Dave The Dastardly reacted to Cormac McCarthy for a blog entry, The Evening Sadness in the Central: Volume One, The Leverage Trilogy
Horse and rider emerged from the yawning chasm beneath the field, as if escaping the jaws of some unfeeling limestone beast. He sat his horse and glassed downcountry. Through a veil of dust coppered by bloodred sunset he could make out the number 411 painted on a fence. Just beyond that number, swaddled in bootblack darkness, lay his warrant. A place whose dominion belonged neither to God nor man but a purgatory of whose provenance none were certain and all feared but him. He would go to the bullpen and exact a confession of all its truths.
He scabbarded his rifle and put bootheel to horse’s flanks and they rode on. As they rode he looked up at the flags mounted atop the edifice surrounding him, flags that pointed downward sullenly like some ancient penitents. They bore the crude markings of years once thought remarkable and now thought of not at all, as though they belonged to another world entire. 1965. 1987. 1991. A world beyond imagining, preserved only in ancient scribes’ faded memories, palimpsests upon which now showed only the bottomless abyss of now, faint tracings of Jeff Reardon giving way to the stark outline of Alexander Colomé. Though lately he hadn’t been too bad. They rode on.
He looked into the stands at the fans, their brokenness unable to be hidden by the grotesqueries they were committing with the barrelsized ales and meats lacquered with sauce embalmed in bread they unceasingly lifted to their mouths, trying without recompense to atone for what they were witnessing of their own free will. Is this how one baseballs? No it is not. Only the damned baseball such as this.
Here was another. He held a crude placard aloft, beseeching an unseeable and unknowable God, Circle Me Bert. A plea for a faithless arbiter to encase him in a telastractic orb, thus consecrating him as worthy of notice on the sprawling contraption electric, so that all his kin may know his life was of some brief consequence before his vanishing from the world, yet unaware this judge had been judged himself to be without merit and banished from the Hadean landscape upon which he now trod.
He arrived. He pulled up the reins and dismounted and knocked on the door. From within he heard low murmurs and scuffling of metal on dirt. Sounds unencumbered by bravery. No answer. He knocked again. Silence. There will not be a third knock, he said.
He heard a thump, a creak, and the door swung open. The reckoning was at hand.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to weinshie for a blog entry, Good reasons why Red-Cross Rocco should be let go
By David Weinshilboum
In 2013, the Golden State Warriors basketball team seemed on the verge. A franchise that had been a laughingstock for decades had been to the playoffs two years in a row. Led by coach Mark Jackson and a young injury-prone sharpshooter by the name of Stephen Curry, the steam had suddenly thrust itself into relevancy.
Yet, just three days after a playoff loss in 2013, the Warriors fired Jackson (who had a year left on his contract). He was a good coach who had many positive attributes. The team was headed in the right direction. Why fire him?
The Warriors hired Steve Kerr who implemented a new offense that maximized Curry’s long-range shooting abilities. The team went on to win Championships in three of the next four seasons. As the tired sports cliché goes, the rest is history.
The Minnesota Twins – until this train-wreck of a year—were a team and organization on the rise. Then rookie manager Rocco Baldelli led the Twins to a 100-win season in 2019 and another division championship in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Today the Twins are mired in a disaster season that simply isn’t going to get better. Their best player is injured and half a dozen others are playing well below expectations (Sano, Maeda, Kepler, Polanco and, sorry to put this in print, Colome). When the Twins 2021 season comes to a close, they will be a failure: no playoffs and well below expectations of 90-plus wins.
In October, the Twins will have to ask themselves an important question: is Baldelli the leader who can take this team and franchise to the next level? I would argue that, for some very rational, logical reasons, the answer is no.
The Twins Twitterverse wants Rocco’s head now, and a few days ago, during a television broadcast, a fan wandered behind home plate and held a sign calling for a managerial change. There’s a lot of emotion going into the Fire Rocco movement. Baldelli has NEVER been a good in-game manager, oftentimes making fans scratch their heads or, at times, yank tufts of hair from scalp. His choice of defensive substitutions, pinch hitters and pinch runners feels arbitrary at best. The most obvious example was a couple weeks ago in Oakland when, in extra innings, Baldelli pinch ran Travis Blankenhorn for Josh Donaldson. The move compromised defense in a big way. And Baldelli made matters worse when he put second-baseman Luis Arraez at third and Blankenhorn at second – eroding the leather at TWO positions instead of just one. The game ended when Blankenhorn booted one grounder and Arraez air-mailed a routine throw to first.
Another reason fans might dislike him is his press conference demeanor: he is dullard diplomat who makes former Vikings Coach/statue Bud Grant look emotional. Worse, he never calls out terrible plays – both physical or mental – and seems to dismiss garbage baseball as “part of the game.”
Neither of these negative attributes are fireable offenses, though.
Baldelli is a good manager. Players love him. They want to play for him. He is flexible and allows them to select preparation that fits their needs. He maximized player abilities in 2019, getting the most out of Miguel Sano, Mitch Garver and Max Kepler.
All good things must come to an end, though. And Baldelli’s millennial approach to players might not be as conducive to good baseball as it once was. This year, many players aren’t properly prepared for games. Too often, players seem to be using their first at-bat to “learn” about a pitcher’s repertoire instead of reviewing the scouting reports. Players appear ok with early-inning strikeouts since they’ve seen the stuff. It’s not a stretch to assume many Twins are taking advantage of Rocco’s laissez faire approach to being game ready.
Also, Rocco’s concern for injured players seems incredibly detrimental to the team, particularly given how the roster has been assembled. The Front Office has routinely preferred more pitchers and a short bench. But Red-Cross Rocco sits players if they report a hangnail. Worse, he won’t even consider them for pinch hitting or late-inning defense. There have been over a dozen instances this season when Baldelli has chosen to pinch hit a weaker bat instead of a resting star who is at 90 percent. All for the sake of future health. In a year where rosters are 26 players deep, the Twins have been playing with 22 or 23 players.
Is Baldelli having a bad year? Absolutely. When the leader of the team forgets how many mound visits have been made, it’s a bad, bad look. The Twins in many ways have played the way Baldelli has managed this year: haphazardly, unevenly and obliviously. Baldelli certainly has the ability to manage better than he has. But when his contract ends, the Twins must decide whether he is the best fit for the club. Their decision will be huge because this team is on the precipice of irrelevancy.
David Weinshilboum lives in California and bemoans this year’s Twins ineptitude from afar. Follow @weinshie on Twitter.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, Ch-ch-changes?
The Twins play their 30th game this afternoon and are currently 11-18. They've been beset by bad luck, bad play and have taken a beating with two rule changes (extra-inning runner on second, 7-inning games for doubleheaders). How do they get out of this funk? I'm sure many in the organization will preach patience and they may be right, but that isn't any fun. Here are some possibilities for change that might help the team:
Role change. We've already seen one role change. At least temporarily Alexander Columé is not going to see high-leverage innings. Columé has been a huge disappointment and even when he has worked scoreless innings, he's been shaky. The problem is that taking Columé out of high leverage situations leaves the Twins with few good options, particularly when going 6 or more innings for a starter is a rarity. I think one pitching role change that should be made is to use Taylor Rogers in non-save high leverage situations as happened early in 2019 and sometimes use him for multiple innings. Rogers shouldn't be used in back-to-back days. Moving Alcala to high leverage situations seems to be gradually happening. If things continue to go bad, it makes sense to have him give a shot as a closer. Position players--it seems to me that both Polanco and Kepler should have their roles diminished from full-time regular to something different. Kepler can play a corner and center and Polanco has played short and second, maybe Max should be slotted as the fourth OF or at least platooned with Garlick. I think giving Polanco the role of three-position infielder wouldn't be a stretch. He could get some at-bats as a platoon partner for my choice of regular second baseman (Arraez) and left-handed at-bats in place of Simmons and when Donaldson takes a day off (or is injured).
Promotions/demotions. Assuming that Alex Kirilloff is in the big leagues to stay, when healthy the Twins have one extra position player and someone will have to be sent to the minor leagues or released. Discussion has centered on Jake Cave. Several others could be sent down and that doesn't begin to discuss the pitching staff. Many pitchers'performances could merit their demotion.
