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2022 Twins Top Prospects Ranking
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Tonight the Twins were shut out through seven innings. In this year of the #BombaSquad, I began to realize that I couldn't remember the last time the Twins were shut out. As the game advanced, I began to wonder just what kind of unicorn we were experiencing tonight. So I investigated. Obviously, two late runs were scored as the game ended in a 6-2 loss to Boston, but this was another interesting perspective on the offensive prowess of the 2019 Twins. Let's be clear about something up front: tonight's experience of being nearly shut out says much more about Boston's starter Eduardo Rodriguez than it does about the Twins. Including tonight's 7 innings without giving up an earned run, Rodriguez has now gone at least 7 innings without giving up an earned run in three of his last four starts. He's having a very nice late August into September, and has brought his ERA down from 4.31 on August 12 to 3.81 after tonight in those four starts. But the question remained in my mind: how often have the Twins been shut out this season? The answer: three times. All at Target Field. This also say some interesting things about how much better this homer-heavy team has performed on the road in 2019. The shutouts came on April 30 to Houston (11-0), June 17 to Boston (2-0), and August 21 to Chicago (4-0). So I was not fooling myself. It has been a rare occurrence. For some perspective, three shutouts thus far put the Twins tied for third place in MLB: the Yankees have only been shut out once, Oakland twice, and the Twins, Dodgers, and Atlanta with three each. To compare, Miami brings in the lead (?) with 20 shutouts thus far in 2019. So the 2019 Twins are not being shut out often. How does this compare in Twins' history? I'm glad you didn't ask: but if you had, I would tell you that three puts in the 2019 squad in a tie for second place since 1960. The 2017 team was only shut out twice on their way to a Wild Card game loss in the Bronx. The 1965 team also was only shut out three times on their way to the American League pennant. At this point, an "on pace" query would round down to a guess of the 2019 Twins staying on that number of three for the year. And while it's a long shot, there is still a chance for the Yankees and Oakland to be shut out some more to bring the Twins into a lead in this obscure category. The Twins are still in position to set some very obscure history in that they do not have a shutout on the road yet in 2019. If they can finish out the season keeping this going, it would be the first time in Twins' history. This year, the Yankees join the Twins in not having been shut out on the road. So it seems that Eddie Rosario's eighth inning #Bomba was not completely meaningless. At the very least, it changed the number in the score column off a zero. And on the road no less!
2019 is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and some things that were more of a giant leap for mankind, like the Minnesota Twins winning the first ever American League West Division title. Major League Baseball had just split into divisions so there would be an additional round to the postseason for the first time since the introduction of the World Series. All summer long, the Twins were in a tight battle with the Oakland A's for the first ever AL West title. After play on September 2, 1969 the Twins held a lead of 6 games over the A's. Coincidentally, in 2019 the Twins hold a 5.5 game lead over Cleveland on September 2 after an up and down (mostly up to be honest) summer. But as Labor Day passes, baseball races get much more serious and numbers up and down become a daily watch if they haven't been before. This week is a big week for the 2019 Twins with three games in Boston before coming home to Target Field for 3 games this weekend against Cleveland. A big series against Cleveland could go a long way toward putting away the 2019 AL Central Division. Something very similar happened in 1969. As I said, on September 2, 1969 the Twins led Oakland by 6. On September 3, the Twins beat Cleveland at home while Oakland lost in Boston. This stretched the lead to 7 before a four-game series which saw the Twins visiting Oakland over the weekend. And what happened? On Thursday, the Twins won 10-5 in 10 innings, then lost game 2 5-4. On Saturday, in what could be described as the "nail in the coffin" game, the Twins prevailed in an 18 inning affair by a score of 8-6. Minnesota closed out the 3-1 series victory on Sunday with a 16-4 pounding. That series win essentially ended the 1969 AL West race in much the same way a series win this weekend could change the way we all think about the 2019 Central race. The 1969 team closed out the season by winning 97 games and leading Oakland by 9. One element that will DEFINITELY not be repeated: the 1969 Twins were swept in the inaugural ALCS by the Baltimore Orioles. I have no predictions about a possible postseason result for the 2019 Twins, but I guarantee they will not get swept by the Baltimore Orioles.
