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  1. So: the front office. They've had more than their fair share of missteps, and it's natural to focus on underwhelming acquisitions like Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, and Emilio Pagán. But there's a dirty little secret: their two biggest moves of the offseason paid off handsomely. Minnesota traded its best young pitching prospect for a frontline starter in Sonny Gray to stabilize the top of the rotation in the absence of José Berríos. Gray, despite missing time on a few occasions, came through with an excellent season, posting a 3.08 ERA over 119.2 IP while leading all Twins pitchers in fWAR (2.4). By investing modestly in pitching and clearing out Josh Donaldon's salary, the Twins were able to acquire the top free agent on the market late in the offseason. That move also has been successful – Carlos Correa has put together a customarily excellent year, leading the team overall in fWAR (4.1) while slashing .289/.365/.468 through 128 games. True to his rep, Correa's been stepping up his production here in the stretch run. The idea was that those contributions would be meaningful because he'd be melding with a greater veteran core to lead the charge for a contending team. Correa wasn't supposed to carry the load single-handedly, as he mostly has been throughout the second half. He was supposed to be combining powers with the likes of Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Ryan Jeffers. Among position players who are still here, those five led all Twins in fWAR between 2020 and 2021. They are homegrown talents the organization has been cultivating for many years. Three are under long-term contracts – the only extensions this front office has handed out to inherited players from the previous regime. All are in the heart of their prototypical primes, with ages ranging from 25 to 29. These were the building blocks. They've earned that standing. And you know what? The plan was working for a while. As recently as July 13th, the Twins were eight games above .500 at 49-41, and 4 ½ games up in the AL Central. By that point, the five players mentioned above had combined to be worth 10.3 fWAR, and the first two – Buxton and Arraez – were days away from appearing in their first All-Star Game. Since then, the Twins have gone 25-38, with all five combining for 1.6 fWAR in well over a third of the season. That includes 1.2 fWAR from Buxton, who somehow managed to put up .275/.370/.513 in 23 more games before succumbing to his knee and hip injuries – meaning the other four franchise staples have collectively been barely above replacement level over a prolonged stretch of the season where the team experienced a 15-game freefall in the standings. What more is there to say? Yes, injuries are the main headline of this season and they certainly played a big role in the drop-off from this group, but all that aside: the core came up woefully short when it counted most. Again. So the question is: where do we go from here? The front office's strategy was structured around supplementing this tenured nucleus to make a push in 2022-23, while waiting for the next wave – Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Austin Martin, Brooks Lee – to hopefully take center stage. But none of those players can really be counted on heading into 2023, for various reasons, so the Twins might need to consider making some short-term adjustments. Max Kepler stands out as the clearest candidate to be displanted. He presents quite the conundrum, under contract for one more year at $8.5 million (with a $10 million team option for 2024). On the one hand, he was clearly one of the single biggest culprits in the Twins' implosion, slashing a Sandy Leon-esque .179/.241/.226 since the All-Star break with a negative WPA. Despite showing flashes of greatness at times, Kepler has made a habit out of not showing up for the Twins when they need him. He's a career .056 hitter in the playoffs, with one hit in 18 at-bats. He's been at his absolute worst this year when the team has been forced to rely on him heavily amidst a barrage of injuries. On the other hand, Kepler still has undeniably intriguing traits. He remains an elite defensive right fielder. Before completely unraveling in the second half, he appeared to be on his way to an excellent year, pacing the team in fWAR with 1.6 for the first two months. It's reasonable to think that the new defensive shifting limitations will be positive for his hitting results. And even here in what's clearly been the worst season of his career from a production standpoint ... Kepler's measurables via Statcast are still really, really good: Personally I feel ready to move on from Kepler despite all of the above, especially with Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Matt Wallner all on hand as promising young RF options. The $8.5 million owed to Kepler could be better used elsewhere, and perhaps he'd benefit from a change of scenery as his game stagnates here in Minnesota. The redeeming qualities of his profile make it likely that some team will be open to taking on Kepler and his relatively favorable contract. The Twins might actually be able to get some value in return, although the 29-year-old's bottomed-out stock position doesn't help. Odds of Kepler being traded this offseason could probably be set at around 50:50. Everyone else is much less likely to move. The Twins could possibly find a suitor for Arraez or Polanco. Their contractual situations are even more team-friendly than Kepler's – Arraez has three years of arbitration ahead, while Polanco is owed $7.5 million next year followed by two team options. But to me, the backup options behind both of them are less compelling, and their impact is less replaceable than Kepler's. I don't find my faith in either shaken to the same degree. Jeffers won't be traded, since he's the sole major-league catching depth in the organization. Where he's concerned, the key decision – as Gary Sánchez heads to free agency – is whether the Twins should remain committed to him as their 1A catcher, seeking out a León-esque caddy for the minor timeshare. I'm not sure Jeffers has shown the ability or durability to be viewed as a cornerstone at the position, and at age 25 it's hard to project a lot of additional upside. The Twins will have a lot of spending money available this offseason if they're unable to retain Carlos Correa, with no especially obvious places to spend it. That is, unless they decide to set their sights on top free agent catcher Willson Contreras and completely reshape their future behind the plate. These are the kinds of pivots that need to be on the table as the Twins re-evaluate their fundamental makeup of a roster that has now failed to get it done in back-to-back seasons.
  2. Minnesota knew what it was getting into when they signed Byron Buxton to a long-term deal. His injury history is well documented, but his positive impact on the Twins roster is undeniable. He will make $9.1 million this season, and FanGraphs pegs his total value at nearly $32 million this season. The Twins utilized multiple strategies to try and keep Buxton healthy, but injuries impacted him throughout different parts of the season. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly with Buxton’s health this season. The Good Buxton played in over 90 games for only the third time in his career, which helped him amass 4.0 WAR, which ranks second on the team. In two months during the season, he posted a slugging percentage north of .710 with an OPS of over 1.060. This performance helped him earn the starting center field position for the American League during the All-Star Game, and he helped the team by hitting a home run. It was one of the best portions of the season because the Twins were in first place, and they looked to be heading for the team’s third division title in four seasons. The Bad Mixed in with the good were some sub-par performances as Buxton attempted to play through injury. His offensive production was a roller coaster ride as he’d be an otherworldly hitter for a stretch and then slump. From May 7-June 2, Buxton went 9-for-71 (.127 BA) in 19 games. This slump also included a career-worst 30 consecutive at-bats without a hit. He became a more patient hitter during the stretch as he drew eight walks compared to 16 strikeouts. At the end of June, he had a 15-game stretch that saw him go 6-for-58 (.103 BA), but four of his six hits were home runs. In the season’s second half, it became evident that Buxton was struggling through injury to the point where the team needed to put him on the IL, and that’s when things turned ugly for the Twins. The Ugly The Twins spent 108 days in first place in the AL Central, but the month of September has been brutal. Now, Minnesota is set to finish in third place in the division with hopes of ending with a .500 record. Buxton hasn’t been in the line-up since August 22, and the Twins have gone 11-17 during that stretch, which translates to a 0.392 winning percentage. Over the course of 162-games, that translates to a 98-loss season. Minnesota has been playing some of its most important games in September without Buxton in the line-up, and the team can feel his loss. He brings an energy to the roster that has been lacking over the last. Wins in April and May can be as important as wins in September, but the stakes are much higher in the season’s final weeks. Buxton clearly helped the Twins out of the gate to establish themselves at the top of the division, but the team’s plan to keep him on the field didn’t work. Extra off days and time at designated hitter helped Buxton provide value in just over 90 games. Buxton is Minnesota’s best player, and the club’s success is tied to him being on the field for the team’s critical moments. Should Buxton have gone on the IL earlier in the season? Would he have been available later in the season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  3. The Twins announced Friday afternoon that Byron Buxton would undergo season-ending knee surgery. For the first-time All-Star, it is a frustrating end to one of his best big-league seasons. The arthroscopic procedure is considered a clean-up, and expectations are that he will be fully ready for the start of spring training. Multiple injuries plagued Buxton throughout the 2022 campaign. His knee is the main problem he fought all season, and his recent hip issues are likely tied to his knee issues. His knee has been drained of fluid, and he has continued to get treatment throughout the season, such as platelet-rich plasma injections. Even while batting injuries, he started in center field at the All-Star Game and hit a career-high 28 home runs. Injuries are part of the narrative that has followed Buxton throughout his career, and it’s also one of the reasons the team was able to sign him to a team-friendly long-term deal. He’s only played more than 92 games in one season, and his injury list is full of things that were in and out of his control. He’s missed time with a left-thumb injury, knee contusion, back spasms, migraines, groin strain, sprained wrist, fractured toe, shoulder surgery, concussion symptoms, hamstring issues, and hip strains. For another offseason, injury questions will surround Buxton even though he was tremendous during the 2022 campaign. Minnesota paid Buxton $9.14 million for the 2022 season, and FanGraphs pegs his total value this year at nearly $32 million. Some fans may say he isn’t providing value to the team on his current contract because of how often he is injured. However, he provided enough value this season to cover his contract for this year and next. Overall, a combination of bad luck and aggressive play has resulted in his ever-growing injury history. One positive of the Twins falling out of the race is the fact that Buxton can have the surgery now instead of waiting until further into the offseason. The team’s goal for him was to get to 100 games, and he fell just short of that total. Now, he can get his knee healthier and hopefully be ready for the start of 2023. What are your thoughts on Buxton’s 2023 season? Was it a success? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  4. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the Minnesota Twins front office six seasons ago. 2023 will be year seven. In that timeframe the club has been to the postseason three times while winning two AL Central division titles. There’s certainly some success there, but ultimately it comes with an 0-6 record in the postseason, which has accounted for one-third of the 0-18 futility during October. There’s only a partial pass for the Twins to be had in 2022. The injuries were significant. 37 pitchers have been used for the first time in franchise history. Byron Buxton played injured from the jump, and time was missed by Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco. All those things are fair to suggest that plenty has been working against Rocco Baldelli and his bosses. It’s also time to realize there’s no more room for error or excuses. It’s safe to say that the front office, and the manager, aren’t looking for a pass. Both those in the clubhouse and those employing it are looking for a way to create a sustainable winner for the future. Falvey was brought in to develop a pitching pipeline similar to that of Cleveland. Levine is a smart general manager who has made some shrewd moves. Baldelli can run a clubhouse and has orchestrated difficult decisions. For all the good each party has done, the results now have to follow. In year seven the Twins won’t, and shouldn’t be given the benefit of doubt. 2022 saw a franchise-high payroll that included the signing of superstar shortstop Carlos Correa. He fell into Minnesota’s lap and is likely gone over the offseason. It will be on the front office to appropriately name his replacement, and find ways to use that money. Plenty of the roster is penciled but almost all of it carries some level of uncertainty as to availability or expectation. There’s no more room for acquisitions like Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer. Every offseason addition has to be made under the premise of creating the best roster possible, with nothing added just to fill the fringes. Management can’t dictate any more reclamation projects to play a substantial role, and when something doesn’t work similar to Emilio Pagan this season, the plug has to be pulled. It’s more than fair to understand those running the Twins are an incredibly smart group with very good ideas. Both rooted in analytical outcomes and results based decision making, there’s probably never been a better group across the board. Ultimately though, the only thing that matters is the wins and losses, and they haven’t had enough of them. Over the winter the front office and coaching staff will need to find ways to improve internally. That will mean staffers being replaced, coaches being changed out, and developmental areas being addressed. This should be the last go-round for the collective as a whole, and there’s no excuse to forgo bringing in fresh faces to help reach the ultimate goal. There’s plenty of argument to be made that 2022 was never seen as the year to go “all in.” The trade deadline was navigated with a focus on the now, but a vision to the future as well. Fast forwarding to Opening Day 2023 and the future becomes now, with no more room for missteps. It’s time to come through on the vision, or change it entirely.