Trades. It is unlikely that anyone will make a significant trade this early in the year. However, the Twins would be a good candidate for a major trade nearer the trade deadline. They have some redundancy (left handed hitting corner outfielders) and holes that need patching (bullpen, perhaps catching) and many candidates to trade. They also have a lot of players who would be free agents after this season. I do wonder if someone who was considered a cornerstone (Polanco, Kepler, Sanó) could be traded. None of these guys have performed remotely well so far but an uptick could make them more marketable. I have to believe that the Twins will bring in new pitchers either in the bullpen or the rotation. What they have at this time in the bullpen just hasn't worked.
Personally, I think the Twins will need to do a little bit of everything to turn the corner. I am a proponent of changing roles. I think Kepler and Polanco could be candidates to have limited roles. The Twins need to add at least one strong arm in the bullpen, most likely by trade and Trevor Larnach is reputed to be nearly as much a sure thing as a hitter as Alex Kirilloff, plus he is a better outfielder. There is too much talent for the club to continue to play sub.400 baseball, but I think they need to make changes immediately.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Sherry Cerny for a blog entry, These are the Droids We are Looking For.
The month of April for the Twins felt like the entire 2020 year as we watched the Twins battle injury, Covid-19 protocols, and sluggish bats. It felt like the remaining six months of baseball were going to be long and painful, but nevertheless, we showed up. Whether it’s to cling to that last bit of hope, or to complain and feel validated in our complaint, we show up. Eventually the Twins also showed up, giving us the feeling that things are starting to finally come together.
April 28th, the Twins or the management decided enough was enough and the team awoke. Since April 28th, we have been hitting .272 and have one four out of the five games. What’s been the change? Is it Simmon’s coming back to us? Donaldson finally hitting the ball and finding the zone, or Kepler getting back into his groove? A combination of all of it and finding chemistry behind the plate, young team members showing up, and defense makes a huge difference.
Kenta Maeda, who last night (May 3, 2020) showed us that he is stronger than the demons that kept him from having a winning April. Last night, Kenta laid his demons to rest and gave us the fire we have been waiting for, 7 scoreless innings and a little more variety in his pitches. Kenta has been struggling and most of his pitches have been right over the plate giving the batter’s the perfect chance to hit dingers off the all-star. Maeda was the perfect puzzle piece to fit into the offense's game last night to bolster back.
With Nelly, Buck, and Kepler in a slump, it left us to wonder if the Bomba Squad was dead, but like everything else this week, we have seen a complete 180 turn to the life of this team. The bats have been on fire, bombas are flying and the newest member of the team, Kiriloff is showing this team what he is capable of. Kiriloff seemed to have paved the way for the Bomba squad to find their mo-jo as he continued to rake in the homeruns and the others followed suit giving the Twins some of the best leads of the season.
It’s early, I get it, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, but if you can’t even get off the starting block, what are you doing? With the central division being as messy as it is, the talent the Twins have, we should not be second to last. I truly believe with the chemistry we have seen the past five games, we are fully equipped and capable to handle the sixteen day stretch of games. They will need all the strength, rest and power to get through this month. May the Force be with them….and May the Fourth be with you.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to weinshie for a blog entry, Back at the ballpark -- finally
The last time I witnessed the Minnesota Twins play in person was almost two years ago. Back then Corona was an alcoholic beverage; police brutality was a back-burner issue; the likes of Kobe Bryant, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Alex Trebek all had tomorrows to experience. On the diamond, the Twins were the talk of the nation. They destroyed baseballs and home run records en route to a 100-win season.
I attended a game in Oakland (as I am a displaced Minnesotan). It was July 2019. The Twins' offense did its part: Sano launched a towering bomb to left field and catcher Jason Castro rocketed two homers into the Oakland night. Jake Odorizzi was about to be named to the All Star Game, but he didn't fare well, giving up a grand slam to former Twin Chris Herrmann. The A's won 8-6. Granted, the final score was not what I'd wanted, but that didn't overshadow the joy of being a fan, being present.
I tried to attend a game last year, was ready for the 2020 Oakland home opener against Minnesota. Of course, we all know how that turned out. The country -- in an attempt to slow the pandemic -- went on lockdown. The baseball season hit pause. The only thing that filled stadiums were the echoes of emptiness.
When I purchased tickets to attend today's game, I was certain my baseball drought would be over. Like over 200 million Americans, I had been vaccinated. Normalcy felt so close; hope infused my soul.
First Andrelton Simmons. Then others. Later, Kyle Garlick. An outbreak had infiltrated my team's clubhouse. This wasn't supposed to happen. Game after game postponed. The Twins' west-coast swing was turning into a swing and miss.
I was certain that the baseball gods had it out for me.
Then late word: Twins baseball was a go. The Twins would travel to Oakland and take the field. Hope. Normalcy. Baseball.
So my jaded self will be in the stands, observing it all. Yes, I'll shake my head at any Twin miscues and just might curse a certain closer if a bullpen collapse occurs. I'll complain, cheer then complain some more. But I'll appreciate it, all of it: the big swings, line drives and flashes of leather. Tomorrow's not promised, so I'll enjoy today.
Follow this jaded Twins fan --who most certainly will get a contact high at the Oakland Coliseum on 4/20 -- on Twitter. I'm @weinshie
Dave The Dastardly reacted to ScrapTheNickname for a blog entry, Baseball Books During our Downtime
During these down days away from Twins baseball -- when I'm not so sure I even want to see the Twins play baseball again -- I accidentally read a book about baseball. How do you accidentally read a book about baseball?
Well, I know of this author, John Fante, but I hadn't read 1933 Was a Bad Year, which happens to be about a high school senior (it's not a children's book at all), presumably written in the 1930s. A fun short novel about a left-armed high school boy in Colorado who believes without a doubt that he's destined for the Big Leagues, and the narrator is crafty enough to not let us know if he's honestly good or if he’s deluding himself. The book is set during is a snowy spring and not an actual baseball is thrown.
A book I really like, and have read twice, is The Universal Baseball Association, Inc. J. Henry Waugh Proprietor, by Robert Coover. All about the dark obsessive underbelly of a baseball fan. Mr. Waugh lives increasingly in a fantasy world in which he creates entire sports teams, but not only that, he creates their wives, their after-game dinners, their drinking habits, the owners who own and trade and trade them, etc. The whole nine imaginary yards. It's based on a dice game J. Henry plays, which determines the course of action – similar to Strat-o-Matic baseball. But what happens when the outcome that is necessary to keep the illusion alive is not what in the dice roll?
When I was in Junior High (full disclosure: I’m 63) I read Going, Going Gone, and then, this winter, I found it on Amazon and I reread it. It’s still pretty good, surprisingly. About a high school boy who’s a confident home run slugger who willfully ignores his defensive weaknesses. He just assumes his hitting will get him to the Bigs. He learns, after being benched by a his tough-minded coach, and support from his teammates, that defense is as important as offense.
The Kid Who Batted 1.000, written by Bob Allison, tickled me when I was a kid. (No, not that Bob Allison.) A country boy can’t hit, but he sure can take a walk ... Hey, Astudillo, you ought to read this one! ... He walks and walks and walks. He’s a miracle walker! But when push comes to shove, and a hit is needed and a walk won't do, will the kid come through? It's a children’s book, after all.
The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams. Man, I wish I’d known about this book when I was in high school! Ted was knowledgeable about the craft of beyond belief. It’s a must read for any age, 1975 or 2075. Was he not the greatest hitter of all time? Perhaps, knowing that he missed whole seasons flying fighter jets in both WWII and Korea.
The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship by David Halberstam. About the enduring friendship between four Red Sox greats, Williams, Pesky, Dom DiMaggio and some other guy. As I recall it tells of their youthful on-the-field exploits as well as it explores their lifelong friendship as they age out of their playing days into old age. I loved this book but don't remember much about it.
The Natural by Bernard Malamud. I found the prose dull as dust, didn’t get very far into it before I put it down. Same with The Art of Fielding, published just a couple of years ago, and quite popular; I expected to like it but lost interest and laid it down to rest next to The Natural.
Like a chicken, I've just scratched the surface of possible baseball books ...
Have you read any of these books?
What did you think?
What other baseball books have you read that you would recommend or steer us away from?
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Sherry Cerny for a blog entry, Does the "Shoe" Fit?
After suffering a 4 day break in baseball for COVID 19 precautions, I had been looking forward to Tuesday night. It seems that the Twins while having a great cohesion had issues since day one. The Twins have played through Donaldson’s day 1 injury, missing Buck due to a stomach virus (jury is still out on that one) and Simmons stepping out for COVID protocol on April 14th, but the one thing the Twins still cannot seem to play through is their pitching. The double headers, late nights and early games gassed out our pitching to the point where Willians Astudillo would step into the pitching line up - in an already losing game - to the Angels showing his skills and fast pitch form to the MLB.
