puckstopper1 reacted to Matthew Taylor for a blog entry, Twins Hitters 2019: By the Numbers
Part of what makes baseball such a special sport is that it, more than any other sport, is almost completely driven by numbers. Numbers will teach us who are the superstars of our sport and will expose players who are not. Because of this, it only seems fitting for my second blog post on Twins Daily to take a look back on the 2019 season and choose one number for each Minnesota Twins hitter that I think best encapsulates the season for that player. The players discussed in this post were the top 10 team leaders in plate appearances this season.
1. Jorge Polanco
GAMES PLAYED. In a Minnesota Twins season ravaged with injuries where the Twins saw 5 of their top 6 batters in fWAR spend time on the injured list, Polanco was the one constant in the Twins lineup. Polanco played in 94% of Twins games this season which actually undersells his availability as 2 of his 9 games on the bench came in the final week of the season when the Central had already been wrapped up. In a season where Polanco was an AL All-Star starter and a team leader in many batting statistics (R, H, 2B, 3B) it was difficult to not assign a hitting statistic as Polanco’s number, but as the old adage goes, “the best ability is availability” and Polanco’s availability was the most significant contribution to the Twins this season.
2. Max Kepler
OPS VS. LEFT HANDED PITCHING. Prior to this season, Max Kepler struggled mightily against left-handed pitchers. From his MLB debut through the end of last season, Max had posted a career .605 OPS versus left handed pitchers, well below league average. He performed so poorly versus southpaws that there was much talk through his early development that he might be limited to a platoon-type role with the Twins. This year, though, Kepler turned it all around and posted a well-above average .880 OPS versus lefties, even better than his excellent .845 OPS versus righties. Last offseason, Kepler signed an extremely team-friendly 5-year, $35M contract. If he continues to mash lefties the way he did in 2019 that contract will only continue to look better and better.
3. Eddie Rosario
PITCHES PER PLATE APPEARANCE. This is the first number on this list that should be taken negatively. While Eddie Rosario posted a career high in R, HR and RBI this season, what I will remember most from Rosario’s 2019 season is his impatience at the plate. A huge gripe among Twins’ faithful this season was Baldelli’s stubbornness with keeping Rosario in the cleanup spot all season. It was maddening to have Kepler, Polanco and Cruz work the opposing pitcher into 7 or 8 pitch ABs and mount a rally only to have Rosie bail the pitcher out with a pop out on the first pitch of the at bat. The 3.51 P/PA illustrates this feeling perfectly as he finished dead last on the club in this statistic.
4. Nelson Cruz
OPS. This was by far the easiest number for me to choose in this exercise. Anytime a player finishes with an OPS greater than 1, you know they had a special season. Not only did Cruz finish with the 2nd highest OPS in the American league this season, he finished with the 4th highest OPS EVER for a 38-year-old baseball player (behind Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Ty Cobb). Cruz was an unbelievable addition to this Minnesota Twins ball club. Most times when a team signs a 38 year old, they bring him in to be a veteran presence and a mentor in a young clubhouse. While Cruz was a great mentor and a fan-favorite, he was brought in to mash and he indeed mashed in 2019.
5. C.J. Cron
OPS AFTER JULY 6 THUMB INJURY. C.J. Cron, more than any other Twins player this season, had a Jekyll and Hyde season. Unfortunately for Cron, the Hyde to his Jekyll was completely injury related. Prior to July 6, C.J. was having a very solid season for the Twins as evidenced by his .821 OPS in 331 plate appearances. After management’s bungling of his thumb injury, though, Cron’s play suffered significantly as he saw his OPS dip 121 points and his K% increase from 19.3% to 25.6%. Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say, but I would love to see how Cron’s 2019 season would have played out if Baldelli & Crew would have allowed Cron’s thumb to heal completely instead of rushing him back into the lineup as they did.
