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jorgenswest

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  1. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Heezy1323 for a blog entry, Wander Javier injury Q&A   
    News came down yesterday that highly-touted Twins SS prospect Wander Javier will undergo season-ending surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder to repair a torn labrum. According to LEN, this was an injury that was suffered initially late last season, but initially the decision was made to attempt to treat Javier with rehabilitation. Unfortunately, he has continued to have pain in the shoulder, and he has taken the dreaded trip to Pensacola, FL to see Dr. James Andrews. It sounds like Dr. Andrews will perform surgery soon, and that Javier is expected to be out six to nine months.
     
    Shoulder injuries are common in baseball players, certainly. But they are much more common in the throwing shoulder, particularly in pitchers. Let’s discuss how this injury may be similar and different.
     
    Question 1: What is a labrum, anyway?
    The shoulder is considered a ball-and-socket joint. The round ball (humeral head) sits in the socket (glenoid) similar to how a golf ball sits on a golf tee. Around the perimeter of the golf tee is a strong cartilage tissue called a labrum. The labrum surrounds the socket similar to the red gasket on a mason jar lid. Its function is to help act as a ‘bumper’ to hold the golf ball on the golf tee. It is also an attachment point for ligaments around the shoulder that also contribute to shoulder stability.
     
     
    Question 2: How does a labrum get injured?
     
    There are several ways that someone could injure the labrum of the shoulder. In baseball players (and pitchers in particular), it is common for a labrum tear to occur at the top of the socket near the attachment of the biceps tendon. This is called a SLAP tear (Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior) and is typically the cumulative result of repetitive use. However, it can also occur as a result of a dive/fall if the mechanism is just right.
     
    Another way the labrum can be injured is as a result of a shoulder dislocation. In the majority of cases, the ball dislocates out the front (anterior) of the socket, and the attachment of the labrum to the rim of the socket is damaged.
     
    A final way that I have seen labrum injuries in baseball players is in the front shoulder of hitters. Occasionally, as a result of an aggressive swing (or combination of swings) a player can damage the labrum in the back part (posterior) of the shoulder. This is also an injury that I sometimes see in golfers.
     
    In Javier’s case, the injury is to his left shoulder. As he is a right-handed hitter, this would be his front shoulder. I was not able to find any reports of him dislocating his shoulder last season (which would suggest an anterior labral tear). It is possible, then, that his labral tear is more in the back of the socket (though this is purely speculation on my part).
     
    Question 3: Why didn’t he just have surgery in the off-season to get this taken care of?
     
    This is always a difficult question to answer without knowing specifics of the situation. Hindsight is 20/20, but it is not always known at the time of an initial injury whether it is going to require surgery or whether rehab will be sufficient. Clearly, the Twins and Javier felt that rehab stood a reasonable chance of being successful, or I suspect surgery would have been undertaken previously.
     
    Question 4: What is done at surgery?
     
    There are subtle variations in technique for these type of injuries, but the majority are treated with arthroscopic surgery. This means a small fiber-optic camera is inserted into the shoulder, and the shoulder is filled with fluid. The labrum is then examined and the extent of the tear is assessed. Typically, the pre-op MRI will give the surgeon a good idea how extensive the tear is, but the precise size and location of the tear is not known until surgery.
     
    Once the tear has been assessed, the repair process begins. Small anchors (similar to plastic drywall screws) are inserted into the rim of the socket in the area of the labrum damage. These vary in size, but are typically somewhere around 3.0mm in diameter. These anchors have strong stitches attached. The stitches are passed around the labrum using special tools and the labrum is secured back to the rim of the socket. This process is repeated for as many anchors as are needed to completely repair the tear.
     
     
     
    After surgery, the small incisions are closed with suture and the patient heads to the recovery room. Surgery typically takes around 1-1.5 hours.
     
    Question 5: What happens after surgery? Why does it take so long to get back to full activity?
     
    Any time we repair a structure in orthopedics, the rate of healing is dependent on a number of factors. Some factors include the type of tissue injured, the severity of the injury, the age and health of the patient as well as numerous others.
     
    One helpful comparison in this case can be a fracture of a bone. Bone, as compared to cartilage (labrum) has a much greater blood supply. As such, most bone fractures are able to fully heal somewhere around 6-10 weeks (with some variability of course). Labrum (as with all cartilage) has a much poorer blood supply, and as a result takes a lot longer to heal. This is one of the main reasons for the lengthy rehab.
     
    In addition, the stresses placed on the shoulder are significant. The labrum has to withstand a tremendous amount of force when throwing a baseball or swinging a bat. The muscles around the shoulder tend to get weak quickly after surgery, and it takes time to rebuild the muscles. Proceeding too aggressively (before the muscles have recovered) places extra stress on the labrum, and can lead to failure of the repair to fully heal.
     
    Question 6: Will Javier’s shoulder ever be the same?
     
    This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer. Without knowing the extent and location of the damage, it is very difficult to comment on this subject. It is certainly better that this is his non-throwing shoulder, as that likely portends a better chance of full recovery. Few surgeons have done more of this type of surgery than Dr. Andrews, so he is in good hands.
  2. Like
    jorgenswest got a reaction from nclahammer for a blog entry, Don McCormack, Tino Martinez, Lance Lynn and the 75th Pick   
    Note: Thanks to spycake, I know now that we will forfeit pick 95. Even better. Only 2 players of 53 with significant careers. Amos Otis and Dave Cash. Addison Reed and his 6.8 WAR checks in as the third most successful pick 95.
     
    What is the 75th pick in the draft worth? If the Twins sign Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn they would forfeit this pick. How much should this loss factor into the decision?
     
    With the help of baseball reference, I took a look at all of the pick 75s since 1965. The very first pick 75 was Frederick Marden. Marden never pitched in the majors topping out in A-Ball. The first #75 pick to reach the majors is Don McCormack. McCormack might be remembered for his career major league batting average of .400. He accomplished this splitting his 2 career hits evenly over his 2 seasons. The first significant major leaguer was drafted in 1975. With 24.8 career WAR, Jason Thompson is among the very best players drafted at pick 75. There are three others with career WAR in the 20s in Tino Martinez, Grady Sizemore and Yunel Escobar. One other major league has had a significant career. Wade Davis has 11.7 career WAR. Five players with a significant career. Rounding out the top 10 are Scott Radinsky, Joe Lefebvre, Joel Johnston, A.J. Minter and the previously recognized Don McCormack.
     
    Since Yunel Escobar was drafted in 2005, the 75th pick has a cumulative total of -1.2 WAR. Yes... there might be a significant player among them. Significant players occur about once a decade at this pick. That significant player isn’t going to come from players drafted between 2006 and 2013 though. That group is ages 25-32 and done or almost done.
     
    Maybe pick 75 has just been unlucky. The Twins have never drafted 75th. Maybe they know better. Let’s increase the sample size and look at picks 74 and 76.
     
    Pick 74 has three players of 53 thus far with a career WAR of 20 or better including the very first pick 74 in 1965. The Twins drafted Graig Nettles in 1965. The Twins do know better! He finished with a career WAR of 68.0 and has a good chance to remain the MV74P at least through my lifetime. Let’s hope Akil Baddoo challenges that number. I would hate to miss out on a Nettles to add Lance Lynn. Ironically, the Twins did lose out on Nettles in order to bolster the rotation by trading him for Luis Tiant. Tiant pitched well in one season for the Twins until hit by significant injury. David Cone comes in as the number 2 pick 74. He has career WAR of 62.5. The Royals missed out on 62.6 of that WAR when they traded him for Rick Anderson and Ed Hearn. Two fantastic pick 74s but the drafting teams had little to show for the wisdom of their picks. The other player with better than 20 career WAR is Jim Clancy at 21.3. Two players are still active with a small chance to get there are John Jay(13.1) and Tyler Chatwood(10.2).
     
    How about pick 76?
     
    Chase Utley is the MV76P almost in the clubhouse at 65.4 WAR. He will get challenged by Giancarlo Stanton currently with 35.1 WAR at age 28. The only other player drafted 76 with a career WAR above 20 is Marquis Grissom at 29.4. Only 9 of the 53 players drafted pick 76 have a positive career WAR including current major league catchers Nick Hundley, James McCann and JR Murphy. The Twins have drafted 76th twice. They drafted Graig’s brother Jim Nettles in 1968. His 1.1 career WAR ranks him 8th. Let’s hope Blayne Enlow adds his name to the short list of players with a significant career.
    What is a pick 75 worth?
     
    Ten players with significant careers thus far among the 159 players drafted picks 74 through 76. Nettles, Cone, Utley and Stanton had seasons where they were among the best at their positions. Teams hit on a major league star about 3% of the time although two drafting teams did not recognize their star. You find a player with a solid career about 7% of the time. Around 20% of the players will have achieved positive WAR in the majors.
     
    Do you give up that pick to sign a free agent? I think so. I think you do so without blinking. It would be awful to lose out on Giancarlo Stanton but that likelihood seems so remote. If he is there at 75, he would have been there at 60. Pick him then. Losing the draft pick should have no impact on the Twins decision about signing Lynn or Cobb. It all has to be about the years and the dollars. If they can get either for two years, I would offer that contract without hesitation or thought of pick 75.
     
    *WAR as calculated by baseball reference.
    https://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?draft_type=junreg&overall_pick=75&query_type=overall_pick
  3. Like
    jorgenswest got a reaction from Deduno Abides for a blog entry, Don McCormack, Tino Martinez, Lance Lynn and the 75th Pick   
    Note: Thanks to spycake, I know now that we will forfeit pick 95. Even better. Only 2 players of 53 with significant careers. Amos Otis and Dave Cash. Addison Reed and his 6.8 WAR checks in as the third most successful pick 95.
     
    What is the 75th pick in the draft worth? If the Twins sign Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn they would forfeit this pick. How much should this loss factor into the decision?
     
    With the help of baseball reference, I took a look at all of the pick 75s since 1965. The very first pick 75 was Frederick Marden. Marden never pitched in the majors topping out in A-Ball. The first #75 pick to reach the majors is Don McCormack. McCormack might be remembered for his career major league batting average of .400. He accomplished this splitting his 2 career hits evenly over his 2 seasons. The first significant major leaguer was drafted in 1975. With 24.8 career WAR, Jason Thompson is among the very best players drafted at pick 75. There are three others with career WAR in the 20s in Tino Martinez, Grady Sizemore and Yunel Escobar. One other major league has had a significant career. Wade Davis has 11.7 career WAR. Five players with a significant career. Rounding out the top 10 are Scott Radinsky, Joe Lefebvre, Joel Johnston, A.J. Minter and the previously recognized Don McCormack.
     
    Since Yunel Escobar was drafted in 2005, the 75th pick has a cumulative total of -1.2 WAR. Yes... there might be a significant player among them. Significant players occur about once a decade at this pick. That significant player isn’t going to come from players drafted between 2006 and 2013 though. That group is ages 25-32 and done or almost done.
     
    Maybe pick 75 has just been unlucky. The Twins have never drafted 75th. Maybe they know better. Let’s increase the sample size and look at picks 74 and 76.
     
    Pick 74 has three players of 53 thus far with a career WAR of 20 or better including the very first pick 74 in 1965. The Twins drafted Graig Nettles in 1965. The Twins do know better! He finished with a career WAR of 68.0 and has a good chance to remain the MV74P at least through my lifetime. Let’s hope Akil Baddoo challenges that number. I would hate to miss out on a Nettles to add Lance Lynn. Ironically, the Twins did lose out on Nettles in order to bolster the rotation by trading him for Luis Tiant. Tiant pitched well in one season for the Twins until hit by significant injury. David Cone comes in as the number 2 pick 74. He has career WAR of 62.5. The Royals missed out on 62.6 of that WAR when they traded him for Rick Anderson and Ed Hearn. Two fantastic pick 74s but the drafting teams had little to show for the wisdom of their picks. The other player with better than 20 career WAR is Jim Clancy at 21.3. Two players are still active with a small chance to get there are John Jay(13.1) and Tyler Chatwood(10.2).
     
    How about pick 76?
     
    Chase Utley is the MV76P almost in the clubhouse at 65.4 WAR. He will get challenged by Giancarlo Stanton currently with 35.1 WAR at age 28. The only other player drafted 76 with a career WAR above 20 is Marquis Grissom at 29.4. Only 9 of the 53 players drafted pick 76 have a positive career WAR including current major league catchers Nick Hundley, James McCann and JR Murphy. The Twins have drafted 76th twice. They drafted Graig’s brother Jim Nettles in 1968. His 1.1 career WAR ranks him 8th. Let’s hope Blayne Enlow adds his name to the short list of players with a significant career.
    What is a pick 75 worth?
     
    Ten players with significant careers thus far among the 159 players drafted picks 74 through 76. Nettles, Cone, Utley and Stanton had seasons where they were among the best at their positions. Teams hit on a major league star about 3% of the time although two drafting teams did not recognize their star. You find a player with a solid career about 7% of the time. Around 20% of the players will have achieved positive WAR in the majors.
     
    Do you give up that pick to sign a free agent? I think so. I think you do so without blinking. It would be awful to lose out on Giancarlo Stanton but that likelihood seems so remote. If he is there at 75, he would have been there at 60. Pick him then. Losing the draft pick should have no impact on the Twins decision about signing Lynn or Cobb. It all has to be about the years and the dollars. If they can get either for two years, I would offer that contract without hesitation or thought of pick 75.
     
    *WAR as calculated by baseball reference.
    https://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?draft_type=junreg&overall_pick=75&query_type=overall_pick
  4. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Matthew Lenz for a blog entry, Understanding the "Quality of Pitch" (QOP/QOPA/QOPV) Statistics   
    I've spent a lot of time over the last few days reading about a relatively new statistic called "quality of pitch" (QOP), which assigns a numerical value to each pitch a pitcher throws. The values can then averaged together to come up with a pitchers average quality of pitch (QOPA) or you can look at a quality of pitch set of values (QOPV) as another tool to measure the performance of a pitcher. The purpose of this post is to provide a simple overview of this data as it may be referenced in future articles.
     
    Background
    QOP was first publicly introduced in March 2015 by Jason Wilson and Wayne Greiner. Since then it has been written in various publications such as "Baseball America", the "Fangraphs", and by Yahoo Sports! columnist Jeff Passan among others. Meanwhile, Wilson and Greiner have presented their findings at the 2015 SABR Analytics Conference. In short, this statistic was introduced and quickly regarded as a good tool to measures a pitchers performance in a way the baseball community has not previously done before.
     
    Computation
    QOP is computed by integrating velocity (MPH), pitch location, and pitch movement. Pitch movement is defined as the vertical break, horizontal break, breaking distance, and/or rise. These variables are put together and assigned a number 0 - 10, where 0 is a very poor pitch and 10 is an excellent pitch. The MLB average QOP is 4.5 and median is 5.

     
    Here is an example of QOP being used.

    Validation
    Wilson and Greiner have measured QOP against ERA, FIP, and SIERA which all produced a strong, negative correlation. That is, the better the QOP the lower the ERA/FIP/SIERA.

    Furthermore, a search of the top 10 2017 QOPA leaders for pitchers who threw 1,000 or more pitches provides you with a list of some of the more effective pitchers in baseball.

     
    Limitations
    As with all stats, QOP has its limitations. From a mathematical perspective anytime we are averaging numbers together the data can be skewed by outliers, and QOP is no exception to this rule. To help minimize the effect of outliers Wilson and Greiner have created a guide to determine the margin of error depending on the sample size.
     
    From a baseball perspective, QOP doesn't take into account of a pitcher who misses his spots. That is, if the catcher calls for a fastball high and inside but the pitcher throws it low and outside he could still get a high QOP score despite completely missing his spot. If technology exists for the location and break of each ball to be tracked, then I would like to see something developed that also accounts for the movement of the catcher's glove.
     
    Author's Conclusion
    Again, this post was solely meant to introduce you to this stat without diving into specifics on Twins pitchers. Personally, I look forward to using this stat and wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing it more and more in future posts by me or any other Twins Daily writer. Despite its limitations, I think it provides fans with a different, more insightful perspective than the traditional pitching stats (W/L, ERA, WHIP, etc.), especially when coupled with other SABR pitching stats.
     
    I also wonder how well this stat can be used to predict future outcomes. I look at the list above and a couple names surprised me, but specifically Joe Biagini who was also a top 10 QOPA guy in 2016 under the same criteria. A quick look at his fangraphs page shows that he hasn't been great in 162.0 big league innings. Is this the sign of a good pitcher who has just had some bad luck early in his career? Or is he the poster child for how finding the average QOP can, at times, be a misleading statistic?
     
