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  1. Like
    gil4 reacted to Miles Death for a blog entry, The Matt Magill Improvement Story   
    By now, most of us have noticed how Matt Magill has been a solid arm in the Twins bullpen this season. He made his first appearance of 2018 in a clunker of a game (which I attended ) on April 29th against the Cincinnati Reds. He threw 2.1 innings that Sunday and gave up just 3 hits and 0 earned runs, adding 2 punch-outs as well. So far this year with the Twins, he’s given up a total of 3 ER over 23.2 IP, for an ERA of 1.14.
    Magill was drafted in 2008 in the 31st round to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had two briefs stints in the majors with both the L.A. Dodgers (2013) and the Cincinnati Reds (2016) before joining the Minnesota Twins (2018). During that time, he had ERA’s of 6.51 and 6.23 respectively. He’s clearly been around for a while; so why the recent success on the bump?
    In my mind, there’s two simple reasons:
    He’s throwing more strikes:In 2013 as a starting pitcher, Magill gave 28 free passes in 27.2 IP (BB/9 = 9.11 – ouch.)
    In 2016 as a relief pitcher, he had a BB/9 of 10.38 in just 4.1 IP
    Now, in 2018, he currently holds a BB/9 of 1.3 – and that is fun to watch

    [*]His stuff is a lot better:
    His fastball velocity has an average of 95.1 MPH so far in 2018, compare that to 93.1 MPH in 2016, and 91.8 MPH in 2013.
    He’s getting more movement on both his 4-seam fastball, and his “cutter” or hard slider. Check out the charts from FanGraphs below on the horizontal movement for Magill's pitches (2018 first, 2016 second). For your reference, a positive value on horizontal movement means the ball will be moving away from a right-handed hitter, and therefore a negative value means the ball is tailing in on a righty.


    Clearly, in 2018 he’s getting more movement on that cut fastball (FC), slightly more run in on the righties, and again more velocity with the 4-seamer (FA). This could be a contributing factor to why he's been so effective this season at producing weak contact (.219 BABIP - Nice!).
    Check out the vertical movement below (2018 first, 2016 second):

    Again, the notable difference is with the cut fastball (FC).
    Magill is throwing the ball over the plate, and he has increased his velocity considerably, while getting more movement on his cutter. This is a recipe for continued success and I believe it’s time for Molitor to start utilizing him in higher leverage spots. Can somebody explain to me why he hasn’t gotten this chance yet?
    Let me know what you think in the comments!
  2. Like
    gil4 reacted to Respy for a blog entry, Byron Buxton Retires, Hired by Homeland Security to Catch Bags of Drugs   
    Byron Buxton practicing his catching in front of a US border wall prototype in June, 2018
    SAN DIEGO – After suffering for months with severe migraines and with a history of concussions, Byron Buxton announced on Twitter (@OfficialBuck103) yesterday that he’s officially stepping away from Major League Baseball.
    “We’ll miss his presence on the field and in the clubhouse. He’s definitely one of the best center fielders of all time. We wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said Derek Falvey, Minnesota Twins Executive Vice President and Chief Baseball Officer.
    Buxton later announced that he’s been working out at a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) facility in San Diego, California where he’s training to catch bags of drugs, typically heroin, being thrown over the border walls from Mexico to the United States.
    When asked about the new work he’s preparing for, Buxton said “At least I don’t need to hit anymore.” He added, “I was born to climb walls and catch. And this way, I can also do it while proudly serving my country.”
    But, is catching baggies of drugs going to be as easy as catching baseballs? Buxton stated, “The tricky part is that all of the bags can come in different sizes and weights. But if it fits in my glove, I’m going to catch it. Just as long as the border wall is not 55 or 60 feet tall like I’ve heard some people are proposing.”
    Carla Provost, Acting Chief for the U.S. Border Patrol division of the DHS, said that they have had their eye on Buxton for a while, and contacted him when he went on the disabled list in April for migraines. “Last year we really dove into the analytics of border security. We have this new metric, abbreviated DRS, which stands for Drug Rings Squandered. We expect that Byron will step right in and lead the division in DRS.”