6. Jonathan Schoop
BATTING WITH BASES LOADED. There was a lot of talk this season about how poorly the Twins performed in bases loaded situations, and rightly so. While the Twins were second in baseball this season with a .832 overall OPS, they managed to wind up 28th in baseball with a .568 OPS with the bases loaded. Nobody embodied this struggle with bases loaded better than Jonathan Schoop who ended the season with a goose egg in AVG, OBP and SLG% this season with the bases loaded in 8 trips to the plate. Of all the wild things that happened this Twins season, their complete ineptitude with the bases loaded tops the list for me, and Jonathan Schoop is the poster boy for it.
7. Marwin Gonzalez
NUMBER OF FIELDING POSITIONS PLAYED. When Marwin Gonzalez signed with the Twins on February 22, Twins fans were excited to bring in a good player who has played in pressure games on the biggest stage. What excited Twins fans most, though, was the versatility that Gonzalez would bring to the club, and we saw that play out all season. With so many injuries popping up throughout the year, Gonzalez’ ability to play anywhere on the diamond allowed the team to continue to fill in a potent lineup even without its biggest stars for much of the year. Gonzalez was able to fill in for Sano at third base for a month to start the season, fill in for Cron when he was hampered with his thumb injury, and ended the season playing in the corner outfield when Buxton’s shoulder injury forced Kepler into CF. Marwin certainly didn’t have his strongest hitting season and suffered his fair share of injuries throughout the year, but his ability to fill in across the diamond and in the outfield covered up a lot of holes and made Rocco Baldelli’s job a heck of a lot easier filling out his lineup card.
8. Miguel Sano
OPS AFTER JUNE 27. On June 26, the Twins suffered a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays in 18 innings. The bigger story that day, though, was Miguel Sano going 0-for-7 with 3 strikeouts. It was his second 0-for-7 performance in the last 10 days and brought his season batting totals down to .195/.278/.761. At this point, much of Twins twitter was clamoring for the Twins to send Sano down or even outright cut him. What Twins fans didn’t know, though, was that Sano was going through a complete swing transformation with hitting coach, James Rowson, and literally learning a completely new swing on the fly. Well, Rowson’s coaching and Sano’s hard work paid off in a big, big way as Sano posted a .271/.376/.618 line with a .994 OPS beginning the day after his 0-for-7 Tampa Bay performance through the end of the season. Needless to say, there’s not much clamoring from Twins Twitter for Sano to be cut anymore.
9. Luis Arraez
AGE. There are so many numbers that you could come up with for Arraez’s 2019 season and I wouldn’t blame for you picking any of them. The .334 average, the .399 OBP, the 29 (!!!) strikeouts, Arraez had a truly special season. The number that I settled on for “La Regadera”, though, was his age of 22. The Twins were able to generate an everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter from a rookie and with the way he has put up excellent numbers at every level of baseball in which he has played, there is no reason to believe that his 2019 season was any sort of mirage. Arraez’s 2019 season would have been considered incredible from a 32 year old, the fact that he put up the numbers he did at 22 years old should excite Twins everywhere.
10. Mitch Garver
OPS. It’s nice when you get to end an article like this with a player who had one of the greatest seasons of all time by a catcher and posted numbers that will blow away even the casual baseball fan. The number that encapsulates Garver’s 2019 season the most for me is his .995 OPS. This not only led all catchers this season (min. 350 PAs), but placed him 17th all-time in OPS for a catcher in a season (min. 350 PAs). Health certainly slowed down the end of Garver’s 2019 season, and unfortunately Garver wasn’t able to showcase his skills in front of a national audience in the postseason, but if Garver continues to hit the way he did this season he will become a household name in no time. Not bad for a guy who just finished his second full season in the majors.
What makes this list fun is that there are many different numbers that could be chosen for each hitter. I would love to hear in the comments what numbers you would have selected for the players I highlighted.
puckstopper1 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, One Day Makes Twins Difference
Over the weekend, Minnesota Twins fans felt the full gambit of emotions. After announcing that Anibal Sanchez had been given a major league deal, frustration was felt in full force. A bounce-back candidate that has ugly numbers of late wasn't going to gain much confidence for a revamped starting rotation. Then, a day later, Jake Odorrizi was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays and the tide felt like it had turned. Putting a bow on the Minnesota offseason, it's hard not to like where this team is headed.