    What do you guys think about this stat? Is this something you would look forward to seeing in future articles? What are your thoughts in the curious case of Joe Biagini?
  5. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to David Bohlander for a blog entry, Johan Santana and the duel at the Dome   
    All the Hall of Fame ballots are postmarked. More than 100 have been revealed. Of those, only three voters have checked the name of the greatest pitcher I’ve ever regularly watched. Johan Santana’s time on the writers’ ballot looks to be short and unsuccessful.
    Others have written compelling and thorough articles about Santana’s case. I’m mostly sad that he’s only 38 and we’re already having this discussion. I want to think about Santana at the height of his powers. I want to remember a game that still resonates with me more than a dozen years later.
    It’s 2004. The Twins have won the Central the past two years and they’re in first place now. It’s Aug.1 and their lead is five games over the White Sox.
    I’d graduated from college that spring and I’m lamenting the fact that I’m jobless, hours away from the Metrodome and with no money for a ticket anyway. Johan Santana is facing Pedro Martinez today.
    But I do have cable television and it’s connected to my fiancée’s 13-inch TV/VCR combo. It’s the only TV we have in the apartment we rented when I was still optimistic about finding a decent job near Morris, Minnesota. I’d be back at home living with my dad in a matter of weeks.
    But Santana was pitching this afternoon, so this afternoon things look bright.
    After getting Johnny Damon to ground out and striking Mark Bellhorn, Orlando Cabrera hit a home run in the first.
    Cabrera hadn’t been all that good that year. But Cabrera had just become a member of the Red Sox. Maybe the change of scenery would do him good. (It did. Cabrera hit .294/.320/.465 for the Red Sox that year after hitting .246/.298/.336 for the Expos.)
    Cabrera started for the Red Sox for the first time that day after he and Doug Mientkiewicz joined the Sox earlier in a four-team trade that saw the Twins pick up 19-year-old minor-league pitcher Justin Jones from the Cubs.
    Mientkiewicz’s departure was sad, as he joined A.J Pierzynski and Matt Lawton as players traded away after starting for the 2001 Twins team that sucked me back into baseball fandom.
    The Twins had stopped grabbing my attention as the ‘90s often found them mired in last place and found me in a new town with new friends who weren’t all that interested in baseball. But the Twins found new life in 2001, and found me, now away at college, with some friends who gave a damn about a pennant race and with access to cable television.
    Cristian Guzman reached on a single in the first but was stranded.
    Santana retired three straight in the second, striking out Jason Veritek and Bill Mueller.
    Corey Koskie doubled for the Twins in the bottom of the second and then scored on a Matthew LeCroy single. LeCroy was catching that day, with Joe Mauer’s rookie season mostly ruined by injury.
    Mauer was the first Twins player I can say I followed from the day he was drafted onward, but Santana was the first player I really saw emerge and become a star.
    Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Guzman, Koskie and Mientkiewicz burst onto the national scene in 2001, but as someone who was just paying attention for the first time in years, they felt a little more established. I knew they were young. I knew they were surprising, but they never existed for me as anything other than Twins starters.
    But Santana was a reliever in 2001, and by this point in 2004 I’d watched him become the best pitcher in baseball.
    Manny Ramirez homered in the second; the Twins were down 2-1.
    That was the last hit Santana gave up that day, but while Martinez’s 2004 was not a great year by his standards, the man still hadn’t posted an ERA above 2.89 from 1997 to 2003. Maybe this was it for the Twins.
    In the bottom of the sixth, Lew Ford doubled and then scored on a single from Hunter. The game was tied and it felt a little easier to breathe.
    Santana struck out Ramirez to lead off the seventh, but then hit Veritek.
    Veritek stole second and went to third on a throwing error from LeCroy.
    Veritek only stole 25 bases in his career, though 10 of those came in 2004. This game was one of only 16 that LeCroy started at catcher that year. Sixteen runners attempted stolen bases against him in 144 innings in 2004. LeCroy threw out only one. Maybe Veritek knew something.
    With Veritek on third, he scored on a sacrifice fly from Kevin Millar. Santana hadn’t given up a hit, but he’d given up a run and the Twins were losing once again.
    Martinez finished the seventh with the Red Sox still up 3-2. He was done for the day.
    Santana came out for eighth and struck out two, giving him 12 strikeouts for the day, one better than Martinez.
    With Martinez gone, the Twins came out swinging. Guzman and Ford hit back-to-back singles to start the inning and then pulled off a double steal.
    Justine Morneau hit a sacrifice fly that scored both runners when shortstop Cabrera committed an error. The Twins were up 4-3 and Santana was in line for the win.
    First-year but all-star closer Joe Nathan faced only three batters to secure that win. Santana, the best pitcher in baseball, had bested the previous best pitcher in a game that was very much a pitchers’ duel despite the 4-3 score.
    He may never get a plaque in Cooperstown, but Santana will be remembered by me, and I’m sure many other baseball fans, as one of the best to ever stand on a pitcher’s mound.
  6. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Will The Real Kyle Gibson Please Stand Up   
    Entering the 2018 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins greatest need is starting pitching. Obviously, that is a similar narrative for many teams across the sport, but there's little denying that things line up for the hometown team to make a big splash in the starting rotation. While Jose Berrios and Ervin Santana are locks among the five this year, Paul Molitor will have to quickly find out what Kyle Gibson he has in 2018.
     
    The former 1st round (22nd overall) pick by Minnesota in 2009 has been the focus of many stories wondering if it will ever all come together. Making his big league debut at the age of 25 back in 2013, Gibson now embarks on his 6th MLB season, and will be doing so at the age of 30. He's yet to pitch more than 195 innings in a season, and his career 4.70 ERA speaks of mediocrity in the truest sense of the word. A pitch-to-contact type, Gibson's career 6.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 doesn't leave much to get hyped about, simply showing a level of predictability.
     
    Rewind back to mid-2017 however, and Gibson appeared to buck his own narrative. Despite looking like a non-tender candidate for the early part of the year, the former Mizzou Tiger landed a 2018 arbitration deal that will come in somewhere around $5 million. Now the question is, how did he get there and will it continue?
     
    A year ago, Gibson's first 17 starts for the Twins added up to a 6.29 ERA and a .920 OPS. He was sent down to Triple-A, and was dealt a hard dose of reality. After posting a 5.07 ERA in 2016, the 3.84 ERA from 2015 looked like a distant memory. Then, in a get-right opportunity, Gibson turned things around against the hapless Detroit Tigers on July 22nd. Twirling 7.1 IP of three-run ball, it was the first time since September 13, 2016 that he pitched at least seven innings. From that point on, a period of 12 starts, Gibson owned a 3.57 ERA and allowed opponents to tally just a .699 OPS. The change was drastic, and the sample size was indicative of it being sustainable. Going forward though, can he replicate what drove that success?
     
    First and foremost, Gibson missed significantly more bats. In his first 17 starts from 2017, Gibson generated strikeouts just 14.1% of the time, while walking 10.4% of batters he faced. Those numbers are a far cry from the 22.1% strikeout rate, and 6.2% walk rate posted in the final 12 times on the mound. By getting more batters out on his own, he also increased his strand rate from 68.1% to 79.2%.
     
    Virtually all of Gibson's balls put in play remained comparable by the percentages. He didn't have a drastic change in line drive, ground ball, or fly ball rates. He was able to shave just about 5% off of his HR/FB rate however. The dip in balls leaving the park could potentially be attributed to a slight swing (roughly 4%) of outcomes taken away from hard contact, and added to soft contact. What that also suggests however, is that we dive into the repertoire.
    In looking at Gibson's offerings, I think there's a few takeaways to consider. First and foremost, there was a drastic change in regards to how Kyle attacked the strikezone. After predominantly working in the lower half of the zone through his bad stretch, Gibson attacked higher in the zone and on the corners down the stretch. Not being a high velocity pitcher (averaging 92.7 mph on his fastball) forcing the ball up in the zone can help to get it on hitters quicker. Obviously the swing plane changes based upon pitch location, and the added advantage of going up and in suggests Gibson felt more comfortable challenging opposing hitters.
     
    Secondly, there was one pitch that jumped off the page during his success. After using his slider just 14% of the time through his first 1,495 pitches in 2017, the usage jumped over 20% through his final 1,115 pitches on the season. The numbers didn't equate to the career high 22.1% of sliders he threw a year ago (in fact he was at just 17.8% on the season), but it was clearly an offering he felt comfortable going back to. Notably, the slider also became somewhat of an out pitch. Looking at Gibson's pitch types by count courtesy of Baseball Savant, favorable counts saw a significant amount of the sweeping pitch. Despite being more of an afterthought early in the year, the slider generated 5% swinging strikes in the second half (compared to 3% in the first).
     
    Finally, the slight changes allowed Gibson to see a difference in the results of batted balls against him. Launch angle for opposing hitters decreased, while barreled balls fell off a cliff. Gibson was generating slightly more weak contact, and the quality of balls being put into the field of play as a whole had sunk. Likely an indicator of the process as a whole, as opposed to any one single scenario, Gibson was seeing a payoff for his new tactics.
     
    As a whole, it's hard to suggest that 2018 will see a full season of Gibson at his best. While the positive signs were shown down the stretch, none of the changes were revolutionary, and the differences were rather minor in the grand scheme of things. With a new pitching coach in Garvin Alston, maybe Gibson will find even more success with his slider than before. What we don't know, is whether the slight differences translate to sustainability for a 30 year old over the course of 30-plus starts. I do think that there's enough reason to believe Gibson can be more of his 2015 self than he's been each of the past two seasons however, and that would give Minnesota a quality back end option.
    Even before adding another high-level arm into the fold, the Twins will have a stable of options to round out the rotation. With youth as a disadvantage, pitchers like Gibson and Phil Hughes will have to put their best foot forward on a nightly basis to set themselves apart. I'm not going to suggest Gibson will live up to his pre-debut hype, but serviceable seems to be a fair bet in 2018.
     
    For more from Off The Baggy (and to see the graphical depictions of this article) click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  7. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to MidwestTwinsFan15 for a blog entry, Minnesota Twins Fans vs The Pohlad Family   
    This post is inspired by the comment sections of both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St Paul Pioneer Press. I enjoy spending my time scrolling through these sections to see how the small amount of internet trolls are getting people worked up. After reading through these newspaper sections, it is a relief to come over to Twins Daily and read from well-informed and realistic fan base.
     
    With that being said - no matter who is making the baseball personnel decisions; Thad Levine or Derek Falvey, they work for one individual...Jim Pohlad. Must we all forget this? Levine and Falvey work within the constraints that Pohlad gives to these decision makers. Because we don't see and hear the owner, like a Jerry Jones or George Steinbrenner (Thank the lord), I believe some people forget he doesn't have influence within the organization. But his influence is strictly financial. Side note, wonder what influence he has on the new story about Mr Sano that was released yesterday.
     
    This transitions into my next thought. My favorite comment via the newspaper sports section comes to the sound of "If us fans don't show up to the stadium, that will show the Pohland family we aren't happy with the product on the field and then they will have to change/listen to us." (This was definitely prevalent between 2011 and 2014 when we were averaging less that 70 wins a season)
     
    It is a good theory but as other organizations show us, this theory has no legs to it. Look at Tampa Bay, Oakland and Miami. Beyond the now departed Stanton, what specific players drive fans to the ballpark? These teams are basically playing with Quad A players. This is funny since I literally wrote about the Twins and their "Moneyball" strategy not just a few days ago. One single player, for the majority, doesn't bring fans to the game - unless there is a record being chased/broken (Sosa, McGwire, Bonds).
     
    The true purpose of this post - is to ask that question: How could the fans truly affect change with an ownership group? Some seasons/decades can be pretty tough to endure and watch (Sorry Seattle, the franchise who hasn't been to the playoffs since their AL record 116 win season in 2001). Pretty tough question to toss out there but the answer is, we can't. The average fan cannot affect change with an ownership group that owns a major league baseball team. I believe Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins showed their cards into why the average fan has no real voice. Do some research and see who Derek Jeter invited to his Town Hall Style Meeting. They were handpicked, high level season ticket holders. They are the movers and shakers, the money people, the top 1%. These are the sponsorship owners that contribute more capital to an organization than the average fan could ever imagine.
     
    The best customer is a repeat customer - continue to get sponsorship's and season tickets holders to renew annually and the franchise will continue to move forward, season after season. Once renewals stop being renewed, then change can begin. Ownership and FO will have to begin looking at the reasoning behind these non-renewals.
     
    I believe this is an interesting post - I hope it inspires discussion and conversations, especially for points that I have missed and or may been way off on.
     
    To the average fan - continue to go to the ballpark and enjoy this great game - win or lose.
  8. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to MidwestTwinsFan15 for a blog entry, 2018 Free Agents and Potential Minnesota Twins Targets   
    With the Minnesota Twins currently in the middle of the off-season and getting prepared for Pitchers and Catchers to report to Fort Myers, FL in 49 Days. I wanted to jump ahead to the highly anticipated 2018 Free Agent Class. It appears that the 2017 has been underwhelming for most with the consensus that the Twins seem to be preparing to "Make Their Run" in 2019.
     
    The Twins Free Agents will include Joe Mauer ($23 Mil), Brian Dozier ($9 Mil), Eduardo Escobar ($2.5 Mil), Fernando Rodney ($4.5 Mil w/ club option for 2019). These four players will represent roughly $39 Mil possibly coming off the books for the organization. Not taking into consideration players the Twins are looking to possibly extend contracts with (Buxton, Sano, Berrios). Lets dive into what the 2019 Minnesota Twins could look like (or what I would like the 2019 Twins to look like). Note that I don't believe we should re-sign any of our free agents to-be (Dozier, Escobar & Mauer) or exercise our club options (Rodney).
     
    Starting Pitchers:
    1. Ervin Santana
    2. Jose Berrios
    3. Stephan Gonsalves
    4. Fernando Romero
    5. Micheal Pineda
     
    Relief Pitchers:
    1. J.T. Chargois
    2. Aaron Slegers
    3. Tyler Jay
    4. Trevor Hildenberger
    5. Taylor Rogers
    6. Trevor May
    7. Felix Jorge
    8. Adalberto Mejia
     
    Infielders:
    1. Miguel Sano (DH)
    2. Nick Gordon (SS)
    3. Jorge Polanco (2B)
    4. Jose Iglesias or Josh Donaldson (3B, Free Agent Signee)
    5. Matt Adams or Justin Smoak (1B, Free Agent Signee)
    6.
     
    Outfielders:
    1. Byron Buxton
    2. Max Kepler
    3. Eddie Rosario
    4. Zack Granite
     
    Catchers:
    1. Jason Castro
    2. Mitch Garver
     
    Note that I have left our starting pitching staff as status-quo until the FO shows the masses that they will throw some coin at a Front Line Starter. I believe with the money coming off the books after the 2018 season, that the financial resources should be there for us to get one. Sano is destined to be a full time DH (due to his size and to keep him healthy). I like Garver's versatility in the field while Castro is still under contract.
     
    I think we need to get after a LHH First Basemen, possibly Matt Adams or Justin Smoak. With Sano moving to full-time DH, we would need to acquire a 3rd basemen I like Jose Iglesias for this. We would still need to get a UTL IF/OF type player for the back end of the bench - this could be filled by a variety of players, internal or external. I would also consider Josh Donaldson at 3B - he would cost us a bit more money but would add some significant power to the line-up.
     
    I gathered below 16 Position Players and 16 Pitchers that will be Free Agents after the 2018 season. Some are way out of our financial league with some that are older but still productive - who catches your eye as possibly realistic Twins targets for upgrades to our line-up and pitching staff?
     
    Position Players:
    1. Bryce Harper - 2019 Age, 26
    2. Manny Machado - 2019 Age, 26
    3. Josh Donaldson - 2019 Age, 32
    4. Charlie Blackmon - 2019 Age, 32
    5. Elvis Andrus - 2019 Age, 30 (Opt Out)
    6. Brian Dozier - 2019 Age, 32
    7. AJ Pollock - 2019 Age, 31
    8. Andrew McCutchen - 2019 Age, 32
    9. Joe Mauer - 2019 Age, 36
    10. Adam Jones - 2019 Age, 33
    11. Wilson Ramos - 2019 Age, 31
    12. Justin Smoak - 2019 Age, 32
    13. Matt Adams - 2019 Age, 30
    14. Jose Iglesias - 2019 Age, 29
    15. Jason Heyward - 2019 Age, 29 (Opt Out)
    16. Yasmany Tomas - 2019 Age, 28 (Opt Out)
     
    Pitchers:
    1. David Price - 2019 Age, 33 (Opt Out)
    2. Andrew Miller - 2019 Age, 34
    3. Craig Kimbrel - 2019 Age, 31
    4. Gio Gonzalez - 2019 Age, 33
    5. Zach Britton - 2019 Age, 31
    6. Patrick Corbin, 2019 Age, 30
    7. Drew Pomeranz - 2019 Age, 30
    8. Clayton Kerhaw - 2019 Age, 31 (Opt Out)
    9. Matt Harvey - 2019 Age, 30
    10. Nathan Eovaldi - 2019 Age, 29
    11. Dallas Keuchel - 2019 Age, 31
    12. Garrett Richards - 2019 Age, 31
    13. Matt Moore - 2019 Age, 30
    14. Hyun-Jin Ryu - 2019 Age, 32
    15. Joe Kelly - 2019 Age, 31
    16. David Robertson - 2019 Age, 34
  9. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to MidwestTwinsFan15 for a blog entry, Minnesota Twins & The Moneyball Strategy   
    Happy Holidays to everyone and welcome to my first Blog Entry here on Twins Daily. I am new to the writing/blogging scene (probably several years behind the curve) but I am not new to either baseball and the Minnesota Twins.
     
    My background in baseball includes a playing career in both High School and College along with coaching in the collegiate ranks here in the Midwest. I currently expand my baseball background my reading about Owners, Sportswriters, Broadcasters, Managers and Individual Players that all contribute to the great game of baseball. I do it old school too - Hard Cover Books - none of this lightweight Kindle reading. I am also a current member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and will be attending this year's convention in Indianapolis, IN next week.
     
    For my first entry, I kicked around the idea of a Minnesota Twins/Moneyball approach. It derives from my constant perusing around the Twins Daily comments section and seeing that fans (the majority of which) are unhappy with the current off-season direction we have gone. Coming off a playoff appearance, fans believed we were only a few pieces away from contending deep into the postseason. A strong off season and free agency were going to put us over the top. Unfortunately, the Twins haven't made a 'flashy' signing yet and lots of people have called the off season an utter disappointment.
     
    I would like to try and bring people back down to realty in what the Twins are currently doing. I am not an insider to the Twins organization and can only speculate to the "Strategy".
     
    I will say that I am a fan of the Duke, Pineda and Rodney signings so far. They aren't big and flashy, but they serve a purpose. Pineda - coming back from injury, once a highly touted pitching prospect that has flashed great promise is a great buy low signing. Rodney - has age against him but has proven to be a solid back of the bullpen arm and it's only on a one year deal. Duke - wasn't exactly the greatest when he came back from Tommy John surgery last season but again he is another buy low signing. With Duke, at the least, he is a stop gap till mid-season when Tyler Jay should hopefully be ready to join the Major League club.
     
