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South Dakota Tom

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  1. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from DocBauer for a blog entry, Roster, financial flexibility says no to Cruz reunion   
    Right now, I'd project the opening day lineup to consist of Sano at 1b, Polanco at 2b, Simmons at ss, Donaldson at 3b, Arraez in LF, Buxton in CF, Kepler in RF, and Garver catching. Assuming a 13-man position player active roster, that leaves 5 spots open. Ryan Jeffers is one. Jake Cave is another. At some point, sooner rather than later, Alex Kiriloff is a third. Brent Rooker is a fourth, leaving Lamonte Wade, Astudillo, Blankenhorn, Gordon to fill in (or rotate in) the final spot.
     
    Once Kiriloff arrives, left field stops rotating, and while Cave is backup outfielder number one, having Rooker in the lineup (as well as Arraez, who is not great in LF, but his bat needs to stay in the lineup), tilts toward a second infield utility player being handiest. We can argue over who that should be (Astudillo as 3rd catcher, 3b, LF?; Blankenhorn or Gordon), but I'm sticking with my hopeful prediction of Gordon taking on that part-time skeleton key spot, offering some speed, flexibility, and reasonable pop.
     
    The depth chart says that (after catcher), Rooker backs up 1B, or potentially Kiriloff or Kepler, with Cave getting an OF start; Arraez backs up 2b along with Gordon; Polanco backs up SS; Arraez or Polanco or Sano backs up 3b, depending on whether the team prefers keeping Jorge to a primary-2b, sometimes ss role or moves him around more.
     
    Once Kiriloff arrives in LF, (or RF, if they want to shift Kepler to LF), there will be fewer ABs available for any outfield position reserves.
     
    DH, then, rotates between a handful of players - Sano (Rooker plays 1b, or Kiriloff plays 1b with Cave/Arraez in LF), Donaldson (Arraez or Polanco plays 3b, the other plays 2b), Rooker, Cave, Arraez as DH with no substitutions needed, maybe Polanco with Arraez playing 2b.
     
    While a Cruz reunion is favored by many, and for good reason (this is not to bash Nellie, who is a leader and great baseball player), none of the above is possible with a single, non-position-player taking on 500+ at-bats in the DH slot. There is a sound argument that Cruz's production would dwarf doling out 500 ABs between Rooker, Arraez, Cave, or whichever catcher isn't starting that day, but there's a logical argument that it wouldn't.
     
    And then there's the money. I think the figures thrown around ($12M with incentives to $15-16) are a little light, and gobbles up all - or almost all - of the remaining budget. I don't pretend to know what that number is, and clearly the team isn't saying, but multiple reports indicate that the annual salary for Cruz would constitute the lion's share of it.
     
    This team needs bullpen help and (in my opinion) one more starting pitcher for depth. We can hope against hope that Maeda, Berrios, Pineda, Happ and Dobnak all make 30 starts, but it never happens. We can hope against hope that Smeltzer, Thorpe, Duran and Balazovic can ably fill in, but that, too, walks a thin rope (and depending on how it shakes out, Thorpe could be lost from that depth chart if he doesn't make the relief corps). 8-9 starters is not enough, especially when two have never pitched a major league inning, and all are expected to throw 250% of their 2020 innings.
     
    It is also noteworthy how close our top prospects are to reaching ML level - a glance at the MLB prospects list https://www.mlb.com/prospects/2020/twins/ reflects that no less than a dozen of the top 30 (those who haven't already appeared in a big league game) have "2021" as their anticipated date of arrival. I don't see a dozen spots opening up this year, but wouldn't it be nice that if Celestino pounds AAA, or Miranda or Larnach or Lewis, that we would have the ability to move pieces around to make that happen.
     
    Our clearest open path to at-bats in 2021 is through the DH slot. The remaining 8 offensive starters seem pretty locked in (again, once AK moves to everyday play). The same dollars that bring us Cruz could fetch a couple of relievers (Colome, Rosenthal, Kennedy, Clippard?) and a starter (Brett Anderson, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Rodon, Cole Hamels?) who slip through the cracks.
     
    One final point - I know the team will miss the homers from Eddie and Nelson, but this team too often sat around waiting for some player to hit a bomb. The playoffs the past two years only highlight that shortcoming. Improved flexibility throughout, better defense, room for promotion from prospects, and more reliance on 1-9 rather than solo homers, while beefing up pitching depth, seems a stronger formula for success in 2021 (and beyond).
  2. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from Out State Twin for a blog entry, Roster, financial flexibility says no to Cruz reunion   
    Right now, I'd project the opening day lineup to consist of Sano at 1b, Polanco at 2b, Simmons at ss, Donaldson at 3b, Arraez in LF, Buxton in CF, Kepler in RF, and Garver catching. Assuming a 13-man position player active roster, that leaves 5 spots open. Ryan Jeffers is one. Jake Cave is another. At some point, sooner rather than later, Alex Kiriloff is a third. Brent Rooker is a fourth, leaving Lamonte Wade, Astudillo, Blankenhorn, Gordon to fill in (or rotate in) the final spot.
     
    Once Kiriloff arrives, left field stops rotating, and while Cave is backup outfielder number one, having Rooker in the lineup (as well as Arraez, who is not great in LF, but his bat needs to stay in the lineup), tilts toward a second infield utility player being handiest. We can argue over who that should be (Astudillo as 3rd catcher, 3b, LF?; Blankenhorn or Gordon), but I'm sticking with my hopeful prediction of Gordon taking on that part-time skeleton key spot, offering some speed, flexibility, and reasonable pop.
     
    The depth chart says that (after catcher), Rooker backs up 1B, or potentially Kiriloff or Kepler, with Cave getting an OF start; Arraez backs up 2b along with Gordon; Polanco backs up SS; Arraez or Polanco or Sano backs up 3b, depending on whether the team prefers keeping Jorge to a primary-2b, sometimes ss role or moves him around more.
     
    Once Kiriloff arrives in LF, (or RF, if they want to shift Kepler to LF), there will be fewer ABs available for any outfield position reserves.
     
    DH, then, rotates between a handful of players - Sano (Rooker plays 1b, or Kiriloff plays 1b with Cave/Arraez in LF), Donaldson (Arraez or Polanco plays 3b, the other plays 2b), Rooker, Cave, Arraez as DH with no substitutions needed, maybe Polanco with Arraez playing 2b.
     
    While a Cruz reunion is favored by many, and for good reason (this is not to bash Nellie, who is a leader and great baseball player), none of the above is possible with a single, non-position-player taking on 500+ at-bats in the DH slot. There is a sound argument that Cruz's production would dwarf doling out 500 ABs between Rooker, Arraez, Cave, or whichever catcher isn't starting that day, but there's a logical argument that it wouldn't.
     
    And then there's the money. I think the figures thrown around ($12M with incentives to $15-16) are a little light, and gobbles up all - or almost all - of the remaining budget. I don't pretend to know what that number is, and clearly the team isn't saying, but multiple reports indicate that the annual salary for Cruz would constitute the lion's share of it.
     
    This team needs bullpen help and (in my opinion) one more starting pitcher for depth. We can hope against hope that Maeda, Berrios, Pineda, Happ and Dobnak all make 30 starts, but it never happens. We can hope against hope that Smeltzer, Thorpe, Duran and Balazovic can ably fill in, but that, too, walks a thin rope (and depending on how it shakes out, Thorpe could be lost from that depth chart if he doesn't make the relief corps). 8-9 starters is not enough, especially when two have never pitched a major league inning, and all are expected to throw 250% of their 2020 innings.
     
    It is also noteworthy how close our top prospects are to reaching ML level - a glance at the MLB prospects list https://www.mlb.com/prospects/2020/twins/ reflects that no less than a dozen of the top 30 (those who haven't already appeared in a big league game) have "2021" as their anticipated date of arrival. I don't see a dozen spots opening up this year, but wouldn't it be nice that if Celestino pounds AAA, or Miranda or Larnach or Lewis, that we would have the ability to move pieces around to make that happen.
     