Going into the offseason, the Twins had one focus in hopes of returning to Postseason play, fix the pitching. The 4.60 team ERA in 2017 came in 19th among MLB clubs, and the 7.31 K/9 was better than only the Texas Rangers. Both in the rotation and the pen, Paul Molitor's club needed better names and the ability to miss more bats. From the jump, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine knew this was where the focus had to be, and it appeared they had a plan to execute on.
Signing Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke, the Twins bring in two arms with little risk and a relatively high upside. Rodney is an experience, but his 10.6 K/9 is an asset, and he allows arms like Trevor Hildenberger to be deployed outside of the 9th inning. Duke isn't just a LOOGY, and he too is a punchout pitcher when healthy. There's little arguing that Addison Reed was the pen headliner this winter however. After signing a 2yr/$16.75M deal with Minnesota, Falvey and Levine had somehow landed one of the premier options on what looked like a budget deal. Yet to hit 30, Reed owns a career 9.5 K/9 and a 2/3 BB/9 that makes him arguably the best arm in Minnesota's relief corps.
While it's hard to overstate the importance of the three relief acquisitions on their own merits, it's also big to note what their inclusion does for Paul Molitor as a whole. Instead of rounding out the pen with toss in names, the Twins can now rely on arms like Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, and Ryan Pressly as complimentary pieces. Again, with the goal being a raised water level across the board, the front office accomplished that to a T in the pen.
From the outset of the winter Minnesota was tied to starter Yu Darvish. Given all of the factors, a union of the two sides made an immeasurable amount of sense from the home town perspective. Unfortunately, Darvish chose to sign with the Chicago Cubs in the end. Falvey and Levine may have ruled themselves out by failing to match the Cubs offer, but the likelihood always remained that the former Rangers ace wanted a bigger market than the up and coming Twins. While a tough blow for sure, there's no sense of settling either.
With Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, and Jake Arrieta all having their warts, the remaining top tier free agents left a decent bit to be desired. Draft pick compensation was tied to each of them, and the dollar ask would likely not be in the line with the expected level of production. Although I'll always be of the stance that you should spend from an unlimited cash pool as opposed to dealing from a limited talent pool in acquiring players, Minnesota found a way to make things look better the opposite way.
Netting Jake Odorizzi from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Twins gave up little more than a flier middle infielder. Jermaine Palacios went on a tear to start the 2017 season at Cedar Rapids, but struggled mightily as a 20 year-old at High-A Fort Myers. Odorizzi is a soon-to-be 28 year-old under team control for two more years, and immediately slots in among Minnesota's top three. Despite tallying his worst season as a pro in 2017, the numbers still equated to a 4.14 ERA and an 8.0 K/9. For the former Rays hurler, a 5.14 FIP and 3.8 BB/9 leave plenty of room for growth. His HR/9 rate spiked to 1.9 a season ago, and there's been plenty made about the idea that getting down in the zone could be a key to expanded success.
Not the headliner that Odorizzi is for Minnesota, Anibal Sanchez being brought in as a depth signing looks much better than when it was originally reported. I still think it's odd the deal needed to be of the MLB sort, guaranteeing a current 40 man roster spot despite it being uncertain that he'll make the opening day roster. The ERA there is awful, but the 8.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 are great marks. Sanchez posted a 2.52 FIP in his first two seasons with the Tigers, and then ballooned to a 5.01 mark the past three years. After never allowing home runs, he's gotten worse the last three seasons going from 1.7 to 1.8 to 2.2 HR/9. If Falvey saw a correctable adjustment to keep the ball in the park, that contract could end up being a steal for the Twins.
As with the bullpen, the goal in the rotation was to raise the overall water level. Now with Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, and Ervin Santana locked in as the top three, Minnesota has an enhanced level of depth to fill out the back end. Nothing is guaranteed for Adalberto Mejia, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, or Sanchez in terms of a rotation spot. They'll all be pushed by the likes of Stephen Gonsalves, Fernado Romero, Zack Littell, and Dietrich Enns. For a club that used way too many arms, and saw a vast level of ineffectiveness at times a season ago, the situation as a whole looks much better entering 2018.