Matt Shoemaker, a pitcher the Twins acquired in February 2021, was an all-star in his own right when he played in 2014 as a rookie. As reported by Do-Hyoung Park, Shoemaker has been struggling with an onslaught of injuries since 2017 and has been continuing to fall further down after 2019 when he tore his ACL. The Twins, fully expecting him to be healthy and the No. 4 contributor to the rotation, spent 2 million dollars on the 34 year old right hander, who barely had played any games since 2017.
Shoemaker has only pitched in 2 games thus far for the Twins and neither were truly magical or anything that showed promise. His first game on the road in Detroit, where he pitched six innings and only one run got let in the 5th in the 22 batters he saw. He would take home the win in that game. In the next game against Seattle, he would pitch 5 innings and give up 4 runs and 7 hits leaving the game with an ERA of 4.09. The longer he stayed in the more damage that got done.
Tonight, after sitting out for 9 days, the RHP would once again take the mound against the A’s. The Oakland A’s are barely over .500 - a game that could have been our first W on the road since April 7th against the Tigers - and get us back on track for what started out as looking like a winning season. Shoemaker came out and pitched 3.1 innings and in that time allowed two runs and had 67 pitches before Alcala came in as the relief pitcher in the 4th. The Twins would fall 7-0 in game one of a double header after a grand slam served up by Alcala, accompanied by the runners left on base from when Shoemaker was on the mound. Not the start to the night the team and the fans were looking forward to.
In his first three games Shoemaker has continued to slide down hill. It may be just acclimating to the team, maybe it’s the 9 day rest...but the trend is showing that once again, the Twins took a chance on an arm that isn’t truly benefiting the roster and is leaving us with leaning on other utility players like Astudillo to come in and give us the outs we need. This “Shoe” just may not be the right fit.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, The Shortstop factory
The Twins have Jorge Polanco at SS. In 2019 he was an all star. Now all of Twins fandom wants him at utility and hope for the team to sign another SS. I am not sure why. Our number one prospect remains Royce Lewis who is still listed as a SS who should be ready by the end of the year at least. So why do we want to demote Polanco and block Lewis? This is reasoning that does not work for me.
Then we have Wander Javier who came to us in the same international draft that produced Vladimir Guerrero, jr. and Yordan Alvarez. To say that he is behind them on the development level is an understatement. I am still not sure why he is rated so high as a prospect. He has had a hamstring injury during his 2016 debut, a torn labrum costing him all of 2018 and a strained quad keeping him from making his full-season debut in 2019. Then he came in and looked lost for 300 at bats. And MLB.com still has him listed at number nine.
Above him on the mlb.com site is Keoni Cavaco who is given great grades for athleticism, which is fine in the Olympics, but batting and fielding count in baseball. I am not sold on him. He was a fast riser in HS according to his notes. Another prospect who does not make my list.
At 17 is Nick Gordon. He seems to be on a slippery slope to a forgotten prospect, but I hope he will find a way to get to the majors someday. He just isn’t going to make the team as a starter.
Will Holland is next on the prospect list at 19. Notes about him say that he was doing great at Auburn until his Junior year where he bombed and slipped to fifth round. Then he came to rookie ball and still bombed. Not looking good.
Today the Twins made an big international signing – Danny De Andrade who is 16. He could be projected to arrive when Lewis runs out of arbitration and signs elsewhere. He is big, potential middle of the order project (typically that means not staying at SS). At 16 he is a project. I know what my grandsons are like at that age – I would not sign them for $2.2 million and I love them. If he makes it he will probably replace Donaldson and not Lewis.
Finally the second signing is Fredy LaFlor who is already projected in the mlb.com writeup to shift to second or CF. He said to be a high energy top of the lineup prospect.
So there is the Twins SS list. I would like to see us develop one of them into the next great SS rather than sign one who is already down the road of his career and will be overpaid. How do you see these names playing out?
The Athletic summary of international signings did not include the Twins - disappointing. https://theathletic.com/2326602/2021/01/16/mlb-international-signing-period-day-1/?source=weeklyemail For those of us who do not know who they are it is important to have outside opinions.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, The Twins Want a New Shortstop?
Over the past couple of weeks, it has been rumored that the Twins are acting as a shark circling blood in the water. Waiting for an opportunity to make a big move like they did last offseason, it’s been anyone’s guess as to what that may be. Today it was reported that the move could come up the middle.
Trevor Bauer is the premier free agent this winter, but shortstop talent is aplenty as well. Andrelton Simmons is a perennial Gold Glove type, while both Didi Gregorious and Marcus Semien bring a more balanced offering in a stopgap type situation. Ken Rosenthal reported today that Minnesota is considering moving Luis Arraez and shifting Jorge Polanco to second base. The question then becomes, who plays short?
Arraez broke onto the scene in 2019 and immediately became a fan favorite that looked the part of a Tony Gwynn clone. With great command of the zone and an innate ability to make strong contact, multiple batting titles were projected for his future. Dealing with a slow start in 2020, and lingering knee issues, he finished the year off fine. It’s probably fair to describe him as virtually what we see being who he is. There’s going to be a high average, he won’t strike out, and he’s passable at best on defense. On its own, that works fine for Minnesota.
The problem here is that Jorge Polanco is miscast as a shortstop. His arm strength is questionable, and while improved in 2020, his range is suspect. That’s easier to overlook when the power production is what it was in 2019, but he dealt with a nagging ankle issue last season and just underwent another surgery to correct it. There was some talk he could take over as Minnesota’s replacement for Marwin Gonzalez, but you’d probably be sacrificing lineup prowess in that scenario. Moving him to second base seems like a much more fluid fit.
So, what happens at short? Royce Lewis is obviously seen as the heir, but there’s plenty of warts to dissect there. His 2019 was not good, and despite glowing reports from the CHS Field alternate site last season, 2020 featured no real game action. A handful of national names continue to suggest he’s not a fit at short long term, and a spot in centerfield makes more sense. That alone isn’t enough to bump him off the position now, but it might be worthy to consider him less than untouchable.
At the current juncture two of the game’s best shortstops are on the trade market. Cleveland is going to move Francisco Lindor this offseason, and the Colorado Rockies should be sending Trevor Story out. Neither are under team control past 2022 and as always you have the Coors effect in play (.760 OPS away .994 OPS home) for Story. Both players are going to command an absolute premium and depending on what Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are willing to give up, the hope would likely be an extension works out following a swap.
Despite lost revenues in 2020, the Minnesota Twins can’t afford to wait out their next move. The farm system has some very good top prospects, and the depth is also pretty solid. It’s this core however that the front office has been fine tuning, and the window to go all in is the immediate future. With Josh Donaldson having three years left on his mega deal, pairing him and the homegrown core should be of the utmost importance. What impact Royce Lewis or Jordan Balazovic have as key pieces two or three years from now could be the start of an entirely new competitive cycle.
This front office can’t go all in and throw care to the wind, but they’ve also never shown a reason to believe that’s how they would operate. Donaldson seemed like a great fit for Minnesota all along last winter, and the Twins picked their spot to get the deal done. Nothing may be imminent on a big splash front right now, but the makings of smoke seem to be billowing and there’s plenty of reason to fan for some flame.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Hildy’s Back, Tell a Friend
There’s been no larger point of contention for the Minnesota Twins in 2019 than the bullpen. While the starting rotation has dealt with ebbs and flows, it was the relief corps that constantly faced criticism. After acquiring Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson at the deadline, the group improved. Brusdar Graterol has now debuted, and both Trevor May and Tyler Duffey have stepped up. It’s a September call up that could be among the most beneficial though.
Midway through the summer of 2018 Paul Molitor’s best and most trusted relief arm was Trevor Hildenberger. The side-armer owned a 2.80 ERA and .661 OPS against through his first 42 appearances a season ago. Unfortunately, those came in the Twins first 79 games. By all measures, Molitor had run him into the ground, and things went drastically off the tracks from there.
Hildenberger blew his first save on July 15 last year. He made 31 appearances from that point forward totaling a 9.64 ERA and 9.95 OPS against. Opposing batters teed off on his pitches and it carried over to the 2019 season. Starting the year in Rocco Baldelli’s pen, Trevor owned an 8.36 ERA through 14.0 IP before being optioned to Triple-A Rochester. The ineffectiveness continued there, and he was eventually put on the shelf.