    Our clearest open path to at-bats in 2021 is through the DH slot. The remaining 8 offensive starters seem pretty locked in (again, once AK moves to everyday play). The same dollars that bring us Cruz could fetch a couple of relievers (Colome, Rosenthal, Kennedy, Clippard?) and a starter (Brett Anderson, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Rodon, Cole Hamels?) who slip through the cracks.
     
    One final point - I know the team will miss the homers from Eddie and Nelson, but this team too often sat around waiting for some player to hit a bomb. The playoffs the past two years only highlight that shortcoming. Improved flexibility throughout, better defense, room for promotion from prospects, and more reliance on 1-9 rather than solo homers, while beefing up pitching depth, seems a stronger formula for success in 2021 (and beyond).
  3. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from heresthething for a blog entry, "Winning" the offseason   
    There have been several excellent "how would you spend $x?" articles written this off-season. There is some point in the winter when the ice breaks and teams start signing players; there are often several points at which these occur, and I've often wondered how that math gets done, realizing that one would be criticized for either moving too quickly (gross overpay for Player A) or too slowly (completely missed out on Player A, you numbskull!).
     
    It is one thing to say that the Twins' payroll for 2021 should be in the $125-140M range, take the existing (probable, considering Maeda's incentives) payroll in the low 90s, and figure out a way to spend the remainder, given the estimates of value on all existing free agents, or the +/- in dollars exchanged in any trade.
     
    This year, however, presents a different set of possibilities. One can scour the team pages here and there, and come up with a list of teams that are either a)shedding payroll; or b)not going to spend any more than they have already. That limits the number of teams still in the race for the existing assets. For each of those teams, a little deeper dive can also unearth a relative number available to spend on any of the talent out there (the Twins' $30-35M figure, for instance).
     
    But what happens when you combine all that? Take the Twins, and several high-budget (or "available money") teams and pool them all. How much is available to spend, total? Then take the existing free agents, and their potential salaries, and see where that number lands you, in a.a.v. It occurs to me that we are in a market where the "available money" is far less than the "potential salaries." In that economic circumstance, it changes the dynamic of the when and where and how much in the acquisition of players. If a team can (accurately) project the available space for spending of all the competitors, and (logically or illogically) evaluates those teams' greatest needs, one can whittle down the available market for players. And somewhere in that analysis, bargains can be found.
     
    A couple of good examples exist in JT Realmuto and George Springer. Of the teams who possibly could afford a reasonable Realmuto contract, how many of them need a catcher? Of the teams who possibly could afford a reasonable Springer deal, how many need an outfielder? Carrying that further, once those players sign, and the teams who sign them have their available money evaporate, where does that leave the remaining teams with money to spend?
     
    Yes, I realize there is no hard cap in baseball (though the luxury tax and certain teams' stated desire to get under it does add some clarity), and a team who signs a Realmuto or Springer might well decide to change their budget, or go all-in. But in most cases, that won't be true. Now, we're left with a smaller number of teams, with a smaller budget, scrambling to sign the remaining free agents - and yes, the agents for these free agents can also do the math and see that there is now, hypothetically, only 75% of the available money to sign these players to "market value" contracts, and advise their clients accordingly that they are going to need to sign (now!) for 75% of what they hoped, or fall further and further behind in the dollars-to-talent available pool.
     
    This is where several teams will end up - those with relatively few dollars to spend are going to have to wait until all the big dogs have eaten before looking around for what remains available. Somewhere in between, before the scrounging occurs right up to and including spring training, there is a proper moment to strike.
     
    We aren't there yet. Once Bauer signs, the market for Odorizzi, Tanaka, Paxton, and a few others will heat up. Teams desperate (public relations-wise or otherwise) might overpay for the next available tier, but that leaves arms available that are beyond the price of the teams who are cash-strapped, and almost no competition from teams who have already filled their rosters.
     
    It makes business sense, though risky, as you are allowing other teams to snatch up the "best available" talent and contenting yourself with the best of what is left over. I don't have a perfect match for the Twins (though to me getting Sugano for 3 years ($9M/yr), Kluber for 3 years ($8M/yr), Kiki for 3 years ($5M/yr?), and then selecting the best non-Cruz DH candidate on a one-year deal in the $5-7M range, and a solid LH/RH relief tandem at $3-4M each) adds the most to the club and keeps us in the $125-$130 payroll range.
     
    Who do you think will have to come off the board before the Twins will react? What do you predict the next move will be? I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on the subject.
  4. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from Hosken Bombo Disco for a blog entry, "Winning" the offseason   
    There have been several excellent "how would you spend $x?" articles written this off-season. There is some point in the winter when the ice breaks and teams start signing players; there are often several points at which these occur, and I've often wondered how that math gets done, realizing that one would be criticized for either moving too quickly (gross overpay for Player A) or too slowly (completely missed out on Player A, you numbskull!).
     
    It is one thing to say that the Twins' payroll for 2021 should be in the $125-140M range, take the existing (probable, considering Maeda's incentives) payroll in the low 90s, and figure out a way to spend the remainder, given the estimates of value on all existing free agents, or the +/- in dollars exchanged in any trade.
     
    This year, however, presents a different set of possibilities. One can scour the team pages here and there, and come up with a list of teams that are either a)shedding payroll; or b)not going to spend any more than they have already. That limits the number of teams still in the race for the existing assets. For each of those teams, a little deeper dive can also unearth a relative number available to spend on any of the talent out there (the Twins' $30-35M figure, for instance).
     
    But what happens when you combine all that? Take the Twins, and several high-budget (or "available money") teams and pool them all. How much is available to spend, total? Then take the existing free agents, and their potential salaries, and see where that number lands you, in a.a.v. It occurs to me that we are in a market where the "available money" is far less than the "potential salaries." In that economic circumstance, it changes the dynamic of the when and where and how much in the acquisition of players. If a team can (accurately) project the available space for spending of all the competitors, and (logically or illogically) evaluates those teams' greatest needs, one can whittle down the available market for players. And somewhere in that analysis, bargains can be found.
     
    A couple of good examples exist in JT Realmuto and George Springer. Of the teams who possibly could afford a reasonable Realmuto contract, how many of them need a catcher? Of the teams who possibly could afford a reasonable Springer deal, how many need an outfielder? Carrying that further, once those players sign, and the teams who sign them have their available money evaporate, where does that leave the remaining teams with money to spend?
     
    Yes, I realize there is no hard cap in baseball (though the luxury tax and certain teams' stated desire to get under it does add some clarity), and a team who signs a Realmuto or Springer might well decide to change their budget, or go all-in. But in most cases, that won't be true. Now, we're left with a smaller number of teams, with a smaller budget, scrambling to sign the remaining free agents - and yes, the agents for these free agents can also do the math and see that there is now, hypothetically, only 75% of the available money to sign these players to "market value" contracts, and advise their clients accordingly that they are going to need to sign (now!) for 75% of what they hoped, or fall further and further behind in the dollars-to-talent available pool.
     
    This is where several teams will end up - those with relatively few dollars to spend are going to have to wait until all the big dogs have eaten before looking around for what remains available. Somewhere in between, before the scrounging occurs right up to and including spring training, there is a proper moment to strike.
     
    We aren't there yet. Once Bauer signs, the market for Odorizzi, Tanaka, Paxton, and a few others will heat up. Teams desperate (public relations-wise or otherwise) might overpay for the next available tier, but that leaves arms available that are beyond the price of the teams who are cash-strapped, and almost no competition from teams who have already filled their rosters.
     
    It makes business sense, though risky, as you are allowing other teams to snatch up the "best available" talent and contenting yourself with the best of what is left over. I don't have a perfect match for the Twins (though to me getting Sugano for 3 years ($9M/yr), Kluber for 3 years ($8M/yr), Kiki for 3 years ($5M/yr?), and then selecting the best non-Cruz DH candidate on a one-year deal in the $5-7M range, and a solid LH/RH relief tandem at $3-4M each) adds the most to the club and keeps us in the $125-$130 payroll range.
     
    Who do you think will have to come off the board before the Twins will react? What do you predict the next move will be? I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on the subject.
  5. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from Hosken Bombo Disco for a blog entry, Seeds of Truth   
    It is universal that you have to beat everyone to win the World Series. I get that. But is there a playoff seeding that might be more preferable than even one or two seeds higher? That is the question.
     
