nick Gordon in order to eat. So what do you say? Let's figure this out before my shift is over, okay?"
    VAN & INTERN: "Wow... This HAS to be how Falvine feels signing free agents.... I've seen the light!"
     
    Whine Line Verdict: TRUE
  12. Like
    Blake reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, I do not want Darvish, but thanks for disagreeing.   
    I do not know how to make this case for TD except in this short blog. I love the ability to discuss, debate and disagree without antagonism.
    ​As you have seen and responded to - I am the anti Darvish guy, at least in years 3 and beyond and the likes and the responses have been wonderful. This is what a sight like this is best at doing.
     
    I choose to be the contrarian and I have tried to express that as many ways as I can. Should I pull all of my statements together here?
    ​But that is not my point. It is the wonderfully civil discourse that has happened that really pleases me. Do I care if you all agree? No. I just want an ability to challenge the prevailing attitude.
    ​I want to say no without being angry or responding to your disagreement in an angry way.
     
    All of the comments are spread throughout the various posts and dialogues and I have truly enjoyed every argument and challenge.
    ​Thanks to all of you and to TD.
  13. Like
    Blake reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Bregman Hits Home For Twins   
    On Monday June 8, 2015 the Houston Astros franchise changed. Really, every franchise across Major League Baseball changed as they added an influx of new talent through the First-Year player draft. Houston though, selected a shortstop from LSU with the second overall pick, and Alex Bregman set forth on a path that would greatly enhance the Astros future.
     
    In this same draft, the Twins would select 6th overall. Following the selections of three collegiate players and two high-schoolers, they chose left-handed pitcher Tyler Jay. While Jay had served only as a closer at the University of Illinois, the thought was that he could be developed into a top tier starter for Minnesota. It was considered somewhat of a puzzling pick at the time, and Jay has yet to bear fruit at the big league level. That said, the jury isn't out on him yet, but that also isn't the story here.
     
    The 2015 draft had plenty of talent throughout that first round. Dansby Swanson led a strong Braves system for some time, Brendan Rodgers looks the part of a game-changer for the Rockies, and Andrew Benintendi would've been the American League Rookie of the Year had Aaron Judge not existed. All of those things are true, but the focus here is on Bregman, his position, and how he ties into the Minnesota Twins.
     
    Drafted as a shortstop out of Louisiana State, Bregman entered an organization that employed a 20 year-old Rookie of the Year named Carlos Correa. While Correa is a bigger shortstop at 6'4" 215 lbs, he's handled the position just fine defensively, and his .863 OPS is an incredible asset at one of baseball's most demanding positions. The Astros though weren't only rich in terms of Correa up the middle, there was a glut of options. Jose Altuve is going to hold down second base until he retires, and the combination of Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar both looked more than capable for Houston.
     
    In 2016, Bregman played in 49 games for Houston, spending just a total of 146 games on the farm. His .891 OPS at the minor league level was more than suggestive of a new challenge. At the big league level, Bregman debuted with a .791 OPS that was bolstered by strong slugging numbers. The K/BB ratio (52/15) left plenty to be desired, and both his average (.264) and OBP (.313) sagged because of it. With so much raw talent however, the belief was that 2017 could represent a breakout year.
     
    After a spring training that included time with Team USA during the World Baseball Classic, Bregman was set to be the Astros every day third basemen. Recently acquired Yuli Gurriel would move to first, and the Houston infield was set. In 155 games this season, Bregman posted an .827 OPS and turned in a respectable 2:1 K/BB rate (97/55). His average and OBP jumped significantly, and he became yet another asset for the Astros. Drafted as a shortstop, he played third, short, and second base in Houston during 2017.
     
    Looking at the Astros top 30 prospects as ranked by MLB.com currently, their 12th, 17th, and 24th best players are all shortstops. Despite having arguably the best infield in baseball, there's still talent behind them. This is where the Twins correlation comes into play.
     
    With plenty of talk regarding the selection of Royce Lewis with the #1 overall pick this season, Minnesota now boasts shortstops with it's #1, 2, 5, and 26 best prospects per MLB.com. The idea that there is a need to figure out where the can all play becomes immediately laughable. What Bregman and the Astros have once again displayed, is that talent can slot in anywhere.
     