Fast forward a few months and back to full health, Minnesota’s former high leverage on was on the track back to the bigs. Across eight post IL appearances (12.1 IP), Hildenberger owned a 0.73 ERA and .315 OPS against. He struck out ten batters and walked one while giving up just a single run on six hits. That’s obviously an incredibly small sample size, and almost half of that work came in the Gulf Coast League, but if we want encouraging signs then this is it.
There’s a lot we don’t yet know, and Baldelli doesn’t have much runway to figure things out. We can assume that Hildenberger will get something less than 15 innings the rest of the way to prove his value. What we do know is that this is a guy who has gotten it done for the Twins in the biggest of spots previously. Adding that type of arm to a Postseason run could be something substantial, and completely out of the question even a month ago.
With a lineup as good as Minnesota has, they’ll never find themselves out of a game. Now having significant options on the mound, they also find themselves in a much better position to make a run into October that had some serious uncertainties prior to the trade deadline. Adding pieces from outside of the organization was always going to happen. Arms emerging from within, and especially those who have previously shown a strong ability, is a testament to hard work and internal development.
If Hildenberger is truly back for Minnesota, that’s something everyone can get on board with.
For more from . Follow @tlschwerz
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Jonathon Zenk for a blog entry, Top Five Twins Prospects Who Should be Promoted
With two months gone in the season, the Minnesota Twins big league club has the best record in baseball. In the minors, unfortunately, many big prospects are injured, some for a long period including Brusdar Graterol, Akil Baddoo, Stephen Gonsalves, Tyler Wells and Yunior Severino. However, there have been a number of bright spots in the minor league system. Many players have deservedly been already promoted this season. This list is for the players who should be moved up, and likely will be sometime relatively soon.
In this list, I avoided putting players in their first year with the level. Because of that, I did not put either Austin Schulfer or Gabe Snyder on this list, even though they have dominated at Low-A Cedar Rapids. Maybe they’ll make my August edition, if they are still with the Kernels at that time.
Michael Davis, SS, Cedar Rapids
Jared Akins, RF, Cedar Rapids
5. Gabriel Maciel, CF, Cedar Rapids
Maciel arrived in a July trade last season that sent Eduardo Escobar to Arizona. The 20-year-old is in the midst of his best year of full-season baseball. In his 30 games with the Kernels after the trade last season, he hit .263 and had an OPS of .683. He isn’t a power hitter, so his OPS will never be super high, but his OBP is .389, which is the best of his pro career, and his .728 OPS is the second-highest of his career. As a matter of fact, his OBP is the among the best in the Twins system, just behind Luis Arraez and Kernels teammate Gabe Snyder. Part of that strong OBP is his ability to draw walks, having coaxed 17 already this season. If Maciel keeps it up, I see him in Fort Myers sooner rather than later.
4. Jaylin Davis, RF, Pensacola
Davis is having one of his best seasons of pro ball. Not only is he hitting for power, his OBP is by far the best of his pro career at .386. That is helped by him cutting down on his strikeouts a bit and walking a lot more this season. In Fort Myers and Chattanooga last season, he combined to walk 44 times in 439 at-bats. However, in 142 at-bats this season, he already has 22 walks. Not only that, but his .430 slugging percentage is the best since he put up a .486 slugging percentage in 66 games with Cedar Rapids in the first half of 2017. He has a good batting average of .282 as well. Last year, in those 439 ABs, he had 11 homers, and he already has five this season. His numbers are up across the board, and should make an appearance in Rochester this season. However, Rochester is loaded at OF, so he might be blocked for the time being with Brent Rooker, LaMonte Wade, Luke Raley, Zander Wiel and Jake Cave all in New York.
3. Bryan Sammons, LHP, Fort Myers
Sammons has pitched extremely well in his first full season with the Miracle. Last year, he started the year in Cedar Rapids and dominated, going 5-5 with a 2.32 ERA, before being promoted to Fort Myers. In his first stint with the Miracle, he struggled, going 1-2 with an 8.49 ERA. He got a start with the Chattanooga Lookouts, but was knocked around there as well. He returned to Fort Myers to start 2019, and has been virtually unhittable. In his eight starts, he has given up four runs.....total. Sammons is 4-0 with a sparkling 0.94 ERA. He keeps the ball in the yard, having allowed just nine in his minor league career in 201.1 innings, and has given up just one in 38.1 innings this season. His strikeouts per nine innings is really good, as well, with 46 strikeouts in those 38.1 frames (10.8 K/9). Sammons’ .227 opposing batting average is impressive, and it is only a matter of time before he takes his talents to Pensacola to join the Blue Wahoos.
2. Hector Lujan, RHP, Fort Myers
Lujan got off to a slow start in 2019, as he allowed three runs in three innings in his first appearance of the season, and he allowed five in his first eight innings. Since then, he has been lights out. In his last 11 outings (21.1 innings), he has allowed just one earned run (0.43 ERA). Last season, he had a solid showing for the Miracle, going 5-5 with a 2.64 ERA. Although his numbers were solid across the board last year, he has improved significantly upon those numbers. He has a 1.84 ERA in 14 appearances. His strikeouts per nine innings rate has improved from 8.5 to nearly nine strikeouts per nine and from a 3.09/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio to 4.14/1. His batting average against has gone down significantly, from .248 in 2018 to .198 in 2019, and his WHIP has improved from 1.26 in 2018 to 0.95 in 2019. It is time for a challenge for Lujan, and I expect him to get that sometime in June.
1. Lewin Diaz, 1B, Fort Myers
Diaz was a big International Free Agent signing, and has had an up-and-down career so far with the Twins. He is just 22 years old, and doesn’t turn 23 until November. After a down season with the Miracle in 2018, he has turned the Florida State League into his personal launching pad. Diaz hasn’t put up numbers like this since his time in Rookie ball with Elizabethton. He already has more homers this year (9) than he had all 2018 (6) in half the at-bats. Diaz is still strikeout prone, but he has drawn more walks this season (8) and he drew 10 in all of 2018. I don’t know what has clicked, but numbers are so much better than 2018, even in a pitcher-friendly league. His OPS was just .598 last season, but that has sky-rocketed to an outstanding .911 this season. Diaz has shown he can be dominant, and he should move up to Pensacola relatively soon, especially with Taylor Grzelakowski struggling at first.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to South Dakota Tom for a blog entry, 45 Cold-Blooded Starts
Means 9 trips through the rotation for each starter, and got me to questioning what would be the best way to appropriate those starts from now - 117 games in - through the rest of the season.
The clear emphasis must be on 2019 and 2020 and what will best serve the club moving forward. That is not to say that you stop pitching Berrios, Odorizzi, or Gibson; those guys need to stay in rotation and continue to demonstrate that they can last an entire season and get their 30+ starts in. Injuries create opportunities but lack of injuries cannot serve to block those same opportunities.
I don't intend to break down every match-up and start, but more to the point, who do I want to see and how many times between now and season's end? Let's start by saying that if we maintain the existing rotation of Odorizzi, Berrios, Santana, Gibson and Stewart, that each would pitch 9 more times and the chart would look like this:
First, I would identify those starters I want to see pitch (whose names do not appear on the above list). I have 4: Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and Michael Pineda. At this point, Pineda can continue his rehab until he is a little more stretched out, but I would like to see him for the last month, so (in an ideal world) I'll put his number at 5. Romero can continue to pitch in AAA, though I would like him to get a taste of regular rotation work for the next few weeks until he hits his innings limit (he's at 129.1 now), so I would pencil him in to start 4 more times at the mlb level, starting now, and see where that puts him. That might, honestly, dovetail into the Pineda starts as a timetable.
I am most interested in seeing Gonsalves pitch, so would put him down for 7 trips through the rotation between now and season's end.
The only way to get to the final numbers below is to switch to a 6-man rotation immediately, to rest the arms of the regulars and give opportunities to the newcomers, so that's what I do. It still does not create sufficient opportunities for all four so something else has to give. The victim in all this is Ervin; until and unless he can get his FB back up to 92 (which he won't), he is injured and on a rehab assignment. There is an argument that you continue to pitch him to see if someone will give you a C prospect for him or save a million dollars with a pass through waivers and a trade, but I don't see that happening either.