    These 3 signings are what Twins fans need to realize will continue to be the norm, it does not matter who the General Manager or Director of Baseball Operations is. All the wishing for us to sign Ohtani from Japan, was a pipe dream and was basically never going to happen. I've heard constant chatter about wanting the Twins to sign a big FA Power Relief Pitcher, that isn't going to happen either - plus it's not a financially sound decision to commit multiple years and big dollars to a relief pitcher...unless his name is Rivera or Hoffman. The Twins best chance to improve the Major League Club with Major League Talent is via a Trade. I was a big fan of going after Gerritt Cole, I thought we wouldn't have to give up as much in comparison to what a trade for Chris Archer would fetch. I'm still on the record for believing a trade will happen this off-season - just don't know when and for whom. I'm with the majority that believes it needs to be a Front Line Starter with multiple years of team control.
     
    Fans tend to forget that the Minnesota Twins are in the bottom 3rd of Major League payrolls and we really have never deviated from that. Even if we were to commit an additional 30 million in payroll, we would still be in the bottom half of all Major League Baseball. Would that extra cash help us FINALLY beat the Yankees (in the playoffs) and their 200 Million Dollar payroll??? (Hard to say it would).
     
    It is advantageous for the Twins to continue to find value in players that other teams don't see. We do not have the luxury (Time and/or Money) to throw at any and all Free Agents like the Yankees/Dodgers do. We've seen what other clubs have done, the Miami Marlins, seemingly finally putting down some money on players and then not seeing a return on their investment via wins or attendance. They preferred to then scrap the team and go back to their bare bones approach. Who is to say their approach is wrong...the Marlins have won 2 World Series since the last Twins World Series Victory.
     
    In all of my rambling and banter - I believe the Twins, for 2018, have signed some bounce back players in preparation for the 2019 season. 2018 will be an additional year of development for the young core of Twins players. Cleveland will be the team to beat in the AL Central with the Wild Card being no gimme. From a Wins and Loss standpoint, I believe 2018 will be either a standstill or step backwards and most Twins fans will find that unacceptable coming off a playoff year.
  10. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to JohnFoley for a blog entry, Pitch Framing and Twins Pitchers   
    On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 the Twins announced the signing of free agent catcher Jason Castro to a 3-year, $24.5MM contract. It was a move that was widely attributed to the members of the Twins’ new front office comfort with advanced analytics. Jason Castro is widely regarded as very good defensive catcher due in large part to his ability to frame pitches and steal strikes for his pitchers. In 2016 Castro ranked third in all of baseball in Baseball Prospectus’ Framing Runs statistic, with +16.3. Kurt Suzuki, the Twins primary catcher in 2016, ranked 92nd at -6.8. Suzuki’s main backup, Juan Centeno, ranked 97th with -9.7.
     
    Castro is a roughly average offensive catcher. He put together a 88 wRC+ in 2016, which ranked 17th among catchers with at least 250 PAs, via Fangraphs. For reference, the league average wRC+ for catchers in 2016 was 87. But, he got a $24.5MM contract primarily because of his framing and the Twins are expecting him to make an impact on their pitching staff.
     
    So where might the Twins pitchers benefit from better framing? Let’s look at the Twins pitchers (that are still with the organization in 2017) that threw at least 50 innings in 2016, sorted by innings pitched:
     


     
    Using this list of pitchers, we can utilize Fangraphs' excellent heatmaps tool to explore each pitcher’s distribution of pitches around the strike zone. For example, here is Kyle Gibson’s 2016 pitch% heatmap, which displays the percentage of pitches thrown to each particular segment in and around the strike zone (shown from the pitcher’s perspective). The rulebook defined strike zone is outlined in black.
     


     
    There are not many surprises here, as we can see Gibson most often pitches down in the zone, and to his arm side. This is likely driven in large part to the high number of 2-seam sinking fastballs he throws (27.2% of total pitches in 2016, per PITCHf/x data available on Fangraphs).
     
    What this data also lets us do, is explore each pitcher’s propensity for pitching to the edges of the strike zone. Let’s assume much of the benefit of pitch framing occurs at the edges of the strike zone, where pitches are less definitively a ball or a strike to the eyes of the umpire. By focusing on the edges of the zone we can identify which Twins pitchers might benefit most from better framing.
     
    For this analysis, I focused explicitly on the strike zone segments just inside and just outside the rulebook strike zone, which are the areas between the gold lines in the graphic below:
     


     
    Using the pitch data in these sections, I calculated a metric for each Twins pitcher labeled "Total Edge%". These data points are summarized in the table below and show us the percentage of pitches thrown on the edge, or just off the edge of the strike zone, by each Twins pitcher in 2016:
     


     
    What we can see is the Twins starting pitchers seemed to pitch toward the edges of the strike zone more than the league average and more than their reliever teammates in 2016, with the exception of Brandon Kintzler. Ervin Santana is approximately at league average, which was 44.7%. Kyle Gibson is significantly above, at almost 49%. Jose Berrios, Phil Hughes, and Hector Santiago are all up around 47%. So, as a starting point, we can assert that Gibson, Berrios, Hughes, and Santiago are the primary candidates to benefit from better framing.
     
    But how do they fare in getting called strikes around the edges of the zone?
     
    Using the same heatmaps tool, we are also able to visualize each pitcher’s called strike percentage (cStrike%), in each segment of the strike zone. Here is Gibson’s for 2016:
     


     
    As we would expect, pitches located in the middle of the zone are nearly always called a strike, evidenced by the bright red boxes and rates at or near 100%. As before, our interest is just on and just off the edge of the strike zone, which I again outline in gold. Here, we see more variation, with the called strike percentage ranging from as high as 88% in the zone to Gibson’s arm side, to as low as 27% inside the zone up and to his glove side. We also see, pitches just off the strike zone are called strikes at a much lower percentage than pitches just in the zone, as you would expect. But, we need a reference point. How do the Twins compare against the rest of baseball?
     
    Using this data, I calculated two additional metrics, labelled as "In-Zone Edge cStrike%" and "Out-Zone Edge cStrike%", which delineate the called strike percentage on the edge and in the zone, and on the edge and out of the zone. Focusing on these strike zone segments, I calculated the called strike percentage for each Twins pitcher. Also included are the MLB averages for each metric.
     


     
    What we see above, is that 6 of the 10 Twins pitchers to throw 50 innings last season had a lower than league average called strike rate on pitches on the edge and inside the legal strike zone. Ryan Pressly and Jose Berrios appear to be the most impacted, with called strike rates significantly less than the league average of 64.9%, at 52.8% and 57.5% respectively.
     
    But what about just off the edge?
     


     
    When we focus on the segments just off the strike zone we see this same trend play out, but even more significantly. The visual above shows that 8 of the 10 Twins hurlers had lower than league average called strike rates on pitches just off the strike zone. This indicates that they were not getting many strikes stolen in their favor. In most cases for the Twins, the difference from league average is quite significant. Berrios, Michael Tonkin, Pressly, Taylor Rogers, and Santiago each have rates right around half the league average of 10.4%. The net result, when we add up the In-Zone and Out-Zone Edge cStrike% for Total Edge cStrike%, is that 7 of the 10 Twins pitchers studied had called strikes rates around the edges of the strike zone that were decidedly less than league average.
     
    Now, this probably isn’t all that surprising intuitively. We know the Twins as a whole did not pitch well last year (29th in ERA, 27th in FIP, per Fangraphs), and we know the Twins catchers did not rate well as pitch framers. Kurt Suzuki and Juan Centeno combined to catch nearly 86% of the Twins defensive innings last season. But for as bad as the team pitched, it is also clear the pitchers were not getting much help from their catchers.
     
    But how many pitches are we talking about here? If we assume a league average called strike rate on the edges of the strike zone (which was 36.1% in 2016) for the Twins, we can estimate an additional number of pitches that would be called strikes. This is what we find:
     


     
    By this analysis, it seems that Jose Berrios, Ryan Pressly, and Ervin Santana would benefit the most from better pitch framing, with each gaining roughly 20 additional called strikes over the course of the season.
     
    But how much does a pitch being called a ball, instead of a strike, actually matter?
     
    Let’s look at the major league batting average by count in a plate appearance. The data in the table below is from a 2014 Grantland article written by Joe Lemire, and calculates the batting average for plate appearances ending on specific counts. For example, the batting average on plate appearances ending on the 0-1 pitch is .321. The data fluctuates slightly year to year, but in any given season, you’ll find a table that generally looks like this:
     


     
    By this measure, the value of a strike, depending on the count is quite significant. In a 1-1 count, for example, if the next pitch is called a strike, making the count 1-2, the batter’s expected batting average drops from .319 to .164. Similarly, if the pitch is a ball, making the count 2-1, the batter’s expected average increases to .327. That’s a .163 swing in expected batting average.
     
    Others have approached this differently by trying to calculate the expected outcomes by the result of the at bat that reaches each count. So, for example, what is the expected outcome for all plate appearances that reached an 0-1 count, regardless of whether it was the 0-1 pitch that the outcome of the plate appearance was created? Different approaches aside, we find a similar result according to a revisit of the idea by Matt Hartzell published on RO Baseball in 2016:
     


     
     


     
    While the differences here are not quite as steep as before, we still see the swings matter. Batting average after a 1-2 count is .178, where after a 2-1 count it is .247. That’s still a .069 swing in batting average. We also have added on-base percentage, and see the trend holds. OBP after a 2-1 count in 2016 was .383, versus just .229 after a 1-2 count.
     
    So, all of this helps us show the Twins have a pitch framing problem and pitch framing matters because getting more pitches called strikes leads to less runners on base.
     
    But can Jason Castro fix it?
     
    To try to find out, let’s look at the Houston Astros, Castro’s former employer. Using the same methodology as with the Twins pitchers, I again calculated the cStrike% on the edges of the strike zone for the all Astros pitchers that threw more than 50 IP in 2016. What we find is pretty telling:
     


     
    Of the 12 Astros to throw more than 50 IP, only one, Michael Feliz, had a lower than league average called strike rate around the edge of the strike zone. But even he was roughly league average (36.06% compared to league average of 36.11%). The rest of the pitchers studied were above league average, and in most cases, quite comfortably so. Six of them are clustered close together right around 41.0%.
     
    Now, to be fair, not all of this is directly attributable to Castro. These are different, and arguably, better pitchers. And Castro didn’t catch every pitch thrown (he caught 61.9% of the Astros defensive innings in 2016). But the difference is stark and by this rough measure, it seems Jason Castro will make a positive impact for the Twins pitchers.
     
    To the Twins credit, they recognized they had a weakness, and they used the free agent market to acquire a player they hope can help address it.
  11. Like
    jorgenswest got a reaction from Mike Sixel for a blog entry, Santana: In his 30s and pitching well   
    There are all kinds of questions surrounding whether the Twins should trade Santana.
     
    The market is a huge factor. Is it better to keep him given the limited options in or outside the organization? Is it better to trade him given the demand and supply? Will the demand be greater in July?
     
    My interest is exploring the likelihood that he will continue to be a valuable pitcher for the next three seasons that the Twins can control. I looked for a similar group of pitchers with a healthy track record and solid age 33 season as well as providing league average performance age 29-33.
     
    I used this criteria

    Pitchers pitched at least 750 innings in the 5 seasons age 29-33
    Pitchers that had an ERA+ centered around 102 for those 5 seasons
    Pitchers with a good age 33 season and an ERA+ of better than league average
    Pitchers since 1990 and the change in bullpen usage

    Note- ERA+ is a searchable tool in play index. The various ERA estimators relative to league are not. At 750 innings, ERA+ will do as well as the others. It isn't as good for the age 33 season but looking at group data will give a good sample.
     
    I pulled two groups from B-R's play index. The first group was the age 29-33 group. I found a group of 66 pitchers centered at an ERA+. The second group was age 33 pitchers with a good full season at that age. I found 64 pitchers in that group.
     
    After finding the intersection of the two groups I ended up with 23 pitchers. One is Santana of course. Two others were also 33 in 2016 in J.A. Happ and Jason Hammel.
     
    This is the remaining group of 20 pitchers. Radke is in the group though he retired after age 33 due to a shoulder injury. Removing him would be cherry picking but you might consider it a group of 19.
     
    Ken Hill
    Pete Harnisch
    Kevin Gross
    Woody Williams
    Ted Lilly
    Brad Radke
    Shane Reynolds
    Tim Belcher
    Ervin Santana
    Jason Hammel
    Miguel Batista
    Bobby Witt
    Dave Burba
    J.A. Happ
    Jake Peavy
    Bronson Arroyo
    Kevin Appier
    Kyle Lohse
    Steve Trachsel
    Todd Stottlemyre
    Doug Davis
    Esteban Loaiza
    Hideo Nomo
     
    At age 33, the group had an ERA+ range of 100 to 144. Santana was 124.
     
    Comparing Santana against the median
     
    median 12-10, 195 IP, 189 H, 60 BB, 143 K, 3.83 ERA
    Santana 7-11, 181.1IP, 168 H, 53 BB, 149 K, 3.38 ERA
     
    The context of offense and strikeouts was a little different in 2016 than the earlier part of the chosen era but it seemed a fair comparison group.
     
    The 5 year group had an ERA+ range of 97-111, Santana was 101.
     
    median 152-144, 896.2, 862, 309, 661, 4.12
    Santana 140-140, 874.1, 820, 264, 704, 3.91
     
    So how did this group perform at ages 34 through 36?
     
    Age 34
    There were some outstanding age 34 seasons. Nomo had Belcher had excellent seasons.
    10 of 20 pitchers had an ERA+ of 100 or better.
    9 of 20 pitchers threw at least 150 innings (Batista was a closer) so 10 in 20 were healthy full season. Peavy and Stottlemyre had good seasons while not injured in 19 and 17 starts.
    2615.1 innings from the group
    As a group, the median ERA+ was 95.5 (100.7 ERA+ weighted by innings pitched)

    Age 35
    Woody Williams was outstanding in his 17 starts while healthy
    5 of 20 pitchers had an ERA+ of 100 or better.
    8 of 20 pitchers threw at least 150 innings. Additionally Williams was very valuable in his 17 starts
    2403 innings from the group
    As a group the median ERA+ was 86 (93.6 ERA+ weighted by innings pitched)

    Age 36 (19 in this group. Peavy is 36 this year)
    Tim Belcher had a very good season with 34 starts and an ERA+ of 111
    6 of 19 pitchers had an ERA+ of 100 or better though 2 of those seasons were less than 50 innings
    5 of 19 pitchers threw at least 150 innings
    1426.1 innings from the group
    As a group, the median ERA+ was 75.5 (96 weighted by innings pitched)

    Innings as a group
    33: 3786
    34: 2615.1
    35: 2403
    36: 1426.1
     
    This started as a group of 20 pitchers that had been healthy ages 29-33 while pitching well at age 33. In spite of their health, injuries were a factor age 34 to 36. Even at age 34 only 10 of the 20 provided full seasons.
     
    There is a reason to be optimistic about 2017 for Santana. Those that stayed healthy maintained their solid performance. Twelve of 20 made solid contributions. There is also a reason to be a little optimistic through 2019. The ERA+ weighted by innings shows a near league average performance which isn't easy to acquire and rare among Twin pitchers since 2011.
     
    There is also reason for concern. The innings drop off from the group of healthy pitchers is significant.
     
    Ervin Santana is a very good pitcher and valuable to any team. He could well perform as a number 2 starter again next year. There is a reasonable chance that he will be a solid pitcher the next three seasons. Perhaps a better chance than Donald Trump winning the election.
     
    Should Santana's age be a factor in the Twins decision on whether to trade him? Is there some reason to believe that there is something different about Santana compared to this group of pitchers who were also reasonable healthy through age 33?
     
    Pitching is difficult enough to acquire that they might be better off gambling on Santana staying healthy. Those that stayed healthy performed reasonably well through age 36. The Twins could trade Santana for a young prospect, but there is no guarantee that prospect will remain healthy.
     
    After looking at this group, I think I might gamble on Santana.
  12. Like
    jorgenswest got a reaction from Oldgoat_MN for a blog entry, Santana: In his 30s and pitching well   
    There are all kinds of questions surrounding whether the Twins should trade Santana.
     
    The market is a huge factor. Is it better to keep him given the limited options in or outside the organization? Is it better to trade him given the demand and supply? Will the demand be greater in July?
     
    My interest is exploring the likelihood that he will continue to be a valuable pitcher for the next three seasons that the Twins can control. I looked for a similar group of pitchers with a healthy track record and solid age 33 season as well as providing league average performance age 29-33.
     
    I used this criteria

    Pitchers pitched at least 750 innings in the 5 seasons age 29-33
    Pitchers that had an ERA+ centered around 102 for those 5 seasons
    Pitchers with a good age 33 season and an ERA+ of better than league average
    Pitchers since 1990 and the change in bullpen usage

    Note- ERA+ is a searchable tool in play index. The various ERA estimators relative to league are not. At 750 innings, ERA+ will do as well as the others. It isn't as good for the age 33 season but looking at group data will give a good sample.
     
    I pulled two groups from B-R's play index. The first group was the age 29-33 group. I found a group of 66 pitchers centered at an ERA+. The second group was age 33 pitchers with a good full season at that age. I found 64 pitchers in that group.
     
    After finding the intersection of the two groups I ended up with 23 pitchers. One is Santana of course. Two others were also 33 in 2016 in J.A. Happ and Jason Hammel.
     
    This is the remaining group of 20 pitchers. Radke is in the group though he retired after age 33 due to a shoulder injury. Removing him would be cherry picking but you might consider it a group of 19.
     
    Ken Hill
    Pete Harnisch
    Kevin Gross
    Woody Williams
    Ted Lilly
    Brad Radke
    Shane Reynolds
    Tim Belcher
    Ervin Santana
    Jason Hammel
    Miguel Batista
    Bobby Witt
    Dave Burba
    J.A. Happ
    Jake Peavy
    Bronson Arroyo
    Kevin Appier
    Kyle Lohse
    Steve Trachsel
    Todd Stottlemyre
    Doug Davis
    Esteban Loaiza
    Hideo Nomo
     
    At age 33, the group had an ERA+ range of 100 to 144. Santana was 124.
     