    More often than not, shortstops and centerfielders are among the best players on a 25 man roster. Minnesota boasts an elite centerfielder in Byron Buxton, but there's plenty of room for a talent rich farm system to bear fruit at the next level. Lewis, Nick Gordon, Wander Javier, Jermaine Palacios, Luis Arraez, and Jelfry Marte all working out for the Twins would be among the best problems to have. Although there's only room for one person to play shortstop at a time, generating a 25 man roster with the best overall talent you possess is a great blueprint for success.
     
    At some point, Minnesota will need to figure out how Jorge Polanco, Brian Dozier, Nick Gordon, and Royce Lewis can all coexist. There's a second wave of talent behind them that can factor in soon enough as well. While that is something Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will be tasked with deciphering, it's hardly a problem that the Twins would rather not have.
     
    Entering the 2015 Major League Baseball draft, Alex Bregman probably had dreams of making a deep jump throw from the hole a la Derek Jeter. When he was taken by the Astros, he probably considered the current state of the infield being locked down up the middle for some time to come. On October 30th 2017 however, he's got dreams of two incredible throws to home from the hot corner, and a World Series ring well within his sights.
     
    Drafting for talent will never hurt you in baseball, and both the Astros and Twins would love to have a plethora of Alex Bregman's lined up to fill a spot.
     
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  14. Like
    Blake reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Making The Most Of Molitor   
    Coming into 2017, the Minnesota Twins were entering uncharted waters. A new front office was at the helm, and the captain of the dugout was managing for his life. Now, as the season rolls towards a conclusion, lots has changed but plenty still remains unknown. Without a new contract in place for 2018, it's time to begin wondering about the future of Paul Molitor and the Minnesota Twins.
     
    Personally, I'm inclined to suggest that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine move on. While Molitor has been an integral part of the organization for many years, his value as a manager has never seemed anything but average at best. At times, it's seemed to be a struggle for him to relate to youth (which is the current lifeblood of the 25 man), and in game managerial decisions have been passable at best. Going forward, I'd hardly be disappointed in seeing the new regime bring in their guy, with the hopes of them helping the organization reach new heights.
     
    Taking a step back however, and viewing things from what may (or is likely to) happen, who heads the Twins active roster in 2018 is a bit more confusing. There's plenty of reason to believe that Molitor will garner (and maybe even win) a handful Manager of the Year votes. The expectation from a national sense was that the Twins should be terrible. I'd argue that was misguided, and 2016 was more a reflection of the volatility that is young players. Minnesota wasn't expected to be a playoff team in 2017, but even a 90 loss season seemed laughable from the outset.
     
    So, with Molitor's team positioned for a serious run at the 2nd Wild Card, it's fair to include him among the best manager's in the American League for 2017. He'll face stiff competition for the award in the form of both Terry Francona and A.J. Hinch. The Angels Mike Scioscia should get consideration as well, given that roster probably had even less talent than the Twins, and they have found a way to stay afloat as well. Whether the Twins skipper takes home hardware or not, the inclusion among the conversation only clouds the future further.
     
    Let's operate under the assumption that Minnesota makes the playoffs and Molitor wins the award. In this scenario, the Twins manager would generate what should be quantified as two victories. In the front office though, it will be interesting to see what level of weight that holds. Recently fired Doug Mientkiewicz was produced winners throughout the minor leagues, and the message there screams of a guy that didn't fit the direction of the club going forward. At the highest level, it's probably a bit more difficult to can a manager that would have accomplished so much. Suggesting it's out of the realm of possibility isn't something I'm prepared to do, but you'd have to imagine the Twins brass better be well prepared for an explanation.
     