So here is what it looks like:
So I have my six-man rotation, with Odorizzi, Berrios, Gibson and Gonsalves getting regular rotation work through the end of the season. I have Romero pitch the next 4 times he is scheduled on regular (or 6-man) rest, followed by Pineda starting the remaining games through the end of the season, and Romero potentially available out of the BP for long relief and to ensure he gets to the innings limit they have set for him. I have Mejia and Stewart rotate through the final spot (Stewart for 4 more now, and then a well-rested Mejia for the last 4 while Stewart finishes out the season in the expanded BP as an additional long man).
Not only will this give me a look at the 2019 candidates, but it will inform me whether the above group is sufficient to attack the upcoming season (and yes, we can always use a frontline starter, but the question is whether or not we need another pitcher in the Odorizzi/Lynn/Stewart mode as a veteran who will take regular turns in the rotation but provide fairly middling results, if we're not being too optimistic about them).
The lost season is quickly dwindling away, and the vague notion that we'll get a chance to see all of these guys when rosters expand is not accurate. This needs to start now if we are to get any meaningful feedback - and any valuable information - from the wreckage of 2018.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to carly148 for a blog entry, No More Rebuilds!
The Minnesota Twins had their worst season in team history in 2016 losing 103 games. What might of been harder to see than the Twins poor play on the field, was watching the Pohlad family and Dave St. Peter select a replacement for Terry Ryan. The Twins hired the firm Korn Ferry to conduct the search. The Twins decided they wanted a Chief Baseball Officer and eventually narrowed their search down to two candidates. Scouting/Player-Development Chief Jason McLeod from the Chicago Cubs and Assistant General Manager Derek Falvey from the Cleveland Indians. The Twins brass decided on the 33 year old Derek Falvey to lead the team. The Pohlad family has never openly discussed money but one has to wonder if it played a part in their decision. McLeod was the only minority candidate, had more experience, and is a brilliant baseball mind who helped put Cubs baseball back on the map. He also signed a lucrative 5-year extension with the Cubs after not getting the top job with the Twins. Falvey was young but literally had more time as a intern with the Indians than as Assistant General Manager.
When Falvey took over the Twins he hired Thad Levine in November 2016 to be his General Manager. He also for some unknown reason decided to keep around many of Ryan's guys like Rob Antony, Mike Radcliffe, Brad Steil, and former director of scouting Deron Johnson. The fans all thought the team was in full rebuild mode but Falvey and Levine refused to accept that. The Twins had a slow winter with trade rumors surrounding second baseman Brian Dozier. The Twins wisely chose not to trade their all around best player for the meager offers they received. Dozier had his best year as a professional in 2017 and helped the Twins make it to the AL Wild Card game. Falvey also had a terrific draft by selecting players like Royce Lewis, Brent Rooker, and Blayne Enlow in the 2017 MLB draft. The team improved by 26 games and many fans thought the future looked bright. There are times when Falvey looks like another Andy Mcphail but there are also times when he looks and sounds like a used car salesman.
All fans were optimistic about 2018 being better than ever. Falvey wasted no time by signing Manager Paul Molitor to a 3-year contract extension. There were many who had hoped Molitor would be replaced. One name that surfaced was Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. He ended up being hired by the NY Mets and he is already on the hot seat in his first season in Queens. The Twins had another slow winter with rumors swirling around Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. They decided not to pay the hefty price tag for Darvish but instead traded a minor league player with some promise for starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. The front office shocked many when they signed free agents Logan Morrison, Lance Lynn, and Addison Reed. They also surprised nobody by inking deals with relievers Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke. The Twins spiked their payroll to almost $130 million and were ready to compete. The only problem is from the beginning it's been nothing short of a disaster. The training staff made a mistake diagnosing the finger issues with pitcher Ervin Santana and he had surgery in February right before spring training started. Miguel Sano was accused of sexual assault in January and came into camp looking like he could play middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears than third base for the Twins. Byron Buxton has struggled to stay healthy and continues to look lost at the plate. Throughout the losing years of 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 we were all told just wait for Buxton & Sano. It appears we are still waiting and one has to wonder are they potential superstars or busts who can't live up to the hype. My biggest concern has always been player development. Why do players leave the Twins and find more success with other teams? It is a legitimate question.
The Twins are approaching the 2018 trade deadline with a 35-44 record and have been all but eliminated from the playoff race. Of course fans are clamoring for them to sell, sell, sell. I have no issues with them trading away Mauer, Dozier, Rodney, Lynn, or Morrison. However I take exception to trading Eduardo Escobar. Escobar continues to improve, plays multiple positions for the team, stays healthy, and is a clubhouse leader. He is also a free agent at the end of the year. Since Escobar was traded to the Twins by the Chicago White Sox he has progressed from a mediocre hitter in the utility role to a very good everyday player. It seems year after year fans keep saying we need to trade Escobar because his value will never be higher. Well guess what he just keeps on getting better and better. The Twins should not trade Escobar they sign him to a 3-4 year deal. We traded Eduardo Nunez back in 2016 for LHP Alberto Mejia. The trade does not look very good right now. How about Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer for Hector Santiago and Alan Busenitz in 2016. We gave up Meyer the prized prospect we got in the Denard Span trade, to get rid of Nolasco. Who can forget the day all Twins fans cried when Justin Morneau was traded for Alex Presley and a PTBNL back in August 2013. Truthfully the last trade deadline deal that worked for the Twins is when they acquired Escobar in 2012. A trade of Escobar signals to me the team is in full rebuild mode. I have been a loyal season ticket holder for thirteen years and the team is not any closer to winning a World Series now than in 2005. The Twins need to restock not rebuild.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Respy for a blog entry, Byron Buxton Retires, Hired by Homeland Security to Catch Bags of Drugs
Byron Buxton practicing his catching in front of a US border wall prototype in June, 2018
SAN DIEGO – After suffering for months with severe migraines and with a history of concussions, Byron Buxton announced on Twitter (@OfficialBuck103) yesterday that he’s officially stepping away from Major League Baseball.
“We’ll miss his presence on the field and in the clubhouse. He’s definitely one of the best center fielders of all time. We wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said Derek Falvey, Minnesota Twins Executive Vice President and Chief Baseball Officer.
Buxton later announced that he’s been working out at a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) facility in San Diego, California where he’s training to catch bags of drugs, typically heroin, being thrown over the border walls from Mexico to the United States.
When asked about the new work he’s preparing for, Buxton said “At least I don’t need to hit anymore.” He added, “I was born to climb walls and catch. And this way, I can also do it while proudly serving my country.”
But, is catching baggies of drugs going to be as easy as catching baseballs? Buxton stated, “The tricky part is that all of the bags can come in different sizes and weights. But if it fits in my glove, I’m going to catch it. Just as long as the border wall is not 55 or 60 feet tall like I’ve heard some people are proposing.”
Carla Provost, Acting Chief for the U.S. Border Patrol division of the DHS, said that they have had their eye on Buxton for a while, and contacted him when he went on the disabled list in April for migraines. “Last year we really dove into the analytics of border security. We have this new metric, abbreviated DRS, which stands for Drug Rings Squandered. We expect that Byron will step right in and lead the division in DRS.”
We caught up with Border Patrol Assistant Chief, Percy Woolbright, to ask about Buxton. “He’ll be a natural at this. He’s really talented. He can cover a lot of wall, too, because I saw his sprint speed has been measured at over 30 feet per second. Also, Byron can come to work every day knowing that the weather along the US-Mexico border is much more predictable than in Minnesota. And if Florida ever decides to secede from the Union like it did in 1861, we’ll set up a new border wall along the US and Florida, and Byron can work close to his family in Georgia.”
One might assume that because of the orientation of catching fly balls against the fence in baseball, he should technically be positioned on the south (foreign) side of the wall to catch drugs being catapulted from Mexico. Commenting on this, Woolbright said, “Umm…Oops.”
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Axel Kohagen for a blog entry, Ode to Scoring Just One Run
Instead of writing an original piece of HIGH STRANGENESS to satisfy your curiosity, I am sharing a most EDIFYING piece in praise of the one solitary run the Twins are allowed to score in most games. 4 out of 6 since last we talked.
Gather, ye ball fans
As I make all clear
The most mirthful joy
Of our ONE run cheer!
To score runs PLURAL
Cannot be much fun
Compared to sheer glee
From scoring just one!
Teams - not the Twins, no
They love the long ball
They hammer and drive
They score, one and all!
Bless’d fans of TC
How lucky are we?
To score just a run
And not two or three?
That one run, and how!
When we see it plate,
To bed we can go
Needn’t stay up late.
Our run! It’s our run!
It’s the only we get!
You must love the run!
When your teams plays not so very good.