    We caught up with Border Patrol Assistant Chief, Percy Woolbright, to ask about Buxton. “He’ll be a natural at this. He’s really talented. He can cover a lot of wall, too, because I saw his sprint speed has been measured at over 30 feet per second. Also, Byron can come to work every day knowing that the weather along the US-Mexico border is much more predictable than in Minnesota. And if Florida ever decides to secede from the Union like it did in 1861, we’ll set up a new border wall along the US and Florida, and Byron can work close to his family in Georgia.”
    One might assume that because of the orientation of catching fly balls against the fence in baseball, he should technically be positioned on the south (foreign) side of the wall to catch drugs being catapulted from Mexico. Commenting on this, Woolbright said, “Umm…Oops.”
  3. Like
    gil4 reacted to Jamie Cameron for a blog entry, Will the Real Kyle Gibson Please Stand Up?   
    With the Twins off-season moves seemingly drawing to a close, fans would be hard pressed not to be enthused by the clubs’ upgrades. At the beginning of the 2017 season, fans were frustrated with a lifeless offseason which involved adding Jason Castro, Matt Belisle, and newly reinvented Craig Breslow. Most cautioned that ‘Falvine’ (there’s my garage band name of the future) were assessing the organization and its infrastructure before making hasty free agent additions. This off-season, the front office has been aggressive, acquiring Jacob Pearson and David Banuelos from the Angels and Mariners for international slot money, adding Michael Pineda, Zach Duke, Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Annibal Sanchez, and trading for Jake Odorizzi.
    Falvey and Lavine deserve credit for creatively adding to the Twins 2018 chances whilst maintaining strong organizational depth for 2019 and beyond. I would argue that the Twins punched a little above off-season expectations in their bullpen additions (with the addition of Reed) and a little below their expectations for the rotation given the earnestness of their interest in Yu Darvish. While the Twins have improved their starting five, the lack of a higher quality add like Darvish or Archer (although unsurprising) heightens the pressure on Kyle Gibson to build on his string second half performance in 2017. So who is the real Kyle Gibson? What can Twins fans expect in 2018?
    One question I pondered before I dug into Gibson’s numbers; Did/do Twins fans have unreasonable expectations for Gibson? There has always been a contention that Gibson has not lived up to the hype. The Twins first round selection (22nd overall) in 2009, Gibson ascended to fairly lofty prospect status, reaching a peak of #34 overall (Baseball America). The Twins have struggled to draft and develop front line starting pitching for a significant period of time, making the pressure on Gibson to be ‘the answer’ immense when he made his big league debut in 2013. It should also be noted that in spite of Gibson falling a little in the draft due to his injury history, the Twins have had other late first round pick pitchers who couldn’t establish themselves in the majors at all (such as Alex Wimmers).
    With Ervin Santana out and until May and rotation with a top end of 2/3 types (Berrios and Odorizzi), the Twins need Gibson to be at least solid. So who is Kyle Gibson? Is he the 2015 version who threw almost 200 innings and had an xFIP of 3.95? Is the second half of 2017 version who had a K/9 of almost 9.0 and help opposing hitters to a .379 SLG? Or is he the pitcher who struggled significantly throughout the first half of last season, to the tune of a .389 OBP against whilst surrendering 16 HR in 80 innings?
    Matthew Trueblood wrote an excellent article for Baseball Prospectus when Gibson was picking up steam in the second half of 2017. He isolated four primary factors in Gibson’s breakthrough; a lower release point, moving to the middle of the rubber to combat control problems, using his legs more effectively, and an evolving pitch mix. Gibson’s velocity improved as a result, his average fastball increasing almost 1 mph from 2016.
    New Twins pitching coach Garvin Alston is one of the most fascinating stories not to be talked about this offseason. Minnesota owe much of their 2017 success to then new hitting coach James Rowson. Throughout the season when the Twins young hitters made breakthroughs, Rowson continued to emphasize one central tenet of his coaching; the swing belongs to the hitter, they must own it and feel empowered to tweak it. When introduced to Twin Cities’ media, Alston emphasized his own central teaching:
    ‘First, one of the biggest things I teach is commanding the zone with the fastball’.