Because of other Labor Day shenanigans, I wasn't able to watch any of today's Twins-Tigers game, but listened to the opening innings. As if oft my wont, I had the opposition's broadcast chosen so I got to hear the Tigers' radio guys demonstrate their love for the Minnesota Twins. One of the most valuable things about listening to opposing teams' broadcasts this season is to hear the amount of respect this Twins team has around the league. But one thing struck me as perhaps going a bit too far, and that was a comment that the Twins were like the Astros in terms of being able to provide an analytical improvement to a pitcher. They were specifically talking about Jake Odorizzi and commenting on how the Twins had made him a better pitcher by having him throw his fastball more often and higher in the zone. This was compared to what the Astros have done with pitcher such as our old friend Ryan Pressly. As I said, this caught my ears unawares because I often think of this as one of the Twins' areas of need, as they (and it was this front office group) who let Pressly go and have watched him thrive in Houston. But I wanted to give it a look to see if there is anything to the idea that Odorizzi has changed his approach since coming from the Rays. First some basic statistic conversation about Odorizzi's value. In his 4+ years with the Rays (2013-2017 with 2013 being very limited), Odorizzi earned an ERA+ of 103, a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 4.22 and earned 8.2 bWAR. In his two years thus far with the Twins, that compares to an ERA+ of 108, a FIP of 3.96 and a bWAR of 4.5. The majority of this value has come in 2019 as his ERA+ is 128. This compares to his Rays high of 117 in 2015. So 2019 has been the best year of his career, but 2018 was not: in fact, his first year with the Twins saw an ERA+ of 95. So the first thing to say is that if the Twins have done something special with him, it was not until this year. Then I began to dig into pitch distribution, as the Tigers' radio team suggested. This year, according to Statcast, Odorizzi has thrown 56.4% 4-seam fastballs, 19.1% cutters, 17.1% splitters, and 7.4% curveballs. This IS the highest percentage of 4-seamers since his first two years in the league, but the trend has been consistently upward since a low of 31.1% in 2016, before he became a Twin. The splitter and curveball have not changed significantly. The big change, according to the way Statcast charts these pitches, is in this: in 2019, Odorizzi has not thrown a slider, a pitch he threw 21% of the time in 2018 which was the highest percentage of his career. He has swapped that pitch for a huge increase in his use of a cutter, at 19.1% in 2019 from a low of 2.4% in 2018 and surpassing the previous career high of 12.4% in his previous career year of 2015. So, based on comparing pitch usage in 2019 to 2018 (a down year) and 2015 (his previous career year) it would seem that the consistent pattern for good Odorizzi is: throw more cutters, scrap the slider, and keep the 4-seamer going. Perhaps, given some strangeness in the data and the fungibleness of these definitions, the same pitch that used to register as a slider is now reading as a cutter. But either way, the change in that pitch seems to be the change that connects Odorizzi's quality 2019 to 2015.