    As it stands (games through September 10, roughly 15 games to go), the AL standings show:
     
    Rays
    A's
    White Sox
    Twins
    Blue Jays
    Astros
    Indians
    Yankees
     
    We know some things are pretty certain - the 2nd and 3rd place teams in the AL Central are likely to be the #4 and #7 seeds (best second-place record and best Wildcard/3rd place record). But what about the difference between being the #1, #2, and #3 seed? Sure, #1 plays the last team in, but then they play the winner of the two best second-place finishers.
     
    The #3 seed, on the other hand, plays the worst second-place team in the first round, and then the winner of the series between the second-best division winner and the best third-place team.
     
    There is certainly some argument that being the #1 seed doesn't necessarily make you the best team. Could be that there is only one strong team in a division, and that team runs away with the best record. I think you can argue that a team that finishes with the best record in a highly-competitive division may well be more battle-tested and ready than the #1 or #2 seed who beat up on the other teams in a division of mediocre clubs.
     
    Applying this to the current standings, are the Rays really the best team in the AL, or are they just better than Toronto, New York, Baltimore and Boston by a fairly wide margin? Are the A's for real, or are they benefiting from playing against Seattle, Texas, the Angels and the Astros? What's an easier path to the LCS - the winner of Tampa/New York versus Toronto/Minnesota? Or the winner of Oakland/Cleveland versus the winner of the White Sox/Astros series?
     
    I'd love to see the Twins win the Central for a lot of reasons - but playoff seeding, even being the #3 seed, might be the biggest prize of all. Thoughts?
  6. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from Sabir Aden for a blog entry, Deeper dig into pitching   
    There was an effort to discuss this topic awhile ago, but I thought I would pick it up again now that the rumors and suggestions are increasing about what to do with the existing pitching staff, both starters and relievers.
     
    I'm not someone who lives and breathes Baseball Reference, but I think a strong statistical analysis is the best route to take in considering both 1) what the front office is thinking; and 2) what the needs and holes are with the existing roster.
     
    So let's assume that in a 162-game season, you will have 35-40 games a year that you will lose on the road without having to pitch a 9th inning, but you will have a dozen extra-inning games that will stretch the innings. Last year, we had 1443.1 innings pitched in the season; we know (from painful experience) that a handful of those will be pitched by position players (we had 3.2 last year), but given the numbers, let's ignore that for now. We need to fill 1,443 innings.
     
    My math (also from the Twins page on Baseball Reference) shows that 907 of those innings (thereabouts, as I didn't try to winnow out how many innings that Gabriel Moya threw as a starter rather than reliever, or several others, but spitballed it with those types of players) were pitched by starters. That averages 5.2 innings per start, and whether you use the opener strategy or a "traditional" starting pitcher, (then calling the "starter" the primary pitcher rather than the opener) you are hoping to get something close to that out of your primary/starter.
     
    That leaves room for optimism, as we can hope that the slate of starters picks it up a notch (whether that is 5 guys or 15 over the course of a season), but let's assume they don't, that we need 536 innings out of the non-starters. My quick South Dakota math tells me that is 3 1/3 innings per game.
     
    I am also going to assume that we will roll with a 13-man pitching staff, unless the starters are on track to bump their innings to a level where the remaining innings can be handled by 7 guys (and that doesn't appear to be the case, but if we get to a point where starters are putting in over 1,000 innings combined, we might). How can we best divide innings for our 8-person staff so as to make that possible?
     
    1) Simple but wrong - that is 67 innings per reliever per year (and no, I don't assume that the same 8 guys will man the posts all season, but perhaps like a second unit in basketball, the substitutes will take the innings/minutes not played by the first string). 8 guys getting 67 innings per year means that within a 26-week season, each relief pitcher would pitch roughly 3 innings per week.
     
    2) More specialized - A look at the "typical" workload of a closer shows that they average pretty close to that number - 65-75 innings per year, maybe 30-40 of which are in closing situations. I don't expect the Twins to vary significantly from that role, even if they don't have that player on their roster right now (I think they do in Trevor May). But for purposes of this analysis, let's say we do have a closer (whether May or Allen from the Indians or someone else, that can be debated) and that person pitches 70 innings.
     
    3) Who does what? That leaves us with 466 innings. I think we can pencil in Reed (for all of these guys, let's just say "assuming health" without really assuming that all of them will stay healthy for the year) Hildenberger, and Rogers for 70 innings each. That's not unreasonable, given their traditional workloads, again citing this page: https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/MIN/2018.shtml#all_team_pitching.
     
    Now we're down to it. That is 280 innings pitched by the core four relievers, leaving 256 remaining innings for 4 pitchers. The names of those now-existing pitchers includes Romero, Stewart, Gonsalves, Moya, Littell, Slegers, Vasquez, Curtiss, DeJong, Duffy, and Magill (I'm assuming for our discussion that Mejia is our 5th starter, but you can change names if you want to).
     
    While only 4 of them can be on the roster at once, many of the remaining names have options and can be shuffled between leagues as need arises.
     
    4) Opener strategy - if the team is indeed - as has been hinted - considering an opener strategy, it seems that Stewart and Gonsalves might be the primary candidates for those roles (lining up with Mejia and Pineda, possibly Odorizzi). If we utilized them for the typical 30 starts that your #3 through 5 starters get, and hoping for 2+ innings - once through the order and averaging a little over a hit and walk per inning means that you face 9 batters while getting roughly 6 2/3 outs or 2 1/6 innings per open). 2.16 times 30 equals 65 innings, so 130 innings with two openers.
     
    5) We have now defined several spots (which can be intermingled or altered depending on performance), but we allot 907 innings to Berrios, Gibson, Odorizzi, Pineda and Mejia; we allot 280 innings to May, Hildenberger, Reed and Rogers; we allot 130 innings to Stewart and Gonsalves.
     
    That leaves - ta-daa! - 126 innings to be covered by two remaining pitchers with Romero and Vasquez and Moya as your primary candidates, the third of them stashed at AAA and the remaining names, plus potentials in Tyler Jay, Jake Reed, et al lined up behind. That strikes me as do-able, especially if Romero emerges as the long man to back up short starts from Berrios, Gibson or Odorizzi, and Vasquez/Moya as the short-stint lefty.
     
    6) Now who do you want? Once whittled down to innings and performers for those innings, any discussion of a reliever or starter should also include the ramifications of what happens to the pecking order and opportunities for the above players. If we added a 5th starter, for instance, a Wade Miley (no offense, but please don't) and he took up his share of those 900 innings, either Mejia is bumped back into the core of 4 relievers, or one of the opener positions or one of the two remaining slots. Who should be bumped? Knock out Gonsalves for Mejia and leave the rest the same? Knock out Stewart? Move Mejia into Hildenberger's innings, Hildenberger into Moya/Vasquez's innings? Do we consider not giving Romero an audition in the regular season?
     
    While I think the strategy of strengthening the bullpen is a sound one, I get far more lost in the thinking process when I follow the logical chain and try to decide what this means for our chances of promoting from within or giving real opportunity to a slew of candidates.
     
    Best guess - no more starters will be signed (other than minor league contracts with an invite in case someone intriguing slips through the wintertime cracks), 1 more dependable reliever, only one opener (either Stewart or Gonsalves) to pair with Mejia, the other to start at AAA, plus Hildenberger, Rogers, May and Reed. Remaining two slots are taken by Romero as more of a long man and either Moya or Vasquez as the 8th arm/lefty. I think you also have to cut bait with some of the remaining names and keep your roster alive with players who could be optioned as the season progresses, even if that player isn't the one causing the gaping void. The more you fill this roster with veterans and guaranteed contracts, the more you make that flexibility impossible and are forced into waiver/release positions on players. I'd rather be in a position to take on someone else's unfortunate waiver casualty than be forced into one of our own.
     
    Happy holidays everyone!
  7. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from Sabir Aden for a blog entry, Playing The Game: CBA and Competitive Balance   
    When players and owners put pen to paper on the last collective bargaining agreement, the hope seemed to be that a combination of revenue-sharing and a luxury tax would work in concert to allow all organizations to field competitive teams. The players went along with the traditional formula of underpaying minor leaguers, and locking up younger players for pre-arbitration (3 years, or at least 2 years if you were a Super 2 - including a minimum 86 days and being in the top 22% of your same-year peers in service time in the most recent season). That was followed by three more years of arb eligibility.
     