⁃ The Bard Axel Kohagen
Dave The Dastardly reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, Jim Kaat makes sense
I just finished reading Jim Kaat's essay on ESPN - http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/23474497/jim-kaat-says-mlb-adapt-7-inning-games-effort-improve-sport and I really liked it. I think it is well thought out and he strengthens it with some notes about how the game has already changed so drastically over the years. This is a good change and I would love to see it, but won't because it will be resisted by the union, the league, the traditionalists.
But what is tradition? Is it a pitcher throwing half the games and winning 50? Is it one pitcher winning 511 games? Is it an era of 400 hitters? Is it the murderers row and the sluggers who followed (sluggers who could also get hits and not strike out all the time)? Is it the war years when a 15 year old starts for Cincinnati? Can we say it is when Jackie Robinson integrated baseball and changed the rosters and stars? Is it the Bronx Bombers who dominated the 50's? Maybe it is the expansion era when lots of new records were set and we went from 154 to 162 games but kept all the same records? Is it PEDs? Is it the era of Latin ballplayers? Perhaps we can say it is the era of wildcard teams. Is it the demise of starters and rosters of all relief pitchers? Is it the era of big Ks and lots of HRs? There is no true tradition. Each season stands alone.
That's why we can argue about eras and great players without winning or losing. Its why the HOF is merely an annual pissing contest of my era was better than your era and your stats don't count because now we do not care about BA and ERA and Wins.
The very discussion that games are too long is a reasonable topic and a serious one. Change is not going to come by the little things that have been done. Shaving 3 minutes off the game is not the answer. Go Jim. I hope someone else is listening. And by the way - I would put you in the HOF!
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Jamie Cameron for a blog entry, Aces High or Aces Low? Do you Need an Ace to Win the World Series?
Jamie Cameron here. If you haven’t been reading John Olson’s Four-Six-Three Blog at Twins Daily, get on it. He’s been churning out some really great content. John is also a great Twitter follow. Recently he posted a thread which caught my attention, essentially attempting to answer the question; does a given team need an ace in order to win the World Series? So I did what any Twitter secret admirer would do, and slid into John’s DMs.
‘John, you don’t know me, but this thread is super interesting, how would you feel about writing a collaborative piece for Twins Daily?’ was my smooth pickup line. John, ever the good sport, agreed, so we came up with a premise; let’s have a debate within an article. Let’s go toe to toe and try to answer the question; do the Twins need an ace to win the World Series? John will argue for, I will argue against. We’d love you to weigh in, and your thoughts on the format. Thanks in advance for reading!
Ace up your Sleeve: The necessity of a “true” number one
by John Olson
Throughout the past offseason, I have been adamant about the necessity of an ace. If the Twins truly want to take the next step, they need to have a front-line, no. 1, ace starter. Assembling a decent rotation, something stable enough to win you some games in a weak division, maybe secure the second Wild Card – well, that’s all fine and well, I suppose. If the goal is to win the last game, it may be a near impossible task to do it without having a true number one starter.
I think we need to get some semantics out of the way, first, before we can make any cogent arguments. There isn’t a good way to, non-subjectively, define what an ace pitcher “is”. If you simply define an ace as a teams’ number one pitcher in the rotation, their Opening Day starter, then well, every team in the league already has one – case closed. This isn’t true; I think we can all agree. Even with the incredible season Ervin Santana had last season, I don’t think he fits the mold, either. Like Justice Stewart said, in 1964 when asked to define the threshold of obscenity - “I know it when I see it.”
Alright – Get on with it, already
So, what’s the point, right? Laid out plainly, take a look at the last 10 World Series winners. What do all of them, invariably, have in common? They all either had, or acquired at some point during the season, at least one ace in their rotation. This seems like a very “cherry-picked” piece of evidence – not all teams are built the same. Some teams have had the league MVP, others had a league leading offense, some the best overall pitching staff, others were somewhere in between. What they all did have is the ability to hand the ball, every fifth day, to an established number 1 starter.
Admittedly, having an ace in the rotation doesn’t guarantee any Championships – just ask the LA Dodgers – but an ace does seem to be a prerequisite for any team that considers itself a true contender. Plenty of teams, for example the 2014 Oakland A's who added Jon Lester at the trade deadline that year, have anted up for the postseason when they felt their window was open.
Anything can happen in the MLB Postseason, but...
Bats get hot; bats get cold and the same goes for pitching. Clayton Kershaw, one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in MLB history, has had the label of pitching outstandingly in the regular season but falling flat come October. Some of that’s fair, some of its not – but push comes to shove, ideally, you’re giving the ball to Kershaw. He’s your Ace. He’s your Stopper. He’s” the guy” that will right the ship. Nine times out of ten, he’s giving you the best possible chance at winning that game. That’s why teams pay out the nose for them in trade, that’s why when they come on the free agent market, they’re a unicorn. If we take a look back in recent history, there isn’t a team who has won it all, without having at least one Ace pitcher.
The Astros, ’17 Champions, had Dallas Keuchel (who had a 1.67 ERA pre-All Star break), though hampered with injuries mid-season, felt the need to add another ace-quality pitcher, Justin Verlander, to the rotation. That seemed to work out. Verlander pitched to the tune of a 1.95 ERA in the second half, was the winning pitcher in games 1 and 4 in the ALDS, games 2 and 6 in the ALCS. Verlander was a force in the 2017 postseason, and one of the Astros most potent weapons.
The 2016 Chicago Cubs had a three-headed monster rotation of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks. None of those pitchers had an ERA higher than 3.10 during the season, but Lester in particular lead that staff in xFIP, K/9, and IP. He pitched games 1, 5 AND appeared in 3 innings of relief in game 7 to break the curse in Chicago.
The 2015 Royals, perhaps the weakest case for 'necessity of an ace' in the last 10 years, wanted to add to their arsenal prior to heading into the playoffs. The Royals, at the deadline, traded for Johnny Cueto who had a 2.73 ERA and 113K’s with the Reds in the first half. Slotting him alongside rising star Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez, the Royals poised themselves for a World Series run. Although Cueto pitched poorly in the second half of the regular season, he started (and won) game 2 of the World Series, pitching 9 innings of 1 run baseball.
Giants ace Madison Bumgarner had the most impressive overall pitching performance, in my opinion, in World Series history in 2014. Jon Lester (again) led the Red Sox as their number one starter in 2013. Bumgarner (again) pitched the Giants to a World Series win a 0.00 ERA over 7 IP in their 2012 Series sweep. Chris Carpenter in 2011. Tim Lincecum in 2010. CC Sabathia in 2009. Cole Hamels in 2008.
All of these pitchers, all aces at that point in their careers. All of them World Series Champions. In fact, 2005 is the last year in recent memory where a group of pitchers – none of whom considered a true ace – were part of a World Series winner.
So, what does this have to do with the Twins, exactly?
In a one game play-in, who do you want to take the ball? Santana was excellent in 2017, but to call him an ace is overselling him. He has a career ERA of 4.02 and a career FIP of 4.24; he has been brilliant in short bursts and he is what he is – a decent number 2 or 3 starter on a good team. It's wholly unfair to pin last year’s Wild Card loss on Ervin; the entire roster lost that one. I would expect they would say the same. I like Santana; I just don't like him as my number 1.
The Twins are sorely in need of a pitcher who, when handed the ball, can pitch out of a jam reliably. Get the strikeout, when you really need it. A starter that knows he can depend on his defense, but can also generate those outs on his own.
As I mentioned previously, Santana had a great season, but his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) - out of 58 total qualifying pitchers per Fangraphs – was 43rd. That mark lodges him solidly between Ty Blach, Ivan Nova and Dan Straily. His 4.46 FIP, paired next to a 3.28 ERA, gives a 1.18 point discrepancy – or simply put, he depended heavily on the defense behind him.
This isn't meant to pick on Erv. He had a good season. He finished 7th in Cy Young voting. But don't be mistaken, he's not an ace.
Perhaps the Twins are where the Astros were in 2015. Maybe Jose Berrios will develop into that guy, or Romero or Gonsalves or someone else. Maybe our version of Keuchel and McCullers is staring us in the face. Whoever that pitcher is, if we expect to compete in October – not just “get there”, but actually be a threat to win it all – we’ll need an established front-line guy. Preferably, two.