  5. Were the Twins to go the way of many teams and begin a long rebuild to return to contention? "I'm not using that word," Derek Falvey told the beat writers. Instead, 2022 would be a year for a reload. But what does a successful reload look like? The Twins set out to return to playoff contention as they had in 2019 and 2020. Doing so would require more money and trades than the team had done in previous years of Pohlad ownership. Teams often reload for playoff contention for several reasons but usually require a strong central core and only a few critical holes to fill. For the 2016 Red Sox, their last year with Hall of Famer David Ortiz and an ascending Mookie Betts, it meant grabbing David Price on a $217 million deal and Craig Kimbrel in a trade with San Diego. The team went from last to first in the division for the next three years, including a World Series ring in 2018. However, a better comparison for teams with smaller payrolls might be those 2005 White Sox. Their opening day lineup only featured three of the same faces from 2004, but none were rookies. Instead, Ozzie Guillén and Kenny Williams tried to rethink what kind of players to build around their core, grabbing AJ Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye, Tadahito Iguchi, and Scott Podsednik. Most of their core pitching returned, with Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernández filling in as their fifth man. Their salary ballooned from $65 million to $75 million, while the first-place Twins remained essentially static in the $50 million range. Of course, it was all worth it: the White Sox were an era-defining team, winning the division by six games, going on one of the all-time great post-season runs, and ending an 88-year-old championship drought. For the Twins going into 2022, there was enough in the revolver for one last go of a core set of players: Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez, Mitch Garver, and Miguel Sano, plus some promise with Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Trevor Larnach, and Alex Kirilloff to step up (not to mention the many hopes around the arrival of Royce Lewis). Their bullpen had enough interesting names to build around. So why didn't the Twins work? First, the Twins had too many holes to fill, particularly in the starting pitching realm. Ober and Ryan had less than 100 innings under their belts, and Kenta Maeda was merely a glimmer of promise for a late-season comeback. The Twins needed a Day One starter, but quickly missed names like Carlos Rodon, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard, all of who made splashy but not impossible out-of-reach deals for the organization to match. When the market reopened, the Twins rebounded by making the smart move to trade their first-round draft pick for Sonny Gray. But then they went with not one not two but three different "fix me up" projects: Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, and Chris Paddack. Beyond Gray, that left five essentially unproven starters on opening day. The bullpen additions were equally shaky with the additions of Joe Smith and Emilio Pagán while dealing Taylor Rogers. Most importantly, the Twins essentially committed almost no new money in this realm beyond their trade capital, an odd sign for a team serious about contending. Of course, the Twins put money down this season with a pair of $100+ million contracts: an extension of Buxton and a second in a blockbuster deal to commit $35.1 million a year to Carlos Correa. Bringing in a playoff specialist like Correa was the essential move they needed. It at least felt part of their decision to erase bad clubhouse vibes by flipping Josh Donaldson for Yankees veterans Gio Urshela and Gary Sánchez. Neither Urshela nor Sánchez were the top Bronx bombers, but there was plenty of sense they were the kind of players who understood big spots and big games. And yet, the Twins probably remained slim in other veteran talent to reinforce their lineup. The previous year had demonstrated that the team did not have their prospects ready to go as eight different men took to center field to fill in injury after injury. Whether the Twins expected this year's injury woes to be worse than last year, their decision to depend entirely on prospects to back up Buxton and Kepler felt short-sided with plenty of low-end veterans available on the market (Kevin Pillar for example took a minor league deal with the Dodgers). A strong reload rarely means depending on new players—those 2005 Sox were all veterans beyond their season call-up of closer Bobby Jenks—but the Twins seemingly put a lot of hope on what feels like too many prospects suddenly becoming core players. Jose Miranda, Griffin Jax, and Jhoan Duran, have made themselves essential to this year's success, but others still have question marks about their long term viability (whether injury or ability). Either way, building through prospects is similar to what this year's Mariners have done where team has done after a long rebuild where they plan on years of contention after making a number of high profile trades and signings of known quantities to reinforce any flops of their prospects (Julio Rodríguez and George Kirby has outshined all potential, while Jarred Kelenic has essentially disappeared). Reloads are not just about graduating prospects; it's about building with those who don't need time to figure out their success. In another world, Donaldson was traded for prospects rather than big leaguers, and you could imagine Buxton, Polanco, and even Arraez packing their bags for other ballparks. Watching multiple seasons of poor performance in the hope of a good team down the road is no one's idea of fun, so the fact that the Twins pushed this year remains a blessing. But in retrospect, their approach in the reload feels odd. The Twins did increase their salary by 20% this season, but in the end, they were perhaps not in the place for the reload that wins championships. What was missing from the Twins reload? Sound off in the comments.
  6. Rocco Baldelli has done everything he can to hold this Twins team together. With the injured list total mounting, and lackluster output coming on the field, it’s been a perfect storm of negative outcomes this season. Unfortunately the bad omens came early on this year, and the hits really didn’t stop. Emilio Pagan takes his first loss On April 12 the Minnesota Twins faced the Los Angeles Dodgers at Target Field. It was an absolutely dominant series from the NL West champs, one in which Clayton Kershaw nearly threw a no-hitter. The front office flipped closers right before Opening Day, and Emilio Pagan was making his second appearance. He gave up a single hit and walk while being credited with a loss. The Dodgers rallied for six runs in the 8th inning and the game went up in smoke. In and of itself, that loss wasn’t entirely damning. It was foreshadowing though, and Pagan has all but sunk the Twins season. He’s racked up six blown saves and is also responsible for six losses. He’s routinely coughed up games against the Guardians, Minnesota’s toughest competition, and all season it’s been a belief in stuff that hasn’t provided any positive results. Byron Buxton jams his knee On April 15 playing against the Boston Red Sox, Byron Buxton slid awkwardly and jammed his knee into the ground. It looked awful and he reacted as such. Being lifted from the game, but walking off the field under his own power, Minnesota’s newly extended $100 million man seemed destined for the injured list. Instead, Buxton was back less than a week later and playing through general knee soreness. Sure, Byron has compiled 4.0 fWAR this season and has been worth every bit of his extension, but it’s been a constant battle as to whether the knee will hold up. He’s had it drained routinely throughout the year, and there have been fears of further damage due to the number of injections. Ultimately a hip injury landed him on the injured list and may end his season. Even with as good as he’s been, it’s hard not to think “what if” given a clean bill of health. There’s no denying the amount of strength this man has to play through what he did in 2022. Royce Lewis goes down The Minnesota Twins found themselves in a bind when record-setting free agent Carlos Correa was hit by a pitch. Despite having missed all of 2021 due to a torn ACL, Royce Lewis established himself immediately on the farm this season and forced his debut at the highest level. In an 11-game cameo, he posted an .889 OPS and looked solid at shortstop. Sent back when Correa returned, Lewis then sought to enter the lineup elsewhere. Playing centerfield for Byron Buxton a leap at the wall on May 29 sent him to the ground. After some waiting on the swelling, it was determined he’d torn his ACL for a second time. Lewis looked like the breakout rookie Twins Territory could get behind. His debut had been heavily anticipated for some time, and then it all came crashing down in a matter of weeks. He’s on the road to recovery, but it’s not likely that he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2023. Minnesota will get their star prospect back, but waiting will be involved. Alex Kirilloff undergoes season-ending surgery, again On August 9 it was announced that Alex Kirilloff would again go under the knife in an attempt to fix his nagging wrist issues. After surgery last year shut him down, a more extensive procedure was required this time around. Kirilloff had looked like a shell of what expectations are, and aside from a brief hot stretch at Triple-A, he never found his power this year. After thinking things were trending in a better direction following the first surgery, Kirilloff revealed that his wrist had never fully recovered. He shut things down in the offseason, and was clearly bothered at the plate for Minnesota. After having to break and shorten his wrist, the hope would be that Kirilloff’s healing process goes smoothly and he can tap back into the player he was prior to the injury. Baserunning and Clutch Situations Without pointing to a specific circumstance, the Twins have been horrid once reaching base this year. Fangraphs keeps track of baserunning via the BsR metric, and only the Washington Nationals rank lower across the league than Minnesota this season. While aggressiveness is desirable, being thrown out by a longshot or running into outs has been something far too regular this season. There's also the ineptitude that Minnesota has displayed when hitting with runners in scoring position. Despite a lineup that should've been expected to score with regularity this season, the Twins have been shut out in nearly 10% of their games and routinely have taken poor at bats with runners in scoring position. What other lowlights come to mind for you this season?