    But after six years, all those players who had not already signed long-term deals would be free agents. They would have reached the open market, competing to divvy up all that shared money, with at least a few teams pushing up to - and past - the luxury tax.
     
    Teams weren't supposed to make deliberate decisions to sacrifice on-field performance in the hope of accumulating cheap young players, rising in the draft (and international bonus pool money), trading away players in their second- or third-year of arbitration for lower-level flyers. The recent success of Kansas City and Houston employing that strategy to draft or trade veterans for high-end controllable talent, then supplementing that core with an expensive free agent or two, and winning a World Series, has not helped matters.
     
    For when a team or two employs that strategy, it gives them an edge in the construction of a future ballclub, at the price of fielding their best possible current team. When over half the league simultaneously employs that strategy, you end up with a lot of very poor baseball - and a lot of veteran players seeking out roles on the few teams remaining who will even consider employing them.
     
    How do we fix this? How do we simultaneously bring in new players, reward veterans, encourage analytics in personnel, and avoid the bust-and-build strategy? There is no one answer, but rather, a combination of factors, that seem necessary.
     
    A spending floor - Every team would have a requirement to spend a percentage of revenues, approaching 50%. This idea would promote the service of free agents to make sure teams spend sufficiently. It would also allow smaller-market teams to creatively invest in arb- and pre-arb extensions to give their teams financial and personnel stability. I can imagine owners neither wish to advertise their revenues or their utilization of those, or have their hands tied in deciding how to construct their teams. How can we be required to spend money on players whose contractual obligations might serve to block a simultaneous core of younger players more in need of big-league development?
     
    Given the disparity in revenue from top to bottom, one could also imagine a scenario where this could lead to unfair monopolization. Are the Dodgers now required to spend twice as much as other teams? Aren't we going to hit a point where the floor for the top teams comes dangerously close to the luxury tax we don't want them to spend beyond? We Twins fans (as most other teams not pushing the luxury envelope) have seen some pretty questionable roster moves made solely based on economics and options remaining , but one can imagine a team having to retain a $12 million albatross rather than promote a rookie in order to stay above sea level.
     
    Draft order and draft compensation for lost free agents - I suggested a lottery system for the first three rounds in an earlier article. I saw another suggestion that the team that came closest to the playoffs would pick first, on down to the worst non-playoff team, and then finally the playoff teams from worst to first. The concern here is that teams could easily be stuck in hellish mediocrity for a long time, unable to select the top draft picks, and unable to elevate their seasons, perhaps because of a single poor long-term signing that weighs down payroll for seasons to come.
     
    I will confess that I like a little competitive imbalance - races in which all drivers have the same exact car are not interesting to me. Even with revenue-sharing, a luxury tax and a spending floor, some teams are going to be more able to sign premium players than others. That is fine with me - it is when this practice is combined with the lack of a spending floor and half the league serving as a development pool for the top 8 teams that it maligns the sport.
     
    Many other ideas have been floated - decrease the amount of time until free agency. Decrease the amount of time until arbitration eligibility. Increase the pay of every level of minor leaguers, and the minimum salary for anyone making a big-league club.
     
    Some ideas promote greater interest in the sport from a less-patient audience (the "bigger pie" theory) - fewer trips to the mound. A pitch clock. A 3-batter minimum for any pitcher. The universal DH combined with a 26-man roster with a 13-pitcher maximum (wait, you just killed the LOOGY but you want to double the number of jobs for the aging slugger?). A much smaller roster expansion in September, so late-season games don't become a substitution-fest. An international draft. Major league free agency taking place all in the week after the Super Bowl. I'm not convinced personally that drastic changes to the sport will do more to bring in new fans than it will to alienate traditional ones, though common-sense pace-of-play tweaks seem justified.
     
    Of all the items out there, to me, the salary floor is the key. Simply by requiring a certain amount be spent by each team allows minor leaguers to survive, young major leaguers to be compensated earlier and more highly, and still retains a share of revenue that every team is going to need to spend on the accumulation of veterans. All the other competitive balance measures fail if not coupled with a requirement, at least, to try.
  8. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from howieramone2 for a blog entry, Deeper dig into pitching   
    There was an effort to discuss this topic awhile ago, but I thought I would pick it up again now that the rumors and suggestions are increasing about what to do with the existing pitching staff, both starters and relievers.
     
    I'm not someone who lives and breathes Baseball Reference, but I think a strong statistical analysis is the best route to take in considering both 1) what the front office is thinking; and 2) what the needs and holes are with the existing roster.
     
    So let's assume that in a 162-game season, you will have 35-40 games a year that you will lose on the road without having to pitch a 9th inning, but you will have a dozen extra-inning games that will stretch the innings. Last year, we had 1443.1 innings pitched in the season; we know (from painful experience) that a handful of those will be pitched by position players (we had 3.2 last year), but given the numbers, let's ignore that for now. We need to fill 1,443 innings.
     
    My math (also from the Twins page on Baseball Reference) shows that 907 of those innings (thereabouts, as I didn't try to winnow out how many innings that Gabriel Moya threw as a starter rather than reliever, or several others, but spitballed it with those types of players) were pitched by starters. That averages 5.2 innings per start, and whether you use the opener strategy or a "traditional" starting pitcher, (then calling the "starter" the primary pitcher rather than the opener) you are hoping to get something close to that out of your primary/starter.
     
    That leaves room for optimism, as we can hope that the slate of starters picks it up a notch (whether that is 5 guys or 15 over the course of a season), but let's assume they don't, that we need 536 innings out of the non-starters. My quick South Dakota math tells me that is 3 1/3 innings per game.
     
    I am also going to assume that we will roll with a 13-man pitching staff, unless the starters are on track to bump their innings to a level where the remaining innings can be handled by 7 guys (and that doesn't appear to be the case, but if we get to a point where starters are putting in over 1,000 innings combined, we might). How can we best divide innings for our 8-person staff so as to make that possible?
     
    1) Simple but wrong - that is 67 innings per reliever per year (and no, I don't assume that the same 8 guys will man the posts all season, but perhaps like a second unit in basketball, the substitutes will take the innings/minutes not played by the first string). 8 guys getting 67 innings per year means that within a 26-week season, each relief pitcher would pitch roughly 3 innings per week.
     
    2) More specialized - A look at the "typical" workload of a closer shows that they average pretty close to that number - 65-75 innings per year, maybe 30-40 of which are in closing situations. I don't expect the Twins to vary significantly from that role, even if they don't have that player on their roster right now (I think they do in Trevor May). But for purposes of this analysis, let's say we do have a closer (whether May or Allen from the Indians or someone else, that can be debated) and that person pitches 70 innings.
     
    3) Who does what? That leaves us with 466 innings. I think we can pencil in Reed (for all of these guys, let's just say "assuming health" without really assuming that all of them will stay healthy for the year) Hildenberger, and Rogers for 70 innings each. That's not unreasonable, given their traditional workloads, again citing this page: https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/MIN/2018.shtml#all_team_pitching.
     
    Now we're down to it. That is 280 innings pitched by the core four relievers, leaving 256 remaining innings for 4 pitchers. The names of those now-existing pitchers includes Romero, Stewart, Gonsalves, Moya, Littell, Slegers, Vasquez, Curtiss, DeJong, Duffy, and Magill (I'm assuming for our discussion that Mejia is our 5th starter, but you can change names if you want to).
     
    While only 4 of them can be on the roster at once, many of the remaining names have options and can be shuffled between leagues as need arises.
     
    4) Opener strategy - if the team is indeed - as has been hinted - considering an opener strategy, it seems that Stewart and Gonsalves might be the primary candidates for those roles (lining up with Mejia and Pineda, possibly Odorizzi). If we utilized them for the typical 30 starts that your #3 through 5 starters get, and hoping for 2+ innings - once through the order and averaging a little over a hit and walk per inning means that you face 9 batters while getting roughly 6 2/3 outs or 2 1/6 innings per open). 2.16 times 30 equals 65 innings, so 130 innings with two openers.
     