    Should we assume Molitor is retained, whether on a single-year deal or a multi-year extension, there's a few conversations I think Falvey and Levine would be inclined to have with their skipper. Focusing on those of integral importance, here'
    s a brief list:
    Bullpen usage- Over the course of his tenure as Twins manager, Molitor has made more than his fair share of head scratching relief decisions. Whether playing into odd splits, relying on a guy too far, or over exposing a specific arm, there's plenty of room for growth here. It may be micromanaging to suggest a checks and balances system, but Paul clearly could use some prodding in more than a handful of relief situations.
    Bunt deployment- Specifically the sacrifice bunt. Over the course of 2017, bunting has become more prevalent for the Twins than at any point I can recall previously. Whether having your cleanup hitter (regardless of who it is) drop down a sacrifice, or living by it in general, it's run way too rampant among a strong lineup. Minnesota has shown an ability to score runs, and a forward thinking front office can't be please with the general willingness to surrender free outs.
    Relation to youth- This has been somewhat curbed by the additions of help to his coaching staff. At times in his first two seasons, it seemed Molitor was quick to wash his hands of a player. When struggles arose for a young player, they were quickly jettisoned back to the farm, and growth at the highest level was rarely achieved. Knowing that it's on the backs of a youth movement that Minnesota regains its prominence among the AL Central, Molitor will have to commit to uplifting and utilizing players without a significant track record.
    Adaptation of numbers- Admittedly, I have no idea what level of value sabermetrics play in a game by game basis for Molitor or the Twins. That said, it's become apparent that Falvey and Levine put a great deal of stock in numbers. Minnesota is committing to winning off the field by developing a greater Baseball Analytics department, and the goal would seemingly be to implement those ideas on the field. Being an elder statesmen of the game, that's something that Molitor will have to be open to, and utilize.

    At the end of the day, I'd suggest with near certainty that missing the playoffs results in Molitor being let go. A Wild Card exit probably also gets him fired, and even a Divisional Series defeat could see him walking through the door. Things become a bit more complicated if he's given the award (though I think regardless he's behind Francona), but as we saw with Mientkiewicz, the new front office has a direct plan. It may be nice to see a fresh face, maybe someone in the vein of Sandy Alomar Jr., but there's little to suggest that a drastic difference follows a change as well. No matter what the Twins do for their skipper in 2018, I'd imagine there will be more of a front office reflection on the field, and that's something I can get behind.
     
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  15. Like
    Blake reacted to SD Buhr for a blog entry, Eddie Rosario: Symptom or Solution?   
    The Minnesota Twins lost this afternoon.
     
    Ordinarily, I’d say things have reached the point where another Twins loss falls into the “dog bites man” category. It’s not exactly news.
     
    But this loss had a couple of things going for it that gave me cause to put pen to paper (figuratively, of course).
     
    (This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com.)
     
    First of all, I actually watched the game on television. Between attending Kernels games and being blacked out by MLB’s “local market” television rights policy, I don’t see many Twins games these days. I did, however, grab lunch at my local hangout and watch them lose 6-3 to the Detroit Tigers.
     
    Second, and more notably, was the day that Eddie Rosario had.
    http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Rosario16a-600x400.jpg
    Eddie Rosario (Photo: SD Buhr)

    Rosario had a bad day. It started in the first inning when he threw to the wrong base and failed to keep a runner from advancing. He had his typical no-plate-discipline day with the bat, striking out twice, while looking bad. He failed to make a catch on a “tweener” that fell for a hit in shallow left field. And then came the top of the seventh inning.
     
    Rosario grounded a single up the middle and, a couple of batters later, found himself at second base with two outs and the Twins trailing 5-1 with Joe Mauer at the plate. That’s when things got interesting.
     
    The Tigers went into a modified shift, with their shortstop barely to the left of second base and their third baseman, Nick Castellanos, playing deep and at least 25 feet away from third base. As Justin Verlander went into his stretch, Rosario took a walking lead off second and then broke for third.
     
    Verlander stepped back off the rubber and threw to third, but by the time Castellanos got to the bag and caught the throw, Rosario was there with relative ease.
     
    The Tigers continued their shift against Mauer and, on the next pitch, Rosario took an extended lead down the third base line, prompting Verlander to step back again and, since there was literally no infielder remotely close to third base, all he could do was take a few running steps at Rosario to force him back to the bag.
     
    Since Mauer ultimately struck out, it really didn’t matter where the Tigers placed their infielders, nor did it matter whether Rosario was on second or third base. And, I suppose, since the Twins only ultimately scored three runs in the game, while giving up six, I guess you could argue it wouldn’t have mattered if Rosario had managed to score.
     
    But all of it did matter. Boy did it matter.
     
    Because when the Twins took the field, Darin Mastroianni took Rosario’s spot in the outfield.
     
    You see, whether you call it conventional wisdom or one of baseball’s unwritten rules, Rosario was not supposed to steal third base with his team down four runs in the seventh inning and the team’s best hitter at the plate. He would, the argument goes, have scored on a Mauer single just as easily from second base as he would from third and stealing third base in that situation represented a risk greater than the potential reward.
     
