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  1. Box Score SP: Joe Ryan 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K (103 pitches, 70 strikes (68 strike %)) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (3), Byron Buxton (11) Top 3 or Bottom 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.204), Gio Urshela (.119), Byron Buxton (.081) After a low-scoring game Saturday that was decided by a questionable rule that just won’t go away, the Twins got on the first run on the board against Guardians starter Tristen McKenzie with an RBI single from Max Kepler that scored Luis Arraez. Kepler was able to drive in Arraez because he stole his first base of the season and adding the Twins' season total stolen bases to seven. Clearly a sign of the times. The game remained scoreless through the next two innings thanks to Ryan’s pitching. Ryan cruised his way through the Guardians lineup until the top of the fourth when, with one out, Jose Ramirez hit a solo shot to right-center field tying the game 1-1. Even after the Ramirez homer, Ryan remained in control for the remainder of his start. Ryan had his first start with more than 100 pitches this season and kept his strike percentage at 68 percent, totaling five strikeouts. He also only allowed base runners via hits making Sunday his second start without a walk this season. With the game tied going into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Twins found a way to retake the lead thanks to a two-out solo home run from Gio Urshela. An inning later, the Twins' unofficial captain Byron Buxton added to the lead with his 11th home run of the season making it a 3-1 game. Buxton’s home run was called to be the 1,000th home run ever hit at Target Field by the Twins. However, thanks to research from Twins Dingers on Twitter, the home run was corrected to be the 999th home run by a Twin in Target Field’s history. Twins beat writer for MLB.com, Do Hyoung Park retweeted this finding by Twins Dingers to remind everyone the next home run hit by a Twin at Target Field will be the 1,000th. The Twins bullpen kept the Guardians scoreless in the seventh inning thanks to a perfect inning from Cody Stashak who struck out two of three batters faced. In the eighth inning, Joe Smith did allow one base runner, a Richie Palacios single, but Palacios did not score thanks to the relief effort of Smith and Caleb Theilbar. Emilio Pagan was given the ball for the save in the ninth inning and his third consecutive day with a relief appearance. Pagan had thrown 22 pitches Friday but only nine on Saturday making his availability to come into Sunday’s game for the save acceptable to Rocco Baldelli. Pagan completed the save giving up only one hit. He was helped by an outstanding defensive play at third base from Gio Urshela. The win brings the Twins record to 20-15 through their first 35 games this season and extends their lead over the Guardians for first place in the American League Central to three games. What’s Next? The Twins make their first road trip west this season. On Monday night, they begin another three-game series against the Oakland Athletics. Chris Archer is scheduled to go against Athletics 26-year-old lefty rookie Zach Logue. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Chart WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Stashak 0 46 0 0 13 59 Jax 0 0 50 0 0 50 Pagán 0 0 22 9 10 41 Thielbar 0 23 0 15 2 40 Duffey 0 33 0 5 0 38 Cano 0 36 0 0 0 36 Smith 0 0 4 15 9 28 Duran 0 0 10 12 0 22 Cotton 0 0 0 17 0 17
  2. The ball is dead. The ball remains dead. And Rob Manfred has killed it. One can barely watch a game or read a baseball article without someone mentioning just how short baseballs are flying compared to previous years. Perhaps MLB wanted to counter-act the previous “rabbit ball” era, perhaps they wanted to de-incentivize home runs to move away from three-true-outcome baseball, or perhaps Manfred is a foolish stooge. One cannot say with authority which statement is true, or if the answer includes some combo of the three, but the reality is thus: baseballs in 2022 are not flying as far as before. If the baseballs are dead, and they are, then flyball pitchers have the most to gain from such a development; their main weakness—one of those flyballs landing behind the fence—is neutered. The term “flyball pitcher” has become something of a swear in the juiced-ball age, implying a deficiency rather than describing a strategy. The main plus to being a flyball pitcher is that most true flyballs end up in gloves; flyballs held a .117 BABIP in 2018, and that number barely moves yearly. If flyballs are no longer as threatening as before, a team in 2022 could be more liberal with allowing them. For the Twins, that’s an important note. The team has the seventh-highest flyball rate in baseball, and many of the culprits holding that number up—Joe Ryan, Chris Archer, and Sonny Gray—the team targeted over the past year. Those pitchers have other desirable traits, so their flyball rate could be a secondary thought, but that consideration looms especially large this season. Of course, presumably, part of why the Twins targeted them involved other details; Target Field and outfield defense. If Target Field feels like it’s on the cavernous side of ballparks, that’s because it is. Statcast’s park factors claim that the stadium was the 10th best at suppressing homers between 2019-2021 and is generally slightly more of a pitcher’s park. That feels right. The high walls in right field block homers that would go out in the wiffleball field that is Yankee Stadium, while centerfield often plays like Death Valley, eating up flyballs for dinner. Righties have it better for hitting doubles, but it’s also the most challenging park for them to single in. A secondary point: that 2019 team looks even more impressive when you consider that the team hit many of those homers in a park that is bad for power. The exact characteristics that define Target Field aside, there’s one glaring, painfully obvious reason Target Field is more challenging for hitters: Byron Buxton. Buxton’s defense needs no introduction, so it won’t get one. Buxton is an out machine, whether you like OAA, UZR, DRS, or any other suspiciously New Deal Program-sounding acronyms. His presence in center is world-altering, attracting fly balls to his person so he can gobble them up in a SportsCenter Top 10-esque diving catch or during a mid-sprint effort that only looks easy because Buxton makes it look so. Even his backup, Gilberto Celestino, currently is in the 84th percentile of outfielders by OAA, albeit in a minuscule sample size. In fact, let’s talk about those other outfielders; Max Kepler has long been one of the finest defensive right fielders in the game, ranking in the top 15 in MLB in OAA every full year since its introduction. Trevor Larnach is messier to analyze given his small sample, but Statcast at least thinks his route-running is good enough for an NFL wide receiver. Nick Gordon holds the least attractive numbers, but he has the athleticism to play in the outfield and should improve with more reps. It should be unsurprising that the Twins outfield is currently 1st in MLB in DRS, 3rd in OAA, and 3rd in UZR/150 innings. The ball does not fly as far as before, Twins pitchers are good at allowing fly balls, Target Field suppresses those fly balls, and the Twins outfield will probably catch them. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are either cracked-out geniuses or fortunate individuals because they have quietly built a perfect relationship between the ball, pitcher, park, and defense. That combination has not only fueled their success so far in 2022, but it will probably carry them to many victories as the season continues.
  3. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Ryan 4 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 K Homeruns: None Bottom 3 WPA: Ryan -.209, Urshela -.069, Kepler -.068 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Tuesday’s game was billed as one of the best pitching matchups of the season, as Joe Ryan took on Justin Verlander. Entering the contest, the pitchers had remarkably similar statistics on the year, while the Twins and Astros had identical 18-11 records. The Astros made Joe Ryan work in the first inning. Despite this, he pitched around a walk of Alex Bregman to manage a scoreless frame. Justin Verlander, despite Gary Sanchez's scalding a line drive to left field, managed a hitless first inning of his own. Ryan struggled in the top of the second, surrendering a leadoff hit before walking Kyle Tucker for his second free pass in as many innings. After a fly ball moved Yuli Gurriel to third, a Jeremy Pena groundout gave the Astros a 1-0 lead. Verlander, meanwhile, continued to cruise, retiring the side in order to sit at just 23 pitches after two hitless innings. In the fourth inning, Ryan walked Kyle Tucker with one out. Tucker stole second and came around to score on a bloop single from Pena with two outs. Ryan struck out Martin Maldonado to end the fourth inning trailing 2-0. Ryan had poor command and did not look sharp on Tuesday. It’s perhaps a testament to him that he managed to keep the game close, despite walking four and throwing 83 pitches through four innings. Verlander sat at just 43 pitches through four hitless innings. The Twins produced poor at-bats against the future Hall-of-Famer, but he also threw 81% strikes. A Jose Altuve bloop single and Joe Ryan’s fifth walk of the game led off the fifth inning for Houston. An Alex Bregman double increased the lead to 3-0 with runners of second and third and none out and ended Ryan’s night, undoubtedly his most disappointing outing of the season. Danny Coulombe entered the game and managed to limit the damage to just one more run. The Twins entered the bottom of the fifth inning trailing 4-0. Verlander allowed his first base runner in the fifth inning when Jorge Polanco walked. Gio Urshela promptly grounded into a double play to immediately end any inkling of Twins resistance. In the sixth inning, Coulombe exited the game, the latest in a litany of injured players. He was replaced by Jharel Cotton. The Astros tacked on another run, pushing the score to 5-0. Gilberto Celestino took the Twins' second walk of the game in the sixth inning but he was thrown out trying to take second base on an errant pitch from Verlander, who faced the minimum through six innings. Jharel Cotton continued to pitch admirably for the Twins as he was asked to eat as many innings as possible to preserve the bullpen through the rest of the series. He pitched scoreless seventh and eight innings. Verlander finally lost his no-hit bid with one out in the eighth inning. Gio