    Consider then, Gibson’s fastball command from the first half of 2017 to the second half. Comparing Gibson’s fastball location from the first half of his season to the second, he clusters his strike throwing with greater consistency in the portion of the zone up and away from RHH. Additionally, he more intentionally uses the opposite corner of the zone, down and in from RHH or down and away for LHH.

    Between April and the end of July 2017, Gibson gave up a .300 BAA with his fastball, a SLG of .640, and .340 ISO. Over the same period of time, he gave up .342 BAA on his sinker. After tweaking his pitch mix, Gibson’s results improved dramatically. Throughout the rest of the season, his gave up a .529 SLG, and .193 ISO on his fastball. It was still being hit, but much less hard. Similarly, he gave up a .267 BAA on his sinker. This makes a ton of sense. Gibson has always been a sinker ball pitcher, known for keeping the ball down in the zone. It doesn’t take a ton of research for good hitter to be able to pick up on his location tendencies when his mix was so predictable. By using more of the zone and varying his fastball and sinkerball usage, Gibson induced more groundballs, increased his strikeout rate, and most important for a pitcher without a real plus pitch, reduced hard contact.
    Gibson’s fastball command and usage had a significant impact on hitters. Opposing hitters O-Swing % (the amount opposing hitters swing at a pitch outside the strike zone) increased from 18% to over 25%. Additionally, Gibson was able to generate more swings inside the zone with his fastball increasing that number 18% to 61%, a career high. In other words, if your stuff isn’t outstanding, you better to be able to keep hitters off balance by moving it around in the zone, or command the strike zone, as Alston would call it. It will be fascinating to see if Alston can further leverage this improvement Gibson made in the second half of 2017 for a successful 2018.
    Gibson is likely going to continue to make adjustments to stay ahead of the curve in keeping hitters off-balance. Ultimately, the construction of the Twins’ off-season speaks to Falvine’s understanding of that they have on their roster, and what they don’t have. The Twins now have several intriguing back end bullpen options between Trevor Hildenberger, Zach Duke, Fernando Rodney, and Addison Reed. The pen is much more likely to be able to bail out a bad start than in 2017. If Gibson can continue to tweak his approach and forms and effective partnership with Alston, the Twins may find themselves with a fourth starting pitcher who gives them more consistent innings and can pitch deeper into games. How do you think Kyle Gibson will perform for the Twins in 2018? Do you think he will establish himself as a consistent middle of the rotation starter? Or will he continue to have varied and inconsistent results?
  4. Like
    gil4 reacted to Hosken Bombo Disco for a blog entry, Ervin Santana and his second compete game shutout   
    Ervin Santana is on top of his game.
    Earlier this evening, Santana blanked the Baltimore Orioles in a complete game win. It's his second complete game shutout on the season. Santana allowed just two hits, two walks, no runs, and no baserunners after the fifth inning.
    Santana owns a 7-2 record with a 1.80 ERA in ten starts. In 70.0 innings, he has allowed a mere 31 hits.
    After tonight, Santana has now won all four of his road starts, allowing just one run in 29.0 innings in those starts.
    The bottom of the ninth inning in tonight's game was a thing of beauty. Leading off and trailing by two runs, Adam Jones took a fastball and then a slider out of the zone, working Santana to a favorable 2-0 hitter's count. Then, like a true poker player, Santana stared down Jones and threw a thigh-high fastball, which Jones took for a strike. That ran the count to 2-1 and back in Santana's favor. Jones grounded out the next pitch. Then Manny Machado came up, fell behind 0-1, and couldn't lay off pitches out of the zone after that, striking out on a slider in the dirt. Mark Trumbo then came to bat and grounded out on the first pitch to end the game.
    Great pitch-calling, great execution of those pitches, great approach to batters the third and fourth times through the order, no doubt also some great scouting reports and comparing of notes when necessary as the game went on. Santana was in complete control. Great pitching is truly an art. Now excuse me while I go fetch a handkerchief.
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