    In his post-game comments to the media, manager Paul Molitor made it clear he wasn’t happy with Rosario.
     
    According to a Tweet from Brian Murphy of the Pioneer-Press, Molitor remarked, "The risk 100 fold is greater than reward. Being safe doesn’t make it right. I wanted to get Eddie out of the game at that point."
     
    Now, let me just say that I’ve been slow to be overly critical of Paul Molitor. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to the man personally and came away knowing with 100% certainty that he has “100 fold” more knowledge of baseball than I do.
     
    With that said, I believe he was wrong in this situation. I realize that in Molitor’s mind (and that of many, many baseball traditionalists), stealing third base in that situation was not something a runner should do.
     
    And maybe it wasn’t. But, while I’m open to that possibility, I don’t think it was as cut-and-dried as others (including Molitor, obviously) do.
     
    First, forget the four run deficit. If we know anything, it’s that every run matters. If you have a chance to improve your chances of scoring a run, you should do it. It’s not like the Tigers haven’t coughed up a four run lead lately. They couldn’t protect a lead of twice that many runs just two nights earlier.
     
    The steal (and subsequent excessive lead off third base) might have aggravated Verlander. But, I hope we can all agree that, even if it did, that doesn’t make what Rosario did wrong, in the least. If anything, aggravating the pitcher in that situation is what a runner SHOULD try to do.
     
    In fact, if I were to criticize Rosario for anything in this sequence, it might be for not continuing to take such a huge lead down the third base line that Verlander and the Tigers couldn’t possibly ignore him. Hell, let him try to steal home there if they insist on playing their nearest infielder 30 feet away from the bag. But, in all likelihood, his third base coach was reigning him in at that point.
     
    If Rosario had been MORE aggressive, rather than being wrangled in, maybe the Tigers would have been forced to abandon (or at least significantly modify) their shift against Mauer, and thus shifting the odds more in favor of him coming through with a hit to drive Rosario in.
     
    But Mauer struck out and Rosario was benched for his efforts.
     
    Now, maybe Molitor’s patience with Rosario had simply run out. After all, his poor throw in the first inning, his flailing at pitches and his allowing a ball to drop in the outfield were each arguably, by themselves, grounds for being yanked by his manager.
     
    Rosario has been bad most of the year and chances are he’d already be back in Rochester if Byron Buxton had played well enough to keep a big league roster spot. But Molitor and the Twins need a couple of outfielders on the roster than can cover some ground if they’re going to let Oswaldo Arcia and Miguel Sano spend a lot of time out there. So he’s still around (for now).
     
    I’m undoubtedly more of an “old-school” baseball fan than most Twins fans are, especially those fans who are active on social media. And I’m not a big Rosario fan. I’d have probably shipped him out, via trade, demotion or release, before now, even though part of me would love to see what the Twins could do with a Rosario-Buxton-Kepler outfield at some point.
     
    He frustrates me and I do believe his play is one major reason the Twins have underperformed (but just one of many reasons).
     
    But I loved what he did on the bases in the seventh inning and I think, by yanking him, Molitor sent a dangerous precedent with this team.
     
    The Twins have won just 10 games. They aren’t going to improve by just trying to play baseball in traditional methods better than they have been. They need to shake things up and start aggressively doing things in ways that their opponents aren’t expecting – and that’s what Rosario was doing.
     
    If your opponents don’t like that you’re stealing third base when they shift, that’s a good reason TO do it. Take chances. Manufacture runs. Be frigging aggressive in everything you do.
     
    That might make some people uncomfortable and one of those people very possibly is a baseball traditionalist like Molitor.
     
    Say what you will about Rosario and we could say plenty. Say he swings at too many bad pitches. Say he tries to throw lead runners out when he should keep force plays in effect. Say he takes unwise chances on the basepaths.
     
    But at least Rosario is trying to DO something different and when you've lost three quarters of your first 40-ish games of the season, maybe "different" is good.
     
    If the Twins are going to begin the transition to a roster of new young players, and take some lumps in the process, how about they at least instill a culture of aggressiveness while doing it. It may not prevent the Twins from losing 90 games (or even 100 games) this season, but it would at least be more fun to watch, wouldn’t it?
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