Aces Low: Why You Don’t Need an Ace to be World Champions
By Jamie Cameron
Do you need an ace to win the World Series? Absolutely not. Sure, it helps, but it’s certainly no guarantee, ask the Dodgers (side bar – we both included this reference prior to comparing pieces, so I left it in). Can the Twins win the World Series without a true, legitimate number one starting pitcher? Yes they can. For this half of the debate we’re going to use a team as a case study – the 2015 Kansas City Royals.
Who needs an ace when you have a super-bullpen?
Let’s dig into what most folks remember about the 2015 Royals, their bullpen. The Royals actually didn’t have the best bullpen in MLB during the regular season. What they did have is 4 guys who could dominate 4 consecutive innings in Greg Holland, Wade Davis (remember when they were on the same team), Kelvin Herrera, and Ryan Madson. The Royals threw the fifth most innings in the majors during the regular season, trailing only the Dbacks, Rockies, Reds, and Phillies (who were all average to terrible teams). In other words, no other good team relied on their bullpen the way the 95 win Royals did. The Royals bullpen ranked 17th in K/9 (8.38), 10th in FIP (3.56), and 7th in WAR (4.8). If you isolate these stats just accounting for their top 4 guys, they tell a more dominant story. Madson, Herrera, Holland, and Davis combined for a 9.2 K/9, a 3.02 FIP, and 4.2 of the bullpen’s entire 4.8 WAR, over 243 regular season innings. There’s a recipe for post-season success if I’ve ever seen one.
What about their rotation?
OK, everyone remembers, the bullpen was good, but what about the rotation? KC’s rotation must have at least been solid to support an outstanding bullpen. Not really. Interestingly 2015 was a record breaking season. There were 2,006 occasions where starting pitchers did not make it through the sixth inning (Twins fans know all about that, amirite?) There are only 2,430 MLB games in the regular season, that’s just under 83% of games where starters are not making it through six innings (we are not alone, Twins fans). By 2015, the bullpen revolution was well and truly on with team like the Yankees stacking the backend of their bullpen. The Royals just did it better than anyone else. The Royals rotation in the regular season was pretty poor. They ranked 23rd in the league in WAR (7.9), 24th in inning pitched (912.2), 26th in K/9 at 6.49, and 29th in xFIP at 4.48. Hardly intimidating numbers going into the post-season. As a frame of reference, the Twins starters combined for an xFIP of 4.92 in 2017 (using 16 starting pitchers), and an absurd amount of sub-par arms.
The homegrown, high quality offense
The Royals did have a really strong offense in 2015 which was anchored by lots of good hitters and an excellent defense. Looking back, there are some pretty obvious similarities between the 2015 KC offense and the 2017 Twins offense. Both were constructed around a young core of talented layers who rose through their teams’ minor league ranks. In the case of KC this group was comprised of Hosmer, Moustakas, Salvador Perez, and Lorenzo Cain. KC was 7th in runs scored in 2015 with 724. They hit 139 HR, well below the MLB average of 164 for the 2015 season. The Royals did rank third in the league in doubles (300), sixth in triples (42), and 10th in OPS (.734). The Royals offense, similarly to the Twins, was built around a terrific outfield anchored by Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain (combined 10 WAR). So, the Royals had a solid offensive core anchored around an excellent outfield. Sounds familiar. For comparison, the Twins offense in 2017 was one of the best in baseball, finishing 7th in runs scored (815), 13th in doubles (286), 10th in triples (31), and 9th in OPS (.768).
An ace in the hole and the story of the 2015 post-season
Let’s address the elephant in the room. The Royals DID have an ace. On July 26th 2015, the Royals traded for Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed for Johnny Cueto. Royals’ fans must have been beside themselves at the time. In the first half of the season with the Cincinnati Reds, Cueto has been dominant. In 130 IP, he had a 2.62 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and 8.3 K/9. After he was trades to KC he struggled mightily, amassing a 4.76 ERA the rest of the way, giving up a 1.45 WHIP, and giving up a ton more contact. My point here is simply that while the Royals may have ‘had an ace’, he certainly didn’t perform like one in the portion of the regular season he was with KC (as a sidebar, this is exactly the type of trade the Twins should be looking to make if they are in contention in July). While Cueto didn’t pitch well for the Royals in the regular season, they did have strong performers in their rotation, including Edinson Volquez, and the late Yordano Ventura, both of whom had strong seasons.
Cueto did ultimately play a big role in the Royals postseason. Yet, even in the highest leverage situations, his results were mixed. In the unbelievable ALDS VS Astros he had one excellent start and one awful start. He had one poor start in the ALCS VS Blue Jays, and one incredible start in the World Series against a flat New York Mets team. While Cueto was a bonus for Kansas City, he certainly wasn’t the reason they won the World Series.
For me, the similarity for me between the Royals 2015 team and the Twins in 2018 is strong offensive lineups, with pitching staffs which can keep them in most games. It remains to be seen whether the 2018 Twins have enough depth in their rotation and enough stability in their bullpen to hold as many leads as the 2015 Royals created for themselves. The Royals had an ace by name but not by performance. Their offense and their bullpen was good enough to ameliorate the limitations of their rotation, which was OK, but still better than the Twins rotation. If the Twins want to contend for a World Series, they don’t need an ace, but they absolutely need more depth in their starting rotation. In addition to using the 2015 Royals to argue the case against needing an ace pitcher, for me, they offer the Twins a blueprint. Not specifically by imitating their incredible bullpen, but rather, being on the front end of a trend such as bullpen stacking which can give a mid-market team the shove it needs into the post-season, where anything can happen.
The conclusion after the conclusion – from John
We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift in baseball. Teams are tanking, racing to the bottom trying to ensure a high draft spot. Young, controllable talent is the currency of a franchise. The Yankees, Dodgers and other high payroll/large media market teams are trimming the fat to get under Luxury Tax thresholds and the penalties associated with repeat offenders. Raise your hand, and be honest, if you knew about – let alone used in conversation – the terms exit velocity, launch angle and heat maps even 2 years ago.
The establishment of an ace pitcher as a staple of a rotation isn’t quite as “new age” as some of these things, but it’s there.
Who do you give the ball to in a must-win game? That’s a no-brainer in Dodgertown. Maybe it depends on the matchup with the teams that boast having two or more of these guys (looking at you, Chicago Cubs/Houston Astros). Any way you look at it, you've got to like your odds of winning when you have an ace up your sleeve.
What are your thoughts? Is having a true number one pitcher necessary or luxury when it comes to winning a World Series? Let us know!
Dave The Dastardly reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, Welcome to the Hall Jack - to ESPN, get over it!
It’s the Hall of Fame selection, not the president of the United States that is being chosen. Its time for all the sabrematricians and the modern sports writers to get off their rocking horses and forget the angst. Jack Morris is in the Hall of Fame. He almost made it in the regular selection process and should have if I chose, but there was no hesitation on the veteran committee. He is in because he was a big game pitcher. He was the head of the rotation, he played for good teams and made good teams into winners. Stuff the ERA and other statistical nonsense. He was a winner and I like winners. I like the horse – the man who is willing to take the ball and give you as many innings as you need.
How Jack Morris Complicates Future Hall of Fame Selections is an essay on ESPN http://www.espn.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/85069/how-jack-morris-complicates-future-of-hall-of-fame-pitcher-selections
The fact is, I consider it nonsense. Do we really elect by comparison? The man who shines in any decade or period of baseball history does so because he meets the demands of his own time. I know that NY is mad because Jack is in and Mussina is not. But do you realize that the narrative was never the same. They did not talk about Mussina like they did Morris. They did not rely on Mussina like that did Morris. Nice pitcher Mussina, but I never thought of you as HOF.
Morris does not present any problems, the limit on how many can be voted on never created any problems. The problem for the voters is that they have to really think about who they are voting for. If there were so many great HOF candidates they could have put in 5 – 7 a year, but they did not. Because someone wants Bonds and someone else does not matters little in the long run. Shoeless Joe, Pete Rose, Clemens and Bonds are getting more press for not getting in than they would have if they had slid in and we had moved on.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are not in because their resumes are weak. They had chemical induced homeruns, but nothing else. Move on. Frankie Frisch manipulated the committee to put in a number of questionable players – that’s done. We have no vote them out. They set low bars. So what. Move on.
When I think HOF I think of players that had great careers, but also players who stepped up in big moments, players who shifted our perspective. I am not looking to compare HOF players, I simply want the best of our generation in with the best of previous generations. I want Jack, I do not want Mussina. I want Thome, not Vlad, I want good stories and if some that I disagree with make it in, so what. I am fine with that. The HOF is about stories and the election process is a story in and of itself.
To those who obsess over Jack Morris – Buster Olney – I say give over it. Make your vote and move on. To Jack, I can only say I am delighted that you made it and proud to have you in the hall.
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Hector Santiago Has Derailed For Twins
After the month of April, Hector Santiago turned the calendar owning a 2.43 ERA for the Minnesota Twins. He'd made five starts and owned a 2-1 record for his efforts. Given the results, there may have even been a line of people ready to question whether or not he was an "ace." Then reality set in, and regression hasn't just gone towards the mean for Santiago, it's been straight up mean to him.
Early on in the season, Santiago danced around danger, and has peripheral numbers that suggested his career norms were much more indicative of who he was. Despite the sparkling ERA, his FIP still didn't view him kindly, and a .276 BABIP seemed to be doing him wonders as well. For a sinkerballer that gives up a ton of longballs, Santiago had allowed just two, and had done a good job of avoiding damage.
Fast forward to where we are now, and Hector Santiago has made eight more appearances (seven starts). The results have been nothing short of ugly. There's the 7.64 ERA, the .910 OPS against, an ugly 24/20 K/BB ratio, and a ridiculous 12 HR allowed in just 35.1 IP. Still compiling just a .255 BABIP, Santiago is just watching his mistakes blow up as the ball leaves the park. What's even more worrisome, is we probably haven't seen the slide quit.
With a 5.84 FIP, Santiago is actually still being afforded a better ERA (5.26) thanks to the fielding prowess behind him. It's a sad turn of events, but given that his FIP of 5.31 in 2016 was present (5.82 FIP with Minnesota), there's not much room to suggest it couldn't be seen coming. The Twins hurler is on pace to allow a career worst 38 homers, and with all of the runners he's put on board, it's only going to balloon the numbers across the board.
There's a lot to unpack with Santiago when it comes to his troubles. Chief among them may be just how often Santiago gets behind in the count. He's allowed batters to be ahead in 146 of 285 plate appearances on the season, and he's surrendered a ball before a strike on 127 different occasions. Because of his inability to get ahead, and the relative lack of plus stuff, opposing hitters are also clubbing a whopping 1.156 OPS off of him when swinging at the first pitch. Thanks to the results, he's struck fear in no one, and batters step into the box ready for the early mistake.
Maybe somewhat of an oddity, the platoon splits have also been a detriment to Santiago in 2017 as well. For his career, righties have compiled a .742 OPS off of him while lefties have worked a .703 OPS. That number in 2017 rises substantially on one side of the box. While righties own just a .611 OPS in 234 PAs this season, the 51 lefties to face him have totaled a ridiculous 1.609 OPS. He has a negative (5/10) K/BB to same handed batters, and six of his 14 long balls have come at their doing, despite having just under 1/4 of the PAs righties have seen.
Another underlying cause is no doubt a dip in velocity. Since 2011, Santiago has lost roughly one mph on his fastball speed each year. In 2017, he's averaged just 89.4 mph on the pitch, and with the lack of plus movement, it's getting hit. He's actually decreased his sinker usage about 4% while deferring to his slider a bit more, but with just a 7.4% swing strike rate, he's still not fooling anyone.
Santiago's contact rates all remain in line with career norms, as do his walk and strikeout rates. The numbers don't suggest that there's any one point in the at bat that has dramatically changed in favor of opposing hitters. What seems to be happening is a perfect storm of a pitcher getting behind, with mediocre stuff, and allowing every instance of getting burned to be significantly detrimental.
Coming into 2017, I wasn't a big fan of offering Santiago arbitration. He's making $8 million this year (which is more like $12 million given the $4 million Minnesota had to pay the Angels for Ricky Nolasco), and there was very little room for any upside. He'll be a free agent come 2018, and there's next to no reason for him to remain within the Twins organization. It's fair to suggest that other options to take Santiago's rotation spot may have been lackluster, but at a lower cost, they could've been more easily jettisoned or shuffled.
At this point, Hector Santiago is a 29 year old pitcher so far removed from his 2015 All Star season, that it must appear another dimension away. His velocity has waned, the homers have spiked, and nobody steps into the batter's box thinking they won't have their way with him. The Twins are going to have to weather this storm for a while. He could be placed on the DL, or even DFA'd (can't see them eating that much money though), but there's no one ready to claim his spot either. It's a bed the organization made, and now their being forced to sleep in it.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Dave The Dastardly reacted to Jon Marthaler for a blog entry, Twins Medical Staff Starting To Wonder About Peer Review Process At Yahoo! Answers
The Twins medical staff is under fire again for yet another misbegotten medical decision, and according to sources, some of the doctors on staff are starting to question the team's long-running practice of relying on Yahoo! Answers for medical advice.
"We've long been believers in Yahoo! Answers, which has been our go-to repository of cutting-edge medical research," said a source, who's intimately involved with the team's medical staff. "Unlike traditional journals, which can be months, even years behind the time, we've found Yahoo! Answers to be constantly updated and responsive to changing the medical needs of our age. That said, when reviewing outcomes from our decisions, we've yet to see an improvement, and so we're beginning to wonder whether the research is truly up to snuff."
The Twins have long relied on the medical advice of researcher "xxx_legday_xxx", whose groundbreaking theories about using weight training to cure both partially and fully torn arm ligaments have long been among the top Google results for the search "how to heal elbow without surgery." After Twins outfield prospect Alex Kirilloff became the latest Twin for whom the research failed, though, several members of the Twins staff started checking into his background.
According to the source, the team found that the cutting-edge researcher had also advocated long-disproved medical theories like bloodletting and trepanning, as well as offering a wealth of ill-considered advice about sexual health and making thousands of dollars per month by working two hours a week from home.
Despite the team's long-held assumption, investigation was unable to unearth any documentation of what the team assumed was Yahoo! Answers' strict peer-review process, or any sort of vetting process of any kind to ensure that answers were indeed provided by experts.
"We're just starting to wonder about this whole thing," said the unnamed medical staffer. "But why would they even put it on the internet if it wasn't true? Who has that kind of time?"
At press time, the source was investigating another online journal called "WebMD," but had gotten sidetracked by the looming possibility that his occasional headaches were in fact a sign of brain cancer.
Dave The Dastardly got a reaction from Platoon for a blog entry, Ode to Cold Omaha
A worse fate for Cold Omaha could not have gone as well
As watching the team called the Twins go completely to hell.
There are infielders in the outfield and young outfielders looking in,
Batters missing pitches and ineffective pitchers in the pen.
Old arms are throwing homers while young flamethrowers are being hosed,
Sitting in the minors counting the years on their toes.
The manager seems baffled, the front office unaware
While fans are leaving the stadium headed anywhere but there.
Minnesotans are masochists, winter proves that to be true
But even a loyal Twins fan can’t shiver when he’s blue.
There seems to be no answer, no solution to the drought
Except to start the massacre and throw everybody out.
Dave The Dastardly got a reaction from Platoon for a blog entry, What Happened to the Latest Messiah?
I didn't catch (neither did JR Murphy) all the game last night even though it was at the top of my priority list. Why? Berrios, the latest Twins pitching Messiah, was supposed to take the mound. As it was I turned on the radio in the third inning and... Berrios was gone! Gone! Like in no longer in the game! The third inning! Okay. Like Forrest said, things happen. The kid might've fallen off the mound, caught a liner with his teeth, collided with Boy Mountain Sano while taking the field... Hell, he might've been abducted by aliens, transported right off the mound. Or maybe, just maybe, he was under the mound waiting to do that Lazarus thing when things got hairy. But it was already hairy. I think it was like 8-2 in favor of the Tigers when I tuned in.
Okay. So what happened to the kid? Along about the 5th inning the radio announcers mentioned Berrios in passing... Wait a minute. Bad choice of words there. Unless he was going to attempt that Lazarus thing. Anyway, I learned the Messiah had gotten torpedoed after two thirds of an inning. Two thirds? Is that like two outs, or 45 minutes? Whichever comes first? Anyway, that was it for information on Berrios.
So what happened to the Messiah? Couldn't find the strike zone? Was he serving up fatballs (that's not a mispelling)? Did he fall off the mound and break his leg? So I checked the Twinkies web site this morning; no mention of Berrios. So did the aliens really get him? And then zap the stadium with mind-erasing lights so no one would remember?
Or is he already on the bus back to Rochester - the place where all Twins prospects go until they're "ready". It's sort of like Hotel California... you can check out whenever you want but you can never leave.