    5) We have now defined several spots (which can be intermingled or altered depending on performance), but we allot 907 innings to Berrios, Gibson, Odorizzi, Pineda and Mejia; we allot 280 innings to May, Hildenberger, Reed and Rogers; we allot 130 innings to Stewart and Gonsalves.
     
    That leaves - ta-daa! - 126 innings to be covered by two remaining pitchers with Romero and Vasquez and Moya as your primary candidates, the third of them stashed at AAA and the remaining names, plus potentials in Tyler Jay, Jake Reed, et al lined up behind. That strikes me as do-able, especially if Romero emerges as the long man to back up short starts from Berrios, Gibson or Odorizzi, and Vasquez/Moya as the short-stint lefty.
     
    6) Now who do you want? Once whittled down to innings and performers for those innings, any discussion of a reliever or starter should also include the ramifications of what happens to the pecking order and opportunities for the above players. If we added a 5th starter, for instance, a Wade Miley (no offense, but please don't) and he took up his share of those 900 innings, either Mejia is bumped back into the core of 4 relievers, or one of the opener positions or one of the two remaining slots. Who should be bumped? Knock out Gonsalves for Mejia and leave the rest the same? Knock out Stewart? Move Mejia into Hildenberger's innings, Hildenberger into Moya/Vasquez's innings? Do we consider not giving Romero an audition in the regular season?
     
    While I think the strategy of strengthening the bullpen is a sound one, I get far more lost in the thinking process when I follow the logical chain and try to decide what this means for our chances of promoting from within or giving real opportunity to a slew of candidates.
     
    Best guess - no more starters will be signed (other than minor league contracts with an invite in case someone intriguing slips through the wintertime cracks), 1 more dependable reliever, only one opener (either Stewart or Gonsalves) to pair with Mejia, the other to start at AAA, plus Hildenberger, Rogers, May and Reed. Remaining two slots are taken by Romero as more of a long man and either Moya or Vasquez as the 8th arm/lefty. I think you also have to cut bait with some of the remaining names and keep your roster alive with players who could be optioned as the season progresses, even if that player isn't the one causing the gaping void. The more you fill this roster with veterans and guaranteed contracts, the more you make that flexibility impossible and are forced into waiver/release positions on players. I'd rather be in a position to take on someone else's unfortunate waiver casualty than be forced into one of our own.
     
    Happy holidays everyone!
  9. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from TheMatt for a blog entry, 45 Cold-Blooded Starts   
    Means 9 trips through the rotation for each starter, and got me to questioning what would be the best way to appropriate those starts from now - 117 games in - through the rest of the season.
    The clear emphasis must be on 2019 and 2020 and what will best serve the club moving forward. That is not to say that you stop pitching Berrios, Odorizzi, or Gibson; those guys need to stay in rotation and continue to demonstrate that they can last an entire season and get their 30+ starts in. Injuries create opportunities but lack of injuries cannot serve to block those same opportunities.
    I don't intend to break down every match-up and start, but more to the point, who do I want to see and how many times between now and season's end? Let's start by saying that if we maintain the existing rotation of Odorizzi, Berrios, Santana, Gibson and Stewart, that each would pitch 9 more times and the chart would look like this:
     
    Odorizzi (9)
    Berrios (9)
    Santana (9)
    Gibson (9)
    Stewart (9)
     
    First, I would identify those starters I want to see pitch (whose names do not appear on the above list). I have 4: Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and Michael Pineda. At this point, Pineda can continue his rehab until he is a little more stretched out, but I would like to see him for the last month, so (in an ideal world) I'll put his number at 5. Romero can continue to pitch in AAA, though I would like him to get a taste of regular rotation work for the next few weeks until he hits his innings limit (he's at 129.1 now), so I would pencil him in to start 4 more times at the mlb level, starting now, and see where that puts him. That might, honestly, dovetail into the Pineda starts as a timetable.
    I am most interested in seeing Gonsalves pitch, so would put him down for 7 trips through the rotation between now and season's end.
     
    The only way to get to the final numbers below is to switch to a 6-man rotation immediately, to rest the arms of the regulars and give opportunities to the newcomers, so that's what I do. It still does not create sufficient opportunities for all four so something else has to give. The victim in all this is Ervin; until and unless he can get his FB back up to 92 (which he won't), he is injured and on a rehab assignment. There is an argument that you continue to pitch him to see if someone will give you a C prospect for him or save a million dollars with a pass through waivers and a trade, but I don't see that happening either.
     
    So here is what it looks like:
    Odorizzi (7)
    Berrios (7)
    Gibson (7)
    Gonsalves (7)
    Romero (4)
    Pineda (5)
    Mejia (4)
    Stewart (4)
    Santana (0)
     
    So I have my six-man rotation, with Odorizzi, Berrios, Gibson and Gonsalves getting regular rotation work through the end of the season. I have Romero pitch the next 4 times he is scheduled on regular (or 6-man) rest, followed by Pineda starting the remaining games through the end of the season, and Romero potentially available out of the BP for long relief and to ensure he gets to the innings limit they have set for him. I have Mejia and Stewart rotate through the final spot (Stewart for 4 more now, and then a well-rested Mejia for the last 4 while Stewart finishes out the season in the expanded BP as an additional long man).
     
    Not only will this give me a look at the 2019 candidates, but it will inform me whether the above group is sufficient to attack the upcoming season (and yes, we can always use a frontline starter, but the question is whether or not we need another pitcher in the Odorizzi/Lynn/Stewart mode as a veteran who will take regular turns in the rotation but provide fairly middling results, if we're not being too optimistic about them).
     
    The lost season is quickly dwindling away, and the vague notion that we'll get a chance to see all of these guys when rosters expand is not accurate. This needs to start now if we are to get any meaningful feedback - and any valuable information - from the wreckage of 2018.
  10. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from Dave The Dastardly for a blog entry, 45 Cold-Blooded Starts   
    Means 9 trips through the rotation for each starter, and got me to questioning what would be the best way to appropriate those starts from now - 117 games in - through the rest of the season.
    The clear emphasis must be on 2019 and 2020 and what will best serve the club moving forward. That is not to say that you stop pitching Berrios, Odorizzi, or Gibson; those guys need to stay in rotation and continue to demonstrate that they can last an entire season and get their 30+ starts in. Injuries create opportunities but lack of injuries cannot serve to block those same opportunities.
    I don't intend to break down every match-up and start, but more to the point, who do I want to see and how many times between now and season's end? Let's start by saying that if we maintain the existing rotation of Odorizzi, Berrios, Santana, Gibson and Stewart, that each would pitch 9 more times and the chart would look like this:
     
    Odorizzi (9)
    Berrios (9)
    Santana (9)
    Gibson (9)
    Stewart (9)
     
    First, I would identify those starters I want to see pitch (whose names do not appear on the above list). I have 4: Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and Michael Pineda. At this point, Pineda can continue his rehab until he is a little more stretched out, but I would like to see him for the last month, so (in an ideal world) I'll put his number at 5. Romero can continue to pitch in AAA, though I would like him to get a taste of regular rotation work for the next few weeks until he hits his innings limit (he's at 129.1 now), so I would pencil him in to start 4 more times at the mlb level, starting now, and see where that puts him. That might, honestly, dovetail into the Pineda starts as a timetable.
    I am most interested in seeing Gonsalves pitch, so would put him down for 7 trips through the rotation between now and season's end.
     
    The only way to get to the final numbers below is to switch to a 6-man rotation immediately, to rest the arms of the regulars and give opportunities to the newcomers, so that's what I do. It still does not create sufficient opportunities for all four so something else has to give. The victim in all this is Ervin; until and unless he can get his FB back up to 92 (which he won't), he is injured and on a rehab assignment. There is an argument that you continue to pitch him to see if someone will give you a C prospect for him or save a million dollars with a pass through waivers and a trade, but I don't see that happening either.
     