Brusdar Graterol made his much-anticipated debut this afternoon as part of the Twins' 8-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The 21-year old has been raising eyebrows and expectations primarily because of his velocity and the impact he could make down he stretch run and hopefully a long run into the playoffs. Comparisons have been made and dreams have been dreamt of the Twins striking gold for this year in much the same way the Angels did in 2004 with Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez. Graterol pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the victory for the Twins, as they were able to stretch the lead in the AL Central over Cleveland to 5.5 games. This was a great way for a guy like Graterol to make his debut: a low leverage situation against a weak offense. And he performed. His first pitch as a big leaguer was advertised on TV broadcasts at 100 MPH because of rounding. Baseball Savant had it at 99.6. This would be a good time to note that I am not projecting anything about how hard Graterol may throw in the future or analyzing how hard he threw in the minors - just a few thoughts on how hard he threw today. Graterol began his outing with a four-pitch strikeout of Dawel Lugo. Lugo didn't swing at any of the four, which came in at 99.6, 99.3, 99, and 98.5 MPH. Graterol then faced Brandon Dixon, who hit a single on the fifth pitch of the AB and second slider. To Dixon, Graterol threw three fastballs at 98.5, 99.1, and 98.6 MPH. Then Jordy Mercer saw two fastballs at 99.3 and 98.5, a slider at 88.1 and hit a 98.7 MPH fastball for an infield single. The first pitch to Jake Rogers was another 99.6 MPH fastball (tying his first pitch for the fastest of the outing) for a game-ending double play. So what did he throw today? Overall, there were 14 pitches with 10 for strikes. His fastball accounted for 11 pitches and 8 strikes. He topped out twice at 99.6 MPH with his first and final pitches. His fastball averaged 99 MPH and none were thrown slower than 98.5 MPH. And here is why that matters to Twins fans. After 14 pitches, Brusdar Graterol now sits in positions 2-7 for individual pitch velocity by Minnesota Twins this year. Position #1 is still held (for now) by Trevor May who hit 99.8 MPH on August 5 against Atlanta's Johan Camargo. Extend that out throughout the Statcast era (since 2015) and Graterol is tied for third in individual pitch velocity behind that May 99.8 MPH pea, a 99.7 MPH fastball thrown by Ryan Pressly in 2016 and tied with a 99.6 MPH pitch thrown by JT Chargois in 2016 also. For a long time, the Twins have been left out (somewhat intentionally and also unintentionally) from baseball's growing velocities. In Brusdar Graterol, Twins fans have someone exciting to watch who has the potential for missing lots of bats. Ironic note to end: Graterol missed exactly zero bats today against the Tigers. But that will change.
Very good questions that I would imagine people might respond to differently. For me, Perkins should be in. For the reasons you said as well as some of the more "intangible" things in the post. As to your second question, I have no idea how the Twins look at it (I assume actually that something like WAR totals doesn't really enter into their calculations). But for me, I'd almost exclusively look at Twins-earned WAR. But I'd have something in my mind for a great player who also did some good things for other teams. Using your example above, I'd rate them all about the same, with more weight given to Player A. Not sure if this is making sense? I'd be curious to hear how other people would work this out?
Thanks for all the feedback on my initial post thinking about the Twins Hall of Fame. Several of you commented with good suggestions for some future members as well as how the Twins might look at the legacy of the Washington Senators in the own Hall of Fame. I plan on writing up a few of these suggestions and looking at their cases for induction in the Twins Hall of Fame as well as pondering some of my own ideas. But I want to interrupt that plan today to look at the case for Glen Perkins as a member of the Twins Hall. I assume you all know by now that the homegrown lefty made his retirement official today. The main TwinsDaily page re-pinned an excellent post by Nick Nelson from last fall that talked about Perkins' entire legacy and made the case for his immediate induction in a hypothetical Twins Daily Hall of Fame. But what about the less-hypothetical Twins Hall of Fame? I want to look at Perkins' case from a more purely numbers standpoint, a bit different than what Nick did - mostly because I cannot do what Nick did. First, let's look at Perkins' value according to Baseball-Reference WAR (Wins Above Replacement): [table][table] [thead] YearIPGGSgmLIWAAadjWAR[/thead] 20065.240.800.00.2 200728.2190.86-0.10.6 2008151.02626[/td][td]-0.11.3 200996.11817.00-0.1-0.1 201021.2131.680.0-0.3 201161.26501.490.12.1 201270.17001.23-0.11.3 201362.26101.640.32.1 201461.26301.51-0.20.5 201557.06001.810.11.2 20162.020.960.0-0.1 20175.280.070.1-0.1 12 S624.1409441.410.18.6[/table] Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 1/23/2018.