    Comparing Santana against the median
     
    median 12-10, 195 IP, 189 H, 60 BB, 143 K, 3.83 ERA
    Santana 7-11, 181.1IP, 168 H, 53 BB, 149 K, 3.38 ERA
     
    The context of offense and strikeouts was a little different in 2016 than the earlier part of the chosen era but it seemed a fair comparison group.
     
    The 5 year group had an ERA+ range of 97-111, Santana was 101.
     
    median 152-144, 896.2, 862, 309, 661, 4.12
    Santana 140-140, 874.1, 820, 264, 704, 3.91
     
    So how did this group perform at ages 34 through 36?
     
    Age 34
    There were some outstanding age 34 seasons. Nomo had Belcher had excellent seasons.
    10 of 20 pitchers had an ERA+ of 100 or better.
    9 of 20 pitchers threw at least 150 innings (Batista was a closer) so 10 in 20 were healthy full season. Peavy and Stottlemyre had good seasons while not injured in 19 and 17 starts.
    2615.1 innings from the group
    As a group, the median ERA+ was 95.5 (100.7 ERA+ weighted by innings pitched)

    Age 35
    Woody Williams was outstanding in his 17 starts while healthy
    5 of 20 pitchers had an ERA+ of 100 or better.
    8 of 20 pitchers threw at least 150 innings. Additionally Williams was very valuable in his 17 starts
    2403 innings from the group
    As a group the median ERA+ was 86 (93.6 ERA+ weighted by innings pitched)

    Age 36 (19 in this group. Peavy is 36 this year)
    Tim Belcher had a very good season with 34 starts and an ERA+ of 111
    6 of 19 pitchers had an ERA+ of 100 or better though 2 of those seasons were less than 50 innings
    5 of 19 pitchers threw at least 150 innings
    1426.1 innings from the group
    As a group, the median ERA+ was 75.5 (96 weighted by innings pitched)

    Innings as a group
    33: 3786
    34: 2615.1
    35: 2403
    36: 1426.1
     
    This started as a group of 20 pitchers that had been healthy ages 29-33 while pitching well at age 33. In spite of their health, injuries were a factor age 34 to 36. Even at age 34 only 10 of the 20 provided full seasons.
     
    There is a reason to be optimistic about 2017 for Santana. Those that stayed healthy maintained their solid performance. Twelve of 20 made solid contributions. There is also a reason to be a little optimistic through 2019. The ERA+ weighted by innings shows a near league average performance which isn't easy to acquire and rare among Twin pitchers since 2011.
     
    There is also reason for concern. The innings drop off from the group of healthy pitchers is significant.
     
    Ervin Santana is a very good pitcher and valuable to any team. He could well perform as a number 2 starter again next year. There is a reasonable chance that he will be a solid pitcher the next three seasons. Perhaps a better chance than Donald Trump winning the election.
     
    Should Santana's age be a factor in the Twins decision on whether to trade him? Is there some reason to believe that there is something different about Santana compared to this group of pitchers who were also reasonable healthy through age 33?
     
    Pitching is difficult enough to acquire that they might be better off gambling on Santana staying healthy. Those that stayed healthy performed reasonably well through age 36. The Twins could trade Santana for a young prospect, but there is no guarantee that prospect will remain healthy.
     
    After looking at this group, I think I might gamble on Santana.
  13. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Hosken Bombo Disco for a blog entry, A Look at Minor League Promotions of College Relief Pitchers   
    Back on June 11, the Minnesota Twins were defeated by the Boston Red Sox 15-4, giving up 10 runs over the final two innings to let an otherwise close game get out of reach.
     
    It wasn’t just another loss in another losing season. It was noteworthy because it gave fans their first look at J. T. Chargois, a highly-touted, hard-throwing pitching prospect from the 2012 draft. Chargois is one of many collegiate relief pitchers the Twins have been stockpiling with high picks in the amateur draft over the past several years, and became the first of these picks to make his major league debut.
     
    Twins manager Paul Molitor said before the game that he would look for a low-pressure situation in which to ease Chargois into his role. It made sense. Chargois was coming off of two lost seasons to elbow surgery and had pitched on back to back days only once in 2016 to that point. The late innings of a lopsided game seemed like a good spot to give him his first appearance. Any runs Chargois might surrender would have little impact on the final result. And surrender them he did—he faced eight batters, six reached base, and he was charged with 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning.
     
    And just as quickly as he had been called up to the majors, Chargois was immediately optioned back to AAA after the game.
     
    Introduction
     
    Chargois was drafted in 2012 out of Rice University with the 72nd overall pick, one of five college relievers selected among the Twins’ first eight picks that year. The Twins then drafted heavily again in this way in 2014. Obtaining more college relievers with high velocity and expectations of much quicker promotions was welcome news for many Twins fans, who were enduring a string of losing seasons in which their team would finish near the bottom in many pitching categories. The 2014 season was one in which division rival Kansas City was building a pennant winner around its overpowering, upper-90s-throwing bullpen arms. Twins used the 42nd overall pick in June 2014 on Nick Burdi, a relief pitcher from Louisville who could reach 100 mph on the radar gun.
     
    But the 2014 draft was two years ago, and the 2012 draft was four years ago already. The Twins bullpen in 2016 is still relying on softer-throwing minor league signings made during the offseason. Where have all the college relievers gone?
     
    From reading the discussion boards at Twins Daily this season, I noticed others asking this same question. TwinsDaily writer Seth Stohs had an article back in December on the long list of college relief pitchers the Twins have drafted over the past decade. Other than that, references were scarce; I couldn’t find much (or didn't conduct the right searches) about how college relief pitchers became major league relief pitchers. Are the Twins promoting their relief prospects too slowly? That was my main question, but I had some other questions too. I decided to frame the questions as an academic type of study. I wanted answers with Chargois and Burdi in mind, two guys who were selected with second round picks and have been indisputably developed for the purpose of becoming major league relief pitchers.
     
    The natural response to the question of whether the Twins are promoting these pitchers too slowly is: They are promoted when they are promoted. Hard to argue with that explanation, but for many people, it’s not good enough.
     
    I wanted to compare how other organizations promote pitchers with profiles similar to Chargois and Burdi through their minor league systems. My intent was not to perform any sophisticated statistical analyses or conclusively answer any big philosophical questions, nor do I consider roster issues, or a pitcher’s velocity or pitch repertoire, or any qualitative information that might affect a player’s progress or a team’s evaluation of it. I just wanted to dig up some data, present it, and see if it was saying anything.
     
    I settled on three hypotheses or questions I wanted to test. First, that the Twins have drafted more of these types of pitchers than most other organizations; second, that the Twins promote these pitchers more slowly than other organizations; and third, that it makes no difference to their careers when these pitchers make their first major league appearance, whether it be a critical situation or low leverage.
     
    Also, I believed that there are more efficient ways to obtain strong bullpen arms than targeting them in the amateur draft, but I chose not to address this last question. A good rundown of the best relievers the Twins have developed over the years is here, and they are not primarily relief pitchers drafted from college.
     
    On the initial three hypotheses, I found the answers mixed. But I did discover a couple of things that surprised me.
     
    Methods
     
    In order to arrive objectively at a set of pitchers to examine, I established some rules. First, I would define what a college relief pitcher is. Then I would set some conditions for which pitchers from the draft were eligible for inclusion into the sample, and finally, I would need to decide on how to measure the promotions of these pitchers once they were in a team's minor league system.
     
    Above all, I was interested in success stories. Again, I was targeting players who were drafted as college relievers, who pitched in relief in the minors, and who eventually reached the major leagues as relievers for the team that drafted them. I wanted to know what characteristics these ballplayers had in common, and if Chargois, Burdi and other Twins relief pitchers shared those characteristics.
     
    Defining a college relief pitcher. I didn’t want starting pitchers in the group. During his college career, J.T. Chargois appeared in 47 games as a pitcher and started only 2 of them. (Note: I would use the Baseball Cube for retrieving college stats, and then verify these stats against other sources when possible.) I was comfortable calling Chargois a college relief pitcher. Other times it was less clear. Logan Darnell appeared in 43 games—strictly in relief—in his first two seasons at Kentucky. In his third and final season, he made 11 starts. Was Darnell a college reliever? Did the Twins consider him one? I wasn’t sure.
     
    After browsing through the records of many former college pitchers who were selected in the draft, I settled on the following rules. A college relief pitcher would be someone who:
    pitched in relief in a majority of games his final college season; or, pitched in relief in a majority of all college pitching appearances; and
    pitched fewer than 200 innings total as a college pitcher.
    There is nothing special about these rules; I thought they simply made sense for what I wanted to look at. Unfortunately those rules created a couple of odd exclusions, including Chance Ruffin, who was the closer for the Texas Longhorns during the 2010 NCAA season but who made 28 starts in his two prior seasons at Texas, exceeding the innings limit. Also disqualified as a relief pitcher here was Madison Boer, who the Twins drafted at the end of the 2nd round in 2011 but who also barely exceeded the innings limit (according to Baseball Cube). It's also not impossible that a pitcher or two in this study might have been unintentionally mis-categorized, but if so, it was without bias.
     
    Eligibility for sample. Having defined a college reliever, I then decided I would only look at picks in the first and second rounds, including compensation picks. This would include Chargois and Burdi in my set (but not Darnell, who in 2010 was a sixth round pick).
     
    I settled on the drafts from the years 2004-2012, however. This meant I would have Chargois, but not Burdi, who was drafted in 2014. I decided that for any players drafted 2013 or later, their teams wouldn’t have the benefit of development time. Though this endpoint excludes Burdi, I will bring him into the discussion later. I had also supposed that Chargois, a mid-second round pick in 2012, might be the final pitcher in the set chronologically, but my first surprise was that there was a college relief pitcher drafted later than Chargois in the second round who has been in the major leagues for several seasons now.
     
    The 2004 draft was my other endpoint, or beginning point, because in my initial browsing, I discovered that Huston Street was part of that draft, and he is an example of the successful type of college pitcher I imagine the Twins are hoping to develop with these picks. I also liked the 2004 draft for the irrational reasons that it was the first draft held following the publication of Michael Lewis's Moneyball, it was the draft of Glen Perkins, and also the draft of Matt Bush, the first overall pick that year, selected as a shortstop but now pitching effectively in relief with the Texas Rangers. (Perkins and Bush are not otherwise part of this study.)
     
    As I was finishing this project, I became aware that in 2002 the Twins drafted Jesse Crain in the 2nd round with the 61st overall pick. Crain then debuted for the Twins two seasons later. Crain would have qualified for this list had I broadened the year range back to 2002. But by that time, I did not want to expand the set of pitchers based on this selected piece of information. However, like Burdi, I will bring Crain into the discussion at various points of interest.
     
    How to measure the speed of promotions? I thought it would be reasonable and convenient to use innings pitched to measure a pitcher’s time spent at each minor league level. Innings pitched has the advantage of familiarity over other measures like batters faced, game appearances, or even calendar days spent at a level. I would track the number of innings pitched up until the pitcher's major league debut.
     
    I also began with the intention of tracking minor league performance, such as strikeout and walk rates, but as I went on, I felt less of a need for this. Sample sizes are too small for this exercise, and my own judgment about performance would be too uninformed and subjective. Here is an example. An argument could be made that Nick Burdi, compared with his stats in college, struggled with control (a higher BB/9) at his first minor league assignment in A ball at Cedar Rapids. Indeed, I believe the Twins even stated this. However, Huston Street, with the Oakland organization, also struggled with control in this same way (with a higher BB/9) at his first minor league assignment. I began the study wanting to measure performance, but when I considered things like park bias, and sample size, I decided it was not significant. Huston Street pitched only 2 innings in AAA, after all. Whatever his walk or strikeout rate in AAA, it wouldn't be as significant to me as the number of innings he pitched. I reasoned that Oakland would not have promoted Street after a mere 2 innings in AAA if they did not feel he was ready.
     
    In the end, I was comfortable bypassing statistics altogether and using the promotion itself as the main indicator for satisfactory performance.
     
    I did not account for innings pitched in exhibitions, minor league postseasons, or independent leagues. Only innings pitched in the affiliated minor leagues were part of this study; in other words, the innings pitched total you would see if you checked MiLB.com.
     
    Likewise, other than Chargois, I had very little information on injuries for these pitchers, and I simply used their presence in games as an indicator of health.
     
    The College Reliever Search
     
    Using the criteria above, I found a total of 50 college relief pitchers drafted in the first or second round from the years 2004 to 2012.
     
    Have the Twins drafted more college relief pitchers than other organizations? This was my first hypothesis, and from this pool of relievers, I would conclude yes. From this set of 50, the Twins drafted five college relief pitchers within the first two rounds between 2004 and 2012. The Dodgers also drafted five. The Diamondbacks and the Cardinals each drafted four, and no other team accounts for more than three such pitchers.
     
    However, I determined that 27 of these 50 relief pitchers were converted to starters early in their minor league careers, or were given enough starts to cast doubt on whether they were drafted with the strict intent of becoming major league relief pitchers. For example, Mason Melotakis, drafted in the 2nd round of 2012, met the conditions of a college relief pitcher, but he made 18 starts in A ball to begin the 2013 season. Carlos Gutierrez, drafted in 2008, had a similar profile as a potential starter. Starting games in the minor leagues made Melotakis, Gutierrez and the others distinct enough from Chargois and Burdi that I excluded them from my set.
     
    Removing those 27 converted starters from the original set of 50, and removing four others who did not sign a contract (including Josh Fields, who is actually counted twice in the set of 50 as he was drafted in consecutive years), I arrived at a set of 19 college relievers who were drafted in the first two rounds and then used almost exclusively as relief pitchers in the minors.
     
    The Twins drafted 3 of these 19 players to become relievers exclusively, while no other team drafted more than two. Setting aside Melotakis and Gutierrez, here are the three Twins pitchers who would make up part of this group of 19 (Table 1):
     
    Table 1: College relief pitchers drafted by the Twins between 2004-2012 in the first or second round, who were developed exclusively as relief pitchers in the minor leagues


     
    Because I was only interested in college relievers who have reached the majors with their original teams, I sorted these 19 relief pitchers into even smaller sets: three who were traded to another organization while still in the minors, including Bullock (and also Josh Fields again, who I will mention later); three who retired or were released by their original clubs before making it to the majors; and two who are still in the minors with their original clubs, including Luke Bard. That left 11 left over. The remaining 11 pitchers were the ones I was looking for—college relief pitchers who made it to the major leagues as relievers with the club that originally drafted them.
     
    These were the guys who again, like Chargois and Burdi, were selected with high draft picks, developed through the minors almost exclusively as relief pitchers, and made their debuts with the teams that drafted them.
     
    Table 2 introduces these 11 pitchers, listed chronologically by year drafted and draft position: Bill Bray (drafted as a Montreal Expo), Huston Street, Craig Hansen, Joey Devine, Chris Perez, Eddie Kunz, Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth, Drew Storen, J. T. Chargois, and Paco Rodriguez.
     
    Table 2: College relief pitchers drafted between 2004-2012 in the first or second round, who were developed exclusively as relief pitchers in the minor leagues, and who debuted in the major leagues as relief pitchers for the teams that drafted them


     
    By collecting data from this set of 11 relief pitchers, I could now look at innings pitched to test my second and main hypothesis, about whether the Twins are promoting college relief prospects more slowly than other organizations. I got my answer, but found that the question was a little more complicated than that.
     
    Before collecting this data, however, I wanted to get a sense of how well these pitchers have performed in MLB. A couple of these pitchers are well known, while a few of them I had not heard of or had forgotten about. Table 3 lists these same pitchers, tracking the pitcher by age and the fWAR accumulated in the majors at that age, through the end of the 2015 season:
     
    Table 3: Age of relief pitchers per season, and accumulated fWAR for that season


     
    There are some problems with using fWAR and dividing by seasons played to put a value on a player, but I was only looking for approximations. Additionally, when evaluated this way, I found these pitchers could be put into three natural groupings: a very good group, an above average group, and a below average group.
     
    The following data re-sorted and displayed in a bar graph (Figure 1) will illustrate these three groupings better. The top and bottom of each grey bar represent the highest and lowest season fWAR for each pitcher. The black line near the middle of each bar represents the pitcher’s career average fWAR. The league average fWAR for a relief pitcher is 0.16, indicated by a dashed line.
     
    Figure 1: Relief pitcher high and low season fWAR, represented as a bar graph, relievers sorted by general effectiveness


     
    The first three bars in order are Huston Street, Drew Storen, and Chris Perez. These three make up what I considered the very good group. The next three bars are the above average group of Paco Rodriguez, Joey Devine, and Bill Bray. The last group of bars includes Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth, Eddie Kunz, Craig Hansen, and J. T. Chargois.
     
    The pitchers will be sorted in this order in all of the bar graphs to follow.
     
    I put Chris Perez with the first group based on his career saves total, and because Perez’s fWAR was hurt by his final two seasons. bWAR treats Perez much better than fWAR. Perhaps Perez would fit better in the middle group, but I chose to include him in the top group. Perez also was named to two All Star games.
     
    You can also see Jesse Crain’s performance in this graph. The first bar represents his seasons with the Twins, which would fit neatly with the above average group of relievers. Crain’s second, taller bar represents his full career, including his final three seasons with the White Sox.
     
    Results and Discussion
     
    My second hypothesis was that college relief pitchers in the Twins system were promoted more slowly, as measured by innings pitched, than the pitchers in the other organizations. Note that this innings pitched data is not intended to differentiate across seasons, only minor league levels.
     
    For each of the 11 relief pitchers in the final set, Table 4 lists the number of innings each pitched at each minor league level prior to their major league debuts:
     
    Table 4: Relief pitchers, innings pitched per minor league level


     
    Below is the same information presented in bar graph format (Figure 2). Already, one or two things start to stand out.
     