  7. Coming into the season, off of a long lockout, the Minnesota Twins were not seen as favorites. Even after signing a superstar in Carlos Correa, the questions about pitching remained. Yes, Sonny Gray was acquired, but Kenta Maeda was expected to be out most of the year, and a young duo in Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober were expected to carry the load. Bullpen questions remained, and only Joe Smith was brought in to answer them. After a mediocre first month, Rocco Baldelli had his guys clicking through May. Maybe the one period of relative health throughout the whole season, Minnesota’s manager orchestrated an 18-12 record. It’s been .500 or worse each month since then, and despite the initial expectations, it’s hard to suggest they weren’t raised after Derek Falvey and Thad Levine provided reinforcements at the deadline. Whether Minnesota claws back and makes the postseason or not, the manager has plenty to sort through this season. Baldelli has now managed more than 500 games for Minnesota and has accumulated a winning record. His win percentage is .533, well above Ron Gardenhire’s .484, Paul Molitor’s .471, or Tom Kelly’s .478. The Twins have won the division twice during his four-year tenure, and they should be seen as a candidate to do so again in 2023. It’s not fair to chalk 2022 up as a wash entirely because of injuries. Baldelli has consistently operated with half of his deck, but there’s been ample opportunity to provide better results. It’s probably worth wondering how things would have gone if Minnesota had seen even a slightly better outcome in terms of the guys they’ve lost to injury. It’s also not fair to suggest Baldelli has failed given the hurdles he’s had to clear. Ultimately a front office wants a manager to be their representative of process in the clubhouse. I think it’s safe to say that Baldelli is in lockstep with his bosses. It’s also more than evident that Baldelli gets along with his players, and has their respect as well. Both of those realities are integral when deciding to keep someone in the position. Unlike Molitor before him, it seems that Baldelli is able to effectively communicate with the guys on the field, and is able to get buy-in when wanting players to try new things. If the Twins were to change course, it probably would have a ripple effect throughout the clubhouse, and that sort of shakeup may not be beneficial given the youth expected to produce in 2023 and beyond. Consistency among leadership can be viewed as a positive, and Baldelli has already connected with so many that will take on larger roles in the years ahead. Should Minnesota make a move, and I think there's an opportunity for them to do so, it will come throughout the coaching staff as a whole. Maybe there's opportunity to shore up baserunning or generate a secondary voice in the clubhouse. Pete Maki has been fine in Wes Johnson’s position, but a more established pitching coach makes sense as well. At times throughout this season, it’s seemed the clubhouse needed a more vocal leader to beg for accountability or change. While that’s not Baldelli’s demeanor and isn’t really that of Correa or Byron Buxton, it could be that of a performance coach or someone tabbed with the background solely to rise to the occasion. We’ll see changes this offseason, there will be more than a few on the coaching staff, but I think it’s safe to say the front office should and will retain their manager.
  8. As has been the case with virtually any new idea Major League Baseball has come up with, the minor leagues have served as a training ground. That means many of these new rules have already been practiced at some level by prospects that would hope to come through the system Now being implemented at the highest level, big leaguers will have their first exposure to them. When looking at each individually, it may be worth breaking down who is helped most by each new rule. Pitch Clock When runners are on base pitchers will have 20 seconds to deliver a pitch, and they’ll have just 15 seconds to do so when the bases are unoccupied. I have seen this firsthand plenty throughout St. Paul Saints' action this season. It seems to be integrated seamlessly and works well. There’s no doubt that pitchers will benefit most from the pitch clock. Yes, there has been pushback in regard to routines and timing, but for the most part, the arms have adapted. Specifically, pitchers without much of a Major League track record, or those that work quickly, will benefit from the change. It was widely apparent how quickly Minnesota Twins starter Louie Varland worked against the Yankees last week, and you’ll see plenty more of that from guys who come up off the farm. With batters only being allowed one timeout per plate appearance, there should be a substantial cut down on the ticks that emanate in the form of bat taps, adjusted batting gloves, and walks around the dish. Largely, the suggestion is now to get in the box and stay there. While stealing hasn’t been largely impacted at the minor league level with a set time to deliver a pitch, it’s not maybe more important than ever for pitchers to change up their looks. Minnesota has done a terrible controlling the running game, and while neither Gary Sanchez or Ryan Jeffers throw many base stealers out, their pitchers have to help them as well. Bigger Bases Going from 15” to 18” bases isn’t all of a sudden going to increase the running games. Steals haven’t spiked with bases being larger, but the amount of bang-bang plays directly correlates. There’s also the opportunity for slightly more real estate when two players are rushing to the same base. Plays at first base should have a bit more room for the runner to step through and keep pitchers or other fielders covering a bit safer. The bases being larger is something that fans and players won’t likely realize at all, but there will be multiple instances of different calls or spared injury that could be directly attributed to the change. Byron Buxton probably won’t start stealing 30 bases per year with the new size, but Billy Hamilton would’ve been safe at third base on his steal attempt. Oh, and while we’re here, home plate is not changing and Whit Merrifield was still out. Shift Restriction This change may have the greatest impact on players and the game itself. Teams will still find ways to shift, but now two infielders must be on each side of second base, and all four have to be touching the dirt when the pitcher is on the rubber. No longer will a defender be able to play a short outfield spot, and there won’t be an entire position on the infield unmanned. Joey Gallo is the first name that comes to mind across baseball, but for the Twins, this could actually make Max Kepler good again. He’s been awful about hitting into the shift for most of his career, and the problem is largely attributed to his launch angle. Opting for ground balls and low liners, he’s been easy to steal hits from. Ground balls still probably won’t find their way through, but being able to dump the ball into short right field may be of benefit. Ultimately, I’d expect teams to get creative with their outfielders when it comes to shifting. We may see three play on one half of the grass, and that’s probably how extreme-pull hitters are attacked. What rule are you most in favor of? Are there any you have concerns about?
  9. The purpose of this article is try and lay out, in no uncertain terms, the insurmountable magnitude of injuries and medical odysseys to which this year's Twins roster has been subjected. There are worthwhile conversations to be had about the way this team is managing players physically, evaluating new acquisitions, and handling rehab plans. But let's take a step back. When you acknowledge that, to a large degree, injury rates and recoveries are driven by luck and uncontrollable forces, I don't see much of a case for holding the manager or even the front office primarily accountable for what's gone down this season. There's no planning for, or adapting, to the way injuries have impacted this roster. There's no managing a bunch of backups and fourth-string options to sustained contention. I recognize this is very unsatisfying for those who demand accountability and want to see heads roll in the wake of such a disappointing turn of events. But when you remove emotion and try to see the situation objectively, I'm not sure how much more you could expect from the execs and decision makers dealt an unwinnable hand. Could they have done certain things better? Of course. Was it going to turn the unstoppable tide that has plunged this ship asunder? No. This side-by-side comparison of the injured lists for Cleveland and Minnesota, here in the heart of the stretch run, kind of says it all. Sixteen Twins players on IL, including several vital cornerstones, compared to three Guardians. How do you realistically overcome that? Let's review all these injuries that have torpedoed a promising season, and the context behind them. I've tried to order them from most devastating to least. Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. When people talk about the 2022 season and what's gone wrong, I feel like this calamity gets glossed over way too much. To me, it is the '1A' headline for all the team's unmet potential. This horrible twist of fate is what I would categorize as unthinkably disastrous. Lewis and Kirilloff are two of the most important assets for this franchise. (I ranked them #3 and #4 during the offseason, behind Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco – also both currently on IL.) They are at the ages and junctures of development where you'd expect them to start making a real impact the major-league level, and both showed that ability in brief flashes this year. However, both of their seasons were ended in premature fashion. And in BOTH cases, major surgery was required to address the SAME injury that knocked them out for the previous season. (Did I mention this is essentially the third straight lost season for both?) Kirilloff's wrist surgery from last year didn't take, so now he's undergone a more invasive, last-ditch operation to try and alleviate the debilitating issue. Lewis, during his first game back in what appeared to be a permanent call-up, tore the very same ACL he had reconstructive surgery on last year. You can't make this stuff up. And what's most crushing about it all is that both of these absolutely critical players will inevitably be shrouded in doubt going forward. Can Lewis rebound from a second straight surgery on the same knee, especially when his game is founded on agility and foot speed? Will this somewhat experimental surgery for Kirilloff correct a problem that's been plaguing him for years now, sapping his most elite skill? Realistically, it's hard to feel much assurance on either front, and for that reason it's hard to feel optimistic about the Twins' immediate future. It really can't be overstated how disruptive these unforeseeable developments are for a front office trying to build a championship. Tyler Mahle and Chris Paddack. We all understand that Mahle and Paddack came with known injury risk to varying degrees. At the same time, so do a lot of trades. You've got to believe a club carefully reviews medicals and gains a level of comfort before pulling the trigger on significant deals like these ones. Yeah, it's easy to scream "incompetence" in hindsight. Too easy. There are a lot of top-of-field experts involved in these decisions. Maybe, taking each player on his own, it shouldn't be all that surprising that Mahle or Paddack succumbed to (likely) season-ending arm injuries. But for both to do so? And not only that, but for it happen SO quickly in both cases? Paddack made it to his fifth start before his partially torn UCL gave way, requiring elbow surgery. Mahle lasted only three before his velocity nosedived and a mysterious shoulder injury threatened to end his campaign. A combination of worst-case injury scenarios. Of course. And it really hurts, because the talent evaluation in both cases was sound. I genuinely believe that if healthy these would be the Twins' two best starters. Alas, much like Lewis and Kirilloff, their uncertain futures complicate the front office's planning going forward. Paddack will be coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. Who knows what's going on with Mahle but it seems impossible we'll go into the offseason feeling confident about his shoulder, with one year of team control left. Byron Buxton. Look, we know injuries for Buxton have to be expected and accounted for. They're baked into his legacy, and his new contract. Still, this year the gravity of his durability issues came into sharper focus than ever, primarily because it constitutes a "healthy" season for Buxton. He's already made the second-most plate appearances of his career. He avoided the injured list until August. He still might get to 100 games! And yet, that old injury phantom has conspicuously followed Buxton all year, ever since he came up slamming his hand into the dirt at Fenway one week in. Despite his mightiest efforts, he couldn't outrun his eternal tormentor, and now this season is wrapping up like so many before it: Buxton on the sidelines, watching his team fall short. I guess the point of this blurb is not so much about the micro misfortune of injuries sabotaging another year for Buxton, but more an observation about his appropriateness as face of the franchise: The Twins to lost their way into drafting one of the most talented, electric, special players in modern baseball history who also happens to be the (?) single-most injury prone at that level. Ryan Jeffers and Trevor Larnach. I group these two together because while neither injury was totally unforeseeable – catchers get hurt a lot by nature, and Larnach was also sidelined for much of last year – they definitely qualify as bad luck, and both absences led to huge drop-offs in terms of backup plans. Jeffers was having a reasonably solid season before suffering a thumb fracture in mid-July, which may cost him his entire second half. Larnach developed a sports hernia requiring surgery in mid-June, and still hasn't made it back yet. In both cases, the path to returning has arduously dragged well beyond original estimates, and continues to do so – another unfortunate commonality. With Jeffers sidelined, the Twins were left at catcher with the husk of Gary Sánchez and trade acquisition Sandy León, who'd been toiling in the minors for Cleveland. It's been ugly, much like the outfield in the absence of Larnach, Kirilloff and Buxton. Bailey Ober and Josh Winder. Winder is no longer on the injured list, but I view him much as the same as Ober: a homegrown talent, 25 years old and coming off a great season, clearly a core part of the Twins pitching plans. Granted, they both had their own warning labels coming into this season, but no clear red flags. As it turns out, both will end up maxing out around 50 innings pitched in the majors – big setback seasons for developing pitchers who will now be challenged to rebuild their workloads once again. In each case, the injury seems not well understood. Ober went down with a groin injury first framed as minor that never seemed to heal. Winder's had recurring bouts with an impinged, but structurally sound, shoulder dating back to last year. On their own, these are losses you could withstand, which is why they're relatively low on this list. But combined with all of the above? Getting almost nothing from Ober, or Winder, or Paddack, or their marquee deadline acquisition Mahle? How do you cobble together a decent rotation through all of that? The only Twins starting pitchers that have truly managed to stay healthy are the guys they signed cheaply to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Jorgé Alcala and Matt Canterino. These two are lumped as high-upside relievers who could have had transformative impacts on the Twins bullpen, but instead fell victim to essentially worst-case scenarios with their elbows. Alcala missed all of this season; Canterino never made it to the majors and will likely miss all of the next one. Maybe these blows would've been easier to sustain if some of the relief contingency plans held up. However... Danny Coulombe, Cody Stashak, and Jhon Romero. None of these three were projected to be pivotal late-inning weapons, but they were all viewed as important parts of the depth mix. Coulombe and Romero were on the Opening Day roster, and Stashak a late cut. All suffered season-ending injuries early on. Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak. I have these two at the bottom because, unlike everyone above, no one realistically expected much out of them this year. But it would have been nice to get something, *anything* from either. Both have been derailed so much for both that it's easy to forget that, coming out of the 2020 season, we were envisioning each as key long-term pieces for the pitching staff. You can look back now and say, "Well the front office shouldn't have been planning around these guys." Or they shouldn't have traded for Paddack or Mahle and the associated risk. Or they shouldn't have committed to Buxton as a centerpiece, or they should have better medical personnel and training philosophies, and so on. There may be truth to these things. But you bet on players you like, and you accept a certain amount of risk. Otherwise, you end up where the previous front office was for so long, treading water in a pointless middle ground. At the end of the day, injuries happen. They're never as predictable or controllable or correctable as people want to believe. Sadly, this scourge has been especially prevalent for the Twins and, more sadly, a lot of these health woes are going to carry forward in terms of their implications. I firmly believe the front office built a team capable of winning the division this year, and Rocco Baldelli was the guy to lead that group. For a while, it was all coming together as planned. Unfortunately, the current team barely resembles what was built.
  10. Minnesota's injury list has continued to fill up with players up and down the roster. No AL team has put more players on the injured list than the Twins, making it tough to evaluate the team's overall talent value. Looking back on the 2022 season, it will be easy to point to all the team's injuries as one of the reasons for its downfall. That being said, the AL Central is still up for grabs, so could the Twins' injured players win the division? Catcher: Ryan Jeffers Jeffers was supposed to take over the full-time catching duties this season after the team traded Mitch Garver. Before fracturing his thumb, he saw his OPS+ rise eight points compared to 2021. He also does a great job behind the plate as his framing ranks in the 65th percentile. 1B: Miguel Sano There's no question that Sano struggled during the 2022 season, but this is a player that averaged a 122 OPS+ over the last three seasons. He's been streaky throughout his career, which doesn't help how fans view him. His Twins tenure is likely done, but he was a solid contributor during that time. 2B: Jorge Polanco Polanco had avoided the injured list for much of his career until the 2022 season. He's played through injuries in the past and been relatively productive. This season the injuries were clearly bothering him at the plate, and his defensive numbers took a significant drop. Even with injuries, his WAR ranks in the team's top 5. 3B: No Current Injury <Knock on Wood> Minnesota doesn't have a current injured third baseman, but this position can be filled with an infielder from St. Paul. Andrew Bechtold seems like a possible fit since he can be a replacement-level player and has played third base during the 2022 season. SS: Royce Lewis It's hard not to think about what Lewis might have meant to the 2022 Twins if he had stayed healthy. His first taste of the big leagues was spectacular as he went 12-for-40 (.300) with four doubles and two home runs. Lewis looked like a star, and the Twins could desperately use a right-handed power bat for the stretch run. OF: Byron Buxton, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach Minnesota expected all three players to fit into the middle of the lineup this season. Buxton avoided the injured list for much of the season, but now he hasn't been available for the team's stretch run. Kirilloff put together some eye-popping numbers at Triple-A as he returned from injury. Unfortunately, something was still wrong with his wrist, and he underwent a unique surgery to alleviate some of the pain. Larnach had a 105 OPS+ in 2022, and the team has been forced to use replacement-level players to fill in for his production. Rotation: Tyler Mahle, Chris Paddack, Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober, Randy Dobnak The top three pitchers in the injured rotation have been acquired by the current front office in trades. Now it seems unlikely that any of the three will be available for Minnesota's stretch run. Ober and Dobnak have started their rehab assignments, but it's questionable how much they will be able to provide the club for the season's remainder. Josh Winder is also another name to consider as he is no longer rehabbing but he is getting back to strength in the Saints rotation. Adding him to this rotation allows Dobnak to be a long-man out of the bullpen. Bullpen: Jorge Alcala, Danny Coulombe, Jhon Romero, Cole Sands, Cody Stashak Minnesota's bullpen has been a mess, so it's intriguing to consider what these missing players may have been able to provide the team. Alcala has the make-up to be an elite reliever and had the potential to take over a late-inning role in 2022. Stashak and Sands can fit into this team's imaginary set-up roles. Not much was expected from Coulombe and Romero, but relievers can surprise in small sample sizes. Cleveland and Chicago have flaws, and the Twins roster above might be good enough to compete in the AL Central. Do you think they'd have enough pieces to compete in the division? Is the Twins injured roster better than their current roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  11. Let’s preface this with an adjustment of expectations. Are the Minnesota Twins legitimate World Series contenders? No, absolutely not. Unless something significant changes, this club will be lucky to win the division. However, if you’re hoping for an end to the nearly two-decade-long drought for a Postseason victory, that could set up well. Rocco Baldelli’s club has next to no healthy bodies left. Jorge Polanco was left on the active roster for nearly a week without another player being added because there was not an obvious choice. Tyler Mahle is on the injured list again and won’t be eligible to return until roughly the final two weeks of the season. Sonny Gray has been held back at times, and the return of Byron Buxton does not appear close. All of that said, fighting through one game at a time makes sense for a battered squad. Should the Twins find a way to outlast the Guardians and White Sox while they match up plenty over the final month, they can be as good as anyone during a short series. Should Gray find a clean bill of health by the end of the month, Mahle return, or Joe Ryan step up, the top three for the Twins can keep them competitive against any lineup. On the offensive side of things, it’d seem likely that Buxton could return for a short term boost. Trevor Larnach will be back, and Polanco is ideally healthy by then. A lineup of mostly Minnesota’s best bats should be a fearsome foe to virtually any opposing pitcher. Then there’s the reality that a Twins opponent likely wouldn’t be the New York Yankees. With a 12-team Postseason format, and Minnesota being the third seed in the American League, they’d face the six seed in a three-game Wild Card series. Right now the Seattle Mariners hold that spot, although it could also be the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, or Baltimore Orioles. None of those teams are bottom-feeders as you’d expect, but they should present a good opportunity to win given Minnesota would get three straight home games. It’d be great to see Minnesota make a run through the month of September, health or otherwise, to establish a stranglehold on the division. Without their depth, it just doesn’t seem like a thought based in reality. If they can hold serve and squeak out a division win while their competition also looks weak, then circumstances could turn in their favor. A team lacking health and depth will get exposed in a seven-game series, and probably in a five-game series as well. In a three-game series though, the talent this Twins team has should be enough for a win in October, and even an opportunity to advance. Threading the needle between health and positioning will be a tough task for Minnesota’s staff the next few weeks, but this should be seen as an opportunity where getting in could be just enough.
  12. The American League Central Division has been nothing short of an abomination this season. The Cleveland Guardians have done little to assert themselves as favorites, despite having overtaken the lead late in the year. Tony La Russa’s Chicago White Sox may have the most talented roster, but it’s certainly been the most poorly managed thus far. Rocco Baldelli has been given an opportunity for his team to rebound from 2021, but they’ve struggled to break through. Looking at the state of the division it’s easy to suggest that any of the three clubs in contention to take it will be wiped off the map come Postseason action. Diving into the Twins specifically, however, it’s worth trying to understand why September returns seem so immeasurable. As of September 3rd, the Twins had been forced to use 24 different position players and had 33 separate pitchers on the mound. Despite operating just from a 40-man roster, the Twins had a total of 17 players on varying injured lists after putting deadline acquisition Tyler Mahle on it. To say every team goes through injury waters down a bit of what Minnesota has been dealing with. Early on this season the club’s most important player, Byron Buxton, seemingly suffered a season-ending knee injury. Sliding against the Boston Red Sox on Jackie Robinson Day, Buxton looked to have suffered something gruesome. Instead, he never hit the injured list and played into late August while routinely getting his knee drained. There were multiple instances where a shutdown seemed likely. Concerns as to whether an infection could develop were real. What level of pain tolerance even the best athlete could endure was a question. All of that was taking place despite Buxton posting a team-leading 4.0 fWAR. The front office dealt for Chris Paddack, and Emilio Pagan, right before Opening Day. The former made just five starts but the stuff was so good his 0.9 fWAR remains 6th among pitchers still into September. Carlos Correa, the superstar shortstop, missed time with a hand that appeared to be broken. A superstar prospect in Royce Lewis stepped up before suffering a second straight ACL tear. Again, it may be sugarcoating it to suggest that every team goes through injury. It’s probably fair to understand there’s varying degrees of maladies suffered throughout a season, but it certainly seems as though Minnesota has been bit harder than most. For a team looking to reverse course following a bad 2021 season, far more has to go right from a health perspective alone to push the envelope. The Twins front office never viewed this season as one in which they’d push all the chips in, and that was evident at the deadline when they doubled-down dealing almost exclusively for players under team control. There’s still hope the clubhouse can continue responding to the adversity they’ve been dealt but each new name to hit the shelf seems like another knockout punch.
  13. 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 metric developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) 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, MLB has used SDI as part of the process for selecting Gold Glove winners. The rankings below are through games played on August 28, 2022. Pitcher (AL Ranking): No Twins Pitchers Qualify The Twins have yet to have a pitcher qualify for the SDI leaderboard in this season's rankings. Many of the team's top starters have missed time during different parts of the season, which means they don't have enough defensive innings to appear on the leaderboard. Former Twin Jose Berrios currently ranks 4th in the AL with a 1.4 SDI. Catcher (AL Ranking): Gary Sanchez 0.2 SDI (11th) Sanchez came to the Twins with a reputation as a terrible defensive catcher. Last season, he ranked as the AL's worst catcher with a -8.2 SDI, which was 1.4 points lower than the next qualified player. His increase of over eight SDI points this season shows how much he has improved. In the last SDI ranking, Ryan Jeffers was sixth in the AL with a 2.0 SDI. His recent injury means he no longer qualifies for the leaderboard. First Base (AL Ranking): Luis Arraez 1.2 SDI (2nd) Arraez's bat has cooled off recently, but his defensive performance has vaulted him into the Gold Glove conversation at first base. Only Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has a higher SDI total among AL first basemen, and Arraez trails by 0.3 points. In July's rankings, Arraez was ninth in the AL with a -0.5 SDI. Can Arraez pass Guerrero Jr. in the season's final month? Second Base (AL Ranking): Jorge Polanco -2.6 SDI (13th) While Arraez improved significantly, Polanco's SDI steeply declined over the last month and a half. Polanco has been a strong defender since switching from shortstop to second base. Last season, Polanco finished fourth among the AL's second basemen in SDI. One must wonder if Polanco's knee injury impacts his ability to get to balls defensively. Third Base (AL Ranking): Gio Urshela -0.2 SDI (T-8th) Urshela's defense vastly improved compared to earlier in the season. In July, only one AL third baseman ranked lower than Urshela, but his SDI total improved by 1.6 points. Form Twin Josh Donaldson leads all AL third basemen with 7.8 SDI, which ranks as the fifth best SDI total in the AL. Shortstop (AL Ranking): Carlos Correa 3.1 SDI (5th) Correa posted an MLB-high 15.8 SDI last season on his way to winning the American League's Platinum Glove. His early season defensive numbers were disappointing, but he has slowly climbed the SDI leaderboard. Correa improved his SDI total by 2.5 since the July rankings, and another month like that would move him into the AL's top three shortstops. Left Field (AL Ranking): Nick Gordon 0.8 SDI (5th) Gordon was an infielder throughout his professional career until the Twins shifted him to a utility role for 2022. Injuries to regular outfielders like Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff have forced the Twins to use Gordon regularly in left field. His leaderboard position has improved in each SDI update as he becomes more comfortable in the outfield. Center Field (AL Ranking): No Twins Players Qualified No Twins center fielders have appeared on the SDI leaderboard this season because Byron Buxton has been getting regularly scheduled rest days and time at DH. According to Baseball Savant, Buxton has an Outs Above Average in the 95th percentile, which places him among baseball's best defenders. The Twins also added Billy Hamilton to the big-league roster to improve the team's outfield defense. Right Field (AL Ranking): Max Kepler 5.7 SDI (2nd) Fans may be frustrated by Kepler's offensive woes this season, but he continues to be an elite defender in right field. Only Houston's Kyle Tucker ranks higher than Kepler among AL right fielders. Over the last month, Kepler has closed the gap on Tucker, and he has a chance to finish the year in first place. Can Kepler win his first Gold Glove? Which rankings above surprise you the most? Will Kepler or Arraez win the Gold Glove? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  14. The above graph plots the win probability added by month for the Twins top 11 hitters in plate appearances. Because hitting with runners in scoring position and hitting in late-and-close situations is so crucial for winning games, the win probability measure is sensitive to performance in those situations. As a result, the graph reveals what we've all sensed: the lineup has stunk in August. Only three of these hitters have a significantly positive WPA thus far in August, meaning they helped more than they hurt the Twins chances of winning: Luis Arraez, Carlos Correa, and Jose Miranda. Only two of these hitters have a higher WPA in August than in July: Correa and Gilberto Celestino (barely). Byron Buxton and Max Kepler completely cratered in August. Injuries likely played a large part, but silver linings count for little in the standings. And for Kepler, a terrible August was the culmination of a season-long decline. Even Jorge Polanco and Arraez, who had each put up positive WPA's in the previous three and four months respectively, dipped to near zero impact in August. It can only go up from here, right? Right?
  15. The Minnesota Twins have done an admirable job getting as much use out of Byron Buxton in 2022 as possible, even leading the star centerfielder to an All-Star berth. Still, with injuries continuing to pile up, the team sought a second opinion after Buxton’s recent trip to the IL. The results aren’t pretty, but they aren't surprising. “Byron Buxton has adult-onset Evel Knievelism,” said Dr. Nicole Baumhardt, a physician at Johns Hopkins. This incredibly rare condition usually affects only those who jump motorcycles over things and plummet to the unforgiving asphalt, or people who’ve appeared on more than one season of MTV’s Jackass. It's named after Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel, a popular stuntman from the 1960s and ‘70s. He’s perhaps best known for failing to land a sick jump over the Caesars Palace fountains in Las Vegas, breaking his pelvis, femur, hip, wrist, and both ankles. Baumhardt says she wishes this was all that was hurting Buxton. “All of Byron’s bones are broken,” said Baumhardt. “In addition, he has extra bones that the human body isn’t supposed to have, bones we’ve never seen. Those are also broken. “The ligaments that aren’t torn are ruptured. The ligaments that aren’t ruptured are torn. He has diseases that were only on episodes of Little House on the Prairie. We put him in an iron lung and the iron lung fell down a very long flight of stairs with him in it, rebreaking his broken bones harder. We placed him in a full body cast and there is now a wasps’ nest under his right arm, leading to very painful welts. He has COVID-20. You don’t even want to know what that is.” “We’ll continue managing (Byron’s) rest,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “He’s going to need a day off here and there, but we still hope he can contribute to our playoff drive. The league says his body cast is technically a uniform if we put a name and number on it, which helps. “The tough part is that he just got into the trainer’s room and a piano fell on him. We don’t know how a piano ended up in there, but it just up and tipped over on him, rebreaking the rebroken bones that were already broken. He might be a go on Sunday, but we’ll have to wait and see how he responds to treatment or if any other large, heavy objects smash his unique slurry of bone and muscle yet again. Until then, our other guys have to step up.” Image license here.
  16. The Twins have slowly sunk from their spot in first place and are months removed from looking like a quality baseball team. As crunch time nears it’s justifiably the first thought that we want Buxton on the field no matter what to provide whatever spark he has left. It’s becoming more and more apparent for several reasons however that the Twins should just play it safe and shut their star down. This Could Become a Bigger Injury Buxton has dealt with a nagging knee and hip injury all season which almost certainly will take some sort of clean-up procedure this offseason. That being said, we can hope at this point that the issue can be fixed and healed to kick off 2023. We saw on Monday night however just how hobbled he is, catching balls on one leg and taking awkward follow-throughs after swings. With how physically compromised he is, there’s no doubt he’s putting himself at risk of much more serious injury as he’s forced to modify his mechanics in everything he does on the field. An injury such as an ACL at this point would knock Buxton out for all of 2023, a season that should be prioritized at this point as the Twins are returning a better pitching staff on paper than they’ve had in several years. What Buxton has done this season is commendable, but it may have all come to a head on Monday night when he was pulled early and appeared to be completely incapable of continuing to play baseball any longer. He’s still a long-term asset for the Twins and we may have reached the point where that has to be valued above all else. Buxton May Not Matter Is there a case that the Twins best player not being in the lineup for the stretch run may not matter? I’d say yes given the context of the rest of the lineup. Buxton could go on an MVP level tear from now until the end of the season, and the Twins could still miss the playoffs because of what the rest of the lineup is doing. While Buxton has been struggling recently, the lineup’s inadequacies were front and center in a four-game series against the very bad Texas Rangers in which the Twins managed to score six runs total. Injuries play a part with several potential spark plugs missing such as Larnach, Kirilloff and Lewis, but it’s hard to argue that regulars such as Correa, Polanco and Kepler haven’t pulled their weight in months. After a trade deadline in which the team patched up the pitching issues that plagued them all season, the offense has become embarrassingly bad, oftentimes being unable to overcome nights where the pitchers allow more than one run. In short, regardless of how Buxton does if the Twins rush him back, he’ll be surrounded in the lineup by some of the most anemic and situationally poor hitters in baseball for the last few months. One player can’t win all of these games. Is that worth the risk? It would be a huge bummer to see yet another Byron Buxton season shut down by injury, but this is what we have to expect at this point. In many ways, it’s becoming more and more apparent that it’s time to set sights on 2023 with this very flawed team, and this is particularly true in the case of Byron Buxton. It’s a fact that a fundamentally sound roster would have opened up an insurmountable lead in the poor AL Central, and Buxton’s workload could have been managed more conservatively down the stretch as a result. Instead, the Twins are stuck in no man's land with a roster that’s difficult to take too seriously despite ample opportunity to control their own destiny. Their star was pushed beyond what should have been asked as a result. At this point, the overly aggressive push in regards to Byron Buxton should be done. The priority should be the long term. It’s time to shut him down and let the AL Central cards fall where they may.
  17. Box Score SP: Sonny Gray: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (69 pitches, 47 strikes (68.1%)) Home Runs: N/A Bottom 3 WPA: Jose Miranda (-.225), Luis Arraez (-.150), Max Kepler (-.145) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) As the Minnesota Twins have scuffled through what was supposed to be an easy part of their schedule, they looked to even up the series with the Rangers Monday night. Continuing to sit in second place in the AL Central standings, Monday’s night game felt like a must-win game for the Twins. If not must-win, very important. The struggle to hit with RISP continues The Twins struggle to get hits with runners in scoring position has been well documented. That struggle was highlighted early on Monday night in almost identical fashions. In the first inning, Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton reached base and stood on second and third with only one out in the inning. It looked like the Twins were cruising to an early lead. Instead, Jose Miranda struck out, and Max Kepler continued his struggles by pulling a pitch into a ground out to end the inning and the threat. Once again, in the third inning, Correa was again standing on third base and Buxton on second. This time it was with two outs after Jose Miranda grounded into a fielder’s choice to put the two Twins stars in those positions. Kepler’s overall batting struggles were highlighted once again as he couldn’t muster anything more than a fly out to center field. Twins turn second triple play of season The fourth inning started in a way that did not look favorable for the Twins. Starter Sonny Gray who was off to a great start sending the first nine batters faced down without incident, wasn’t as fortunate as the lineup turned over. Marcus Semien broke through with a single for the first hit off of Gray Monday evening. Corey Seager followed up with a walk putting runners on first and second with no outs. Not only did Gray look to be in trouble, but he looked so with the middle of the Rangers lineup due up. With Nathaniel Lowe at the plate, Gray caused the left-handed batter to pull a liner right at Miranda. Miranda was able to step on first for out number two. Miranda then spun and fired down to second where Correa had to leap to snag the throw and was still able to come down and get Semien out to complete the Twins second triple play on the season. The 17th in franchise history. Nick Gordon breaks through To start the fourth inning, Gio Urshela gave the Twins their second lead-off triple after sending a pitch the opposite way down the first baseline. Nick Gordon came to the plate and nearly broke through to start the run-scoring with a true exclamation point. Gordon sent a moonshot down the first base line that just hooked foul. It was called so live on the field and was later confirmed by a crew chief review. Gordon wouldn’t be fully denied. He came back and lined the ball down the third base line to score Urshela and add a double to his resume. That double brings Gordon up to 18 for the 2022 season. Middle-inning pitching struggles The Twins have seemingly been plagued repeatedly by starting pitchers struggling in the middle innings of games. That was again the case Monday evening as Gray saw all the damage done against him in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. In fairness, Gray was able to mute the actual damage done, leaving the game with the Twins down 2-1. The solo homerun by Adolis Garcia and RBI-single from Corey Seager did carry much more weight as the Twins offense could only muster up one run of support for Gray. Buxton leaves after 6th inning Buxton had two significant instances where it was evident his hip was once again bothering him. After swinging through a pitch during an at-bat in the 5th inning, it could be seen on Buxton's face that it was painful. Then again, after attempting to dive to catch a fly ball, he was slow to get up. It has been well documented that Buxton has been working extremely hard to make it onto the field each day he plays. It does not remove the frustration present as the Twins best player is sidelined and sidelined in a game where they desperately needed some offensive firepower. What’s Next? The Twins will catch a late-night flight to Houston, where they will open a three-game series against the always-tough Astros. It already was an important series, and became that much more important with Monday's loss, as the Twins try to keep pace in the central and compete with a playoff-caliber team. Currently, the probable starters lineup as follows: Tuesday: Aaron Sanchez vs. Justin Verlander Wednesday: Dylan Bundy vs. Framber Valdez Thursday: Chris Archer vs. Luis Garcia Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THUR FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Thielbar 0 17 11 0 12 40 Pagán 0 0 0 39 0 39 Megill 0 24 0 15 0 39 López 0 20 9 0 0 29 Jax 0 0 11 0 14 25 Fulmer 0 0 0 0 12 12 Duran 0 10 0 0 0 10 Sands 0 0 0 0 0 0
  18. Leading up to the August 2nd trade deadline, it became apparent that Thad Levine and Derek Falvey needed to add pitching. They had problems in the rotation and they had problems in the bullpen. Sure, Ryan Jeffers was on the injured list and a backup catcher became necessary. You could also make the case that an additional outfielder would have made sense after losing Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, and Kyle Garlick. The reality though, is that this front office did everything and more to position Rocco Baldelli’s club towards the Postseason. We’ve seen in recent seasons where deals at the deadline have a way of spreading discouragement throughout the clubhouse. When Minnesota was both buyers and sellers a few years ago, it seemed that an initial displeasure was then followed by a desire to prove resiliency. In 2022 however, there’s no room for discouragement. Everything the front office did was met with elation by those on the field. The Twins social media channels have shown the embrace of new talent, and the excitement brought on by a belief that the team was good enough to invest in. None of that seems to have mattered on the field however. Although the pitching has turned around, thanks in large part to the additions made at the deadline, a collective of each player in the lineup continues to fail. Through three games against a very beatable Texas Rangers team, Minnesota has gone 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position. They’ve left a whopping 20 runners on base, and they’ve largely looked uninterested at the plate. There’s plenty to be said about a manager with more of an engaging style such as Baldelli. He’s a far cry from the Hall of Famer that was Paul Molitor, and recently celebrated Ron Gardenhire may represent something in between. I don’t know that Minnesota needs a drill sergeant in the dugout, but for all we’ve heard about chemistry and makeup, it’s time for the leaders to lead. Carlos Correa was signed to the largest deal for a Major League infielder by average annual value this offseason. Byron Buxton was inked to the extension firmly entrenching his status as the driver of this team. Sonny Gray has previously played for winning organizations while working through his veteran career. Necessary to see the production on field from that group, one of them has to provide the voice that turns this thing around. It’s not Minnesota’s fault for playing in baseball’s second worst division. It is their fault for failing to capitalize on that opportunity. There’s no excuse for the lifeless performances that we’ve grown accustomed to at this point in the season. A lineup that should be expected to do damage routinely looks inept, and the buy in to get the job done has to be a feeling shared across the board. To date the Twins have been held scoreless in 10% of their 117 games. With 45 to go, it’s put up or shut up time, and the only place this team will be searching for answers if left out in October is the bathroom mirror.
  19. In order to beat out Cleveland (leading the division by one game entering Friday), and Chicago (trailing Minnesota by a game and a half), the Twins will need contributions from across the roster. But they'll really need their cornerstone stars to step up and lead the way. I took a shot at ranking the 15 players who are most critical to the team's success in these final 46 games. 1. Luis Arraez If the Twins are gonna win this thing, they need the offense to do the heavy lifting. Even in a best case scenario, the pitching staff will probably only be good enough to play a supporting role. Arraez is – as they say – the straw that stirs the drink. He might not be as explosive or electric as some others on this list, but he's been the most consistent hitter on the team all year long. Continuing to grind down opposing pitchers day in and day out will be paramount to the Twins playing consistent baseball. 2. Carlos Correa Is the best from Correa yet to come? That's what the Twins are banking on. Correa's been fairly underwhelming for much of the summer but we all know what he's capable of – it's been demonstrated time and time again. The past couple series have offered hopeful signs that the shortstop is beginning to catch fire; he went 8-for-19 against the Angels and Royals, although seven of those hits were singles, and we're still waiting on some big signature moments. Now is the time for Correa to make good on the front office's $35 million investment. 3. Byron Buxton At full strength, Buxton would be atop this list, but the knee injury that has continually limited his performance and availability figures to be a reality the rest of the way. Buxton's impact is greatly reduced when he's hitting well as a DH as opposed to hitting amazingly as a center fielder. Even still, his elite power and clutchness will be vital. The Twins need him on the field as much as is reasonably possible. 4. Tyler Mahle The front office spent big to acquire Mahle at the deadline for a reason: they needed a frontline starter who could go toe-to-toe with high-octane lineups. The presence of a similar caliber starter in Sonny Gray somewhat lessens the importance of Mahle in isolation, but both are key, which is why they're right next to one another below the team's top stars. Needless to say, the outlook for Mahle's shoulder weighs heavily right now. 5. Sonny Gray Gray is arguably a slight step behind Mahle in terms of quality and upside, but they are more or less interchangeable, and about equally important on their own. If this analysis were extended into the postseason, where the impact of top starters is heightened, these two might be #1 and #2 on my list. 6. José Miranda Some will surely argue that I've got Miranda too low. There's no doubt he's crucial to this lineup, and has been the offense's savior for the past couple months. But realistically, we've got to expect a bit of regression, and the team's dependence on Miranda will hopefully be lessened by the top three carrying the load, as well as bats like Trevor Larnach and Kyle Garlick potentially returning to the fold. 7. Jhoan Duran Another guy who would've ranked much higher on this list before the trade deadline, which speaks to why the front office's moves were so very necessary and so important. Duran remains the team's best reliever – and one of the best in the league – but the team's hopes are not quite so singularly hinging on his continued health and effectiveness with Jorge López and Michael Fulmer in the fold. 8. Jorge Polanco He's firmly fifth in the pecking order in terms of offensive contributors, but Polanco is a veteran fixture who's shown the ability to get hot and go on torrid runs to propel the offense. I'm not necessarily expecting one now, given that he's been steadily good-not-great this year and is currently dealing with a knee issue, but as a guy who will bat at the heart of the order everyday (if healthy), Polanco is obviously someone the Twins need to perform. 9. Jorge López Closers are critical during a stretch run. That's a lesson Twins fans have learned the hard way before. (Sorry LaTroy.) López has a unique ability to impact outcomes given his role, though I suspect Duran will routinely pitch in more decisive spots. Obviously López could totally derail things if he blows a few more saves, but the presence of other high-leverage options gives Rocco Baldelli a fallback should trust be shaken. 10. Max Kepler This feels like a big moment for Kepler. He's been with the Twins for seven seasons. He's had his ups and downs, with some legit high points, but has been a complete zero in the postseason (0-for-15 in the 2019/20 ALDS). Following a good start this year, he's fallen into a dire midseason lull, slashing .199/.281/.290 since the end of May. Kepler could really put a new spin on his legacy here by flipping a switch and making a big positive difference the rest of the way. Of course, I don't expect it, based on his recent track record, and that's why he's 10th on this list despite his potential for two-way impact. 11. Joe Ryan I've cooled quite a bit on Ryan, who has a 4.73 ERA/4.63 FIP since the end of April, and hasn't gotten through six innings in a start since July 1st. He's a mid-rotation starter with strikeout stuff and a propensity for giving up hard contact. The righty is clearly not on the same level as Mahle or Gray, but also a clear cut above Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer, making him integral to the rotation's sustainability – especially if Mahle has to miss time. 12. Caleb Thielbar After seven appearances this year, Thielbar had a 15.19 ERA. It doesn't get much worse than that. Since then he has a 2.43 ERA and 51-to-11 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. It doesn't get much better than that. His last two appearances have demonstrated Thielbar's ability to play the fireman role, and right now he's got more trust than any Twins reliever not named Duran or López. He also brings the unique ability to neutralize lefty hitters, who have a .499 OPS against him this year. 13. Michael Fulmer Fulmer is a very solid setup man, and having him fourth in your bullpen hierarchy is a major luxury. You've got to have guys who can reliably bridge the gap from the middle to late innings if you want to rattle off wins, and thus Fulmer's veteran stability is very valuable. 14. Griffin Jax Everything stated about Fulmer above basically applies to Jax, except that he's a rookie who's been struggling lately. Given how much the Twins lean on their bullpen for innings, they simply need all of these relievers to get it done in the final weeks. One thing I really appreciate about the deadline deals is that they took some pressure off of Jax, who's still acclimating in his first year as a full-time reliever. 15. Nick Gordon Circumstances have pushed Gordon into an everyday role, more or less – and he's been capitalizing, with a .309/.356/.489 slash line since the start of July. That's as good as anyone could have reasonably expected from Royce Lewis or Alex Kirilloff, whose voids the fellow first-rounder has been left to fill. If he can keep doing so, he'll be an instrumental factor in the team's success.
  20. Box Score: SP: Chris Archer 4 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K (65 pitches, 45 strikes (65.8 strike %)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (28) Top 3 or Bottom 3 WPA: Chris Archer -.168, Jose Miranda .-126, Jorge Polanco -.110 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The first two innings for the Twins were all Byron Buxton and Chris Archer. Buxton put the Twins up 2-0 in the first with his 28th homer of the season, Correa being the other run scoring and reaching on a walk in the previous at bat. Archer continued from the progress of control he had shown in his previous start against the Blue Jays. For his first two innings, 21 of 29 Archer’s pitches were in the strike zone and he struck out half of the batters he faced to get outs as well. Command of the strike zone began to slip for Archer in the third. Archer threw 22 pitches to that point, but only 11 landed in the strike zone as he issued his first walk of the game against Shohei Ohtani which put Archer in a jam with two on and two out facing Luis Rengifo. Rengifo tied the game up 2-2 with a bases-clearing double making contact on a slider high in the strike zone and away. Archer averted further damage striking out Tyler Ward in the next at-bat with only three strikes. Still, the Twins found themselves tied once more and needed to mount the offense for another comeback for the second day in a row. The Twins failed to break the tie in the top of the fourth. This gave the Angels an opportunity to do so. And they did. Jo Adell led off the bottom half of the inning with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly from former Twin Kurt Suzuki that put the Angels up 3-2. The Twins did get their first base runner since Buxton’s homer in the fifth with a two-out Sandy Leon double. Luis Arraez followed up next but failed to drive him home. Archer’s afternoon would be done after four innings and mark his second straight start of allowing one or fewer walks. Archer last accomplished this feat in June during his June 19 start against the Diamondbacks with no walks, and his June 25 start against the Rockies with one walk. Trevor Megill would come into the game in place of Archer. Carlos Correa ended the 5th after Ohtani walked. Ohtani attempted to steal a base off Megill but Leon made a perfect throw right to Correa, who didn’t even turn his head to tag Ohtani out and keep the game at 3-2, Angels. The game would remain uneventful for the Twins hitters over the next two innings. Buxton provided the only excitement in the top of the sixth with a single and his fifth stolen base of the season. Pitching-wise, things got as ugly as usual. Megill continued to work the sixth, found himself in a jam of two on and two out but averted any damage. Michael Fulmer, who pitched the seventh, found himself in the same jam with one out and gave up an RBI single to Ohtani to make it a 4-2 Angels lead. The Angels came close to scoring another run in the next at-bat but Jorge Polanco threw out the runner advancing home to keep the score at 4-2. The Twins could not follow up Polanco’s smart defensive play with any offense for the rest of the game. Correa managed the only hit for the Twins in the game's final two innings while the Angels took home a win and series victory to finish out the Twins five game road trip What’s Next? The Twins return home Monday for a seven-game homestand. The first series is against the Royals beginning Monday night at 6:40 p.m. Joe Ryan is scheduled to make the start for the Twins against the Royals Kris Bubic. Postgame Interview (Bally Sports Tweets) Coming soon. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
  21. The above graph plots hitting performance with OPS (on-base + slugging percentage) without runners in scoring position on the x axis and with runners in scoring position on the y axis. A point on the gray diagonal line has equal performance with and without RISP. The further a point is vertically above the line, the better the hitter performs with RISP relative to their performance without. Those hitters are performing in important spots. The farther below the line, the more the hitter is coming up empty in big moments relative to their performance otherwise. A few things stand out: The Twins have 4 players who have hit significantly better with RISP and 4 who have hit significantly worse. As a team though, they hold a 0.723 OPS with RISP (#20 in MLB) and a 0.632 OPS with RISP and 2 outs (#28 in MLB). Ryan Jeffers has the team's most extreme splits. He owns a 0.553 OPS without RISP compared to a team-high 1.011 OPS with. Gary Sánchez has large splits as well. Carlos Correa deserves special mention. Without RISP, he's third among qualifying Twins with an 0.803 OPS. With RISP, only Nick Gordon has performed worse. Jorge Polanco has the most plate appearances with RISP on the Twins. Thankfully, he has come through with an 0.861 OPS in those crucial spots. Note that this analysis is best viewed as descriptive of past performance rather than predictive of future performance. A future tidbit will compare numbers with and without RISP in previous seasons to see if these splits carry over at all from year to year.
  22. On May 24th, the Twins defeated the Tigers 2-0 in a seven-inning masterpiece from Sonny Gray. The Twins won their sixth straight game and nine of their last 11. They opened up a 5.5 game lead in the division and had 10 straight games against the Royals and Tigers to boot. Things started to unravel the next day. Trevor Megill gave up a game-winning two-run homer to Jeimer Candelario in the 10th and the Twins lost 4-2. Unfortunately, that was more of a foreshadow than an anomaly. Since that day, the Twins have given up 93 homers, tied for the third-most in baseball. The Twins are 30-37 since Gray’s 10-strikeout, shutout gem. They have a team ERA of 4.59 in that span, the fifth-highest in baseball. Their team Win Probability Added of negative-5.44 is the second-lowest in the majors. The pitching staff has been a borderline disaster, evidenced by Joe Ryan’s 5.33 ERA in his last 10 starts. Recognizing these major holes, the Twins’ braintrust went out and got three good pitchers in Jorge López, Tyler Mahle, and Michael Fulmer. A shaky staff now looks more stable, at least on paper. Of course, the guys need to perform on the field. López has already blown a save, Mahle gave up three homers in his Twins’ debut, and Fulmer gave up a critical homer to Chris Taylor in Wednesday’s loss. Beyond them, Griffin Jax has been anything but his solid self from the first half. Jax now has a 4.03 ERA in 42 appearances, thanks to three blowups in his last 10 outings. Add in the inconsistent playing time of Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa’s struggles, and myriad injuries, and it’s not difficult to see why the Twins have scuffled. The good news? The season doesn’t end today. If it did, the Twins wouldn’t make the playoffs. Max Kepler isn't hitting, Correa hasn't hit since May, and Alex Kirilloff's wrist injury evaporated some much-needed left-handed upside in the lineup. Even then, the Twins are tied with Houston for the 8th-highest team wOBA (.326) since May 25th. They're tied with the Cardinals for the seventh-highest Weighted Runs Created Plus (113) in that span. While sometimes inconsistent, the offense has mostly done its part. The worst of the six division winners in 2022 will certainly come out of the American League Central. It's unlikely the Twins, White Sox, or Guardians would make a run in October. Even then, it's absolutely worth the excitement of ending the treacherous 18-game Postseason losing streak. Playoff games at Target Field is the goal. So What’s Next? If this is truly the low point for the 2022 Twins, that’s good news. They have 52 games remaining, including 17 against the Guardians and White Sox (33%). 16 of the Twins’ next 19 games are against teams currently below .500, with 13 of those at Target Field. The Twins have 28 games, or roughly 54% of their schedule, against teams currently below .500. Of the Twins’ final 26 games, 14 are against the White Sox or Guardians. There’s plenty of opportunites to make up ground. For as rough as the Twins have looked, no one remembers what the standings were on August 11th. Of the 16 games in September/October that aren’t against their two divisional threats, 12 are against the Royals, Tigers, and Angels. The other four are at Yankee Stadium. The Twins have the 10th-easiest remaining schedule entering play Thursday. They need to perform. The Twins have the most head-to-head games remaining among the three contenders in the Central, which ultimately gives them an advantage. They control their own destiny here. Will they seize the moment? Comment your thoughts below!
  23. As the Minnesota Twins closely monitor the condition of Byron Buxton’s knee, at least one fan thinks the whole situation has gone too far. “There’s a difference between hurt and injured, and sometimes you have to play hurt,” said Charlie Johnsrud, 54, a real slob. “I think the Twins know this, but they’re coddling him a little bit.” The Bloomington-based call center manager, who has called in sick to work because of a hangover twice in the last three months, claims it’s unusual for a team’s superstar to take so many days off. “I just think, given the financial commitment the team made to him, that he has to put his big boy pants on,” said the twice-divorced goon, who has a pair of sweatpants he calls “my going-out ones.” Johnsrud, who would drink the dipping sauce from Raising Cane’s out of a pint glass if people would just be cool about it, thinks Buxton’s patellar tendinitis is as mental as it is physical. “He’s had a ton of injuries in his career, so he’s probably paranoid,” said Johnsrud, whose unused Lifetime Fitness membership is entering its fourth year. “He needs to get out of his head and onto the field, just saying.” With the team out of first place for the first time in months, he thinks the urgency of the moment demands action. “When I threw out my back, I still had to go to work,” said Johnsrud, who actually took two weeks off to recuperate after his cat scared him while he was on the toilet. “Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. They need all hands on deck.” Johnsrud, who attacks a Culver’s ButterBurger with a ferocity not usually seen outside the animal kingdom, still considers himself a Buxton fan. “I love the guy, I even bought a Buxton jersey last year. When he’s healthy he’s a beast.” Johnsrud could not confirm if the significant stain on the jersey was ketchup or spaghetti sauce, but agreed that it looks like Germany.
  24. Maybe this is a spoiler alert, but the answer should be “absolutely not!” The pinnacle of the sport is obviously a World Series, but to place that as the goal each season would be suggesting anything but an outcome afforded to one of thirty teams as a failure. Minnesota’s front office put a strong step forward at the trade deadline and to the club both for now and the future. In doing so, they’re still lightyears behind a Dodgers roster that has already surpassed 70 wins. Would it have been better to hang onto prospects and simply play for next year? Maybe Spencer Steer plays above his head and becomes the next Nolan Arenado. Maybe Cade Povich reaches the 200th percentile expectation and is the next Max Scherzer. None of that is likely, but it’s arguably as silly as worry about style points. It’s not the Twins fault that they play in the AL Central. Currently, the division is expected to be won by a team with somewhere around 84 victories. That’s just two above a .500 mark, and well below what the New York Yankees of the world will finish at. The Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Guardians continue to jockey for position alongside Minnesota, although no one has wanted to take a stranglehold on the lead. Minnesota isn’t alone in this pursuit. Both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals find themselves in similar scenarios within the NL Central. That division has three of the worst teams in baseball however, a run down even from the American League counterpart. Frustrations certainly reign for both of those clubs as well, but the focus is on making it to October. At no point in their future history will the Twins be seen as a World Series favorite. They can be a team that contends for one though, and half the battle in doing so is making the tournament. The 2021 Atlanta Braves won the World Series coming off a season in which they finished with just 88 regular season wins. They then went 11-5 in the Postseason, winning three consecutive series, and grabbing their ring. Better teams existed, but they were the one that got it done. Ultimately what happens against the Dodgers on a random weeknight holds little weight when it comes to a final resting place. You don’t need to play the game in order to be aware New York, Los Angeles, or any host of other clubs have a better roster than the Twins. The games are played though, because on any given night, a different outcome can take place. Rocco Baldelli’s club faces the Cleveland Guardians and Chicago White Sox a combined 17 times after September 1. We still have a few weeks left in August for teams to jockey for position, but nothing is going to be decided until next month anyway. Evaluating games daily makes sense from a performance perspective. Suggesting each one is reflective of eventual outcomes when viewed through a vacuum isn’t a worthwhile practice. The Twins need to get Trevor Larnach, Kenta Maeda, Josh Winder, and Bailey Ober back. They need to continue to gel and have Tyler Mahle look like an ace with Sonny Gray following behind him. They need the lineup to work consistently with Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton leading them. Over the duration of the next few weeks, Minnesota’s goal should be to stack wins, same as any other period. The reality though, is that there are no style points to reaching the Postseason. Get there. Get it done. That’s the message sent by the front office when they added at the deadline.
  25. Carlos Correa has had a weird 2022 season with the Minnesota Twins, who brought him in as a second superstar to hopefully pair with Byron Buxton at the top of the lineup. His wRC+ of 122 indicating he’s been 22% above league average is perfectly acceptable, but in a down offensive year league wide, that number stems from his first sub .800 OPS since the shortened 2020 season. The way the rest of the season plays out may play a big part in whether Correa opts into his $35m option for 2023. Thus far, the Twins haven’t really gotten the Carlos Correa they expected when they handed out so much money to him this spring. Lacking in the Clutch Correa has become a legend because of his incredible clutch play in the postseason year after year. He owns a career .849 OPS in the playoffs with 18 homers and 59 RBI. Historically there are few players in baseball history you’d want up in a big spot when a game is on the line. Unfortunately for the Twins, that hasn’t played out at all this season. Look no further than Correa’s 37 RBI to see that he simply hasn’t cashed in when given the opportunity. With runners in scoring position, Correa has posted a triple slash of .231/.316/.292. An OPS of .608 which is good for 33 percent below the league average hitter in those situations. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Correa has been a complete non-factor, slashing .097/.200/.129, a .329 OPS. If you feel like Correa hasn’t really had many big moments in a Twins uniform at the plate, it’s hard to blame you. Clutch stats can only be looked at so closely as they’re typically pretty random. That being said, Correa’s severe failures in big situations has undoubtedly cost him some counting stats. While teams don’t value things like RBI like they used to, Correa is on pace for some of the worst marks of his career in several areas. Not a great time for it considering he’s seeking a massive long-term contract this winter. Defensive Disappointment Personally, it’s felt like Correa hasn’t been the gold glove caliber defender we expected at shortstop, and upon further investigation, this turns up true in just about every defensive measure you can find. Fangraphs defensive value measurement pegs Correa at a perfectly neutral 0.0 value added on defense this season. He’s been well above average in this statistic in every season of his career since 2016. In addition, Correa scores a -3 Outs Above Average on Statcast, tied with Tim Anderson, Alcides Escobar, and Isaiah Kiner-Falefa for 26th among shortstops league-wide. He’s also on pace for his worst mark in Defensive Runs saved since his rookie season. The newer defensive metrics are tricky and many don’t trust them for good reason. Looking at base defensive measures, however, tells the same story. Correa’s fielding percentage of .975 is his worst since his rookie year and he’s on a full-season pace for a career-high in errors. It goes without saying that in search of a long-term deal at 27 years old, Correa can expect significantly less from teams if they suspect his defensive future at the premium shortstop position is going to be short-lived. At 6 foot 4, Correa had questions dating back to draft day about his ability to stick at shortstop. As he gets into his late 20s, a down season defensively would surely be cited in free agency to try to drive down his price by teams trying to lock him up for the next 8-10 years. Carlos Correa has been far from a bad player in 2022, but for the price tag he has and the number of holes the Twins roster has had for much of the season, it’s fair to be disappointed with the level of output he’s provided. He’s on a 162-game pace of 3.2 Wins Above Replacement on Fangraphs, and trails Buxton, Kepler, Polanco and Arraez. He’s only half a win ahead of Trevor Larnach, who hasn’t played since the end of June. He’s tied with Sonny Gray who’s thrown all of 79 innings so far this year. Since July 1, crunch time for the Twins who hold a one-game lead in the division, Correa is hitting .183/.287/.333. Yet another measure of the Twins' $35m man failing to meet expectations when they’ve needed him most. And so in consideration of Correa’s future with the Twins, it’s fair to say it’s still very possible he opts out. Hitting free agency at the age of 28, it’s possible a team completely disregards 2022 and signs the Twins' current shortstop away long-term in pursuit of a superstar. That being said, you can expect Scott Boras to put out some feelers, and if he gets the sense teams are going to try to cite Correa’s disappointing 2022 season to nickel and dime them on a long-term deal, another one year, $35m deal to recoup some value certainly won’t be out of the cards. Do you think it’s possible Carlos Correa could opt back into the Twins contract in 2023? Do you agree that this has become more likely as the season has gone on? Let us know below!
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