    So here is what it looks like:
    Odorizzi (7)
    Berrios (7)
    Gibson (7)
    Gonsalves (7)
    Romero (4)
    Pineda (5)
    Mejia (4)
    Stewart (4)
    Santana (0)
     
    So I have my six-man rotation, with Odorizzi, Berrios, Gibson and Gonsalves getting regular rotation work through the end of the season. I have Romero pitch the next 4 times he is scheduled on regular (or 6-man) rest, followed by Pineda starting the remaining games through the end of the season, and Romero potentially available out of the BP for long relief and to ensure he gets to the innings limit they have set for him. I have Mejia and Stewart rotate through the final spot (Stewart for 4 more now, and then a well-rested Mejia for the last 4 while Stewart finishes out the season in the expanded BP as an additional long man).
     
    Not only will this give me a look at the 2019 candidates, but it will inform me whether the above group is sufficient to attack the upcoming season (and yes, we can always use a frontline starter, but the question is whether or not we need another pitcher in the Odorizzi/Lynn/Stewart mode as a veteran who will take regular turns in the rotation but provide fairly middling results, if we're not being too optimistic about them).
     
    The lost season is quickly dwindling away, and the vague notion that we'll get a chance to see all of these guys when rosters expand is not accurate. This needs to start now if we are to get any meaningful feedback - and any valuable information - from the wreckage of 2018.
  11. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from DocBauer for a blog entry, 45 Cold-Blooded Starts   
    Means 9 trips through the rotation for each starter, and got me to questioning what would be the best way to appropriate those starts from now - 117 games in - through the rest of the season.
    The clear emphasis must be on 2019 and 2020 and what will best serve the club moving forward. That is not to say that you stop pitching Berrios, Odorizzi, or Gibson; those guys need to stay in rotation and continue to demonstrate that they can last an entire season and get their 30+ starts in. Injuries create opportunities but lack of injuries cannot serve to block those same opportunities.
    I don't intend to break down every match-up and start, but more to the point, who do I want to see and how many times between now and season's end? Let's start by saying that if we maintain the existing rotation of Odorizzi, Berrios, Santana, Gibson and Stewart, that each would pitch 9 more times and the chart would look like this:
     
    Odorizzi (9)
    Berrios (9)
    Santana (9)
    Gibson (9)
    Stewart (9)
     
    First, I would identify those starters I want to see pitch (whose names do not appear on the above list). I have 4: Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and Michael Pineda. At this point, Pineda can continue his rehab until he is a little more stretched out, but I would like to see him for the last month, so (in an ideal world) I'll put his number at 5. Romero can continue to pitch in AAA, though I would like him to get a taste of regular rotation work for the next few weeks until he hits his innings limit (he's at 129.1 now), so I would pencil him in to start 4 more times at the mlb level, starting now, and see where that puts him. That might, honestly, dovetail into the Pineda starts as a timetable.
    I am most interested in seeing Gonsalves pitch, so would put him down for 7 trips through the rotation between now and season's end.
     
    The only way to get to the final numbers below is to switch to a 6-man rotation immediately, to rest the arms of the regulars and give opportunities to the newcomers, so that's what I do. It still does not create sufficient opportunities for all four so something else has to give. The victim in all this is Ervin; until and unless he can get his FB back up to 92 (which he won't), he is injured and on a rehab assignment. There is an argument that you continue to pitch him to see if someone will give you a C prospect for him or save a million dollars with a pass through waivers and a trade, but I don't see that happening either.
     
    So here is what it looks like:
    Odorizzi (7)
    Berrios (7)
    Gibson (7)
    Gonsalves (7)
    Romero (4)
    Pineda (5)
    Mejia (4)
    Stewart (4)
    Santana (0)
     
    So I have my six-man rotation, with Odorizzi, Berrios, Gibson and Gonsalves getting regular rotation work through the end of the season. I have Romero pitch the next 4 times he is scheduled on regular (or 6-man) rest, followed by Pineda starting the remaining games through the end of the season, and Romero potentially available out of the BP for long relief and to ensure he gets to the innings limit they have set for him. I have Mejia and Stewart rotate through the final spot (Stewart for 4 more now, and then a well-rested Mejia for the last 4 while Stewart finishes out the season in the expanded BP as an additional long man).
     
    Not only will this give me a look at the 2019 candidates, but it will inform me whether the above group is sufficient to attack the upcoming season (and yes, we can always use a frontline starter, but the question is whether or not we need another pitcher in the Odorizzi/Lynn/Stewart mode as a veteran who will take regular turns in the rotation but provide fairly middling results, if we're not being too optimistic about them).
     
    The lost season is quickly dwindling away, and the vague notion that we'll get a chance to see all of these guys when rosters expand is not accurate. This needs to start now if we are to get any meaningful feedback - and any valuable information - from the wreckage of 2018.
  12. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from DannySD for a blog entry, 45 Cold-Blooded Starts   
    Means 9 trips through the rotation for each starter, and got me to questioning what would be the best way to appropriate those starts from now - 117 games in - through the rest of the season.
    The clear emphasis must be on 2019 and 2020 and what will best serve the club moving forward. That is not to say that you stop pitching Berrios, Odorizzi, or Gibson; those guys need to stay in rotation and continue to demonstrate that they can last an entire season and get their 30+ starts in. Injuries create opportunities but lack of injuries cannot serve to block those same opportunities.
    I don't intend to break down every match-up and start, but more to the point, who do I want to see and how many times between now and season's end? Let's start by saying that if we maintain the existing rotation of Odorizzi, Berrios, Santana, Gibson and Stewart, that each would pitch 9 more times and the chart would look like this:
     
    Odorizzi (9)
    Berrios (9)
    Santana (9)
    Gibson (9)
    Stewart (9)
     
    First, I would identify those starters I want to see pitch (whose names do not appear on the above list). I have 4: Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and Michael Pineda. At this point, Pineda can continue his rehab until he is a little more stretched out, but I would like to see him for the last month, so (in an ideal world) I'll put his number at 5. Romero can continue to pitch in AAA, though I would like him to get a taste of regular rotation work for the next few weeks until he hits his innings limit (he's at 129.1 now), so I would pencil him in to start 4 more times at the mlb level, starting now, and see where that puts him. That might, honestly, dovetail into the Pineda starts as a timetable.
    I am most interested in seeing Gonsalves pitch, so would put him down for 7 trips through the rotation between now and season's end.
     
    The only way to get to the final numbers below is to switch to a 6-man rotation immediately, to rest the arms of the regulars and give opportunities to the newcomers, so that's what I do. It still does not create sufficient opportunities for all four so something else has to give. The victim in all this is Ervin; until and unless he can get his FB back up to 92 (which he won't), he is injured and on a rehab assignment. There is an argument that you continue to pitch him to see if someone will give you a C prospect for him or save a million dollars with a pass through waivers and a trade, but I don't see that happening either.
     
    So here is what it looks like:
    Odorizzi (7)
    Berrios (7)
    Gibson (7)
    Gonsalves (7)
    Romero (4)
    Pineda (5)
    Mejia (4)
    Stewart (4)
    Santana (0)
     
    So I have my six-man rotation, with Odorizzi, Berrios, Gibson and Gonsalves getting regular rotation work through the end of the season. I have Romero pitch the next 4 times he is scheduled on regular (or 6-man) rest, followed by Pineda starting the remaining games through the end of the season, and Romero potentially available out of the BP for long relief and to ensure he gets to the innings limit they have set for him. I have Mejia and Stewart rotate through the final spot (Stewart for 4 more now, and then a well-rested Mejia for the last 4 while Stewart finishes out the season in the expanded BP as an additional long man).
     
    Not only will this give me a look at the 2019 candidates, but it will inform me whether the above group is sufficient to attack the upcoming season (and yes, we can always use a frontline starter, but the question is whether or not we need another pitcher in the Odorizzi/Lynn/Stewart mode as a veteran who will take regular turns in the rotation but provide fairly middling results, if we're not being too optimistic about them).
     