    Figure 2: Relief pitchers, innings pitched per minor league level, represented as bar graphs


     
    The first thing that stood out to me is the tallness of the bar representing Chargois. Chargois pitched more minor league innings prior to his debut than all but Perez.
     
    Another clear bit of data that stood out is the number of innings Chargois pitched in rookie league, which I generally thought to be for players coming out of high school. All six of the very good and above average relief pitchers skipped the rookie level. At first, I thought that the Twins not having a short season A- team might have narrowed a choice of assignment to either rookie level or A level, but each of the top three relievers pitched in organizations with a short season A- level team, yet were assigned directly to A level.
     
    However, looking at Chargois and the top three relievers, what also stands out is a pattern of promotions those pitchers were given through the minors. Each of the top three of Street, Storen and Perez began their careers at A ball, pitched at AA, and then at AAA. Storen also made a stop at the high A+ level. Each of the top three spent their longest minor league assignment, measured by innings pitched, at AA. On its face, it looks significant to me that this progression of promotions is shared among the top three relievers, and I find it encouraging that Chargois also followed this progression. What’s more, none of the other seven relievers in the set shows this progression in just this way. On the contrary, the promotion patterns of the others seem haphazard in comparison.
     
    The most common characteristic shared among all the pitchers is pitching at the AA level. Ten of the eleven pitchers in this set pitched in AA prior to their major league debuts. The top three were then promoted to AAA and promoted to the majors from there. However, six of the other seven were promoted to the majors from AA.
     
    Nine of the 11 pitchers prior to their debuts, including Chargois, pitched their highest number of innings in AA. Perhaps these organizations see AA as the most important level for these pitching prospects.
     
    But for how long did these other pitchers stay in MLB after their debuts? Here is a chart with an additional bar to represent major league innings pitched following each pitcher’s debut:
     
    Figure 3: Relief pitchers, length of first stay in major leagues, represented as a bar graph


     
    Again, Chargois stands apart from this group in a few respects. His initial stay in the majors was very brief and fits more with the bottom of the group or relievers than the top group.
     
    The table below shows the number of major league game appearances and innings pitched for each pitcher following their initial call up (Table 5):
     
    Table 5: Relief pitchers, number of game appearances and innings pitched following MLB debut


     
    The best three pitchers had three of the four longest stints in the major leagues. Street was with the team from Opening Day, and Storen and Perez were each called up in the middle of May. Bill Bray was called up in June and then traded in July. Paco Rodriguez was a September call up, then broke camp with the Dodgers the following spring. Only Joey Devine was demoted shortly after his first call up.
     
    Leverage of First Appearances
     
    Does the leverage index of a debut appearance make a difference?
     
    I decided to look at the leverage index of the first three major league appearances of each reliever (Table 6). Approximately, low leverage is a number under 0.85, medium leverage is between 0.85 and 2.00, and high leverage is anything higher than 2.00:
     
    Table 6: Relief pitchers, leverage index (LI) of first three major league appearances following first call up


     
    Most of the relievers did indeed debut in low leverage situations, if not quite blowout losses as Chargois did. In fact, Huston Street’s first three appearances were also fairly late in blowout games (one win, two losses).
     
    The big difference between Street and Chargois is that Street eventually took over the closer role later in his rookie season, something Chargois seems unlikely to do.
     
    The highest leverage debut appearance came from Joey Devine, who entered a game in the top of the 12th inning for the Braves. Devine’s appearance was rated a leverage of 2.31. Devine was one of Bobby Cox’s last options from a bullpen that appears to have been depleted from the previous couple of games. Devine pitched a scoreless top of the 12th, struck out trying to lay down a bunt with two strikes in the bottom of the 12th, then got into trouble in the top of the 13th before surrendering a grand slam and taking the loss.
     
    Meanwhile, Bill Bray was credited with a win in his debut appearance—without facing a batter. Pitching for the Nationals and manager Frank Robinson, Bray entered a game in Milwaukee in the bottom of the 8th inning with a runner on first and two outs, his team trailing by a run. He was brought in to face the rookie Prince Fielder, but the baserunner was caught stealing after the first pitch, ending the inning. The Nationals scored two runs in the top of the 9th and another pitcher replaced Bray to record a save. Bray got the win. The baserunner who was thrown out? Corey Koskie, in his final major league season.
     
    Jesse Crain's MLB debut in August 2004 was in a 0.51 leverage situation, trailing by five runs in the 4th inning versus the Angels. Gardy pulled no punches with Crain’s next two appearances, however, with leverage indexes of 2.85 and 3.41 each, one of those being an extra-inning appearance.
     
    As far as leverage is concerned, I am not sure there is enough information—here or anywhere, perhaps—to determine whether a debut appearance in a high leverage situation will impact a career negatively. Introducing a relief pitcher into a low leverage situation wouldn’t seem to hurt, however.
     
    Other Pitchers
     
    In the following bar graph are the innings pitched of some additional pitchers, including Twins, who were not part of the original set of 11. Each of these pitchers were also relief pitchers in college and developed as relief pitchers in the minors:
     
    Figure 4: Relief pitchers, innings pitched in minor leagues, represented as a bar graph


     
    The first three remain Street, Storen, and Perez. The next two pitchers, separated by extra space in the middle, are Chargois and Nick Burdi. Chargois’s stats are through his debut in June, while Burdi’s stats are through the end of 2015, before his 2016 season began.
     
    The next group of six pitchers is made up of Twins. In order, from left: Billy Bullock, Luke Bard, Zack Jones, Jake Reed, Trevor Hildenberger, and Jesse Crain. The stats for Crain are up through his major league debut in 2004. The stats for the other five Twins pitchers run through the end of the 2015 season and do not include 2016.
     
    The final bar at the far right is Josh Fields, who was just traded from Houston to the Los Angeles Dodgers, which is now his fourth professional organization. Briefly on Josh Fields: Fields was among the 19 relievers in the sample above who were college relievers and pitched almost exclusively in relief in the minors. Seattle drafted Fields with the 20th overall pick in 2008, and notice how they assigned him directly to AA, skipping the lower levels completely. After seeing the progression of promotions from the top three relievers, it’s not hard to imagine how Fields might have struggled in that first long minor league assignment, facing a quality of competition he was not yet suited for, and then having trouble catching up and meeting expectations from that point forward.
     
    The second tallest bar, next to Fields, is Jesse Crain. You can see how the Twins promoted Crain comparatively slowly, but also according to the progression of minor league levels, without skipping a level. Crain spent the longest time in AAA, rather than AA.
     
    Notes on other Twins college relief pitchers here include:
    Billy Bullock, drafted in 2009, in the 2nd round with the 70th pick. Bullock was traded to Atlanta during spring training of 2011 after 107.2 minor league innings with the Twins. Bullock pitched in AAA for a couple of seasons and then was suspended in December 2012, effectively ending his career;
    Luke Bard (2012), 1st round with the 42nd pick. Bard has been hit with significant injuries which perhaps prolonged his stay in A ball, but is currently healthy and pitching in high A;
    Zack Jones (2012), 4th round, 130th overall. Looking at his stat line, Jones seemed to pitch well and even improve on his college numbers in 3 ½ seasons in the Twins system. Jones was then taken in the Rule 5 draft by Milwaukee in December 2015, but returned to the Twins in June. He is pitching in AA;
    Jake Reed (2014), 5th round, 140th overall. Reed would not have made my original set, for pitching too many innings in college. Reed sputtered when promoted to AA in 2015, but is performing very close to his college numbers in AA now in 2016;
    Trevor Hildenberger, 2014 draft, 22nd round, 650th overall. Successful late round picks are fun stories, and Hildenberger is finally getting some attention this season. Like the others in this study, he was a college reliever who was developed as a reliever in the minors. Like the other Twins, he has progressed through every level, and was promoted comparatively slowly to Street, Storen and Perez, which I attribute partly to his low draft selection and lower expectations. Hildenberger has dominated at AA this season;
    Mason Melotakis. I did not include Melotakis in the bar graph above, because the games he pitched as a starter in 2013 would distort his innings compared with the others. He was drafted in 2012, 2nd round, 63rd overall. He has been promoted on the same schedule as the others, with stops at every minor league level, including rookie. Melotakis is also currently pitching in AA;
    Pat Light. Light was drafted 37th overall in the 2012 draft. He was a starter in college and in the low minors, but has pitched exclusively as a reliever since being assigned to AA to begin 2015. At AA he has pitched 29.2 innings in 21 appearances, and at AAA he has pitched 64 innings in 51 appearances. He debuted with Boston on April 26 of this season and had two appearances before being demoted back to AAA;
    Alan Busenitz. Busenitz was college relief pitcher drafted in the 25th round of the 2013 draft. He has pitched 254 innings in the minor leagues, mostly in relief.
    All of which leads us to Nick Burdi.
     
    On the surface, it looks as though Burdi and Chargois are being promoted on the same schedule as the other Twins college relief prospects. Here is the comparison of Burdi’s minor league innings through 2015 with the innings pitched by Street, Storen, Perez, Chargois, and Crain prior to their major league debuts:
     
    Figure 5: Relief pitchers, comparison


     
    Again, Street and Storen were promoted fairly quickly, while Perez and the three Twins were promoted less quickly, or even slowly, in comparison. Chargois and Crain pitched 75.2 and 85.2 innings apiece through the AA level prior to their debuts. Similarly, Burdi reached 84 innings through AA through the end of 2015 (not counting Burdi’s innings during Chattanooga’s 2015 postseason run).
     
    Notice how Burdi skipped rookie ball and was assigned directly to A ball in 2014. As we’ve seen, for the Twins this is unusual. Remember too that Burdi struggled in the first half of 2015. After 30.1 innings in AA he was demoted back to A+ for a short time. Burdi then pitched 20 more innings in A+ before his promotion back to AA.
     
    Now suppose that Burdi, instead of struggling in those first AA appearances, had pitched very well. Suppose he pitched well enough that instead of being demoted at the end of June, the Twins instead promoted him to AAA, and he pitched in AAA until the end of the Rochester season. Here’s how the graph might look under these new innings totals (FIG 6):
     
    Figure 6: Relief pitchers, comparison alternative


     
    This alternative promotion schedule is similar to Storen’s, especially through the end of AA. If the 33.1 innings pitched by Burdi after his demotion had all been credited to AAA instead of the lower levels, the AA to AAA innings ratio would have resembled Crain’s prior to Crain’s debut. It is not a stretch of the imagination to think that Burdi would have been considered for a September call-up last season had his season gone differently.
     
    Wrapping up
     
    Looking only at this small set of 11 pitchers, one can conclude that what is most important to the major league success of these pitchers is not the speed of their promotions, but instead is the logical progression of promotions the pitcher takes through the minor leagues. The pitching prospect is drafted and assigned to a minor league team, after which point the pitcher advances level by level, without skipping more than one level at a time, until AA is reached. A college relief pitcher on a successful development plan can skip the rookie level, but will not skip the AA level. At AA, the pitcher may be asked to pitch more innings than at any previous level. AA is then followed by a stop in AAA, which is followed by the pitcher’s MLB debut. The soundness of this progression is even more evident when looking at the major league careers of the college relief pitchers in this study who did not follow the progression (Figure 2). It’s true that better data and a larger sample of pitchers might alter how this conclusion currently looks, but for now I am standing behind it.
     
    Unfortunately for this study, the relative slowness with which the Twins promote their relief prospects means that their success will not be apparent for a while. The quick promotion of Paco Rodriguez, selected 10 picks later than Chargois in 2012, does suggest that a late second round pick would not need to be promoted slowly out of fear of hurting the pitcher’s career. The Dodgers had already gotten more than three seasons and 1.2 fWAR from Rodriguez before trading him away during his age 24 season. With the slower timelines the Twins prefer, the Twins figure to miss out on the early value a college relief pitcher might present.
     
    Only after I finished with the above data did I hunt for pitchers with similar profiles who fell outside of my set. This is when I discovered Jesse Crain, drafted in 2002. There are pitchers such as Jake Barrett in Arizona (2012, 3rd round) and Tony Zych in Seattle (2011, 4th round) who were taken a bit later in the draft and spent a great deal more time in the minors than Chargois, but there are also pitchers like Joe Smith (2006, 3rd round), who was promoted rapidly by the Mets and debuted in MLB with only 32.2 minor league innings behind him.
     
    A similar, better study of minor league promotions would widen the sample of pitchers, and would also improve on the definition of college reliever as used here.
     
    For now, it's reasonable to think that the Twins still expect a few of these relievers in their system to become valuable major league contributors. I would also conclude that most of these relievers have been promoted responsibly, if a little slowly. But again, too slowly? It's hard to know for sure. Chargois could probably have been called up by now. Once Burdi becomes healthy, the Twins will probably ask him to pitch more minor league innings than he really needs. And aside from Chargois and Burdi, there is still an abundance of young pitching prospects in the Twins system waiting for their chance. Perhaps half of the AA Chattanooga bullpen is made up of former college relief pitchers who could stand to use a promotion, but not to the majors yet—to AAA.
  14. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Lee-The-Twins-Fan for a blog entry, 25-man roster make-ups   
    On Tuesday, I checked the 25-man rosters of all 30 MLB teams, checking not for quality, but quantity - of players by positions. While this may not be the opening day roster, it was probably close.
    Of the 30 teams:
    • Most had 12 pitchers. Two teams - the Athletics and the Mets had 11 pitchers. the Mets actually only had 24 players on the 25-man roster. The Cubs, Giants and Indians had 13 pitchers. All others had 12.
    • Four of the AL teams – Athletics, Red Sox, Royals and Tigers had a player named as a designated hitter. The other 11 teams did not.
    • The three-man catcher appears to be a thing of the past. Only the Cubs carried three catchers. All other teams had two designated as catcher.
    • Teams had between four and seven infielders and between four and seven outfielders designated. One should keep in mind that some players can play both infield and outfield positions (such as Danny Santana, Miguel Sano, Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez). Eight teams designated seven infielders, but only Oakland designated seven outfielders. The Athletics were also the only one to have only four infielders.
    A lot of teams had four, five or six infielders and outfielders. But only the Royals had equal numbers of each (five).
    • Half of the teams (15) had exactly six infielders. Fourteen teams had 4 outfielders; 11 teams had five outfielders. Five teams had either six or seven outfielders.
    • The most common roster was 12 pitchers, two catchers, 6 infielders and 5 outfielders (9 teams had that).
    • The Cubs, Mets, Athletics and Royals had unusual combinations of pitchers, catchers, infielders, outfielders and/or designated hitters that no other team had. Oakland's was most unusual - with 11 pitchers, 7 outfielders, only 4 infielders, 2 catchers and a DH. It's one of only 2 teams with 11 pitchers (all others had 12 or 13); only team with 4 infielders; only team with 7 outfielders, and one of four teams with 4 DHs.
    P IF OF CA DH
    Mets – 11 6 5 2
    A's – 11 4 7 2 1
    Cubs – 13 5 4 3
    Royals – 12 5 5 2 1
    Twins – 12 6 5 2 (most common)
     
    I'm not sure of the significance of all of this. But if the Athletics, Mets, Cubs and Royals succeed with their unusual combinations of players, will other teams copy them?
    Probably not.
  15. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to TwinsTakes-RD for a blog entry, 2016 Minnesota Twins Season Preview - Going Deep   
    For the 2016 Minnesota Twins, that’s the big question. Will they contend in 2016? After winning 83 games in 2015 and surprising pretty much everyone, except maybe themselves, by being in the hunt for the playoffs until the final series of the season, can the Minnesota Twins build off of that and make it to the postseason dance in 2016? We do know they enjoy dancing!
     
    The Twins competed in 2015. First year Manager Paul Molitor was a big part of that. He got his players to believe they could compete with and beat any team in the league. They appeared to have that never say die attitude in every game and kept playing hard no matter what. That compete level might be the biggest thing for any team or player. When the Twins were losing 90+ games a season not so long ago, they didn’t look like a team that believed they could win. Once they got down a few runs, their heads would lower and the confidence to come back was not there.
     
    Mike Zimmer, head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, has talked about every team going through 4 Stages of Success or 4 “learns”, Learning How to Compete, How to Win, How to Handle Winning and How to be a Champion. At the time, early November of 2015, Coach Zimmer said the Vikings were between stages 2 & 3, learning how to win and how to handle winning. He also said his team wasn’t “tight or a nervous kind of team. They’re confident but focused on the job.” The Twins might be in exactly the same position as the Vikings were about 5 months ago and we saw how that turned out, a division championship and pushing the reigning champs to the edge of defeat. This Twins team doesn’t just want to win, they expect to win.
     

    Going Deep*


    The biggest reason this team is ready to contend is they have more and better depth in all areas. Some of that depth might be younger players who are still learning the game at this level but they are ready. They have nothing to prove in the minors anymore. When injuries hit like they always do, that depth will come in handy. They still have plenty of prospects too. Some good players were sent down to the minors. The AAA Rochester Red Wings could have a very good season in the young Twins prospects keep developing like they have up to this point.
    *Going Deep has multiple meanings. Of course there’s Going Deep as in hitting the ball out of the park. There’s Going Deep as in the Twins having more depth this season than they’ve had in a long time. Then there’s Going Deep as in Deep as getting down and dirty on how this Twins team will do in 2016!
     

    Better Starting Rotation


    We’ll get a full season of Ervin Santana, a rebound year from a lighter Phil Hughes, another year of Kyle Gibson improving, a full year of Tommy Milone and maybe a year of Ricky Nolasco actually earning his money. That means the Twins had to send Tyler Duffey, who was probably the Twins best pitcher down the stretch last season, to AAA. They still have Jose Berrios waiting in the wings and he is very close to being ready if or when the rotation falters or injuries hit.
     

    The Bullpen Will be Better


    I said will, not is! It might not happen immediately. They are better than what the Twins had at the beginning of last season and they can be good. That bullpen last season overachieved in a lot of ways, especially early in the season. You still can’t believe how good Blaine Boyer was pitching. Aaron Thompson was pitching great too. The bullpen was a reason for a lot of losses last season. Those losses loom large knowing the Twins missed the playoffs by 3 games.
     