Given the current roster construction, I'd imagine the Twins are done adding arms. They probably have room for a bat on a minor league deal, and 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson has been suggesting that could be Mike Napoli for weeks now. The Rays recently DFA'd Corey Dickerson, and he'd be a huge addition for Minnesota as well. Regardless, if another move is coming, it's probably a less noteworthy offensive addition.
With the dust now settled, it's hard to look back on the offseason with any sort of displeasure. There was one ace out there, and the Twins chance was always a long shot. They added significant pitching in the bullpen, grabbed a good arm for the rotation, and added a couple of fliers along the way. While the division, including the Cleveland Indians, got worse, Minnesota retained it's talent and added pieces. The American League is going to be tough in 2018, with teams like the Yankees an Angels both getting better. For Minnesota, the Postseason may have to come through their own division, and you have to like how they positioned themselves for this season and beyond.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
puckstopper1 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Buxton Showing Snapshot Of Greatness
On September 18, 2017 Byron Buxton owns a .258/.320/.430 slash line for the Minnesota Twins. While there's little to write home about a .749 OPS, it's well past time to take note of what the hometown squad's centerfielder is doing. Despite a September surge in 2016, we haven't seen anything like this from Buxton before, and he's already vaulting himself into the conversation of the best the Twins have ever seen.
Looking at his 2017 as a whole, it's easily apparent that everything has been watered down due to such a slow start. What's less apparent without digging under the hood, is just how incredible he's been since. Rather than getting words in the way, let's allow the numbers to speak for themselves:
Since May 14: 99 G .284/.341/.481
Since the All Star Break (July 14): 46 G .323/.369/.622
Since August 6th: 40 G .333/.375/.653
What we see here, is an incredible surge over a relatively decent sample size. Extrapolating Buxton's numbers from the All Star Break over 162 games, we arrive at 21 doubles, 18 triples, 39 homers, 106 RBI, and 35 stolen bases. In other words, Buxton sustaining a 46 game second half over the course of a full season has his walking away with an MVP award (and that's even before considering his defense).
While it's fair to still hold out for a little more of a sustained sample, this isn't simply a replication of a September 2016 performance against watered down competition. Buxton has been raking against good pitchers, across multiple scenarios, for multiple months. Over the course of 2017, working with new hitting coach James Rowson, the Twins centerfielder rebuilt his swing at the big league level while never taking a trip back to Triple-A. The long and short of Buxton's transformation has been nothing short of incredible. Now reaping the fruits of his labor, he's flashing all of the tools that made him the top prospect in all of baseball.
It wouldn't be fair to solely focus in on Buxton's offense, even if that's where the most growth has come from. In the field, he's all but ran away with the American League CF Gold Glove award. Leading all fielders not named Mookie Betts in DRS, Buxton has bailed pitchers out with both his arm strength and his range. Looking at Baseball Savant (Statcast), Buxton still tops the charts across MLB in 4 star outs. With a catch probability registering between 26-50%, Buxton has had 27 opportunities, converting 26 of them into outs.
Things get even more nutty as you look at the newly introduced Outs Above Average metric. With 24 OAA, Buxton's individual total comes in ahead of every single team in the big leagues, with the closest number being the Rays 20 OAA. On balls Buxton can make a play on, he's been deemed to have an 86% expected catch rate, and in turn, has owned a 92% actual catch rate. When balls are put in Buxton's vicinity in the Twins outfield, he's added a 6% catch probability. Over the course of 2017, that in part, goes to illustrate why Twins pitchers have seen an uptick in their own numbers.
Simply put, Buxton has been the premier outfielder in all of Major League Baseball for virtually the entirety of 2017. When he's in centerfield, it's impossible not to see him as a game changing asset. What's changed, is that since the middle of the year, he's also become an incredible threat at the plate (and in turn on the basepaths). Instead of simply being a Gold Glove winner on an annual basis, this version of Byron Buxton is in the Most Valuable Player realm.
At just 23 years old, there's probably more to Buxton than we've seen thus far. For everyone else across the league, that's a scary thought to wrestle with. For those in Twins Territory, the only appropriate result is Buck Yeah!
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz