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  1. In the Offseason Handbook (reaching your inbox in ONE WEEK if you preorder now!), we cover a wide array of options to address various needs via free agency and trade. However, before perusing these options, it's necessary to take a step back and figure out what the objectives are. Here are six questions the team must ask itself. The answers will bring focus to a presently hazy offseason agenda. #1: Are we grooming Royce Lewis to take over at shortstop, or do we need a long-term solution? With Andrelton Simmons' one-year deal expiring, the Twins are back to square one at shortstop. They seem disinclined to move Jorge Polanco back there, and Nick Gordon isn't a legit full-time option, so they'll be shopping this winter. The question is: to what degree? If they still believe in Lewis and his viability at the position, they'll likely aim at the lower end of free agency, seeking a short-term stopgap. In the Handbook, we divide the Free Agent SS class into two tiers, with the second featuring players who'd fit this purpose. But be warned: with the exception of Dodgers utilityman Chris Taylor, the second-tier names are not very appealing targets. If the Twins don't feel Lewis is the ultimate solution at short – either because his defense there isn't up to par or because his long layoff produces too much overall uncertainty – then they could try to get in on the high-end free agent action, with five different All-Star caliber shortstops hitting the market. It's rare that you see ever see this kind of talent up for grabs, which is why the Twins are under some pressure to make a call on Lewis. If he's not the guy, they might not get another chance like this to procure their next fixture on the open market. #2: Are we attempting to build a credible contending rotation, or are we intent on developing the pitching pipeline? There are plenty of intriguing names in the free agent starter class (we profile more than 50 in the Handbook), and the Twins will surely sign at least a couple. But again, the external approach here will be contingent on an internal decision, which directly links back to the overarching question cited at the outset. If the Twins are serious about investing and contending, they could be in play for someone like Justin Verlander or Noah Syndergaard, who offer proven ace potential and relative affordability coming off lost seasons. But they also carry a ton of risk. Only if guided by an adamant intention to contend would the Twins make a splash like that. Should they commit to a transitional year, it's very possible someone like Michael Pineda could be Minnesota's biggest rotation signing – more of a steady innings eater than a high-upside replacement for José Berríos and Kenta Maeda. In this scenario, the strategy would be more oriented toward building from within around Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. The Twins do happen to have a ton of near-ready prospects to sort out, although health is a question mark with nearly all of them. Speaking of health question marks: #3: Do we trust Taylor Rogers to bounce back from his finger injury? In the Arbitration Decisions section of the Handbook, we break down a dozen different cases for arbitration-eligible players this year. No decision is tougher than Rogers, who's coming off an All-Star season that ended with a scary middle finger injury. He's projected to make around $7 million in his final year before free agency – a rather exorbitant price for a reliever, even without the looming uncertainty. If they're going to tender him, the Twins better have every confidence he can return to form next year, because that expense would deplete a sizable chunk of their resources. For a similar salary, you could likely land a more reliable closer from the free agent pool, such as Raisel Iglesias or Mark Melancon. And if Rogers is moving on, you almost need to go get a guy like that, because without him, the back end of this bullpen becomes a glaring weakness. #4: How much confidence do we have in controllable relievers who performed well last year? Lowering our gaze from the closer role, decisions around what's keepable from the 2021 mix will dictate the broader bullpen strategy. If the Twins have faith in a series of second-half performances that helped propel the Twins relief corps to a surprising 2.0 fWAR (11th in MLB) and 5.82 WPA (3rd in MLB) after the break, turnover in this unit could be fairly light. Alex Colomé is a critical crux point in this scenario. He posted a 3.51 ERA and 3.86 FIP after his nightmarish April, including 3.51/3.71 after the All-Star break. Not exactly a no-brainer to bring back on his $5.5 million option for 2022, even if you disregard the first month, but it's really a $4.25 million decision when you account for his buyout. If the Twins decide to move on from Rogers, they could theoretically just activate Colomé's option and plug him into the closer spot, although that's surely not a move that would generate much enthusiasm with fans. Then you've got Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar and Jorge Alcalá. All three seem likely to return (Duffey and Thielbar are arbitration-eligible, Alcalá is still pre-arb so he'll cost around the minimum). But how will they be slotted into the hierarchy? Duffey was rather unreliable for much of the season but turned a corner after the trade deadline, posting a 2.05 ERA, 2.17 FIP and 28-to-6 K/BB ratio in 22 innings between August and September. The same pattern played out to a greater extreme with Alcalá, who entered August with a 5.27 ERA before putting up a 0.96 ERA, 1.78 FIP and 24-to-3 K/BB ratio in 18 ⅔ IP the rest of the way. Finally, there's Juan Minaya and Danny Coulombe. Both were minor-league signings who took opportunities and ran with them this year. Minaya posted a 2.48 ERA and 9.7 K/9 in 40 innings. Coulombe turned in a 3.67 ERA and 4.7 K/BB ratio in 34 ⅓. Each has a history of big-league success, so they're not total flashes in the pan. Each will also arbitration-eligible for the first time; it'll cost about $2 total million to bring both back. Theoretically, if the Twins decide to bring back all of the above players (Rogers, Colomé, Duffey, Thielbar, Minaya, Coulombe) they'd have six of eight bullpen spots filled, greatly reducing the work to be done this offseason. However, it's pretty easy to envision only three or four being retained, which would lead to a heightened reliance on the utter crapshoot known as relief free agency. #5: How will the designated hitter position be utilized going forward? For most of the past three years, the Twins have had a full-time DH in Nelson Cruz. He'll be available this winter (likely at a reduced cost following his post-trade drop-off in Tampa), as will a few other primary DH types like Kyle Schwarber. Internally, someone like Miguel Sanó or Brent Rooker might make sense. Of course, the Twins can also steer away from a regular designated hitter and leverage the position rotationally. This would open up a world of different possibilities, such as using Mitch Garver or Josh Donaldson as part-time DH, thus reducing their likelihood of getting injured while opening up more playing time for young players behind them (i.e., Jose Miranda and Ryan Jeffers). Using Luis Arraez there semi-regularly would be another option, protecting his balky knees and limiting his defensive exposure. #6: What to do with Byron Buxton? This is the biggest question of the coming offseason, no doubt. The Twins have three paths forward with regards to Buxton: trade him, extend him, or retain him with one year of service remaining. The last of those three seems least likely and the first seems most likely, based on the indicators we've received. But it's all on the table. Within the trade scenario, there is another decision that correlates directly with the "retool or rebuild" ultimatum: Are we looking to get back MLB-ready talent (maybe even a replacement center fielder) or seeking to increase the upside with younger, rawer prospects? Cody Christie has a feature story in the Handbook that breaks down the Buxton decision in depth. Suffice to say that it's a pivotal moment for the franchise and its future. Let's hear from y'all. Which way do you lean on these six questions, and which important ones did I miss? Share your thoughts in the comments. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Preorder the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. 10. April 6th: Byron Buxton off Jose Cisnero Distance: 451 feet, Exit Velocity: 114.1 mph, Launch Angle: 38° On the sixth day of the Twins’ young and (at the time) hopeful season, Byron Buxton came up in the eighth with the Twins trailing the Tigers by a run. He did his thing. This 451-foot blast tied the game, only to set the stage for the Twins’ second of many early season extra-inning losses. Interestingly, this homer has the highest launch angle of this list by far, and was the fifth-highest lofted homer of the Twins season. 9. June 30th: Nelson Cruz off Dylan Cease Distance: 453 feet, Exit Velocity: 110.9 mph Launch Angle: 25° This homer would be a lot cooler if the Twins weren’t getting throttled 11-1 by their division rivals at the time it was hit, but 453 feet is 453 feet. That eventual 13-3 loss was also the middle game of a three-game sweep for the White Sox that was played out over the backdrop of drama surrounding Josh Donaldson accusing Lucas Giolito of cheating. So, yeah, it’s safe to say that this is one of the most forgotten long homers of the year. But 453 feet is 453 feet. 8. April 1st: Byron Buxton off Eric Yardley Distance: 456 feet, Exit Velocity: 111.4 mph Launch Angle: 24° Man, early-season Buxton was a sight to see. Five days before hitting the first homer on this list, he hit this behemoth on Opening Day against the Brewers. The two-run shot came in the seventh with the Twins already leading by one, so it looked like the club was going to start the year on the right foot. Unfortunately, early-season Alex Colome was a sight to see for the opposite reason and blew a three-run lead, leading the Twins to their first extra-inning loss of the young campaign. T-6. June 10th: Nelson Cruz off Aroldis Chapman Distance: 457 feet, Exit Velocity: 112.4 mph Launch Angle: 23° This bomb carries a lot more cachet than Cruz’s first entry on this list. It wasn’t only against the hated Yankees, but it was a walk-off against the hated Yankees. And, Cruz turned around a 98-mph Aroldis Chapman fastball to do it. It did go to potentially the ugliest part of Target—landing somewhere in the vertical waste area between the bullpen and the batter’s eye—but who actually cares. It was a monster shot that made sure the good guys came out on top, at least for that night. (Nash named it the Best Moment for the 2021 season.) T-6. September 10th: Byron Buxton off Daniel Lynch Distance: 457 feet, Exit Velocity: 111.9 mph Launch Angle: 29° So, it turns out that Byron Buxton only hits massive homers in extra-inning losses. In this particular instance, Buxton’s 457-foot poke led off the game for the Twins and this was the first of four first-inning runs that only gave the Twins a one-run lead thanks to three Royals’ runs in the first. Kansas City got that run back and two more in the 11th to seal the Twins’ fate. For Buxton, this homer came amidst his coldest stretch of the season, but of course he got hot again, spawning hundreds of “please pay Buxton” takes from the contributors to this website. 5. July 26th: Brent Rooker off Matt Manning Distance: 460 feet, Exit Velocity: 111.1 mph Launch Angle: 29° As Ted tweeted, Brent Rooker murdered this baseball, and he chose the third deck in left field for its burial site. That’s super interesting and all, but the best part about this is Michael Pineda’s reaction. His extended grimace at watching Matt Manning’s hanger get demolished showed admirable loyalty to his fellow pitcher out there laboring on the mound. 4. May 24th: Trevor Larnach off John Means Distance: 461 feet, Exit Velocity: 112.2 mph Launch Angle: 24° Okay, so balls don’t land here. Larnach’s beautifully struck, 461-foot whopper landed perfectly in the Delta 360 Suite above the batter’s eye. That’s not a part of the park where you’re expecting a home run ball. Anyway, this was only Larnach’s second homer of his MLB career and launched him towards a pretty productive June and early July. Larnach later struggled as pitchers adjusted to him, but he remains a big part of the club’s future, and his 460+ foot power is a big reason why. 3. July 28th: Miguel Sanó off Joe Jimenez Distance: 473 feet, Exit Velocity: 114.8 mph Launch Angle: 30° Welcome to the Miguel Sanó portion of this list. Our favorite three-outcome hitter (only) hit three homers over 450 feet, but they were all over 470 feet. This particular bludgeoning (I’m running out of homer words) traveled 473 feet and was a part of a ridiculous, pitching-optional 17-14 loss to the Tigers. This was also Sanó’s second homer of the game and 17th of the year, reminding us all why we just can’t quit him. 2. August 18th: Miguel Sanó off Zach Plesac Distance: 475 feet, Exit Velocity: 113.9 mph Launch Angle: 27° This ball landed in Section 237, which is interesting for two reasons. First, there’s absolutely no way those green-shirted kids packed into the very cheap group-rate seats were expecting a home run ball, which is kind of cool. And secondly, the ball was hit (just barely) to the opposite field, and a 475-foot Oppo Taco is very cool. Sanó is nothing if not a very strong man. 1. August 25th: Miguel Sanó off Nick Pivetta Distance: 495 feet, Exit Velocity: 116.7 mph Launch Angle: 24° Speaking of balls landing where they’re not supposed to… what even happened here? Balls leave Fenway Park and spill onto Lansdowne Street all the time, but they don’t go to that part of Lansdowne Street. Balls will carry those Green Monster billboards every now and then, but they don’t carry that billboard and certainly not by that much. I mean, this ball might’ve put that famous Citgo sign in danger. Sanó’s nuke travelled 20 feet further than the next-longest Twins homer and was the longest in the majors by nine feet. Ted Williams famously hit a 502-foot blast in Fenway, but you’d be hard pressed to find another ball hit harder in that place's history than Sanó’s moonshot. Which homer from this year was your favorite? Let us know in the comments! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. Other Twins Daily 2021 Award Winners Twins Daily 2021 Awards: Most Improved Twins Daily 2021 Awards: Pitcher of the Year Twins Daily 2021 Awards: Rookie of the Year Even the gleaming optimist would struggle to tally a fruitful list of positives from the Twins rocky 2021 season. Let's face it, 2021 was a wash. Players underperformed, a cesspool of injuries plagued, and the team as a whole fell mountains short of preseason expectations. There's plenty of content out there about the ladder issues. Yet as an optimist myself, it would be cruel not to highlight some of brilliant performances that took place in a deeply-needed 'normal' year of Major League Baseball for the Minnesota Twins. Losing sucks, but at the end of the day there are reasons for Twins fans to be optimistic. The players below prove why. Honorable Mention for Twins Daily 2021 Most Valuable Player (listed in reverse order of votes received) 3B Josh Donaldson (18 Votes) After a less-than-ideal first season with the Twins, Donaldson was stellar this season. The Bringer of Rain posted a 3.2 Offensive WAR and was an extra-base hit machine, tallying 26 homers and 26 doubles. Donaldson's .247 batting average doesn't do justice for how impactful he was in the Twins lineup. On top of that, his defense was rock-solid, as demonstrated by his 2.2 Defensive War. Will Donaldson remain a Twin for the final two years of his four-ear contract? Given his impact this year, I sure hope he does, When healthy, the man is a force on both sides of the ball. CF Byron Buxton (33 Votes) If it weren't for the injury-crutch there's a good chance that Buxton would be atop this list...and atop standings for league-wide awards. In just 61 games Buxton slashed .306/.358/.647 (1.005) with 72 hits (23 doubles), 19 homers, and 32 RBI. Arguably the fastest player in baseball, Buxton stole nine bases on 10 attempts and was as Buxton-esque as ever patrolling center field at Target Field. There's a lot of speculation regarding Buxton's future in Minnesota. Yes, health is an issue but my goodness, if you can't see that Buxton is a generational player, please open your eyes. Also Receiving Votes: Baily Ober (13), Luis Arraez (12), Jose Berrios (8), Michael Pineda (6), Nelson Cruz (4), Taylor Rogers (4), Max Kepler (1), Caleb Thielbar (2) Twins Daily 2021 MVP: 2B Jorge Polanco (50) Mention Jorge Polanco's name to Twins fans a year ago and one would likely be met with discouragement and vitriol. My oh my have the tables turned. While the whole Andrelton Simmons project at shortstop didn't exactly work out, Polanco's shift to second base rejuvenated the former all-star with the caliber of elite performance that we all knew he was capable of. Polanco finished the 2021 season with a .269/.323/.503 (.826) slash line, knocking 158 hits, 97 runs, 33 home runs, and 98 RBI. The speedy infielder also stole 11 bases in 17 attempts and touted a team-leading 4.8 offensive WAR. Polanco was a beacon of light all season for the Twins offense. After a slow April, Polanco's batting average hovered in excellency each month as the season progressed. And despite a subpar September (.245/.273/.547), Polanco still managed to knock eight homers (only second to his nine HR in August) and compile 58 total bases (26 H, 8 2B, 4 BB). Polanco's 33 homers put him fourth on the list amongst all MLB second basemen. The 28-year-old also ranks fourth at the position for RBI (98), and fifth for slugging percentage (.503). Coming off of his eighth season with the organization it's clear that Polanco is a player that the Twins are comfortable investing in. If that wasn't the case they would have taken advantage of numerous opportunities to trade him away. The investment has paid off, yet there's still work to be done. Polanco posted a defensive WAR of 0.7 this season and totaled a .961 Fielding Percentage with 17 errors (15 at 2B). Those numbers are solid but aren't going to win any Gold Gloves. Yet that misses the point of the greater picture. Polanco looked infinitely more confident at second base compared to his days at shortstop. There's a great chance that the confidence in the field correlated directly to his enormous year at the plate. Baseball is an incredibly difficult sport on the mental side of the game and Polanco's newfound confidence is a huge win for the future of the Twins organization. At the end of the day Polanco truly was the most valued player on this season's roster. He stayed healthy (in comparison to others), was a staple in the field, and hit for power and consistency from both sides of the plate. Hopefully the Twins can wrangle up a high-quality shortstop to complement Polanco up the middle. If so, the Twins could have one of the stronger infields in all of MLB. How do you feel about the choice of Jorge Polanco as the teams Most Valuable Player in 2021?
  4. 3. Buxton Blasts Burnes The Twins looked to flush a forgettable Opening Day in Game 2 of their season in Milwaukee. José Berríos started and dominated the National League Central champions. Berríos pitched six innings of no-hit ball with 12 strikeouts and zero walks. It was one of the best performances of his career and further evidenced his immense talent. Berríos would’ve owned the stage if not for Corbin Burnes, who matched him with six walk-less and hit-less innings. Burnes went on to lead baseball with an incredible 2.43 ERA, 1.63 FIP, and 6.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Byron Buxton still wouldn’t be denied. With Burnes eight outs from a perfect game, Buxton roped a painted 96 mph cutter to Toyota Territory. It was the beginning of one of the most remarkable months by a player in Twins history. The Twins won 2-0. 2. Saturday Sanó Storm With the season quickly spiraling into the abyss and losses in eight of their last nine games, the Twins needed something positive. They trailed 4-2 with runners on the corners and two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Oakland turned to Jake Diekman to face Miguel Sanó, who was 8-for-67 (.119) with only two extra-base hits in 21 games up to that Saturday. In one of the unlikeliest and best moments of the year, Sanó used his strength to muscle a homer just over the limestone in right field. It was precisely what he and the team needed, and it created hope that there could be something more in 2021. Of course, it was just a brief positive amid a lot of negativity. For Sanó, the homer kicked off a 10-game stretch where he hit six homers, three doubles, and produced an OPS over 1.150. 1. Crushing Chapman Once again at risk of a sweep to the Yankees, the Twins needed a miracle late. Aroldis Chapman trotted out from the bullpen with a two-run lead and a 0.39 ERA in 23 games. Opponents were hitting .097 and had struck out in over 50% of plate appearances against Chapman to that point. He might beat you nine times out of 10, but not that night. The Twins ambushed the imposing lefty. In just nine pitches, Chapman gave up four hits, including two monstrous two-run homers to Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz. Beating the Yankees is always satisfying. To watch the two leaders of the team smash one of the best closers in the game at home made it extra special. Donaldson and Cruz showed Twins fans what could’ve (and should’ve) been in 2021’s best moment. That ninth inning also began a stretch where Chapman allowed 14 runs in 5 2/3 innings. What were your favorite moments from the season? Comment below!
  5. Over the weekend, the Star Tribune sent out a headline to subscribers that said, “Twins can’t let Buxton leave and become their new-age David Ortiz.” For those unfamiliar, the Twins famously non-tendered David Ortiz following the 2002 season. He signed with Boston and went on to have a legendary career culminating in multiple World Series titles, 10 All-Star selections, and seven silver sluggers. It was one of the worst decisions in franchise history, but baseball is a funny game. Ortiz was a very different player than Byron Buxton when the Twins non-tendered him. From 1997-2002, he averaged 76 games per season with the club and hit .266/.348/.461 (.809) with 169 extra-base hits in 455 games. There were multiple reasons to let Ortiz go, including he was set to make close to $2 million in arbitration, the team had Matt LeCroy to fill the designated hitter role, and they wanted a roster spot to make a Rule 5 pick. When David Ortiz played his final series in Minnesota, Twins GM Terry Ryan didn’t beat around the bush regarding the Ortiz decision. “Obviously, it’s a situation that I watch, and I’ve observed, and I see what he’s done, and I see what he’s meant to the Boston Red Sox. Ok, I screwed it up.” That’s easy for Ryan to say at this point, but it wasn’t as big of a mistake as it has been made out to be. Fans know Buxton is good, but Ortiz was still an unknown quantity when he left the organization. In his seventh season, Buxton has played in 38 more games in a Twins uniform than Ortiz. During that time, Buxton has been worth 16.2 WAR while Ortiz was worth 2.6 WAR. Ortiz went on to have four seasons with a 5 WAR or higher, a mark Buxton has yet to reach. The Buxton contract discussions seem like a no-win situation for the team’s followers. Fans are going to be disappointed if he leaves and plays well elsewhere. If he stays, fans will expect him to stay healthy and play at an MVP level. Buxton is one of baseball’s best players when he is on the field, and that is something Ortiz couldn’t say during his Twins tenure. Baseball is a sport where one move doesn’t alter the course of a franchise. Ortiz’s release was a poor baseball decision at the time, but the Twins were still relevant for nearly a decade after Ortiz left. Nothing says his career would have followed the same trajectory if he had stayed in a Twins uniform. The same unknowns circle around Buxton and his future. Every player that leaves Minnesota isn’t going to go on to have a Hall of Fame career. Ortiz is the exception and not the rule. In the end, Buxton’s situation is much more complicated than the decision surrounding Ortiz, and that’s what makes the Buxton decision one of the most intriguing in the months ahead. Do you see any connection between the Buxton decision and the Ortiz decision? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. April: That Loss in Oakland (4/21) In Twins lore, this was a game that will forever live in infamy. In fact, it probably needs a nickname for eternal reference. Bayside Blunderfest? Catastrophe in the Coliseum? The Oaktown Meltdown? Whatever you want to call it, this was the clear low point in a gut-punch of a first month for the Twins. I don't say so lightly, because there was no shortage of brutal blows from which to choose, but this game was the cream of the crap. It wasn't just the dire implications of that 13-12 result itself, sealing a sweep for the A's and marking Minnesota's ninth loss in 10 games. No, what made this one an L for the ages – to the extent you knew exactly which game I was talking about when you read "that loss in Oakland" – was the almost comically painful way in which it all unfolded. I won't torture you with a full recap, but the gist is this: With the team playing short-handed due to a COVID outbreak, Kenta Maeda digs a deep hole by allowing seven runs (an early sign something is amiss for the reigning Cy Young runner-up); the offense mounts a big rally; Byron Buxton attempts to will the team to victory single-handed with a huge catch and home run; and then ... Alex Colomé happens. As these Twins stumbled out of the gates and fell flat on their faces, Colomé was a deserving figurehead for the failure. The front office's big-ticket bullpen pickup was an incomprehensible disaster, repeatedly giving away games that were in hand. On this special occasion, he did so twice in a two-inning span! Minnesota led 9-8 heading into the bottom of the ninth when Colomé entered. He gave up a run. The game went to extras. Buxton launched a dramatic two-run homer in the 10th. Then Colomé promptly walked the bases loaded in the bottom half, and watched the infield defense implode behind him as the A's rallied to score three runs on back-to-back errors and walk it off. *chef's kiss* May: Twins Drop 12th Out of 15 Games (5/20) Damaging to our collective psyches as it may have been, the above game was not fatal to the team's hopes of contending. While a 6-11 start wasn't ideal, the Twins were padded by a strong first week. This was just a good team going through an ugly April funk ... right? Nah. Turns out they were just bad. From May 8th through May 20th they went 3-12, turning in lifeless outing after lifeless outing as their season crumbled into nothingness, a mere seven weeks after getting started. Prior to this stretch the Twins were modestly climbing toward .500; by the end they were 14-28, and 11 ½ games out of first place. The last of the dozen losses during this 16-day stretch – a 7-1 doubleheader matinee against the Angels – was not especially noteworthy, save for how typical it was. Lewis Thorpe made a spot start and got lit up. The bullpen was bad. The offense did nothing. It was obvious from early on the Twins were going nowhere in this one, which is a suitable summarization of their season as a whole. June: Buxton Breaks His Hand (6/21) As things devolved in the early weeks, there was one redeeming storyline for Twins fans. Buxton was playing out of his mind. In April he became the first Twins player to earn Player of the Month honors in more than a decade. Unlocking his long-simmering potential at last, the center fielder was a must-watch attraction on a team that was otherwise hard to stomach. In early May, a hip injury shut Buxton down, leading to more than a month on the Injured List. He returned in mid-June, fighting through obvious pain and physical limitation, but was nonetheless productive for three games. Then, a freaking fastball hit his hand and fractured it. The team's fate was already more or less sealed by this point, but seeing their most likable player suffer another unthinkable setback was almost too much to take. I'll never forget Rocco Baldelli's somber postgame press conference, which conveyed empathy for his snakebit center fielder, as well as a general sense of dazed bewilderment at the state of his club's shattered season. This was going to be the year Buxton pulled it all together. Instead, it'll go down as yet another fleeting glimmer of greatness. And perhaps his final hurrah in a Twins uniform. July: Berríos Dealt on Deadline Day (7/30) We've already seen that final hurrah from José Berríos, who was drafted the same year as Buxton and rose to similarly impressive heights. The blockbuster deal that sent Berríos to Toronto for two top prospects was among the most significant deadline trades in franchise history, and a bellwether moment. Trading Berríos affirmed a full-on changing of the guard, following the less surprising Nelson Cruz trade a week earlier. Factor in coinciding reports of fruitless extension negotiations with Buxton, and this year's deadline openly signaled an oncoming identity shift for the Twins. This changing identity was evident in the final two months, during which we'd see these Twins play some of their very best ball. August: Ober Blanks Boston at Fenway (8/25) No Berríos. No Cruz. No Maeda. No Taylor Rogers. And yet the Twins were a .500 team after the trade deadline. That's not anything to write home about but, all things considered, it's kind of eyebrow-raising. How'd they do it? Bailey Ober played a big part (figuratively and literally) in the quality results, and the long-term implications of his sudden ascent from organization filler to rotation fixture are difficult to overstate. The month of August saw Ober pitch to a 2.30 ERA and 27-to-3 K/BB ratio in 27 ⅓ innings. The Twins went 4-1 in his five starts. While veteran pitchers around him got injured, got traded, and got blown up, Ober remained steady, with his newfound velocity boost and 6-foot-9 frame proving a sustainable formula. His most memorable outing in an excellent month came in Boston on the 25th. One year prior, no one would've realistically expected Ober to be pitching in the big leagues, so the rookie must've been feeling some nerves as he took the mound against a powerhouse at legendary Fenway Park for his 15th MLB start. You would've never known it from the way he pitched. Ober tossed a leisurely five shutout innings, striking out seven and walking one. At this moment he's the presumed Opening Day starter in 2022. September: Polanco Tallies 4 Extra-Base Hits (9/6) While Ober's emergence as a rotation staple was the most consequential unexpected development of the 2021 season, Jorge Polanco's rejuvenated slugging prowess may be a close second. For better or worse, the Twins are contractually tied to Polanco through at least 2023, and that was tilting in the "or worse" direction when his punchless 2020 production spilled over to April. But as he became more comfortable on his twice-surgically-repaired ankle, and began to find his stride once again, Polanco's long-absent power came rushing back. Suddenly, the switch-slugging All-Star from early 2019 was back and better than ever. And this was no flash in the pan. Polanco consistently kept pounding baseballs for the rest of the season – reflected by the fact that his most memorable highlight arrived in September. On this day in Cleveland, Polanco tallied a season-high four of his 70 extra-base hits, doubling three times and homering in a 5-2 win. During the previous series in Tampa, he launched two home runs and two doubles. Five days later against the Royals, he'd go deep twice. Polanco relentlessly slugged and produced all the way through to the end, playing at an MVP level while the team around him acquiesced to sub-mediocrity. It's reminiscent, in some ways, of Brian Dozier in 2016. One year later, Dozier was the veteran star and leader on a team that shocked everyone, improving by 26 wins and reaching the postseason. A precedent that is perhaps worth carrying forward. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Preorder the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/27 thru Sun, 10/3 *** Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 73-89) Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: -105) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 157 | MIN 3, DET 2: Twins Edge Tigers in Pitchers' Duel Game 158 | MIN 5, DET 2: Polanco and Pineda Propel Twins Game 159 | DET 10, MIN 7: Buxton's 2 HR Not Enough as Ryan Struggles Game 160 | KC 11, MIN 6: Pitching Plastered as Royals Pound Twins Game 161 | MIN 4, KC 0: Arms Rebound, Blank Kansas City Game 162 | MIN 7, KC 3: Twins Close Losing Year with a Win NEWS & NOTES It turns out that Bailey Ober's start the previous week would be the last of his rookie season. He was shut down ahead of his scheduled final turn with a right hip strain, although the move surely had more to do with workload management than real injury concern. Ober completes his first MLB campaign with a 4.19 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 96-to-19 K/BB ratio in 92 ⅓ innings spread across 20 starts. A tremendously encouraging year from the big righty, who has vaulted directly into the club's rotation plans. HIGHLIGHTS With an offseason ahead that may prove decisive in shaping his big-league future, Byron Buxton ended his season on a high note. Generally speaking, he hasn't been quite the same offensively since returning from his broken hand, but Buxton's final week looked more like his first month. He went 11-for-25 with three home runs, five doubles, and 11 runs scored, mixing in a couple of stolen bases for good measure. We're seeing something special here, folks. The question now is whether we'll have the opportunity to keep watching Buxton's magic happen in a Twins uniform. He's got one year ahead until free agency and if Minnesota can't extend him, his trade market will be too hot to ignore. The decision with Buxton this offseason will primarily dictate whether the Twins actually aspire to contend in 2022, and will likely determine whether a lot of fans choose to stick with the team or tune out for the time being. I've written in the past where I stand: pay the man, or regret it forever. You cannot let a talent like this get away. Joining Buxton with strong finishes at the plate: Josh Donaldson went 6-for-21 with four walks, two homers, and five RBIs. He started all six games, which is pretty much par for the course by now. It was a huge proving year durability-wise for the 35-year-old, who returned from an immediate IL stint to play in 133 of the club's final 150 games, starting 125. The production was there too. While he still carries plenty of risk at this point, JD looks like a much more dependable building block than he did one year ago. The late drop-off of Luis Arraez was an under-discussed storyline in the second half for the Twins. From August 19th through September 19th, he batted just .176 in 99 plate appearances, sinking his average from .318 to .284. Given the lack of real defensive value, and the absence of power or patience in his game, Arraez's value plummets pretty quickly when he's not hitting for average, and we've never seen him slump in that department quite like he did during this late stretch. So it was nice to see him snap out of it with an excellent final week, in which Arraez notched 11 hits in 20 at-bats, lifting his final average to .294. It'll be very interesting to see what the team's plan is with him going forward. Miguel Sanó went 7-for-22 with a home run, a double, and four RBIs. He rebounded from a brutal April with production the rest of the way that was basically in line with his quality career norms. He also put up the lowest overall K-rate of his career (34.3%) after leading the league in strikeouts a year ago. It was ultimately a disappointing year for Sanó but offered some promising signs, and he's vowed to focus harder than ever on his body this winter, setting a goal of losing 20-30 pounds. With Alex Kirilloff looking more like a first baseman than outfielder, Sanó is another intriguing piece in the organization's future planning. He has one more guaranteed season under team control. On the pitching side, Michael Pineda wrapped his walk year with 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball in a win over Detroit. He returned quickly from an August oblique injury to register a 5-0 record and 1.85 ERA in five outings. That'll give the pending free agency market a boost. Griffin Jax finished a rough rookie season in a positive way, delivering his best performance as a big-leaguer on Saturday with five innings of shutout ball against Kansas City. He was hardly dominant, striking out three and walking two, but he allowed only one hit. Jax showed some promise after the All-Star break, but in his final eight starts he went 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA, erasing any chance of factoring into the Twins' rotation plans next year. That said, with his effective fastball-slider combo, he's definitely earned a look in the bullpen. Speaking of which, the Twins received impressive final weeks from a trio of key relievers. Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Jorge Alcala combined to allow zero earned runs over 11 frames. Tough to overstate how impactful these three are for the Twins' bullpen outlook. At the All-Star break, it wasn't clear that any of them were going to be names to comfortably write into the 2022 plans. None pitched especially well in the first half. But since the break, they've collectively posted a 2.48 ERA and 85-to-24 K/BB ratio in 83 ⅓ innings. All three are expected to return in 2022, at a little over $5 million in total salary. It's not an amazing bullpen foundation to build around, but if Taylor Rogers can return to form following his finger injury, it's certainly a viable starting point for a contending relief corps. LOWLIGHTS He's been a beaming beacon in the Highlights section nearly every week since arriving in the majors, but in his final turn as a rookie, Joe Ryan finally hit a road bump for the first time. Facing the Tigers at Target Field on Thursday, Ryan was knocked around for six earned runs in 4 ⅔ innings, with a pair of homers by Niko Goodrum accounting for much of the damage. The poor finale may diminish a bit of Ryan's shine, but hardly removes the luster from a tremendous showing in September for the rookie. He finishes with a 4.05 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 0.79 WHIP, and 30-to-5 K/BB ratio in 26 ⅔ innings. Small sample and lack of experience aside, it's tough to imagine he won't be at least tentatively penciled into a rotation spot come next spring. Will Max Kepler still be the man in right field at that time? He closed out one of the worst offensive seasons of his career with a 3-for-19 week, leaving him with a pedestrian final slash line of .211/.306/.413. Just flat-out sub-mediocre production from a right fielder. It does bear noting that Kepler supplements his value in other ways, like on the bases (10-for-10 on steals this year) and in the outfield, but with emerging corner outfield depth in the Twins system, Kepler and his favorable contract will likely be shopped on the trade market. Andrelton Simmons put the finishing touches on an all-time dud of an offensive season, going 2-for-11 with a couple of singles. He posted a .480 OPS in the second half, managing three total extra-base hits (all doubles) in 189 plate appearances. Most Twins fans will be more than happy to be rid of the pending free agent, and while his defense was customarily good this year (albeit unspectacular), I do wonder if any team will view him as a starting-caliber player on the offseason market. In an interesting trend, Simmons finally started losing some his playing time at shortstop to Nick Gordon toward the end of the year, much to the pleasure of fans who'd been clamoring for such a shift. Gordon first start at short didn't come until September 11th, by which time he'd been in the majors for three months and appeared in 55 games. From that point forward, however, he started eight of the team's final 21 games, including three times in the final week. Gordon's bat went cold during this final stretch, producing just one hit in 13 at-bats, and his overall production for the season was underwhelming (.647 OPS, 0.2 fWAR), but if he's viewed as a credible option at short, that cements his value as a utility guy. The team's usage late in the season inspires optimism on that front. TRENDING STORYLINE There are plenty of trending storylines ahead as we turn our attention to the offseason. Once a World Series champion is crowned in about one month's time, the page will turn and Hot Stove season will officially get underway. (Theoretically, anyway ... a looming CBA expiration could throw a wrench in things.) As they seek to rebound from a terrible season, the Twins face a number of key decisions this winter. Will Buxton be traded? What about dealing a semi-redundant yet valuable fixture such as Kepler, Arraez, or Sanó? Who will survive the 40-man roster crunch? How hard will Minnesota attack the free agent markets at pitcher and shortstop? There's plenty to explore as we size up a critical offseason. I'm pleased to say we'll have an exciting announcement on that topic dropping on Monday morning. Make sure you tune in for it. On a final note: a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has consumed, commented on, or complimented these Week in Review columns over the course of the year. It's been fun, and for me, a good way to stay plugged into a season that was often difficult to find motivation to care about. Hopefully these weekly recaps served a similar purpose for many of you. We'll be back next year. Here's to much happier weeks to break down in 2022. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. Box Score Griffin Jax: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Josh Donaldson (26) Top 3 WPA: Griffin Jax .290, Josh Donaldson .058, Caleb Thielbar .056 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) For all of his ups and downs this season, Griffin Jax ended his rookie campaign on a high note as the Minnesota Twins brushed past the Kansas City Royals Saturday night. Jax tossed five innings of one-hit, scoreless ball and was bolstered by the hot bats of Miguel Sano (2-for-4, 2B), Luis Arráez (2-for-3, 2 RBI), and Josh Donaldson (1-for-3, HR) as the Twins picked up their 72nd win of the season, keeping them at 89 losses headed into Sunday's regular season finally. Jax was once thought of as a long shot to ever reach the major leagues after posting mediocre strikeout numbers during his minor league career. However, while he likely won't be counted on as a starter in the long run due to his propensity to surrender home runs his second time through the order, Jax displayed enough talent to warrant a shot in next season's bullpen, one that figures to look much different than the 2021 iteration. Byron Buxton (1-for-5) also continued his success at the plate by connecting for his 22nd double of the season. Entering play, Buxton had accumulated 4.0 fWAR in 59 games, which is an MVP-caliber pace when extrapolated over the course of a full season (i.e. 120 or so games). Buxton's status will be one of the biggest talking points this offseason as he figures to be one of the most sought after names on the trade market. The Twins could — and arguably should — off him a contract extension as well. While many will bring up his injury history as a reason not to extend him, Buxton will be worth every penny of his next contract extension, regardless of the dollar amount and regardless of which team it is with. As a reference, Jorge Polanco has been the Twins’ most valuable player this season and likely would garner MVP votes if his team wasn’t one of the 10 worst in all of baseball. Entering play on Saturday, he had accumulated 4.1 fWAR. The Twins conclude the 2021 season on Sunday when Charlie Barnes (0-3, 5.86 ERA) goes up against Jackson Kowar (0-5, 11.28 ERA). First pitch is slated for 2:10 p.m. CT. Postgame Interviews Griffin Jax on his final start. Tyler Duffey on the bullpen's performance and more. Finally, Rocco Baldelli's postgame comments. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Duffey 18 21 0 0 15 54 Thielbar 13 0 14 0 26 53 Colomé 26 18 0 0 7 51 Farrell 0 0 0 38 0 38 Moran 0 0 0 38 0 38 Garza Jr. 19 0 12 0 0 31 Alcalá 10 0 13 0 0 23 Minaya 0 22 0 0 0 22 Vincent 0 0 16 0 0 16 Coulombe 0 0 0 15 0 15 Barraclough 0 0 14 0 0 14 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  9. Box Score Gant: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (63.3% strikes) Home Runs: Jeffers (14) Bottom 3 WPA: Gant -.291, Rooker -.088, Kepler -.082 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) A small disaster nearly struck the Twins early, as John Gant had a tough first inning. Granted, it could’ve been worse, but things were ugly. Command wasn’t there from the very beginning, and the strike zone eluded him. He loaded the bases before recording an out, then threw a wild pitch that allowed the Royals to score first. He loaded the bases immediately afterward, and Kansas City scored again on a force out. It was not before he tossed 29 pitches that the bottom of the first inning was finished. Weirdly enough, he came back to pitch a 1-2-3, six-pitch bottom of the second. That came with the help of some fancy defense from the Twins’ outfield, with Max Kepler making a beautiful, inning-ending diving catch. But that didn’t help Minnesota’s case much, as the offense couldn’t produce a baserunner before the third when Brent Rooker led off the inning with a single. Rooker got picked off, and the Twins couldn’t get anything going. That scoreless second inning from Gant turned out to be the exception, after all. It didn’t look like it at first, though. He did retire the first two batters he saw in the third on only seven pitches, right before giving up four consecutive hits to the heart of the Royals' lineup, allowing Kansas City to pushed a couple more runs across. Minnesota manufactured a run in the fourth after Byron Buxton hit a double and advanced on a fly out by Jorge Polanco and brought home by a Josh Donaldson two-out double, making it 4-1 Royals. Gant was back out for the fourth, and luck wasn’t on his side this time. In what was supposed to be a scoreless effort from him, the Royals scored two more runs on a pop up that landed between Brent Rooker and Nick Gordon, just tipping off the shortstop's glove. Whit Merrifield and Nicky Lopez scored, making it 6-1 Kansas City. The offense continued to struggle against rookie Jon Heasley, who cruised through five innings on only 69 pitches. The Royals’ offense, on the other hand, added more runs. Hunter Dozier hit a leadoff home run in the fifth off Luke Farrell. Then, Adalberto Mondesí doubled and scored on a Cam Gallagher RBI-single, making it 8-1 Kansas City. Twins pick up three runs; Royals take them back Heasley dominated the Twins lineup for five innings. However, things started to change for the righty during the sixth inning. Ryan Jeffers crushed a leadoff, 429-feet home run to left that left his bat at 107 MPH. Minnesota kept pounding the rookie, and they loaded the bases with only one out: a Buxton double, a Polanco walk, and a Donaldson hit-by-pitch. Suddenly, the Twins could make this a two-run game on a swing of the bat. Royals manager Mike Matheny pulled Heasley from the game. Reliever Gabe Speier came into the game and got the second out with two pitches, but he couldn’t quite escape from the jam. Miguel Sanó stepped up to the plate and hit a liner to center to score Buxton and Polanco. Kansas City’s lead was down to four runs. But that rally didn’t last. Two men reached against Farrell in the bottom of the sixth, prompting Rocco Baldelli to remove him from the game. Jovani Moran couldn’t take care of the inherited runners, giving up three consecutive singles that scored three more runs to Kansas City, making it 11-4. The offense had some fight in them. With Speier still on the mound for the Royals, Minnesota hit three consecutive one-out singles (Jeffers, Luis Arráez, and Buxton) and loaded the bases for Polanco. Polo grounded into a force out to score Jeffers and Arráez and reach first himself on a throwing error by Merrifield. Polanco was credited with one RBI on that play which was his 95th of the season, tying the club record for most RBI in a season by a switch-hitter, previously held by Roy Smalley, in the 1979 season. Will he break the record in the two final games of the season? Minnesota threatened once again in the top of the eighth when they had men in the corners with two outs and Jeffers at the plate. He then swung on a 3-1 slider over the plate and gave it a ride, but the ball was caught just in front of the center field fence. Arráez led off the ninth with a single, but he was stranded by former Twin Ervin Santana and the Royals won the game. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Colomé 0 26 18 0 0 44 Duffey 0 18 21 0 0 39 Farrell 0 0 0 0 38 38 Moran 0 0 0 0 38 38 Garza Jr. 0 19 0 12 0 31 Thielbar 0 13 0 14 0 27 Alcalá 0 10 0 13 0 23 Minaya 0 0 22 0 0 22 Vincent 0 0 0 16 0 16 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 15 15 Barraclough 0 0 0 14 0 14
  10. Yes, it’s been very abbreviated. Buxton has dealt with a handful of injuries as he has throughout his career, but he’s carried on with a talent that’s truly unmatched. Contributing 3.8 fWAR through just 58 games, he’s nearly chased down team leader Jorge Polanco (4.1 fWAR), who has played 150 games. There have been several highlight-reel plays, and plenty of statistics have been thrown out to quantify his value. Rather than take the time to sell you on another reason why Minnesota needs to take advantage of their opportunity to get a superstar player at a discount, I think it’s worth just sitting back and allowing the body of work this season to do the talking. There's any number of highlights you could choose to induce a jaw-dropping reaction, but none of this is new. The Twins star has been doing this for years now, and while we still await a full season worth of health, there's no denying that watching him produce like this for someone else will hurt. The Minnesota Twins drafted, developed, and have enjoyed their man. It's time to pay him and make sure he's here for a long time to come. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. Box Score Ryan: 4 2/3 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K Home runs: Donaldson (25), Buxton (17, 18), Rooker (9) Bottom 3 WPA: Ryan -.442, Garver -.085, Polanco -.082 Win Probability Chart (Via FanGraphs In a game that was started by two promising starting pitching prospects, offense ruled the day as both pitchers struggled to keep the opposing bats in check. The scoring started quickly for the Minnesota Twins when in the bottom of the first inning, leadoff man Byron Buxton crushed his 17th home run of the season 426 feet to give the Twins an early 1-0 lead. Not long after, in the top of the third inning, old friend Niko Goodrum hit a solo home run of his own to tie the game. Things looked like they were coming up Twins in the third inning, though, when Josh Donaldson connected with a three-run home run to left field, his 25th home run of the season. The home run marked the sixth time in Donaldson’s career in which he has eclipsed 25 home runs in a season, and it was the 250th home run of his career. While Joe Ryan had limited damage for the Twins through the first three innings of the game, the Tigers got to Ryan and opened up the game in the fourth inning when the Tigers converted an RBI double from Harold Castro and another home run from Goodrum to give the Tigers a 5-4 lead. The Twins offense continued to fight back, though, this time a solo home run from Brent Rooker to tie the game, the ninth of the season for the right-hander. After Jonathan Schoop and Luis Arraez exchanged RBI singles for each team, Byron Buxton hit his second home run of the night in the bottom of the 7th inning to break the tie and give the Twins a 7-6 lead. The Minnesota Twins’ bullpen was unable to hold the lead for the Twins as the Tigers scored four unanswered runs in the final two innings of the game to give the Detroit Tigers a 10-7 win over the Twins. Postgame Interviews What’s Next The Minnesota Twins will head to Kansas City tomorrow night as they begin their final series of the season.
  12. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Pineda 5.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K Homeruns: Polanco (32) Top 3 WPA: Pineda (0.181), Polanco (0.163), Duffey (0.121) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Jorge Polanco Give Twins Early Lead The Twins bats got off to a quick start in this ballgame providing some instant offensive support for Michael Pineda. Luis Arraez got things started with a single and advanced to second on a weakly-hit infield single from Byron Buxton. This set the table for Jorge Polanco, who promptly drove the very next pitch out of the ballpark, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead. Michael Pineda Has Strong Final Start of the Season With the Twins season coming to an end on Sunday, this was almost assuredly the final start of Michael Pineda’s season, and potentially his final start in a Twins uniform, as he will be a free agent at season’s end. Pineda held the Tigers offense scoreless on three singles through the first three innings of the ballgame, before surrendering his lone run of the game in the fourth. Robbie Grossman got the Tigers fourth started with a single, before Pineda struck Miguel Cabrera with a pitch. Grossman advanced to third on a Jeimer Candelario fly out, and then scored on this comebacker that struck Pineda. Twins Add Insurance Runs in the 8th Protecting small leads in the 9th have plagued the Twins all season, so the offense adding two insurance runs in the 8th inning to double their lead felt bigger than they usually would. After making a great catch to end the top of the inning, Byron Buxton led off the bottom of the inning and was hit by the first pitch he saw. Buxton then stole second, and advanced to third on a throwing error by Tigers catcher Eric Haase. Buxton would later come in to score on an RBI base-hit from Max Kepler. Miguel Sano followed the Kepler hit with a one-out walk to load the bases for Nick Gordon who hit a shallow fly ball to center that did not appear deep enough to score Josh Donaldson from third, but he tagged up anyway and scored the Twins fifth run of the game thanks to an off target throw home. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN TUE WED TOT Garza Jr. 0 0 18 19 0 37 Vincent 0 0 33 0 0 33 Thielbar 0 0 17 13 0 30 Coulombe 0 37 0 0 0 37 Farrell 0 18 0 0 0 18 Duffey 17 0 0 18 21 56 Barraclough 0 33 0 0 0 33 Colomé 5 0 0 26 18 49 Minaya 19 0 0 0 22 41 Moran 0 19 0 0 0 19 Alcalá 6 0 0 10 0 16 What's Next? The Twins have their final home game of the 2021 season on Thursday night, as they look to complete the three-game sweep of the Tigers. Joe Ryan is scheduled to pitch for the Twins opposite Tarik Skubal. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 pm CDT. Post Game Interviews
  13. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Barnes 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K Homeruns: Sano (30) Top 3 WPA: Barnes .220, Thielbar .098, Duffey .081 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Twins opened up their penultimate series of 2021 on Tuesday night in Minneapolis. Charlie Barnes was recalled from AAA St. Paul to start in place of Bailey Ober, who was placed on the IL with a hip strain. The injury brought an end to an incredibly positive breakout season for Ober, who the Twins will rely on for a rotation spot in 2022. Here’s how the Twins lined up for the series opener against lefty Tyler Alexander. Offense was hard to come by throughout the game, particularly in the opening frames. Barnes made it through four scoreless innings, giving up three hits and walking three. Meanwhile, Tyler Alexander put on a strong showing of his own, striking out six Twins in six innings of work. Alexander’s only blemish came in the bottom of the third. Byron Buxton walked, stole second, tagged up to third and then home on back-to-back sacrifice flies, giving the Twins a slender one run lead. Rocco Baldelli did not give Barnes an opportunity to work through the lineup a third time. Barnes was followed by scoreless innings from Jorge Alcala, Tyler Duffey, and Caleb Thielbar. Only Duffey struggled, surrendering two hits in his inning, although he escaped unscathed. Miguel Sano added his 30th home run of the year in the bottom of the seventh, increasing the lead to 2-0. A Nick Gordon walk and Willians Astudillo single had men on the corners with no outs. Max Kepler sacrificed Gordon home to increase the lead to 3-0 Twins. Ralph Garza Jr. pitched a scoreless eighth before Alexander Colome entered to close the game in the ninth. Despite surrendering two runs on three singles, Colome closed the game. The win brings the Twins 2021 record to 70-87 on the season with five games to play. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN TUE TOT Garza Jr. 16 0 0 18 19 53 Vincent 13 0 0 33 0 46 Thielbar 14 0 0 17 13 44 Coulombe 0 0 37 0 0 37 Farrell 19 0 18 0 0 37 Duffey 0 17 0 0 18 35 Barraclough 0 0 33 0 0 33 Colomé 0 5 0 0 26 31 Minaya 0 19 0 0 0 19 Moran 0 0 19 0 0 19 Alcalá 0 6 0 0 10 16 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their short series against Detroit. Michael Pineda will take the mound against Casey Mize. First pitch is at 6:40 CST. Postgame Interviews
  14. Box Score: Griffin Jax: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (83 pitches, 61 strikes) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (16) Win Probability Chart: Top 3 WPA: Mitch Garver (.122) Byron Buxton (.096) Jake Cave (.091) Bottom 3 WPA: Nick Gordon (-.188); Josh Donaldson (-.188) Griffin Jax (-.169) Jax Maxes Out It’s been a tough rookie season for Griffin Jax. After being called up in early June, Jax became a full-time starter almost immediately. He’s shown glimmers of hope, but today was not one of those days. After today’s outing, his ERA rose slightly to 6.78 on the season. Nothing to write home about, per se, but a good outing against the Blue Jays at that. This leaves questions to be asked about his role for next season. Ted Schwerzler took a look at the future of this role (and many others) earlier this week. Lord Byron is Back! Even the mighty need some time to heat up after returning from the IL. Since returning from the IL on August 27th, Byron Buxton hasn’t quite lived up to the bar of his MVP-caliber run in the first half of the season. However, Buxton seems to be heating back up, just in time for the end of the season. Today, he hit his 6th home run of the month, putting him just one less than Jorge Polanco. Since coming back from the IL, the Twins have been 14-14 in games that Buxton plays in. Even though the games don’t matter on paper, Buxton gives hope to all Twins fans for next year on the horizon. In the meantime, enjoy Buxton’s bomb from today. GarvSauce: Good as Gravy Mitch Garver finds himself in a very similar but elongated boat as Byron Buxton. Long IL stint: check. Painful recovery post IL stint: check. The past year hasn’t been kind to Mitch. However, Garver continues to bounce back to his 2019 ways with another double today that almost left the ballpark. Since coming back from this latest stint, Garver has been a gravy train that can’t be stopped with back-to-back multi-hit games before today. If this continues, Garver will finish the season with a line slightly higher than his career numbers, showing that continued improvement is on the horizon. Around the Bases Max Kepler came back to the lineup with two singles under his belt, his first multi-hit game since his undisclosed (but non-COVID) illness. Jake Cave hushed his haters by driving in the first run of the game. Although Miguel Sano later struck out to leave two runners stranded, he produced a big double off of Alek Manoah. Nick Vincent balked. Bullpen Usage WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Vincent 0 13 0 0 33 46 Coulombe 0 0 0 37 0 37 Farrell 0 19 0 18 0 37 Garza Jr. 0 16 0 0 18 34 Barraclough 0 0 0 33 0 33 Minaya 13 0 19 0 0 32 Thielbar 0 14 0 0 17 31 Duffey 12 0 17 0 0 29 Colomé 24 0 5 0 0 29 Moran 0 0 0 19 0 19 Alcalá 10 0 6 0 0 16 Postgame Interviews
  15. Box Score Ober: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (71.9% strikes) Home Runs: Buxton (15) Top 3 WPA: Ober .202, Arráez .156, Buxton .106 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Twins welcome Berríos with a three-run third For the first time, José Berríos took the mound at Target Field as the visiting pitcher, five days after earning a win in Toronto against his former team. Back in Canada on Sunday, the Twins offense couldn’t produce much against “La Makina,” scoring three runs on only four hits. Could tonight’s outcome be different? After Bailey Ober tossed a scoreless top of the first, pitching around a Marcus Semien double, Minnesota posed an immediate threat to Berríos. Luis Arráez singled on the very first pitch, moments before Byron Buxton drew a five-pitch walk, putting two men on with no outs. But José responded by shutting down the Twins lineup, retiring the next six batters. But in the third inning, the offense ambushed their former teammate. Andrelton Simmons worked a leadoff walk, and Arráez got his second hit of the night, scoring Simba on an RBI-triple down the right field line. In the very next at-bat, Buxton took Berríos deep, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead. Ober cruises through four, pulled early after a home run Perhaps Ober took advantage of the fact that all eyes were on the visiting starter, putting together a brilliant start. He did give up a couple of doubles, one in the first and another one in the third. But, other than that, he retired every other batter he faced, completing four innings on only 51 pitches – exactly twenty pitches fewer than Berríos, in case you were wondering. Ober pitched into the sixth very economically. He stranded yet another runner to deliver a scoreless fifth. But after giving up a one-out solo home run to Marcus Semien in the sixth, Rocco Baldelli removed him from the game at only 82 pitches (59 strikes). As he walked away from the mound, his body language indicated that he might not have been happy with the decision. This was Ober’s 20th start of the season and only once this year was he allowed to toss more than 82 pitches in a game (Jul 5, against the White Sox). Has Rocco’s approach towards him been too conservative throughout the season? After hitting back-to-back singles to open the fourth, the offense really quieted down. The bats went 1-for-15 with a walk to close out this game. That could’ve put a lot of pressure on the bullpen, who needed to take care of the slim two-run lead the rest of the way. But that wasn’t a problem for Minnesota’s relievers, who are having a fantastic month of September. Coming into tonight’s game, the Twins bullpen were posting a 2.82 ERA in September, which ranks second in baseball. Jorge Alcalá, Juan Minaya, Tyler Duffey dominated one of MLB’s strongest lineups, holding them scoreless and hitless for 2 2/3 innings. Alexander Colomé was even more effective, closing out the game on only five pitches, all for strikes. With tonight’s outing, the Twins bullpen ERA in September is now down to 2.70. After taking the first two games, the Twins go for a series win tomorrow. They take on Toronto tomorrow at 6:10 pm CDT on Justin Morneau’s Twins Hall of Fame induction night. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SUN TUE WED THU FRI TOT Minaya 36 0 13 0 19 68 Vincent 40 0 0 13 0 53 Farrell 34 0 0 19 0 53 Thielbar 22 16 0 14 0 52 Duffey 0 11 12 0 17 40 Colomé 0 7 24 0 5 36 Barraclough 0 35 0 0 0 35 Alcalá 0 10 10 0 6 26 Coulombe 0 17 0 0 0 17 Garza Jr. 0 0 0 16 0 16 Moran 0 0 0 0 0 0
  16. When teams are winning, it can be hard to identify flaws. On the other hand, organizational issues can come to the top when teams are marred in a losing season. Below is a ranking of the top three things that went wrong for the 2021 Twins. 3. Injuries Byron Buxton shot out of the gates and played at an MVP level before injuries sidelined him for most of the season. Kenta Maeda looked to build off a terrific 2020 campaign before learning that he needed Tommy John surgery. Alex Kirilloff was impressive in his rookie campaign before wrist surgery ended his season. Taylor Rogers was nearly traded at the deadline before a finger injury put him on the bench. Randy Dobnak signed a big off-season contract before getting wrapped up in the worst season of his career. These are just some of the injuries that pushed the team’s depth to the limits. At one point during the year, the Twins were on the sixth option in center field. No teams plan for their sixth center field option to play an impactful role. Every team has injuries, but the Twins didn’t have the depth to cover up some of their holes this season. 2. The Bullpen Minnesota saw many key bullpen pieces leave last winter, which meant the team would need to search for replacements. Alex Colome and Hansel Robles arrived as late-inning options, but both struggled throughout parts of the season. Minnesota also brought in plenty of non-rostered arms to try and find the next Matt Wisler. None of those players significantly impacted the club, and the Twins used over 30 different relief pitchers in 2021. Looking back to Opening Day, there were issues from the start. Colome posted an 8.31 ERA in nine April appearances while opponents posted a .952 OPS. It was clear from the start that Dobnak was not cut out for his Opening Day role because the Twins didn’t find themselves in many situations where they needed a long-man. Cody Stashak suffered a back injury and hasn’t pitched since May. The list can continue with other players on the 60-day IL, but those were just some of the issues with the Opening Day bullpen. 1. Rotational depth As the old adage goes, a team can never have too much pitching. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker came in to add depth to the starting rotation, but neither of these players worked out the way the team envisioned. Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda spent significant time on the IL, and other depth starters like Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer, Dobnak, and Stashak were already injured. This forced the team to keep trotting out Happ and Shoemaker even though they were ineffective. Projections also had Minnesota’s top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, ready to join the rotation. Neither of them has made their debut, and there is a chance Duran will need surgery on his elbow. At the deadline, the Twins added multiple pitching prospects, and other pitchers have gotten big-league starting experience in the second half. This experience helps prepare for the future, but the 2022 rotation is still in flux. How would you rank these issues from 2021? What would you add to the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. Box Score Gant: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K Home Runs: Polanco (30), Sanó (27), Buxton (14) Bottom 3 WPA: Garza Jr. -.186, Sanó -.146, Donaldson -.110 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Minnesota struck first and took a four-run lead in the first inning, facing former member of the Twins organization Luis Gil. Luis Arráez snapped an 0-for-11 slump with a leadoff single and was later pushed across the plate by a home run from Jorge Polanco. This was his 30th dinger of the season, setting a record for most single-season home runs by a switch-hitter in Twins history, breaking the tie with Chili Davis in 1991. Gil lost Josh Donaldson on a seven-pitch walk immediately after Polanco’s home run. He managed to strike out Max Kepler next for the second out, but then another slumping Twin, Miguel Sanó, snapped his 0-for-13 funk with a high home run to center field which barely cleared the fence, making it 4-0 Minnesota. John Gant started out this game at the mound for Minnesota, but he was forced to leave the game with an apparent injury after throwing only 12 pitches and retiring two batters. Luke Farrell got called into the game and did a fine job, providing 2 1/3 hitless innings, helping to keep the Yankees scoreless through three innings. The Twins kept making good contact off Gil and, during the third inning, they added to their lead with another home run. Leading off the top-half of the inning, Byron Buxton jumped on the first pitch he saw, smashing it to a 106 MPH exit velocity, making it 5-0 Twins. Twins pitchers continued to dominate Yankees' hitting, keeping New York with one hit through 5 2/3 innings. Caleb Thielbar and Kyle Barraclough, who was recalled from Saint Paul earlier today (with Brent Rooker going on the paternity list), delivered two quick, scoreless innings in relief of Farrell. But in the sixth inning, Barraclough got huge help from the outfield defense behind him, as Max Kepler made some crucial plays in right field, robbing New York of at least an extra-base hit that could spark a rally. They did score a run on a sac-fly from DJ LeMahieu, scoring Tyler Wade from third. Terrible umpiring helps the Yankees to rally back Tyler Duffey came into the game to get the last out of the sixth immediately after Barraclough gave up a two-out hit. He opened the seventh fanning Giancarlo Stanton, but he gave up a solo home run to Joey Gallo, cutting Minnesota’s lead to three. He came back to pitch the eighth, but he got some awful calls from home plate umpire Jeff Nelson, who missed at least four calls during that inning. Brent Gardner “drew a walk” on a ball four that was most certainly a strike (pitch #6 below). That put two men on, and Rocco Baldelli pulled Duffey off the game. Alexander Colomé came in to face Aaron Judge, who hit a three-run home run, tying the game at five. Colomé struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth, taking the game to extra innings. All Minnesota was able to do during the 10th inning was to move up the ghost runner on a sacrifice groundout. In the bottom half, Gary Sánchez hit a line drive to left, deep enough to score Gleyber Torres from second, winning the game for New York. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Farrell 32 0 12 0 34 78 Minaya 0 40 0 17 0 57 Duffey 0 11 0 0 38 49 Colomé 0 12 0 0 27 39 Coulombe 15 0 23 0 0 38 Moran 0 0 0 37 0 37 Thielbar 0 0 26 0 11 37 Garza Jr. 19 0 0 11 6 36 Alcalá 0 9 0 18 0 27 Barraclough 0 0 0 0 23 23
  18. Box Score Bailey Ober: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 6 K (65.3-percent strikes) Homeruns: none Bottom 3 WPA: Sano (-.409), Alcala (-.184), Astudillo (-.154) Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Another Strong Start from Bailey Ober Take out the first six batters that Ober faced today and you would remove three of the five hits he gave up and both earned runs. Whit Merrifield and Nicky Lopez got things going early for the Royals offense with a double and single, respectively, followed by a Salvador Perez sacrifice fly giving the Royals an early 1-0 lead. Ober got out of the jam with back-to-back flyouts before giving up a 403 foot homerun to Adalberto Mondesi to begin the 2nd inning. He settled in quickly after the homerun, striking out six of the next seven batters he faced and retiring nine consecutive batters total, before giving up a single to Ryan O’Hearn to start the fifth. The O’Hearn single, coupled with a single from Sebastian Rivero in the nine hole, would mark the end Ober’s day as he was slated to face Merrifield with one out and runners on 1st and 2nd. Despite being at just 75 pitches, he was pulled in favor of recent call-up and fellow rookie reliever, Jovani Moran rather than being asked to face the top of the Royals lineup for a third time. Sometimes there is more to strong starts than innings pitched and strikeouts, especially when you’re looking for positives in an otherwise awful year. Ober has been a nice surprise for the Twins rotation as today marks his ninth consecutive starts of three earned runs or less. The naysayers will bring up the lack of the innings, many of those starts are five innings or less, but lest not forget he’s supposed to be in St. Paul right now. Instead, he’s pitching in Minneapolis and generated 16 whiffs today, which is elite when he only threw 75 pitches. Moreover, he’s quietly putting together one of the better rookie campaigns that people outside of Twins Territory have never heard of. Offense Can't Survive on Buxton's Multi-Hit Day Despite being a rookie, this was already Kris Bubic’s fifth appearance (fourth start) against the Minnesota Twins, who he has a 4.76 ERA against, but today would be different. After giving up a lead off double to Byron Buxton and a sacrifice fly to Luis Arraez two batters later, he would shut down the Twins giving up just two additional hits (Buxton again, then Simmons) over the next five innings. The Twins would chase him out in the sixth with a Buxton leadoff single, followed by a Rob Refsnyder single, Luis Arraez lineout, and Josh Donaldson walk to load the bases. Righty reliever Domingo Tapia would come on to strikeout Miguel Sano on just three pitches but wouldn’t come away unscathed after a clutch two-out double from Brent Rooker to knot the game at three runs apiece. Aside from Luis Arraez reaching on a Mondesi error in the eighth and a Kepler single in the ninth, the Twins offense went down quietly in the final three innings of the game. Bullpen Usage Chart Moran came on and immediately christened himself as a Twins reliever by allowing an inherited run to score off of a Whit Merrifield double. He settled in to finish the 5th but couldn’t finish the sixth after loading the bases with a lead off single and back-to-back walks with two outs. Ralph Garza Jr., who’s another rookie putting together a solid season, would need just one pitch to get out of the jam and pitched a clean seventh inning. Jorge Alcala pitched the eighth allowing the first two hitters to reach base and ended up allowing one of those runners to score on a Kyle Isbel single. Juan Minaya did more of the same in the ninth which resulted in the Twins chasing two runs entering the last half inning of the game. Despite the rough finish, it was a decent day overall for the bullpen who pitched 4 2/3 innings giving up just two earned runs. WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Minaya 0 0 40 0 17 57 Thielbar 8 0 0 26 0 34 Farrell 0 32 0 12 0 44 Colomé 0 0 12 0 0 12 Coulombe 0 15 0 23 0 38 Duffey 17 0 11 0 0 28 Alcalá 0 0 9 0 18 27 Garza Jr. 0 19 0 0 11 30 Moran 0 0 0 0 37 37
  19. Box Score Michael Pineda: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Byron Buxton (13), Jorge Polanco 2 (29), Nick Gordon (2), Max Kepler (17) Top 3 WPA: Michael Pineda .169, Jorge Polanco .167, Byron Buxton .095 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco announced their presence in the bottom of the first inning with back-to-back home runs, setting the tone for the Twins’ offense for the remainder of the game. Nick Gordon followed with a solo shot of his own one inning later, and Max Kepler contributed another in the fourth. In the fifth inning, Polanco’s second dinger of the evening extended the Twins’ lead to 6-1, which was more than enough to propel them to victory. Polanco finished the evening with three hits in five plate appearances and raised his slash line to .280/.336/.520 in 133 games. His 29 home runs represent the most in franchise history by a switch-hitter and by a second baseman not named Brian Dozier. With his performance Saturday evening, Polanco eclipsed the 4.0 fWAR mark, placing him inside the top 25 performers on offense this season. While he did not make the All-Star team and got off to a slow start while still recovering from back-to-back ankles surgeries, Polanco’s second-half eruption is worthy of garnering MVP votes come season’s end despite the Twins being among the worst teams in all of baseball. He won’t get many — heck, there’s a good chance that he won’t get any — but few players have had a more impressive August and early September than the Twins’ second baseman. Even though Polanco and the Twins’ offense stole the show, Michael Pineda’s start should not be overlooked. The impending free agent lowered his ERA to 3.87 on the season and has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his last 10 appearances. His overall strikeout numbers are down this year, and some of his advanced metrics suggest that he hasn’t been quite as good as his box score numbers, but overall his performance this season, when healthy, has been admirable. The Twins and Royals conclude their series on Sunday afternoon when Bailey Ober (2-2, 4.00 ERA) is expected to face off against Kris Bubic (4-6, 5.07 ERA). First pitch is slated for 1:10 PM CST. Postgame Interviews Coming soon... Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Minaya 21 0 0 40 0 61 Thielbar 25 8 0 0 26 59 Farrell 0 0 32 0 12 44 Colomé 17 0 0 12 0 29 Coulombe 0 0 15 0 23 38 Duffey 0 17 0 11 0 28 Alcalá 19 0 0 9 0 28 Garza Jr. 0 0 19 0 0 19 Moran 0 0 0 0 0 0 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums
  20. Box Score Jax: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K (75% strikes) Home Runs: Buxton (12), Donaldson (22) Bottom 3 WPA: Refsnyder -.296, Rooker -.274, Gordon -.208 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Seven runs scored right away, in the first inning of this game. Looking to bounce back after three consecutive bad starts, Griffin Jax struggled early tonight. Despite getting ahead on the count, the Twins starter gave up a double to Nicky Lopez and a walk to Salvador Pérez before facing Andrew Benintendi. A lifetime .349 hitter (1.035 OPS) at Target Field, the former Red Sock improved those numbers even more by hitting a three-run bomb to put Kansas City ahead. But rookie lefty Daniel Lynch didn’t take advantage of all the run support. The Virginia native gave up four consecutive hits to open the game. The first one was a mammoth, 457-feet leadoff home run to Byron Buxton. Minnesota was definitely not done hitting that inning. Jorge Polanco followed that Buxton homer with a double, with Rob Refsnyder adding a single. Josh Donaldson didn’t care that Lynch hadn’t brought an umbrella with him and brought the rain to catapult the Twins into the lead, 4-3. But contrary to what happened in the first inning, both starters settled down and mostly dominated their opposing lineups for the following innings. Lynch tossed four scoreless, and, beginning with the final two outs of the first, Jax was able to retire eight in a row, including a pair of 1-2-3 innings. Benintendi broke the streak leading off the fourth and later scored from first on a long double from Michael Taylor, tying the game. That didn’t affect Jax at all. The rookie retired seven of the final eight batters he saw, going scoreless in the fifth and the sixth. He didn’t come back for the seventh, even though his pitch count was still at only 76 pitches, 57 of which were thrown for strikes (75%!). Tonight’s start was the first since Aug. 16, in which Jax completed six innings of work. After a 23-pitch first inning, he navigated through the next five on only 53 pitches. Can he use this outing to regain some confidence and finish the season on a high note? Neither offense performed well against opposing bullpens. Tyler Duffey and Jorge Alcalá threw a couple of scoreless innings on only 20 pitches, 80% of which were strikes. Royals hitters didn’t know what hit them. While Kansas City’s relievers were just as effective, Donaldson did drew a two-out walk in the eighth, bringing Miguel Sanó to the plate. However, he struck out, ending the threat. Benintendi was at it again, hitting a leadoff single off Alexander Colomé in the ninth inning. But Colomé did a great job, striking out the next two batters on six pitches, before retiring Taylor. The offense couldn’t take advantage of yet another great outing by a Twins reliever, as they fell in order in the bottom half of the inning, taking the game to extra innings. To the extras, we go Red-hot Juan Minaya came in to pitch the 10th, posting a 0.98 ERA in his previous 14 outings. He struck out the first batter he saw but then gave up a walk to Kansas City’s number nine hitter, Edward Olivares, forcing him to face the top of the Royal lineup with two men on. He struck out Whit Merrifield but then committed a fielding error against Lopez, loading the bases to face Pérez. Fortunately, “Salvy” swung on the first pitch he saw and grounded out, with a beautiful throw from Polanco to first. In the bottom half of the 10th, Luis Arráez drew a leadoff walk, putting two men on. But the Twins couldn’t move either runner, with the following three batters being retired. Buxton, who hit immediately after Arraez, made an absolutely awful bunt attempt. Following that, Minaya continued in the game, and Benintendi (who else?) swung on the first pitch he saw, homering to center field, scoring him and Pérez, the ghost runner. Kansas City took a definitive two-run lead, 6-4. Donaldson, Sanó, and Brent Rooker went down in order in the bottom of the 11th. Minnesota drops the first of three games of the series. They send Michael Pineda to the mound on Saturday evening, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Minaya 0 21 0 0 40 61 Colomé 9 17 0 0 12 38 Duffey 8 0 17 0 11 36 Thielbar 0 25 8 0 0 33 Farrell 0 0 0 32 0 32 Alcalá 0 19 0 0 9 28 Garza Jr. 0 0 0 19 0 19 Coulombe 0 0 0 15 0 15
  21. Box Score Starter: Bailey Ober 4.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (27), Byron Buxton (11) Top 3 WPA: Polanco (.240), Pineda (.192), Buxton (.096) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) At this point in the season, it feels like a Bailey Ober start is appointment viewing to get a further glimpse at what the Twins may have in him for next season. Pineda almost stole the headlines as he was activated from the IL to piggy-back Ober. Still, it was truly Polanco who once again stole all the attention away from anyone else on the field Monday night in Cleveland. The Twins got their scoring going early. Buxton was able to get an infield single to lead off the game. Polanco lined his 30th double of the season to advance Buxton to 3rd base. Then one of the more unusual 3-hole hitters for the Twins, Rob Refsnyder, drove both Twins base runners home with an opposite-field single to put the Twins up 2-0 over Cleveland. As the 3rd inning came around, so did Polanco’s spot in the lineup again. In his second at-bat as a righty against the left-handed Logan Allen, Polanco hit his 27th home run of the season. Polanco wasn’t finished for the night either. He would end the night going 4-for-5 with three doubles and a home run. Buxton is Back Buxton has looked good and healthy since returning from the injured list from the running and fielding standpoint. His bat has been quiet. Yesterday it began to awaken, and tonight that awakening continued. In addition to his 1st inning single, Buxton also hit his 11th home run of the season which gave the Twins a 4-2 lead in the 5th inning. Ober Continues His Growth One of the few storylines many fans are watching as the season winds down continues to be an impressive one. Ober continued his excellent stretch of pitching on a night he knew he would be limited and piggy-backed by Michael Pineda. Ober made a mistake with Franmil Reyes' at-bat, and he blasted a hanging slider for a 2-run home run. Besides that run-scoring opportunity, Ober continued to look strong as he challenged Cleveland batters inside, struck out four and walked none. Pineda Returns to the Mound With plenty of questions surrounding where Pineda will be for the 2022 season, Pineda made his return starting the 5th inning after Ober was finished for the evening. Big Mike put together a respectable line of 3.0 IP, 2 H, 3 Ks, and 1 BB. The results were there, but questions still remain around the stuff and/or command being fully back. That is a question that will need to be answered as the Twins consider whether or not they will make Pineda a contract offer for 2022. It was a fun night in Cleveland for the Twins. They will go back at it tomorrow as John Gant takes the mound against Aaron Civale. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet WED THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Gibaut 24 0 0 47 0 0 71 Colomé 0 0 0 11 23 9 43 Minaya 11 0 0 21 0 0 32 Garza Jr. 0 0 8 23 0 0 31 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 28 0 28 Duffey 0 0 0 0 10 8 18 Alcalá 0 0 0 0 15 0 15 Coulombe 10 0 0 0 0 0 10