[/table] The first thing we notice numerically is the evidence of what Nelson calls "the reinvention." Perkins began his Twins career as a starter, and quite a promising one at that. He made 26 starts as a 25-year old in 2008 and threw 151 innings. But the toll on his arm was taken and Perkins had to reinvent himself as a short-inning reliever. And boy, did he! After some time in the minors and on extended DL stints, Perkins returned to the team full-time as a setup man in 2011 and then took over the closer duties for 2012-2015. It was in those years that he put up his best value for the Twins according to Baseball-Reference WAR, with 2 seasons of 2.1 each. The first was in that 2011 season where he was a GREAT set-up man and in 2013. 2.1 WAR is a good season but not a great season. For a reference point, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco each put up 2.1 for the 2017 Twins. The closest pitcher in 2017 was Jose Berrios with 1.7. Perkins' career WAR of 8.6 would make him the lowest number among Twins Hall of Famers. Zoilo Versalles (12.5) and Eddie Guardado (13.3) would be the closest comrades. But let's look at some other numbers. Glen Perkins, with 120, sits in third place all-time for the Twins in saves, behind Joe Nathan's 260 and Rick Aguilera's 254 and just ahead of Guardado's 116. And yes, saves are mostly about opportunity and are mostly an outmoded stat in terms of assessing a player's value. But it's not nothing. It's not nothing that Perkins was there for the Twins at important moments for four straight years. Combine that with the fact that he was voted an All-Star three straight times, including being a representative (along with Kurt Suzuki) for the 2014 game at Target Field and you get a sense of Perkins' importance to the franchise. And there is one more set of numbers I want to examine. ERA- is a statistic that compares a pitcher's individual ERA to the league average that season. League average is set at 100 and anything under than 100 is better than average, and you can get a sense of percentage points better by the number. Let's look at Perkins' ERA- numbers. In those good years (2011-2015) when he was striking out better than a batter per inning, Perkins put up very good ERA- numbers. According to Fangraphs, Perkins' ERA- numbers in those years were 60, 62, 57, 94, and 81. That's right. For five straight years, his ERA was better than the league average, with a best year of 2013 where his ERA was 43% better than league average. So will Perkins find his way into the Twins Hall of Fame? His basic numbers are a bit low. But at the end of the day, I'd vote him in. For me it's about the fact that he did all of this as a Minnesota Twin. There is something to a guy who spends his entire career with the franchise. He was drafted in the first round by the Twins, he came up through the Twins system, he reinvented himself as an elite reliever as a Twin and he retired a Twin. For me, he's a Twins Hall of Famer. Maybe there are others who will go in ahead of him, but I hope to see him there someday.
The announcement of Johan Santana's well-deserved selection to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame as well as the round-and-round Twitter and blog conversation about MLB Hall of Fame selections got me thinking: Who is in the Twins Hall of Fame that might surprise and who are other deserving candidates. I'm going to begin with a couple of caveats. First, I'll only be talking here about players in the Twins Hall of Fame. Front-office personnel and managers (well, manager) are wonderful and important parts of the Hall - just outside the scope of the following exercise. Second, my own generation and experience of being a Twins fan colors my perceptions as they do for all of us. So, I was 11 and 15 for the two World Series runs. Puckett, Hrbek, Gagne - they were my guys. The older generation - Killebrew, Oliva, Carew, etc. I saw some of but mostly know the history. AND I haven't lived in Minnesota since 1993. Nowadays that's no big deal. MLB.tv allows me to feel like I see and know all the Twins. But there was a hole in the 1990s and early 2000s where I only saw Twins games when they visited where I was living or happened to be on ESPN (not often). So there are some, not holes exactly, but weaker spots in my own visceral Twins fandom. See: Brad Radke. The following chart shows the playing members of the Twins Hall of Fame: Name Tenure Career WAR Twins WAR Twins Pennants/ Rings MVP/Cy Name Tenure Career WAR Twins WAR Harmon Killebrew1961–74 60.4 60.5 Rod Carew 1967–78 81.1 63.7 Tony Oliva 1962–76 43 43 Kent Hrbek 1981–94 38.4 38.4 Kirby Puckett 1984–95 50.9 50.9 Jim Kaat 1961–73 45.3 30.5 Bert Blyleven 1970–76 96.5 49.3 Bob Allison 1961–70 33.9 33.9 Earl Battey 1961–67 18.7 17.5 Frank Viola 1982–89 47.4 27.2 Zoilo Versalles 1961–67 12.5 14.6 Gary Gaetti 1981–90 42 27.1 Rick Aguilera 1989–99 20.7 15.5 Brad Radke 1995–2006 45.6 45.6 Greg Gagne 1983–92 26.3 17.9 Jim Perry 1963–72 38.7 26.2 Camilo Pascual 1961–66 37.8 33.5 Eddie Guardado 93–03, 08 13.3 9.5 Torii Hunter 97–07, 15 50 26.2 Michael Cuddyer 2001–11 16.6 12.4 Johan Santana 2000-2007 50.7 35.5 using BREF WAR, including WAS as MIN We all know there are factors other than WAR, such as World Series banners and Cy Young Awards or MVPs. Incidentally, the only Twins with 2 of those latter awards are Harmon with 2 MVP awards and the latest addition, Johan, with 2 Cy Young awards. As I said above, this look at Brad Radke was a bit of a surprise for me. If you had asked me to name the top 10 Twins in career WAR, I don't think I would have named Brad Radke. But here he is in 5th place. For me I think that has a lot to do with the timing of my own Twins watching as I said above. For most of Radke's career, I did not watch many Twins games. I knew he was very good. But I think he was under-appreciated, at least by me. What about you? Which brings me to my question. I will be writing a few follow-ups to this post and wonder what you think about these questions: Who is missing here? Who should next be added? If the Twins were to embrace the entire history of the Washington Senators franchise as part of their own history, who else might be added to a Hall of Fame? If we take retired numbers to be a sort of "inner circle," who will next be added to that group? Those with retired numbers are printed in red above. What do you think about future members of the Twins Hall of Fame? I'll let you know what I think in a few days.
Let me say up front - I haven't read all the comments on this piece to know how much I'm duplicating but you asked so here you go... I haven't written for Twins Daily but it's long been in the back of my mind as a "that would be fun" project. Here are my thoughts. 1. On money: I wouldn't be doing this for the money. You can't afford to pay (and likely never will be able to afford to pay) enough to make most people do this for the money. BUT, paying is still important as a symbolic gesture - "your work matters to us and if we make money off it you should too." I will say I didn't know about the payment structure you outline above. I like that structure. 2. Feedback matters. An editorial team or someone to provide critique. Critique how I write - let me know what makes sense and what doesn't. I might not like what you have to say but, in-so-far as I want to get better as a writer, I need/want to hear critique. 3. Collaboration teams. I am more likely to write for sites or other things when I know someone is counting on me. Pushes the writing project up on my to-do list and off my silly brain. So put together teams and schedules. I LOVE the idea of series' previews and recaps in season. So put together a team of series' recap/preview writers and assign them out in advance. So I know I need to preview the upcoming Angels' series in 2 weeks and I have a deadline. THEN I also have my "team lead" to nudge and provide feedback. A lot of this could be structured on a voluntary basis. AND provides a bit of a hierarchy or promoting the work of people who are dependable and do good work. A few ideas I have for groups/regular features like this: series previews/recaps, prospect news, minor league affiliate team news (somewhat different from prospect news), "Where are they now?" - former Twins around MLB, history, stathead features, transaction rumors/analysis. 4. Provide (and I'm confessing ignorance here if something like this already exists) a FAQ or easy to follow guide to getting started as a writer. "If you want to write about X, here's how you go about it." And then lay out the process of promotion as you did in this post, or if you change it based on this feedback loop. 5. Strikes me that it will really take a lot of active curating. The BIG 4 (or however many there are) need to promote/comment on writing they like and writers they want to encourage. And then promote some of those people structurally into regular features. I know you have a model for that, but I guess I'm saying active engagement is key. AND it's hard work. And it could have more structure. Those are my 4 cents. But thanks mostly for caring about this issue. This post in and of itself will inspire me to finally write something.