    The lost season is quickly dwindling away, and the vague notion that we'll get a chance to see all of these guys when rosters expand is not accurate. This needs to start now if we are to get any meaningful feedback - and any valuable information - from the wreckage of 2018.
  13. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from Oldgoat_MN for a blog entry, 45 Cold-Blooded Starts   
    Means 9 trips through the rotation for each starter, and got me to questioning what would be the best way to appropriate those starts from now - 117 games in - through the rest of the season.
    The clear emphasis must be on 2019 and 2020 and what will best serve the club moving forward. That is not to say that you stop pitching Berrios, Odorizzi, or Gibson; those guys need to stay in rotation and continue to demonstrate that they can last an entire season and get their 30+ starts in. Injuries create opportunities but lack of injuries cannot serve to block those same opportunities.
    I don't intend to break down every match-up and start, but more to the point, who do I want to see and how many times between now and season's end? Let's start by saying that if we maintain the existing rotation of Odorizzi, Berrios, Santana, Gibson and Stewart, that each would pitch 9 more times and the chart would look like this:
     
    Odorizzi (9)
    Berrios (9)
    Santana (9)
    Gibson (9)
    Stewart (9)
     
    First, I would identify those starters I want to see pitch (whose names do not appear on the above list). I have 4: Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and Michael Pineda. At this point, Pineda can continue his rehab until he is a little more stretched out, but I would like to see him for the last month, so (in an ideal world) I'll put his number at 5. Romero can continue to pitch in AAA, though I would like him to get a taste of regular rotation work for the next few weeks until he hits his innings limit (he's at 129.1 now), so I would pencil him in to start 4 more times at the mlb level, starting now, and see where that puts him. That might, honestly, dovetail into the Pineda starts as a timetable.
    I am most interested in seeing Gonsalves pitch, so would put him down for 7 trips through the rotation between now and season's end.
     
    The only way to get to the final numbers below is to switch to a 6-man rotation immediately, to rest the arms of the regulars and give opportunities to the newcomers, so that's what I do. It still does not create sufficient opportunities for all four so something else has to give. The victim in all this is Ervin; until and unless he can get his FB back up to 92 (which he won't), he is injured and on a rehab assignment. There is an argument that you continue to pitch him to see if someone will give you a C prospect for him or save a million dollars with a pass through waivers and a trade, but I don't see that happening either.
     
    So here is what it looks like:
    Odorizzi (7)
    Berrios (7)
    Gibson (7)
    Gonsalves (7)
    Romero (4)
    Pineda (5)
    Mejia (4)
    Stewart (4)
    Santana (0)
     
    So I have my six-man rotation, with Odorizzi, Berrios, Gibson and Gonsalves getting regular rotation work through the end of the season. I have Romero pitch the next 4 times he is scheduled on regular (or 6-man) rest, followed by Pineda starting the remaining games through the end of the season, and Romero potentially available out of the BP for long relief and to ensure he gets to the innings limit they have set for him. I have Mejia and Stewart rotate through the final spot (Stewart for 4 more now, and then a well-rested Mejia for the last 4 while Stewart finishes out the season in the expanded BP as an additional long man).
     
    Not only will this give me a look at the 2019 candidates, but it will inform me whether the above group is sufficient to attack the upcoming season (and yes, we can always use a frontline starter, but the question is whether or not we need another pitcher in the Odorizzi/Lynn/Stewart mode as a veteran who will take regular turns in the rotation but provide fairly middling results, if we're not being too optimistic about them).
     
    The lost season is quickly dwindling away, and the vague notion that we'll get a chance to see all of these guys when rosters expand is not accurate. This needs to start now if we are to get any meaningful feedback - and any valuable information - from the wreckage of 2018.
  14. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from Tom Froemming for a blog entry, 45 Cold-Blooded Starts   
    Means 9 trips through the rotation for each starter, and got me to questioning what would be the best way to appropriate those starts from now - 117 games in - through the rest of the season.
    The clear emphasis must be on 2019 and 2020 and what will best serve the club moving forward. That is not to say that you stop pitching Berrios, Odorizzi, or Gibson; those guys need to stay in rotation and continue to demonstrate that they can last an entire season and get their 30+ starts in. Injuries create opportunities but lack of injuries cannot serve to block those same opportunities.
    I don't intend to break down every match-up and start, but more to the point, who do I want to see and how many times between now and season's end? Let's start by saying that if we maintain the existing rotation of Odorizzi, Berrios, Santana, Gibson and Stewart, that each would pitch 9 more times and the chart would look like this:
     
    Odorizzi (9)
    Berrios (9)
    Santana (9)
    Gibson (9)
    Stewart (9)
     
    First, I would identify those starters I want to see pitch (whose names do not appear on the above list). I have 4: Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and Michael Pineda. At this point, Pineda can continue his rehab until he is a little more stretched out, but I would like to see him for the last month, so (in an ideal world) I'll put his number at 5. Romero can continue to pitch in AAA, though I would like him to get a taste of regular rotation work for the next few weeks until he hits his innings limit (he's at 129.1 now), so I would pencil him in to start 4 more times at the mlb level, starting now, and see where that puts him. That might, honestly, dovetail into the Pineda starts as a timetable.
    I am most interested in seeing Gonsalves pitch, so would put him down for 7 trips through the rotation between now and season's end.
     
    The only way to get to the final numbers below is to switch to a 6-man rotation immediately, to rest the arms of the regulars and give opportunities to the newcomers, so that's what I do. It still does not create sufficient opportunities for all four so something else has to give. The victim in all this is Ervin; until and unless he can get his FB back up to 92 (which he won't), he is injured and on a rehab assignment. There is an argument that you continue to pitch him to see if someone will give you a C prospect for him or save a million dollars with a pass through waivers and a trade, but I don't see that happening either.
     
    So here is what it looks like:
    Odorizzi (7)
    Berrios (7)
    Gibson (7)
    Gonsalves (7)
    Romero (4)
    Pineda (5)
    Mejia (4)
    Stewart (4)
    Santana (0)
     
    So I have my six-man rotation, with Odorizzi, Berrios, Gibson and Gonsalves getting regular rotation work through the end of the season. I have Romero pitch the next 4 times he is scheduled on regular (or 6-man) rest, followed by Pineda starting the remaining games through the end of the season, and Romero potentially available out of the BP for long relief and to ensure he gets to the innings limit they have set for him. I have Mejia and Stewart rotate through the final spot (Stewart for 4 more now, and then a well-rested Mejia for the last 4 while Stewart finishes out the season in the expanded BP as an additional long man).
     
    Not only will this give me a look at the 2019 candidates, but it will inform me whether the above group is sufficient to attack the upcoming season (and yes, we can always use a frontline starter, but the question is whether or not we need another pitcher in the Odorizzi/Lynn/Stewart mode as a veteran who will take regular turns in the rotation but provide fairly middling results, if we're not being too optimistic about them).
     
    The lost season is quickly dwindling away, and the vague notion that we'll get a chance to see all of these guys when rosters expand is not accurate. This needs to start now if we are to get any meaningful feedback - and any valuable information - from the wreckage of 2018.
  15. Like
    South Dakota Tom got a reaction from Ncgo4 for a blog entry, Bux Drives The Bus   
    The more consideration I give to the 2016 lineup, the more convinced I am that it is falling on the shoulders (fairly or unfairly) of Byron Buxton. Let's look at the ways he impacts the lineup.
     
    1. Lineup with Buxton leading off: Buxton, Dozier, Mauer, Sano, Plouffe, Park, Rosario, Murphy/Suzuki, Escobar.
     
    Without Buxton leading off: Dozier, Mauer, Sano, Park, Plouffe, Rosario, Murphy/Suzuki, Escobar, Buxton/Santana.
     
    Not only does the first lineup place players in their optimum position, it showcases a very strong lineup 1-9. We have power through the middle with Sano, Plouffe, Park in the 4-6 holes, We have a base-stealing, 1st-to-3rd demon at the top of the lineup, and what I would consider among the league leaders in the 7-9 holes.
     
    Without him at the top, almost every player is batting out of position. Too much pressure is placed on Park, Dozier is not a leadoff hitter in the OBP sense, and it feels like every player is one spot away from his ideal place in the order. We have almost no speed at the top of the order. We rely too heavily on 7-9 to produce runs or runners without a consistent RBI presence batting behind them.
     