    The Twins will start 2016 with Glen Perkins as the closer once again but they now have Kevin Jepson as a setup man along with a healthy Casey Fien and Trevor May as options from the right side. Ryan Pressly is also healthy again and an out of options Michael Tonkin is in a long relief role motivated to stay on the club. From the left side there’s Fernando Abad, who had a great 2014 then struggled in 2015. Can he get back to how he pitched in 2014? Or was that an outlier season? Is he a LOOGY (Lefty One Out Guy)? A 7th inning guy? Is he better than Brian Duensing as a lefty out of the pen? If he can get back to something resembling what he did in 2014, the Twins got themselves a nice lefty option in their bullpen.
     
    That bullpen could get better as the season goes on as well. There’s some heat down on the farm very close to being ready. Those flamethrowers are the reason the Twins didn’t sign a free agent reliever to a long term deal. The amount of money those relievers were getting was a little bit crazy. You can probably thank the Kansas City Royals for that. KC’s bullpen has changed how teams view relievers. The Royals didn’t have great starting pitching but if those guys could get them through 6 innings, they would almost always close the door, saving the game or giving the Royals bats a chance to come back.
     

    The Infield is Set


    For the first time in a long time, the Minnesota Twins infield is set with four players that should be the starters for the whole season. There wasn’t any battles for 1st, 2nd, 3rd or SS in Spring Training. We can only hope that 1B Joe Mauer, 2B Brian Dozier, 3B Trevor Plouffe and SS Eduardo Escobar will be able to stay healthy all season long.
     
    Joe Mauer is looking, with sunglasses on, for a rebound from his worst season in 2015 when he had career lows in batting average (.265), on-base % (.338) & OPS (on-base plus slugging %) (.718). He did play in a career high 158 games though. He’s still working his way back from his concussions that forced a move to first base. Did playing more and lingering concussion symptoms play a role in having a bad season? That’s incredibly hard to answer as concussions affect everyone differently depending on the severity of the concussion and how many they’ve had previously.
     
    Brian Dozier is developing into a leader and could improve on his outstanding 2015 season. Could he top 30 HRs? We know he’s going to score runs as he is the most valuable baserunner in the American League. He plays gold glove caliber defense and he’ll keep dancing after Twins wins! Dancing! Dancing! DANCING!
     
    Eduardo Escobar, after taking over the shortstop position the last two seasons, is finally getting the chance to be the starting shortstop for the Minnesota Twins right from the start of the season. He’s been a doubles machine and has shown unexpected power while playing above average defense. Can he do it for a full season now?
     
    Trevor Plouffe will be the same solid 3rd baseman he’s made himself into through plain hard work. You’ll get some power and some clutch hits out of his bat as he will be in the cleanup spot most of the time. Will he have to deal with trade talk during the season? Paul Molitor & Terry Ryan believe Trevor is an important piece to this Twins teams. The obvious question is if there will ever be some Sano at 3rd base? It will depend on how Miguel does in right field.
     

    Outfield of Dreams?


    The Twins will start the 2016 season with an outfield of young prospects that could make for the most exciting outfield in the league. Eddie Rosario will be in left, Byron Buxton in center and Miguel Sano will take over right field. That young outfield should definitely bring some excitement at the plate, especially if Byron Buxton starts to show signs of how he’s performed offensively in the minors.
     
    It didn’t take long for the league to see how legit the bat of Miguel Sano was as he pummeled pitches again and again to the tune of a .530 slugging percentage that included 18 HRs, 17 doubles and 1 triple! He hit .269 for average, .385 OBP and a .916 OPS in just 78 games or roughly half a season. He did have 119 strikeouts in those 78 games but he also had 53 walks. Will he be better in a full season? Will the switch to the outfield affect his at-bats? Will he be able to stay healthy playing the outfield?
     
    Eddie Rosario lead the league in triples with 15 last season and was tied for 2nd in the league with 16 outfield assists. A low OBP and a high number of strikeouts is worrisome but Ed can flat out hit. This young outfield could make or break the Twins season.
     

    Catching Up


    In November, the Twins traded former 1st round pick Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. They needed an upgrade at the catching position as Kurt Suzuki struggled in his 2nd year with the Twins and the backups were... well...backup catchers, meaning they provided very little offense and decent defense. The Twins got a catcher for the future in the 24-year-old Murphy, an everyday catcher according to the Yankees GM. Their bullpen coach, Gary Tuck said this about him:
     

    "He’s different, he’s special. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever had—and that’s 40 years of some of the greatest catchers who have ever been behind the plate," said bullpen coach Gary Tuck, an ex-big league catcher and longtime catching instructor, to Dan Barbarisi back in May. "A championship player. And I don’t say that about many people. He’s right there—Joe Girardi, Jason Varitek, John Ryan Murphy. A championship player." 
    That’s pretty good, huh?
     

    Going Deep in Korean


    The Twins went out and got Korean slugger Byung Ho Park as a right-handed bat with some power. He looked good in Spring Training adapting to a new country and a new league but, of course, it’s always difficult judging what a player does in Spring Training.
     
    Byung Ho Park is a big reason why the Twins had to move Miguel Sano to the outfield but he could also be a big reason why the Twins can give Joe Mauer a break from playing in the field more often to see if that helps him come back from a career worst season.
     

    Closing


    The bottom line is it always comes down to pitching and the Twins have had trouble with pitching for a long time! If the rotation struggles early and the bullpen gets overworked, it could mean trouble. The offense looks good but there’s still some young pieces that could struggle in their second season in the Major Leagues.
     
    I believe this team will compete. Brian Dozier will be the team leader on & off the field and they could take another step this season. It will be a fun season and this is just the start of something big for the Minnesota Twins!
     
    THANKS for reading! We’d love to hear your ‘Takes on the 2016 Minnesota Twins so let us know in the comments, on our Facebook page, on Twitter and/or on Google+...
     

    After all, it is Our ‘Takes, Your ‘Takes….



    TwinsTakes.com!!!


  16. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Thrylos for a blog entry, 2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/17: The action was at the back fields   
    Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch
    ----
     
    Today, for the second start in a row, the Twins chose not to pitch Phil Hughes against the Orioles (a team they open the season with 3 games in Baltimore.) Instead Hughes pitched 5 innings in the back fields with the Twins' A+ team against the Rays' A+ squad. Curt Suzuki was there to catch him. Next door with the A squad, Kevin Jepsen pitched the first inning and Oswaldo Arcia had 3 plate appearances as a DH against the Rays' A team.
     
    Phil Hughes labored for 5 innings with 78 pitches, including a 28 pitch second inning, in which the defense behind him failed to convert 3 straight forward double play opportunities. He thew 55 of those pitches in strikes and commanded the ball pretty well, inducing mostly weak ground balls, a couple of fly balls and a couple of strikeouts. His fastball was at 89-91, with one at 92, his cutter 86-91, changeup 81-84 and curve 77-79 mph. These numbers were close to his 2015 velocity averages (90.7 for the FB, and 87.8 for the cutter.) All in all it was a "getting his work in" type of session for Hughes, who by no means cruised against high A competition.
     
    Across the field, Kevin Jepsen had a better game, of what I could catch with my peripheral vision, but Oswaldo Arcia stole the show there, hitting a home run close to the major league practice field, under the watching eyes of scouts from the Cubs, Padres, Athletics and another team. The same Rangers' scout who was there yesterday was the single scout scouting Hughes and the Twins' A+ team.
     

     
    Additional impressions from the A team field:
     
    Amaurys Minier, the Twins' number 15 prospect for 2016, played First Base, coming off an injury plague season in Elizabethton. His swing seems more compact that it did last season and he legged out a single in a not very hard hit ball at the SS and had another opposite field single at an outside corner ball with full count. Also went from first to third with ease on a ball hit to Right Field. His speed and running has been improved, since Minier has been pretty much a non-factor in the base paths his whole career. He made a couple of good fielding plays at first base, moving easily both to his left and to his right and made secure and on the spot underhand throws to the pitcher to get the outs.
     
    Jermaine Palacios, the Twins' number 8 prospect for 2016, played Short Stop at that game. He seems not to have gained a pound last off-season, but his fielding, which has been for a good reason, was fine. He made several routine plays at shortstop and did not look tentative making them, but he was not really challenged. In the couple of plate appearances I followed, he showed quick wrists and good contact capabilities.
     
    I saw a single plate appearance by Travis Blackenhorn, the Twins' number 38 prospect for 2016. He has the capability of making contact since he saw several balls and fouled a lot of them. He went with the ball and was able to move it to the opposite field. Would need work to start making productive contact, but the basics are there. He did not look tentative at all and went around his business like he owned the box. Reminded me a bit of a young(er) Max Kepler.
     
    22 year old lefty Sam Clay, pitched 4 innings in that contest. He featured an 89-91 mph fastball with good movement in both planes and a low 80s slider and change up. The slider is above average at this point and has the potential of being a plus pitch, but his control with all of his pitches is all over the place. If he learns how to command and control them, the former 4th round draft pick of 2014, will be someone to watch for. But he is still a work in progress. He looks like a good defender, defending a tough bunt towards his throwing arm side flawlessly.
     
    25 year old Tyler Stirewalt, a righty who was drafted by the Twins in the 21st round of the 2013 draft and lost all of 2014 and part of 2015 to injuries, also pitched in that game. He threw a 90-92 mph fastball and a 77-79 slurve. Many command and control issues as well, but there is potential there. However being 25 and never pitching above Rookie ball, might mean that there might not be time to realize that potential.
     
    A couple of snippets from the other field:
     
    Max Murphy, the Twins 9th Round pick in 2014, a Minnesotan from Robbinsdale looked like a man on a mission. This is his age 23 season and he really looks bulked up and much stronger. He legged out a triple in a long hit at the CF over the defenders' heads and scored in the subsequent play by tagging up after a shallow ball at the RF. After an excellent 2014, he did not do much last season in Cedar Rapids, but definitely someone to pay attention to this season.
     
    Felix Jorge, the Twins' number 20 prospect for 2016 pitched 2 innings for the high A team. I had a chance to watch one of them. His sinker was from 91-93 with good heavy action and his changeup was in the low 70s and it was pretty much lethal as usual. Seemed to have good control with the fastball, which has been questionable in spots. The big question mark around Jorge is weather he will have the stamina to be a started, which will likely take more than a season to answer.
     
    Regretted not seeing Nick Gordon and Lamond Wade who were injured as well as Trevor May who threw after I departed.
     
    Tomorrow Ricky Nolasco will be starting in the back fields, while the Twins will be playing the Red Sox at the Jet Blue Stadium and I will be there to give you the action on the field by him, as well as by the scouts on the bleachers.
  17. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Thrylos for a blog entry, 2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. Day 1: The Doubleheader   
    Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch
    ----------
     
    Today the Twins had a 7:05 PM game hosting the Boston Red Sox. At 1PM the Twins' AAA and AA teams hosted the equivalent of the Orioles'. I spent the afternoon watching the Twins AA team, before moved to Hammond Stadium in the evening for the nightcap.
     
    I was delighted to see that Tyler Jay was the starter for the AA game. Jay was ranked as the Twins' number 2 prospect in my off-season 2016 rankings and I have to say that he proved me happy with that ranking. He pitched for a full 4 innings and featured 4 pitches: a 93-94 mph FB that topped at 96, an 85-86 mph slider, an 81-83 mph change up and a 77-80 mph curve. This is a very effective pitch mix for him. He has a short arm delivery and hides the ball well. He commands all pitches well and his fastball is definitely his out pitch; sets it up beautifully with the slider and the change up. He throws his curve low and outside the strike zone to make hitters chase it; and they do. At this level. One of the questions about Jay has been the ability to be a started as far as endurance goes. Today he was not frugal with his pitches, which is something that he would have to learn as he matures as a professional.
     
    His Catcher was 25 year old Joe Maloney who the Twins signed as a minor league free agent after an MVP season in the Canadian-American Association Independent League Rockland Boulders. Maloney's problem is that he is not a very good catcher and he showed that today, having a throw sail over the head of the second baseman on a steal attempt and two passed balls. The second passed ball bounced off Maloney's glove to the home plate umpire's hand to his cup, incapacitating the umpire. Twins' legend Tom Kelly had to call balls and strikes behind the pitcher for the next half inning before a replacement umpire relieved him:
     

     
    Another new minor league free agent on display today was Keury De La Cruz. The 24 year old outfielder has one of the longest swings I have seen with an extremely violent back swing. After his first PA, I mumbled that someone will get hurt here, and in the 5th inning, it happened to get the Baltimore catcher's head with that backswing. Some serious coaching needs to happen here. De La Cruz provided a bit of a comic relief sliding feet first about 2 feet to the left of where a routine fly ball fell in the second inning. Will not be surprised in the Twins bite the bullet and cut him soon.
     
    The Twins signed 27 year old RHP Omar Belcomo from the American Association Independent League where he last played for the Wichita Lugnuts, to make 3 starts for the Fort Myers Miracle at the end of their season. Belcomo last played affiliated ball in 2011 for the Tampa Bay Rays single A team at Bowling Green. He is an interesting player to keep an eye on, as he is a poor man's Sam Deduno. He has two pitches: A fastball that goes from 86 to 91, which he can absolutely not command and goes all over the place, including the head of a Baltimore hitter in his second inning of work. His second pitch is a 77-81 mph change up that actually is an above average to a plus pitch, and a pitch that he seems to be able to control.
     
    Raul Fernandez was another of the minor league free agents the Twins signed last off-season. The 25 year old RHP Dominican was converted from Catcher to Pitcher by the Rockies after his first DSL season and spent last season in the White Sox' AA team. Long arm motion with 92-93 mph FB with late pop, an 88 mph cutter/2-seamer and a low 80s change up. Very good ability to mix them and throw them all for strikes and good command. He seemed to confuse batters.
     
    Brian Gilbert seems to get his fastball up a couple ticks, consistently hitting 94 and 95 with a couple of 96 mph. He complemented that with an 85-86 mph slider. Seemed to be effectively wild, but it is the start of the Spring Training. Just 23, drafted by the Twins in the 7th round in 2013; keep your eye open for him.
     
    Yorman Landa was the last pitcher for the AA Twins, fresh from the MLB side of Spring Training. I last saw him pitch a couple seasons ago and he is a different pitcher. He supplemented his excellent high 80s low 90s 2-seamer with a 4-seamer that sit at 93-95 and popped up to 96, but is straight with inconsistent command and control. Straight FBs at 95 and 96 will get hit hard by good AA hitters and that is what happened to him today. His 78-81 mph curve was good. He did not throw a change up today. Definite potential there, but he needs work.
     
    Something to keep in mind: Today watching the Twins' AA pitchers was a Texas Rangers' (who train in AZ) scout. Not sure that anything is going on, but he was there.
     
    Fast forward a few hrs to the Twins' MLB game at Hammond Stadium against the Red Sox.
     
    Kyle Gibson was the starter, and he had things really working for him, including his best pitch, a slider, purely made of filth, dancing at 84-86 mph and striking out Red Sox who were either looking at it with open eyes or swinging and missing wildly. That today was a FranKKKKKKKKKKKKKie Liriano slider in his prime, Ladies and Gentlemen. Four seamer 92-95, two seamer high 80s, and a changeup at 79-81 was the rest of Gibson's repertoire tonight. Gibson was in mid-season form.
     
    Another player who was in mid-season form was Miguel Sano, who punished a Bucholtz breaking ball deeply off the Centerfield wall for a double, and even more importantly made a solid catch in RF and threw a pea that would had thrown the tagging runner out at third if Trevor Plouffe did not bobble the ball.
     
    Back to pitching. One of the greatest mysteries this spring has been Glen Perkins' velocity, so I charted all of his pitches. Here they are:
     
    FB 90, FB 89, FB 91, FB 86, FB 89, SL 78, FB 91, FB 88, SL 78, SL 79, SL 81, FL 89, FB 89, FB 90, SL 81, FB 89.
     
    86-91 mph FB and 78-81 mph SL. This is a good 5-6 mph off where Perkins need to be to be effective. Nevertheless this should be raising more Red Flags to the Twins' brass than there are outside the Kremlin...
     
    Have a few more notes from today, but for the sake of brevity, I will include them in one of the future writeups
  18. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Twins Best Pen Arms Could Be In Arizona   
    Last season, the Minnesota Twins had one of the worst bullpens in all of Major League Baseball. Despite the front office's cry for calm prior to the season, the inevitable reality that the talent just wasn't there came to fruition. Once Glen Perkins broke down in the second half, the lone bright spot was now gone. In 2016, the goal will be to change the course, and it's possible two of the best additions may currently be pitching in Arizona.
     
    For what the Twins have in pitching depth throughout their organization, there's also some key contributors who should be very close to their big league debut. Both drafted early in the 2014 draft, Jake Reed and Nicky Burdi are taking the Arizona Fall League by storm.
     
    A month or so ago, I wrote a primer on what the focus needed to be for each of the Twins inclusions in the Fall League. For Burdi, the focus was no doubt going to be on his command, in that piece I said, "Burdi throws gas, but his command was non-existent in 2015. Owning a 6.6 BB/9 mark, pounding the zone will be a major focus in the Arizona Fall League." Often connected due to their path and pedigree, I touched on Reed as well. In talking about the former Duck I said, "Reed is repeating the Fall League this season. In 2014, Reed owned a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 IP for the Salt River Rafters. Another strong performance, with improved command, should have his arrow pointing right back up." We now find ourselves at a point of evaluation.
     
    With just four games left in Arizona Fall League action, both Burdi and Reed have the bulk of their action behind them. To show for it, each pitcher has been nothing short of spectacular. For Burdi, he's pitched 7.0 innings allowing just two hits and zero runs while striking out nine and walking none. Reed has followed suit going 8.1 IP surrendering just four hits, no earned runs, and owning an 8/3 K/BB rate. In the ERA column, both pitchers have a flawless mark.
     