  22. Defensive metrics have come a long way over the last decade. With Statcast tracking every batted ball, the amount of information available to fans is at an all-time high. One newer defensive metric was developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and it is called the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). According to SABR's website, the SDI "draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts." Since 2013, SABR has used SDI as part of the process for selecting Gold Glove winners. Here is how the Twins rank through games played on August 22, 2021: Pitcher (AL Ranking): Jose Berrios, 3.7 SDI (3rd) Berrios was traded before the deadline, but he accumulated the bulk of his SDI total while still in a Twins uniform. Earlier this season, he ranked sixth overall in the AL, so he has made a significant jump in the second half. However, his defense isn’t helping the Twins anymore, and there are no other Twins players on the current leaderboard. Dallas Keuchel is the favorite among AL pitchers as he has nearly double the SDI total of the second-ranked pitcher. Catcher (AL Ranking): No Twins’ Players Qualify At the All-Star Break, both Twins catchers ranked in the top-12 when it came to SDI. Garver’s extended time on the IL pushed him out of the rankings, while Jeffers spent some time in St. Paul trying to find his swing. Over the last few weeks, Jeffers has been catching regularly, so it will be interesting to see if he winds up on the final leaderboard. First Base (AL Ranking): Miguel Sano -2.5 SDI (10th) Only two qualified first basemen, Nathaniel Lowe and Bobby Delbec, have a lower SDI total than Miguel Sano. His months of July and August continued to bring down his total as he was at -0.9 SDI. It also doesn’t help that Minnesota’s best defensive first baseman, Alex Kirilloff, is injured and won’t be back in 2021. At the All-Star break, he ranked third among all AL first basemen. For 2022, Minnesota should pencil Kirilloff in at first base every day. Second Base (AL Ranking): Jorge Polanco, 3.3 SDI (3rd) Polanco has been on an offensive tear in the second half, and his defense has also significantly improved. In less than two months, he moved from 8th to 3rd in SDI among AL second basemen. At that time, I mentioned that he was only 0.5 SDI out of the top-3, and he now ranks 1.2 SDI ahead of fourth place. Polanco looks to be in line to be a Gold Glove finalist, but Whit Merrified and Marcus Semiem have accumulated over twice as much SDI as Polanco. Third Base (AL Ranking): Luis Arraez, 0.4 SDI (7th) Arraez isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess, so this ranking might come as a surprise to some Twins fans. Every third baseman ranked below Arraez has a -4.0 SDI or lower. Josh Donaldson was known for being a strong defender when the Twins signed him, but he has fallen off the leaderboard since the All-Star break. At that time, he looked to be in the middle of his worst defensive season. Does the future at this position belong to Arraez or Jose Miranda? Shortstop (AL Ranking): Andrelton Simmons, 6.4 SDI (3rd) Simmons is having another solid defensive season, but he has taken a step back in the second half. In July, he ranked as one of the AL’s best defenders, and he was the number one ranked shortstop. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Carlos Correa have stormed past him over the last two months. Simmons looks like he will be a Gold Glove finalist, but he won’t be coming away with the hardware. Left Field (AL Ranking): No Twins' Players Qualified Trevor Larnach was on these rankings at the All-Star break, but he was near the bottom with a -2.2 SDI. He no longer qualifies as the team demoted him to Triple-A after some offensive struggles. Overall, this race looks to be one of the AL's tightest when it comes to the Gold Glove winner. There is no clear-cut favorite, with Austin Hays (2.1 SDI) and Michael Brantley (1.8 SDI) leading the rankings. Center Field (AL Ranking): No Twins' Players Qualified Byron Buxton is still one of baseball's best defenders, but a hip injury and a broken hand have kept him sidelined for a good chunk of the second half. Former Twins prospect Akil Baddoo has the third-lowest SDI total among qualified AL center fielders. Michael Taylor (9.5 SDI) and Myles Straw (7.1 SDI) are at the top of the leaderboard with a month to go in the season. Right Field (AL Ranking): Max Kepler, 0.8 SDI Kepler has a positive SDI, but only one qualified right fielder sits below him in the rankings. His second-half defense has improved because he had accumulated a -0.1 SDI in right field at the All-Star break. He dealt with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, which might have brought down his SDI total. Do any of these rankings surprise you? Do you think the team's defense has been worse in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. Box Score Andrew Albers: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K Home Runs: Donaldson (20) Top 3 WPA: Albers .306, Donaldson .177, Coulombe .080 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Before either team even took the field, two special stories were already on display. First, third baseman Eduardo Escobar, now with the Brewers, made his first visit to Target Field as an opposing player since he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018. He got a warm welcome from Twins fans! The other story, the most important one, was also about a player’s return. After spending over two months on the injured list recovering from a hand fracture caused by a hit-by-pitch, Byron Buxton was activated by the Twins roughly an hour before the game. He took the leadoff spot in Rocco Baldelli’s lineup, starting what might be a crucial stretch for his continuity as a Twin. While Buxton’s first plate appearance in the majors since Jun. 22 was unimpressive, with a three-pitch strikeout, that didn’t mean Minnesota’s offense wasn’t going to make some noise early. With two outs in the first, Rob Refsnyder singled, reaching with a head-first slide. Josh Donaldson hit a line drive home run to left in the following at-bat, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead. This was Donaldson’s fourth home run in the last six games. Even though they came out of the second inning empty-handed, the Twins offense kept Brewers starter Eric Lauer on the ropes. They loaded the bases with only one out and suddenly had the chance to blow this game wide open. One of those runners was Buxton himself, who worked a five-pitch walk after getting ahead in the count with 3-0. Refsnyder hit a ground ball to left that would’ve cleared the bases had it stayed fair. But it landed inches into foul territory, and he ended up being struck out briefly after that to end the inning. Albers picks up where he left off Meanwhile, Andrew Albers began putting together a nice start. Over a week after his relief appearance in New York, where he provided four innings of one-run ball, he dominated Milwaukee’s lineup the first time through the order. He retired nine of his first 11 batters faced, pitching three shutout innings on 41 pitches. He pitched himself into a jam during the fourth inning. After allowing only one hit through three, he gave up two and hit a batter, loading the bases. But he managed to induce weak enough contact to get out of it. In fact, this is what he was able to do a lot tonight. His stuff wasn’t electric, but everything was well located, causing Brewers batters to ground out multiple times. With an arsenal of five pitches, very few of them were not thrown for a strike. According to Statcast, he didn’t give up a single barrel during this outing. After a shaky fourth inning, he returned to pitch a 1-2-3 fifth and retired one batter in the sixth before being removed from the game. Jorge Alcala, also making his return to the team from the IL, came in in his relief and finished off the Brewers on ten pitches. Offense quiets down, but the bullpen is lights out Minnesota didn’t get a lot done on offense for the remainder of the game. The only time they could pose a threat was during the sixth inning when Buxton had men in the corners with two outs. Kirk Cousins’ cousin, Jake, painted the inside part of the strike zone to strike him out. Fortunately for the Twins, their bullpen was lights out. Jorge Alcala and Danny Coulombe held the Brewers scoreless until the eighth before Tyler Duffey came in to get the final out of the inning. Duffey, in fact, caught a huge break with a slow curveball out of the zone that was called for a strike – framed brilliantly by Ryan Jeffers. But on the previous pitch, a pitch that painted the lower corner of the zone and got called for a ball should’ve ended the inning. Alexander Colomé pitched the ninth inning, looking to bounce back from his previous two disastrous outings. This time, he was able to retire the side on only 13 pitches (10 strikes) to earn his eighth save of the year. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SAT TUE WED THU FRI TOT Albers 0 0 0 0 88 88 Garza Jr. 31 0 24 4 0 59 Coulombe 0 0 19 0 20 39 Thielbar 0 14 22 0 0 36 Duffey 0 19 9 0 6 34 Colomé 0 0 20 0 13 33 Minaya 0 30 0 0 0 30 Gibaut 0 23 0 0 0 23 Alcalá 0 0 0 0 12 12 Barnes 0 0 0 0 0 0
  24. In the final days of July, Buxton was a hotly-discussed name related to potential trade rumors. Minnesota had made him multiple long-term extension offers, and the suggestion was that it was either accept or be moved down the line. Buxton’s camp wisely passed on what would seem below-market deals, but there have been few rumblings of further conversation since. I am a staunch believer that the Twins should be paying Byron Buxton. The only reason a player of his caliber is even remotely in their wheelhouse from an expense perspective in the first place is because of his injury history. Whatever valuation is placed on him will account for the reality that he’s been unavailable for significant portions of a season. Once the other 29 teams can bid on his services, or he puts up a 2022 season free of injury, the opportunity to retain him is now out the window. That’s why this next month could be so imperative for Buxton and the Twins. Having now been surpassed by Jorge Polanco due to his recent tear, Buxton was Minnesota’s fWAR leader (2.7) for most of the year despite playing in just 27 games this season. He was on pace to remain in the MVP discussion despite otherworldly seasons being had by the Angels Shohei Ohtani and the Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Assuming he returns on Friday night when the Twins host Milwaukee, he’ll have 36 games of runway left to go. There was a time that Buxton’s bugaboo was not only injury but effectiveness. We’ve long since overcome that hurdle, given Buxton’s .903 OPS over the past three seasons. Combined with the fact that he’s arguably the best defensive centerfielder in baseball, it’s impossible to overstate his overall impact on the diamond. Even if Buxton returns and plays at a slightly muted level, the likelihood that he remains All-Star caliber or better the rest of the way is a good bet. For Buxton and the Twins, 36 games is a crucial bargaining piece. Knowing his extension would be highly incentive-laden, it would serve the centerfielder well to be completely available until the book closes on this year. Should production stay in the realm of where it was, he may be able to use that as an “I told you so” effort to bump Minnesota’s offer. If the Twins see another injury derail the final stretch, it could be a feather in their cap to suggest the risk they’re taking on is immense. No matter how the last few games play out, I think this offseason is one of a critical juncture. Allowing Buxton to play out his final season without an extension would be a mistake. Minnesota needs to decide whether they’re going to commit to the uber-talented home-grown talent or move him for a package that helps to supplement the future. Either way, both sides will have one last hoorah in 2021 to point to when they reconvene at the negotiating table. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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