    2. There has been a lot of recent discussion of OF defense. With Buxton manning CF, you can place Rosario in RF or LF, and Sano in the other corner. At least two of the three are elite defensively, all three have great arms, and Sano's athleticism and arm and bat make the team reasonable with the fly-ball pitching staff they have. Many have pointed out how valuable the athletic outfield was to the pitching staff. I don't think it is wrong to suggest that the defense was worth half of the decreased ERA among starters last year, though statistics could prove me wrong.
     
    But if Buxton is sent to AAA, the outfield scenarios become....what's the word I'm searching for?....frightening. Sano, Rosario, Arcia? They cannot score enough runs to make up for the defensive lapses. And those lapses don't just cause runs to occur because of missed fly balls, doubles and triples. Those lapses cause mental anguish in pitchers who try to be too fine and miss their targets because of their fear of solid contact. You cannot pitch in the big leagues worried that any ball that is hit will become a problem. Defense translates into confidence in pitchers. Confidence in pitchers leads to success. The last thing I want to think when I'm a pitcher is the things I cannot do - "can't throw a fastball here to this dead-pull hitter; can't throw anything offspeed to this guy and speed up his bat; can't throw a change because he knows I need to avoid the fastball to avoid solid contact."
     
    3. I'm not a huge believer in projections, but any scenario in which the Twins make the playoffs and win playoff games starts with Byron Buxton being a difference-maker. If he is a.290 hitter with a .365 OBP and .410 SLG, with 30 doubles, 13 triples, 10 HR, and 34 SBs, the progression or regression of every other player on the team (within reason, we can't have regression by everyone else) makes far less difference. We, in all fundamental fairness to our hopes and dreams, NEED this guy to break out. We don't need him to be the ROY, but he would need to be within the top 3.
     
    One caveat. I'm breaking one of my cardinal rules here. I rarely watch football, because I hate the hyperbole. They start every broadcast with "If the Lions are going to win today, so-and-so NEEDS to carry the ball 20 times" or "the defense NEEDS to keep the opposition under 50% in third-down conversions." I have watched enough to know that there are many ways to win, and teams win without 20 carries or 50% third-down conversions. There isn't one thing we need, if enough other things happen.
     
    But when I walk through the lineup, and through the defense, and through the possibilities and probabilities, it keeps coming back to this one guy. With all the known and unknown quantities on this team, if he's a bust and spends this year in AAA, I don't see a scenario where we are successful. If he's a ROY/MVP player, I don't see a scenario where we aren't a very, very competitive team with the sky as the limit.
  16. Like
    South Dakota Tom reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, A Resurging Twin Makes The Difference   
    Going into the offseason, the Twins had laid the groundwork for a competitive team in 2016. They had their deficiencies, namely the bullpen, that needed to be addressed. For the most part however, the organization had internal pieces that could be expected to be counted upon in the year ahead. After bringing in a power bat in the form of Byung Ho Park, the lineup seemed to be in a good place.
     
    What could elevate it even further though, is the resurgence of a once counted upon offensive member.
    The most damning statistic for the Twins in the year ahead has to do with repeating a non-repeatable statistic. Despite finishing the season 83-79, Minnesota used clutch situations to their advantage at a very high rate. Looking at FanGraphs, there's two very alarming statistics when it comes to the 2015 Twins. The team owned a +10 in BaseRuns and trailed only the Royals (5.05) in the clutch category, with a mark of 3.81.
     
    First, BaseRuns is a comprehensive team metric that evaluates all of the plays a team was involved in. With the Twins being ten over the average, they performed above the expected result at a very high rate. At the same time, the Twins were also exceptional in clutch situations. With zero being a baseline, many players find themselves somewhere between -1 and 1. FanGraphs equates a player below -1 in clutch situations as poor, and anything above 2.0 as being excellent. While not singling anyone out, the Twins as a whole were a 3.81.
     
    What these two metrics tell us is that Minnesota experience a very high rate of success in categories that are hardly possible to be consistently replicated. If a player was to try harder or play better in high-leverage situations, the argument would have to be made that they were not doing the same in lower-leverage situations, a silly proposition.
     
    This brings us to a player on the Twins that can be considered the gold-standard when it came to clutch performances a season ago. Joe Mauer.
     
    Playing in a career high, 158 games for Minnesota, Mauer slashed a career worst .265/.338/.380 while hitting 10 homers, 34 doubles, and driving in 66 runs. What's astonishing is just how good Mauer was with runners in scoring position a season ago. In 161 plate appearances, Mauer slashing .352/.466/.456 with nine extra base hits, and 52 runs batted in. In those situations, his walk to strikeout ratio was also 30/27. Conversely, when Mauer batted with the bases empty (394 plate appearances), his slash line was an ugly .232/.284/.349. In those situations, his strikeout to walk ratio was a lopsided 27/70.
     
    So what does this tell us? Understandably so, Mauer was a better hitter with runners on bases. Forcing opposing pitchers to be careful to limit damage and not go directly after Mauer, Joe was able to take a more calculated approach at the plate. This led to an increased output, and allowed a very professional hitter to exploit his opponents. When it comes to Mauer's approach in 2015, there's also some interesting developments.
     
    Minnesota noted a desire to have Mauer pull the ball more. Hitting coach Tom Brunansky was working with Mauer to yank the ball with power, rather than his more typical ground balls to the right side of the infield. As a whole, Mauer pulled the ball 30.5% of the time, his highest career mark since 2012 (32.1%). This in turn led to one of his lowest opposite field hitting seasons, going the other way just 32.1% of the time. On top of the difference in his spray chart, Mauer's level of contact was somewhat odd.
     
    Posting the worst mark since 2011 when he hit 18.8% of batted balls "soft," Mauer owned a 16.5% "soft" hit rate. What was positive is that his "hard" hit rate climbed to 29.2%. Owning a career 33.4% "hard" hit rate, Mauer would see a generous increase in his production across the board should he return to his 3.7% mark from 2013.
     
    When considering what Mauer did in high-leverage situations during 2015, his plate discipline is the biggest area needing improvement. A guy who has swung at just under 22% of pitches outside of the strike zone, took hacks at a career worst 27.6% of pitches missing the strike zone last year. On top of chasing more often, Mauer also swung and missed at a career worst 6.2% of pitches. Those two developments no doubt contributed to Mauer's career worst 112 strikeouts.
     
    So, where do we go from here? Well, that's up to Paul Molitor. With Byung Ho Park and Miguel Sano now set to be regulars in the Twins lineup, Minnesota has their three and four hitters set. Putting Trevor Plouffe in that mix as well, the five hole is probably spoken for. That leaves Brian Dozier and Byron Buxton in position to compete for the top two lineup spots, giving Mauer the positioning he looks destined to succeed in, the six hole.
     
    In his career, Mauer has batted sixth just five times (starting just one of those games). He owns two doubles in four at-bats, a negligible sample size. What's important though, is just how good Mauer is with men on base. Over the past two seasons, the Twins first basemen has slashed .303/.418/.418 with runners on base. In those at-bats, he's also owned an 86/89 strikeout to walk ratio. Thanks to the likelihood of baserunners batting from the six hole, Mauer's production should be assumed to be the best since 20134, the last time he was an All Star.
     
    Steamer projections have Mauer getting 610 plate appearances across 136 games in 2016. They suggest he'll turn that into a .274/.355/.390 average with 30 doubles, nine homers, and 61 runs batted in. The strikeout to walk ratio is also projected to remain similar at 108/67. Should Molitor attempt to squeeze Mauer somewhere in his top five, I could see those numbers being very accurate. The disagreement comes from the hope that Molitor makes the sensible change.
     
    Batting Mauer sixth in an improved lineup should yield much more positive results. I'd guess Mauer plays more than 136 games in the year ahead, but regardless, his line in the new batting spot should look something like .290/.397/.400. The doubles production should remain right around 30, with the home runs checking in just shy of the double digit mark. Expect another uptick in runs batted in, which would give the Twins a producer in the bottom half.
     
    While some veterans may take a lineup adjustment as a demotion, Mauer should see it as an opportunity. Returning more closely towards the production his career was once synonymous with seems most plausible in this scenario, and that's something Mauer would be on board with. Minnesota will experience some regression from hitters in the year ahead, but don't be shocked when it's Mauer going the other way, being the definition of resurgence.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
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