    It's probably a certainty that the Twins will look through the free agency market and trade offerings for options to improve upon the pen. For both Burdi and Reed however, it looks as though they once again should have a very strong possibility of surfacing, and contributing, for the Twins this upcoming season.
     
    During the fall, Burdi has regularly pushed the radar gun into the triple digits. He's notched 1-2-3 innings, and he's struck out sides. Reed has picked up saves, he's been used in high leverage situations, and he's gotten some very strong hitters out. Against competition that would rank among the best either player has seen on a consistent basis, both Twins prospects have excelled considerably.
     
    With turnover needing to happen for Paul Molitor's relief help, a decision to go younger may not be a bad idea at all. Although both Reed and Burdi will need to continue the success out of the gate in the upcoming season, they should (and likely will) be given some time during big league spring training. If both players can show that the Fall League is what should be expected, and the hiccups of 2015 were just that, Molitor may have two really good arms ready to make a splash.
     
    Affiliated during the Fall League with the Twins, Scottsdale owns a league best record and is in position to take the title. Helping them to get there no doubt has been both Jake Reed and Nick Burdi. The next contribution they make could come at a much higher level.
     
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  19. Like
    jorgenswest got a reaction from twinssouth for a blog entry, Steamer Projections: Starting Pitching   
    Steamer projections are available for 2016. Steamer uses the last three seasons of data to project the 2016 season. It is easy to write projections off as "guesses" but they are based on a significant amount of historical data. If interested you can read more about the various projection systems and rankings for 2014 here.
     
    Projected Twin starters with games started, ERA and their rank (compared to the 169 pitchers with 20 projected starts). I use ERA because it is projected performance that is based on previous year's peripherals.
     
    Phil Hughes 32, 4.20 #121
    Ervin Santana 31, 4.34 #140
    Kyle Gibson 29, 4.15 #117
    Ricky Nolasco 19, 4.34 (#140)
    Tommy Milone 16, 4.10 (#112)
    Tyler Duffey 13, 4.19 (#121)
    Jose Berrios 11, 3.99 (#92)
     
    Comparing the 169 starters projected for at least 20 starts the median ERA is 3.90 in Ian Kennedy. The ERA's in the AL are generally higher. Last year the NL had a better league ERA by 0.10 so the median AL starter might be around 3.95 and the median NL starter around 3.85.
     
    The Twins do not fare well. The Twins have one pitcher with a projected performance that would fit a number 3 starter around the league median in Berrios. Gibson, Milone and Hughes look to be number 4 starters with Hughes on the fringe. Nolasco and Santana fit in with the number 5 starters. Trevor May's projected ERA of 3.49 is based on relief work. His outstanding 3.25 FIP last year leads to his solid ERA projection.
     
    What about the rest of the AL central?
     
    The Indians have some of the best starters in baseball. Kluber(3.02) and Carrasco(3.04) are clear number 1s. Salazar is a fringe number 1 ranking 29 with a 3.44 projection. Tomlin(3.82) is a solid number 3 and Bauer is a fringe #4 matching Hughes at 4.20.
     
    The Royals have two pitchers projected better than the median in Ventura (3.51) and Zimmer(3.84). Two others projected to be around the AL median in Duffy(3.93) and Medlin(4.00). The projection for Volquez is 4.27 which is in the midst of number 5 starters.
     
    Verlander(3.77) and Sanchez(3.84) top the projected median, but the Tigers run thin after those two. Norris(4.28), Boyd(4.28) and Farmer(4.75) all project to be number 5 starters or worse. I would expect the Tigers will add to their pitching staff before the start of 2016.
     
    The White Sox have the elite Chris Sale(2.82). Thankfully the Twins owned him last year. Quintana is projected well above the median at 3.70. Rodon might be a fringe #3 at 4.05. The other two Johnson(4.72) and Danks (4.75) ranked 165 and 167 of the 169 pitchers. The White Sox might add pitching also.
     
    The Twins have a problem. They have invested too much money in the bottom of their rotation. This type of performance was projected at the time of their signing. They can hope that Santana, Hughes and Nolasco outperform their projections. One might. It is very unlikely that all three will. The Tigers and White Sox have not invested the same kind of money into the bottom of their pitching staffs. The White Sox have one more year of money invested in Danks. The Twins have 2-4 more years invested into Nolasco, Santana and Hughes. Their contracts would make them very difficult to move.
     
    If May is included as a starter, the top five projected pitcher ERAs on the Twins next year are May, Berrios, Milone, Gibson and Duffy. Any chance the Twins will go with that rotation?
  20. Like
    jorgenswest got a reaction from Platoon for a blog entry, Steamer Projections: Starting Pitching   
    Steamer projections are available for 2016. Steamer uses the last three seasons of data to project the 2016 season. It is easy to write projections off as "guesses" but they are based on a significant amount of historical data. If interested you can read more about the various projection systems and rankings for 2014 here.
     
    Projected Twin starters with games started, ERA and their rank (compared to the 169 pitchers with 20 projected starts). I use ERA because it is projected performance that is based on previous year's peripherals.
     
    Phil Hughes 32, 4.20 #121
    Ervin Santana 31, 4.34 #140
    Kyle Gibson 29, 4.15 #117
    Ricky Nolasco 19, 4.34 (#140)
    Tommy Milone 16, 4.10 (#112)
    Tyler Duffey 13, 4.19 (#121)
    Jose Berrios 11, 3.99 (#92)
     
    Comparing the 169 starters projected for at least 20 starts the median ERA is 3.90 in Ian Kennedy. The ERA's in the AL are generally higher. Last year the NL had a better league ERA by 0.10 so the median AL starter might be around 3.95 and the median NL starter around 3.85.
     
    The Twins do not fare well. The Twins have one pitcher with a projected performance that would fit a number 3 starter around the league median in Berrios. Gibson, Milone and Hughes look to be number 4 starters with Hughes on the fringe. Nolasco and Santana fit in with the number 5 starters. Trevor May's projected ERA of 3.49 is based on relief work. His outstanding 3.25 FIP last year leads to his solid ERA projection.
     
    What about the rest of the AL central?
     
    The Indians have some of the best starters in baseball. Kluber(3.02) and Carrasco(3.04) are clear number 1s. Salazar is a fringe number 1 ranking 29 with a 3.44 projection. Tomlin(3.82) is a solid number 3 and Bauer is a fringe #4 matching Hughes at 4.20.
     
    The Royals have two pitchers projected better than the median in Ventura (3.51) and Zimmer(3.84). Two others projected to be around the AL median in Duffy(3.93) and Medlin(4.00). The projection for Volquez is 4.27 which is in the midst of number 5 starters.
     
    Verlander(3.77) and Sanchez(3.84) top the projected median, but the Tigers run thin after those two. Norris(4.28), Boyd(4.28) and Farmer(4.75) all project to be number 5 starters or worse. I would expect the Tigers will add to their pitching staff before the start of 2016.
     
    The White Sox have the elite Chris Sale(2.82). Thankfully the Twins owned him last year. Quintana is projected well above the median at 3.70. Rodon might be a fringe #3 at 4.05. The other two Johnson(4.72) and Danks (4.75) ranked 165 and 167 of the 169 pitchers. The White Sox might add pitching also.
     
    The Twins have a problem. They have invested too much money in the bottom of their rotation. This type of performance was projected at the time of their signing. They can hope that Santana, Hughes and Nolasco outperform their projections. One might. It is very unlikely that all three will. The Tigers and White Sox have not invested the same kind of money into the bottom of their pitching staffs. The White Sox have one more year of money invested in Danks. The Twins have 2-4 more years invested into Nolasco, Santana and Hughes. Their contracts would make them very difficult to move.
     
    If May is included as a starter, the top five projected pitcher ERAs on the Twins next year are May, Berrios, Milone, Gibson and Duffy. Any chance the Twins will go with that rotation?
  21. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Does It Matter If Twins Hope Fades?   
    July comes to a close, the Major League Baseball trade deadline passes, and the dust settles. In the wake of it all, the Minnesota Twins are left with a slim lead in the Wild Card race, and a very small margin for error. Hope has to be waning right? But what if that hope is placed in the wrong things, and it doesn't really matter if the Twins fade?
    Coming into the season the Twins weren't a realistic postseason contender, they weren't supposed to be here, and this wasn't supposed to be their time. Sure, it would be great to capitalize on a situation after four straight seasons with more than 90 losses, but at the end of the day, perspective must reign supreme. At what cost does competing now come, and does maximizing a current Wild Card spot sacrifice future years? Maybe hope is best placed elsewhere, after all, Paul Molitor's Twins have provided plenty of areas this season.
     
    Maybe most visible of them all is the emergence and development all along. This was coming, and I've been suggesting it for well over the past year. He's put it all together this season though at a rate even I wasn't prepared for. Owning a .299/.364/.437 slash line, and hitting .365/.443/.608 in July and his five home runs are on pace for a new career high. He's been worth 2 DRS (defensive runs saved) and has a 6.1 UZR (ultimate zone rating) as the Twins centerfielder. Even when Byron Buxton shifts him to right field, the Twins have a solid asset at their disposal.
    Another young guy has stepped up in a big way. Going into the season, I suggested Eddie Rosario would be the first Twins prospect called up, and that he could go on to have a Danny Santana (2014) like season. He's batting .294/.316/.462 and has caught fire of late batting .393/.393/.679 since July 10. In the field he's been worth 3 DRS and owns a 3.0 UZR as he looks poised to lock down left field for the Twins into the future.
     
    As has been anticipated for many years, Miguel Sano made his big league debut in 2015. So far he's done everything expected of him and then some. Already with three home runs in his first 21 games, he's also hit for average batting .296/.427/.507. More impressively, he's batting .364/.500/.682 against righties, while hitting just .185/.290/.22 against lefties. In the minors this year Sano was better against lefties slashing .299/.405/.597. He's going to crush lefties at the MLB level, so the fact that he's also seeing righties well early is a great development.
    Then there's a guy on the big league roster that has continued to prove it. After an impressive 2014, Brian Dozier has looked the part of an MVP candidate in 2105. The first time All Star is hitting .256/.330/.512 with 22 home runs (good for top 15 in the bigs). He's on pace for career highs in doubles, home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored. On pace to be a 5.0+ fWAR player, Dozier has emerged as the best second basemen in the league.
     
    Outside of the 25 man roster, there has been plenty of great development as well. Jose Berrios looks the part of a big league starter right now at Triple-A Rochester. He owns a 1.35 ERA and an 8.1 K/9 across his last three starts. Stephen Gonsalves has followed in the footsteps of Berrios as a fast riser down in Fort Myers, and first round pick Nick Gordon is now getting it done with the bat. It'd be hard to overlook Max Kepler, who's .337 batting average at Double-A Chattanooga is plain silly. Throw in secondary prospects like Tyler Duffey, Taylor Rogers, and Mat Batts, and the Twins are in a better spot than ever.
    So that's maybe where the hope is, or should be. Rather than clinging to what the Twins do or don't do at the deadline, or whether they make the playoffs, or whether they fade into September, it's finally a realistic situation to look ahead.
    Minnesota should go into 2016 as the clear second best team in the AL Central, trailing only the Royals. Depending on what pieces are added, and who is promoted when, Terry Ryan's organization should see the future as filled with division championships and playoff appearances once again. 2015 has been a lot of fun so far, but if playoff baseball doesn't come to fruition, there's plenty of reason for hope and excitement to thrive where it should be in the first place.
     
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  22. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Shane Wahl for a blog entry, Top 30 Twins Position Player Prospects   
    It is time for part 2 of my mid-season prospect list. Here are the top 30 position player prospects in the Twins system:
     
    1. Byron Buxton (1): CF, 12-18-93
    2015 status: Buxton is basically done with minor league baseball. He got injured again, but should be back with the Twins in September. ETA: already arrived.
     
    2. Miguel Sano (2): 3B, 5-3-93
    2015 status: Has obliterated the baseball after his promotion to the Twins. He is also done with minor league baseball. Sano will be used as the DH primarily for the rest of this year, but the Twins should be shopping Trevor Plouffe in the offseason. ETA: already arrived.
     
    3. Jorge Polanco (3): SS/2B, 7-5-93
    2015 status: Promoted to the Twins for one game and then moved to Rochester from Chattanooga. His bat is ready, not he just needs to get his SS defense up to acceptable standards. ETA: 2015.
     
    4. Max Kepler (6): OF/1B, 2-10-93
    2015 status: In the midst of a breakout season that is really pushing the envelope for the Twins. I would like to see a move up to AAA and then a September call up. Outstanding to see Kepler develop in this way this year. Could be trade bait. ETA: September 2015, or 2016 after Twins roster shakeup in offseason.
     
    5. Nick Gordon (5): SS, 10-24-95
    2015 status: The youngster struggled offensively initially at Cedar Rapids, but is really hitting his stride. Defense is great. ETA: 2019
     
    6. Adam Walker (7): RF, 10-18-91
    2015 status: He is having a great season. Homers and strikeouts abound, but he is also hitting a bit better overall and has an .899 OPS. Also trade bait. ETA: September 2015 for some fun homers, or else 2016 after some AAA time.
     
    7. Amaurys Minier (8): OF/1B, 1-30-96
    2015 status: Getting moved to Elizabethon will be a bit of a challenge initially, but he should be fine. He could have a monster season. ETA: 2020.
     
    8. Lewis Diaz (11): 1B, 11-19-96
    2015 status: Getting used to playing in the States. Born on the day I got my driver's license. Taking it slow, obviously, but Diaz is about as fun as any prospect to watch in anticipation for the rest of the year. ETA: 2021.
     
    9. Wandy Javier (NR): SS, 12-29-98
    2015 status: Just signed by the Twins to a $4 million bonus, the SS could top this list within two years. Looks like a good all-around player, both offensively and defensively. ETA: 2022.
     
    10. Travis Harrison (9): LF/RF, 10-17-92
    2015 status: Harrison is a good all-around hitter, who is fully in the OF this year. The power still has not come, however, and this is going to force him down the list. Harrison is definitely someone the Twins should try to shop in some package in the offseason, or if they really want to trade for a bullpen arm for the stretch run in 2015. ETA: September 2016.
     
    11. Levi Michael (10): 2B, 2-9-91
    2015 status: Michael has battled an injury again this season. When actually healthy, he is good. He has an .807 OPS for Chattanooga this year and is back to stealing bases. He is slugging substantially more this year, which is interesting. Given everyone above him, Michael is in Harrison's camp as trade material. ETA: September 2016.
     
    12. Travis Blankenhorn (NR): 3B, 8-3-96
    2015 status: Drafted in the third round, the Twins sent Blankenhorn to the GCL. Nice pick, good bat. ETA: 2020.
     
    13. Niko Goodrum (14): SS/3B/CF, 2-28-92
    2015 status: Promoted to Chattanooga after an OK start in Fort Myers. He always threatens to push that OPS over .700 . . . time will tell. Great speed. Adding CF to his resume is interesting. Good end up being a more athletic and bigger version of Eduardo Escobar. Still relatively young. ETA: September 2016.
     
    14. Dalton Hicks (20): 1B, 4-2-90
    2015 status: Hicks was smashing the ball in Chattanooga before getting injured. He has been up and down my lists over the past few years now. ETA: September 2016.
     
    15. Tanner English (18): CF, 3-11-93
    2015 status: Has hit a bit of a snag with his first full season, but the steals and defense are intriguing enough. He also draws a good amount of walks. Only grounded into one double play all year, which is crazy. ETA: 2018.
     
    16. Engelb Vielma (17): SS, 6-22-94
    2015 status: Slow to develop bat at Fort Myers, but that should be expected. He is inching toward similar offensive numbers in 2015 as he had in Cedar Rapids in 2014, but the stolen bases have exploded. ETA: 2017 if the Twins want a defensive shortstop, otherwise 2018.
     
    17. Stuart Turner (12): C, 12-27-91
    2015 status: As expected, the bat is bad in AA. He is a very good defensive catcher, however. A .566 OPS in AA is a bit scary and the Twins have an immediate hole at the catcher position. ETA: September 2016.
     
    18. Mitch Garver (15): C, 1-15-91
    2015 status: Started very slowly offensively, but is now coming around. Would like to see him pushed to AA in August to test his bat a little bit and get him ready for a full season of AA in 2016. ETA: 2017.
     
    19. Danny Ortiz (22): OF, 1-5-90
    2015 status: Ortiz was hitting really well to start the year in AAA, then cooled off as he was moved to CF. Maybe the two are unrelated, but I think that it is a good thing for Ortiz to add CF to his resume. The Twins should definitely be interested in his 4th OF capability if they are going to be trading some of their OF depth (Kepler, Walker, Harrison). Otherwise, Ortiz is trade bait to add in a package. ETA: would be September 2015 in about any other organization. Here, 2016.
     
    20. James Beresford (24): 2B/IF, 1-19-89
    2015 status: Beresford is totally consistent. There is basically no steadier a bat in the system. The Twins know how Beresford will produce offensively in the big leagues if they want him there. The issue for him is that he needs to move beyond being a second baseman. His future anywhere is going to be as a utility infielder, much like Ortiz's future is as a 4th OF. ETA: September 2015 wouldn't be totally out of the question if the Twins have 40-man space. Otherwise 2016 somewhere in MLB.
     
    21. Jermaine Palacios (NR): SS/IF, 7-19-96
    2015 status: Palacios is pounding GCL pitching right now after a very solid 2014 season in the DSL. Currently, he is quite slight, measuring six feet tall while being listed at under 150 pounds. He might not outgrow SS, so there is a decent chance that he sticks there. Big sleeper prospect right now. ETA: 2021.
     
    22. Zach Granite (NR): CF/LF, 9-17-92
    2015 status: Granite dominated in Cedar Rapids and was quickly promoted to Fort Myers. He is struggling some there, but should get his 2015 A+ numbers to match his 2014 A numbers. He has very good speed and some decent plate discipline. ETA: 2018
     
    23. Rafael Valera (NR): 2B/3B/SS, 8-15-94
    2015 status: Valera is another sleeper prospect. The Twins sent Valera to Cedar Rapids this year after a decent season in the GCL in 2014. Good plate discipline and speed. ETA: 2019.
     
    24. Max Murphy (13): OF, 11-17-92
    2015 status: After dominating in Elizabethon in 2014, Murphy struggled some in Cedar Rapids last year. Those struggles have continued and that is why he has fallen dramatically on this list. Still can rebound. ETA 2019.
     
    25. Trey Vavra (HM): 1B/LF, 9-17-91
    2015 status: Vavra got off to a torrid start this year before getting injured. His performance has been a pleasant surprise. When healthy he has hit and hit for power. ETA: 2018.
     
    26. Brian Navarreto (HM): C, 12-29-94
    2015 status: Navarreto got off to a terrible start at the plate, then was injured, and now has been better since returning. His defense is good to very good, but the bat is really lagging. He will certainly be in Cedar Rapids for much of 2016. ETA: 2019.
     
    27. Zach Larson (19): OF, 10-8-93
    2015 status: Really going backwards this year, not even really close to his 2014 numbers in Cedar Rapids. He is still young, though, so there is time for him there to work it out. ETA: 2019.
     
    28. Trey Cabbage (NR): 3B, 5-3-97
    2015 status: Drafted in the 4th round, Cabbage could be a bit of a steal in the draft. He is starting out for the GCL. ETA: 2022.
     
    29. Tyler Kuresa (HM): 1B, 11-17-92
    2015 status: I had high hopes of a breakthrough season for Kuresa, but Cedar Rapids was very rough for him. He was then demoted to Elizabethon where he immediately started hammering the ball. After only 63 plate appearances there, the Twins have promoted him back to Cedar Rapids for round two. ETA: 2019.
     
    30. LaMonte Wade (NR): CF, 1-1-94
    2015 status: Drafted in the 9th round, the Twins sent wade to Elizabethon where he is off to a very impressive start. ETA: 2020
     
    Honorable Mentions: Kolton Kendrick (1B), Jorge Fernandez (1B/C), Rainis Silva ©
     
    Overview: This list doesn't compare to the pitching prospects list in terms of depth, though the high-end talent is probably better overall. You can see where it really starts to breakdown with Mitch Garver at 18 as a kind of "hope he doesn't fizzle" status and then the minor league veterans in limbo at AAA in Ortiz and Beresford. Palacios and Valera are two guys to watch. The rest at the end have real questions about either performance or the lack thereof (2015 draftees). Wade is another fun guy to see develop this year.
     
    Breakdown by ETA:
    2015: 1. Buxton, 2. Sano, 3. Polanco.
    2016: 4. Kepler, 6. Walker, 10. Harrison, 11. Michael, 13. Goodrum, 14. Hicks, 17. Turner, 19. Ortiz, 20. Beresford.
    2017: 18. Garver.
    2018: 15. English, 16. Vielma, 22. Granite, 25. Vavra,
    2019: 5. Gordon, 23. Valera, 24. Murphy, 26. Navarreto, 27. Larson, 29. Kuresa.
    2020: 7. Minier, 12. Blankenhorn, 30. Wade
    2021: 8. Diaz, 21. Palacios,
    2022: 9. Javier, 28. Cabbage
     
    Part 3 will be a combined list of pitchers and position players
  23. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, A Team in Contention, A Team in Flux   
    I was originally going to write about the Twins "June Swoon", but the news of Vargas' demotion followed by word that Miguel Sano would assume his spot on the roster makes last month's struggle old news. The Twins are above .500 so by loose definition they are contenders to make the playoffs. They have promoted three of their top prospects within the last month and it looks like this won't be the end of the moves.
     
    First, a look at positions, followed by a look at players. Center Field: The Twins have supplanted an injured and now released Jordan Schafer with first, Aaron Hicks and then top prospect Byron Buxton. Both are currently on the DL, with Hicks rehabbing and Buxton supposedly not due back for three to five weeks. I was really surprised when Hicks was not recalled following the injury to Buxton. Hicks has struggled a bit in his first games, but had three hits today. I have to believe Hicks is in Kansas City tomorrow when the Twins face the Royals. The future still belongs to Buxton, despite his struggles with the Twins. Hicks future seems pretty uncertain. The team has started three guys in center in the last week. Shortstop: When Santana was demoted about a month ago, it was assumed that Eduardo Escobar would get his chance to establish himself as the current shortstop. It didn't happen. Santana has returned and started a few games and Eduardo Nuñez has been at short more than Escobar. Jorge Polanco is still in Chattanoogs and committing too many errors. Starting rotation: Ervin Santana's suspension is up on Independence Day. His three rehab starts were very good. All five current starters have a pretty good claim to stay in the rotation. Bullpen: Alex Meyer was recently called up and in two appearances where the starter was knocked out early, has been pretty close to dreadful. The two non-closing left handed reliever have bad statistics and little chance for upside. Blaine Boyer seems to be weakening after a stong start. DH: Vargas opened the season as the regular DH, got demoted and then came back. He hasn't been a constant threat and has seen his playing time diminish. It appears that Sano will get a chance at DH.
     
    Players: Kennys Vargas-He wasn't a top prospect last year, but last year he forced his way onto the Twins last year. This year has offered major regression. Vargas had a brief demotion to AAA and today was sent to Chattanooga. Vargas needs to hit with authority and he's failed to do that. As mostly a pure DH (a game at first occasionally) the production has to be substantial. Oswaldo Arcia--He was injured and then optioned to Rochester. Arcia finally has started hitting, but he's been passed by by Eddie Rosario as an outfielder and probably Miguel Sano as a DH. The way back to the majors isn't clear. I would guess someone needs to struggle while Arcia lights it up. Eduardo Escobar--Last year's primary shortstop has hardly played the position. Danny Santana was given the job and when he faltered Escobar has gotten a few starts, but other have started many more. Most of Escobar's playing time has come in left field. He hasn't hit well enough to be a serious alternative in the outfield. Danny Santana--The Opening Day shortstop was demoted to the minors and only recalled when there were injuries. He hasn't hit well since his recall, and started the last two games in center field. Eddie Rosario--Rosario was recalled in May and now seems secure to stay with the club. He has adjusted very well to the majors, starting games at all three outfield positions. Aaron Hicks--Recalled after dominating AAA, Hicks played well in the field, but was at best only a #9 hitter. He was injured just as Buxton was to be recalled and is rehabbing in Rochester. Hicks could be on his way back to the majors as soon as tomorrow. Byron Buxton--The crown jewel of the farm system, Buxton struggled but showed obvious talent. He is slated to be disabled for probably another month.
     
    It appears that the Twins have settled on Rosario as a regular outfielder and that DH will be handled by Sano for now. Center field probably goes to Hicks until Buxton is healthy. I don't know who the shortstop for the rest of the year will be. I wish they would give Escobar a legitimate chance at this point. I think Santana needs work in the minors, along with Vargas and Arcia. That is some high quality depth
  24. Like
    jorgenswest reacted to Tom Schreier for a blog entry, The Curious Case of the Minnesota Twins’ Mike Pelfrey Signing   
    While the Minnesota Twins are a homegrown team that relies heavily on players from their farm system to sustain success in the major leagues, reclamation projects are an important part of their team construction. Once-highly-touted prospects or players that have had some big league success and saw a dip in production with their former team for various reasons are often of interest to a team in a mid-sized city looking to get the most value out of their signings.
     
    These players are relatively low-risk and high-reward based upon their perceived potential and low cost to sign. If they pan out, the organization looks smart for turning around the career of a player that was once considered a top prospect. If they don’t, they can be released for relatively little cost to the team other than the cost of giving playing time to a struggling player.
     
    For a team like the Twins, who play in a mid-sized market and have relatively parsimonious ownership, this is a way to get potentially high-end talent without high cost or long term commitment. Pelfrey, a high draft pick who had two strong years as a member of the New York Mets, signed to a one-year, $4 million deal in 2013 following Tommy John surgery. Then, in a much scrutinized move, was re-signed for two years, $11 million following a tough first year.
     
    Fifteen million dollars is nothing to sneeze at, but it is relatively cheap for a former first round pick who had two strong seasons as a member of the Mets in 2008 and 2010 — so long as he pitches like the player he can be.
    Pelfrey was awful in his first year with the Twins. He came back from Tommy John surgery faster than expected, pushing himself to get back on the mound against doctor’s orders, and felt the effects of accelerating his return timetable. He was 5-13 with a 5.19 ERA (79 ERA+), pitching 152.3 innings in 29 starts, making the $11 million extension he received the year after that much more perplexing. “He’s coming off Tommy John, he came back quickly, and we thought, ‘Okay, that’s a good starting point, but there’s more to come.’ That’s the reason,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said when asked why the team re-signed Pelfrey. “And he showed some flashes, and he certainly showed the velocity and stuff like that, so we thought, ‘All right, he’s over the hump on the Tommy John response,’ and now all of a sudden we’re gonna get more. Well, unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
     
    He only made five starts in the first year of his second contract, finishing last season with a 0-0 record, 7.99 ERA (50 ERA+) and only 23.2 innings pitched. “Last year was awful,” says Pelfrey, who has always been accountable, even during his most trying times with the Twins, “so this offseason I came in and worked my tail off to … honor that two-year deal and be the best I could, and I thought I put myself in a pretty good situation.”
     
    Pelfrey has been the best pitcher in the starting rotation this year, going 5-3 with a 2.97 ERA (136 ERA+) in 13 starts. His play merits All-Star consideration and will likely garner a large contract for him in the offseason. A player playing out of his mind in a contract year is not unheard of — Joe Mauer hit .365/.444/.587 with 28 home runs the year before he signed his $184 million extension, and Kurt Suzuki made his first All-Star team on a one-year deal last season — and Pelfrey was certainly upset when he was assigned to the bullpen out of Spring Training, perhaps providing an incentive for him to pitch well in the rotation.
     
    Pelfrey, however, attributes his success to three things: He’s in good health, his split-finger has given him the “pitch that he’s lacked for 30 years,” and his sinker is much better. “First time in a couple years, maybe since Tommy John, I don’t have to make my sinker move,” he says. “I can just throw it, and it has that natural sink, which it always had before.”
     
    Pelfrey has had a split-finger since 2010, a year in which he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA (107 ERA+), but he had it revamped by bullpen coach Eddie Guardado in Spring Training this year. “To be honest with you, during Spring Training we’re watching these guys throw in the spring, and he’s throwing his splitty, and I looked at him and, jokingly, I go, ‘What is that pitch?’” says Guardado, chuckling. “He goes, ‘It’s my split finger, dawg.’ And I go, ‘That ain’t gonna work.”
     
    Guardado says sometimes he has trouble working with veteran pitchers, given that they have had a track record of success and are often stuck in their ways, but Pelfrey didn’t take much time to get the split-finger down. By the end of Spring Training he was throwing it with ease, giving him a pitch that falls out of the strike zone, which complements his mid-90s fastball, curveball and sinker. “It’s like a new toy,” says Guardado, “He worked with it every day, and I just showed him the grip. Did we talk about it a little bit? Yeah, absolutely. But he did it all on his own. I’d like to take the credit, but he’s a hard-worker, man, so it’s all good.”
     
    The split-finger, complemented by a naturally moving sinker, has given Pelfrey more confidence on the mound. His usually plodding pace has been improved upon. In many ways, the Twins have the pitcher they’ve always wanted right now. Health is always a concern for players, especially pitchers, but it’s rare for a veteran player like Pelfrey to all of a sudden have another weapon in his arsenal. It’s easy to look back and say it was a good signing now, but it took some fortitude and, frankly, stubbornness for the team to retain him after a tough first year.
     
    It wasn’t just his potential, though, that enticed the Twins; they also liked his leadership. “It doesn’t hurt,” says Ryan. “It’s always nice to have a little bit of that veteran presence in any part of your club, especially when you’re talking about the rest of that starting staff, they’re relatively young.”
     
    He was given a corner locker in the team clubhouse, and according to his teammates, he’s very approachable and has a way about him of offering constructive criticism without making a struggling teammate feel the need to get defensive. “He’s easy to talk to, he’ll come up to talk to you about certain things he sees, and he’s definitely a leader,” says Kyle Gibson, 27, who is in his third year with the team. “I think he approaches every situation like that very well. He’s not gonna come up to you and say, ‘Hey, you were really bad today, and this is what I saw.’ He’s gonna ask you questions, he’s gonna try to approach it in the most mature way possible, because that’s the kind of guy he is.”
     
    Gibson, like Pelfrey, is a sinkerball pitcher who has undergone Tommy John surgery. He says that the two were able to speak freely about the difficulty of coming back, as well as the mental hurdles every player has to go through during the ups and downs of a season. “He’s been a guy who I’ve talked to about learning how to attack with my fastball a little bit better at certain times,” says Gibson. “I’m always trying to talk to him about something just because I feel like going through the surgery, whether it’s how we were feeling last year or the year before, I’m always a guy who’s looking to learn something, and that’s a great guy to learn from.”
     
    In some ways it’s unfortunate that Pelfrey is coming into his own in a contract year at age 31. He’s a Scott Boras client, so he’s unlikely to come back on a discount, and the Twins suddenly have plenty of depth in the starting rotation. Still, for the time being he’s one of the best pitchers in the league, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The team is finally competitive again, Phil Hughes is off to a slow start, so the team is in need of an ace, and Pelfrey has no doubt left a meaningful mark on the younger pitchers, especially Gibson. “So far I’m glad that it’s working out,” says Pelfrey, “but there’s a lot of baseball left, so we’ll just keep it going.”
     
    This article was originally published on the Cold Omaha section of 105TheTicket.com.
     
    Tune in to The Wake Up Call every Sunday at 8:00 am to hear the crew break down the week in Minnesota sports.
     
    Follow Tom on Twitter @tschreier3.
  25. Like
    jorgenswest got a reaction from USAFChief for a blog entry, Looking at the 40 man roster   
    With the depth of the Twins system, they will have several players that need to be put on the 40 man roster this winter to avoid the rule 5 draft. Are there so many that the Twins should consider trading some of them this summer? How many spots will reasonably be available this winter?
     
    With the DFA of Tim Stauffer, the Twins currently have 40 men on their 40 man roster. There is one spot available as Ervin Santana will not count until he return in July.
     
    The Twins will have some players entering free agency following the season. Those spots will be open. Those players include
     
    Torii Hunter
    Blaine Boyer
    Mike Pelfrey
    Brian Duensing
     
    Any of those players can be replaced. The Twins should not feel the urgency to extend them this summer. They might consider trading them for whatever the market will return. That is 4 spots.
     
    The remaining 36 are under team control in some form or another. Some will be eligible for arbitration. The Twins may elect not to take them to arbitration.
     
    Trevor Plouffe
    Jordan Schafer
    Tommy Milone
    Shane Robinson
    Eduardo Nunez
    Casey Fien
    Eduardo Escobar
     
    I would think that Plouffe, Fien and Escobar would be offered arbitration. If Milone isn't traded, he may also be offered arbitration. I would think Schafer, Robinson and Nunez can be replaced.
     
    Adding those three that is 7 spots
     
    The Twins have some players on the 40 man roster that might be considered close to replacement level. They include
     
    A.J. Achter
    Logan Darnell
    J.R. Graham
    Ryan Pressly
    Caleb Thielbar
    Aaron Thompson
    Michael Tonkin
    Jason Wheeler
    Chris Herrmann
    Josmil Pinto
    Doug Bernier
    Aaron Hicks
     
    Darnell and Wheeler are lefthanded and may not make it through rule 5 but have little upside. The Twins really need to see what they have in Achter, Thielbar and Tonkin this season. At their age, if they don't feel Achter and Thielbar are worth a long look on the roster, they probably feel like they can be replaced. Pinto now has red flags due to concussions. If he can't catch does he have a spot? Among this list, I think Graham, Pressly, Tonkin, Pinto and Hicks are safe. The rest can be thrown with the group that will need to be put on the 40.
     
    That is 7 more spots for a total of 14.
     
    You could probably add Suzuki, Mauer and Nolasco to the performing near replacement level list but they have too much money tied into their contract. The Twins could free up a spot if they found a way to dump their contracts.
     
    There are two players that don't need to be added to the 40 until the following year, but could get called to the majors in 2015. Buxton and Berrios. They would not be a good candidate for a September call up because of the 40 man status. The only reason to call them up would be to help the team soon. I think they will call up Buxton. With Ervin Santana's return, I don't think we will see Berrios until 2016.
     
    13 spots
     
    These are the players will be eligible for the rule 5 draft if they are not put on the 40.
     
    Bard, Luke
    Baxendale, D.J.
    Duffey, Tyler
    Haar, Bryan
    Harrison, Travis
    Hicks, Dalton
    Jones, Zack
    Melotakis, Mason
    Muren, Alexander
    Polanco, Joel
    Rogers, Taylor
    Valera, Rafael
    Vielma, Engelb
    Wade, Logan
    Walker, Adam
     
    Michael, Levi
    Johnson, Cole
    Goodrum, Niko
     
    13 spots for those and players above not yet added.
     
    I think adding Baxendale, Duffey, Harrison, Jones, Rogers and Walker are givens.
     
    7 spots
     
    Achter, Thielbar and Herrman should be safe.
     
    4 spots
     
    In summary...
     
    Hunter, Pelfey, Boyer, Duensing, Schafer, Robinson, Nunez, Darnell, Thompson, Wheeler and Bernier were removed
     
    Buxton, Baxendale, Duffey, Harrison, Jones, Rogers and Walker were added
     
    There are 4 more spots. Are there more than 4 players that urgently need to be added? Do the Twins need to trade away prospects due to 40 man roster decision this winter?
     
    Note: Thanks to TD and the organizational report. It is very likely I missed something or someone in doing this article. Any help would be appreciated.
     
    Edit: Schafer released. Buxton added to 40. Bernier removed. Fryer added. I would remove Fryer at end of season.
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