Urshela punched an opposite field single to give the Twins just their third base runner of the game. The crowd sounded their appreciation, both for Urshela, and Verlander's masterful performance. Tuesday's game was the second time this season the Twins were at risk of being no-hit by a future Hall of Fame pitcher. Royce Lewis grounded into a double play to erase the runner, and get Verlander through eight one-hit innings, striking out five. The Twins managed to get two runners aboard in the bottom of the ninth, advancing a runner to second base for the first time in the game! Jose Miranda flew out to centerfield to complete the shutout for the Astros. the loss dropped the Twins to 18-12 on the season. If nothing else, the Astros effortless swatting of the Twins on Tuesday emphasized the easy ride Minnesota has had with their recent schedule. A lineup without Buxton, Arraez, and Correa looked toothless. The Astros provided the first stern test for a severely undermanned Twins team. Verlander was brilliant. The Twins failed comprehensively. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Cotton 0 0 0 0 58 58 Pagán 28 0 28 0 0 56 Coulombe 0 12 0 0 29 41 Stashak 0 0 34 0 0 34 Duran 0 31 0 0 0 31 Thielbar 0 0 20 0 3 23 Duffey 11 0 9 0 0 20 Jax 0 19 0 0 0 19 Smith 6 0 12 0 0 18 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their series against the Astros. Chris Archer will start for Minnesota while José Urquidy starts for Houston. The first pitch is at 6:40 CT Postgame Interviews - Coming Soon
  4. Last Week's Game Results: Game 23 | MIN 2, BAL 1: Paddack, Bullpen Power Twins in Win Game 24 | MIN 7, BAL 2: Twins Stay Hot Behind Ryan, Bats Game 25 | BAL 9, MIN 4: Bad Start, Bad Defense, Bad Luck Game 26 | BAL 5, MIN 3: Solo Shots Shatter Twins Game 27 | MIN 2, OAK 1: Game of Firsts Ends in Victory Game 28 | MIN 1, OAK 0: Polanco and Pitching Power Another Win Game 29 | MIN 4, OAK 3: Bullpen Completes Sweep of Oakland Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/2 through Sun, 5/8 *** Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 18-11) Run Differential Last Week: +2 (Overall: +25) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA) NEWS & NOTES Things looked grim after Carlos Correa took a pitch off the hand on Thursday night in Baltimore, with post-game X-rays suggesting the potential of a non-displaced fracture. Twins fans couldn't be blamed for their incredulity ... another HBP knocking out a superstar player for an extended period?? But unlike last year, when Byron Buxton's broken hand was just another big ol' drop in the endless bucket of bad luck, the Twins again got some unexpected positive news upon further testing, with a Friday CT scan showing only a bruise. Correa avoided the injured list, just like Buxton did last month after his scary slide into second at Fenway. Even with Correa staying active, the Twins still called up top prospect Royce Lewis to fill in at shortstop over the weekend, adding an extra level of energy to their home series against Oakland. Lewis has gotten his MLB career off to a solid start, with three hits in his first 10 at-bats. Buxton himself appears to have dodged another scary setback. He left Saturday's game due to tightness in his right hip – the same spot where a significant strain cost him six weeks last year – but the the new issue was described as "very low level" and he too avoided an IL trip. The good breaks in the wake of bad news didn't stop there. COVID reared its ugly head in the Twins clubhouse once again, with manager Rocco Baldelli as well as Luis Arraez and Dylan Bundy all testing positive on Thursday. But by the end of the weekend, no one else on the team had registered a positive test, which qualifies as a big relief given the level of contagion we've seen with this virus. It wasn't all happy outcomes, however. Trevor Larnach suffered a groin strain that forced him to IL, which is especially unfortunate because he was really cooking (as we'll cover shortly). The team is confident that his absence will be a short one – hopefully only around the 10-day minimum – but still the Twins will be without one of their most effective hitters of late. Alex Kirilloff has activated after a rehab stint in St. Paul, but the jury is very much out on his ability to make an impact with his balky wrist. And, ss it turns out, Miguel Sanó's balky left knee was serious enough to require a surgical remedy. He underwent a procedure to repair torn meniscus, and figures to be out for a couple of months, though no firm timetable has been established. With top prospect José Miranda called up to replace him and likely to see a bulk of time at first base, it's possible that Sanó will return to find his job taken. He may be reaching the end of the road in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Chris Paddack left Sunday's start with inflammation in his right elbow, which was a big issue last year when he battled a partially torn UCL that required a PRP injection. Very unsettling, but we'll see what comes out from further exams on Sunday. I guess we've learned better than to jump to negative conclusions. HIGHLIGHTS This pitching staff is incredible. What else can you say? Even within the context of a drastic decline in offense across the league, Twins pitchers are simply crushing it. The past week featured four games in which opponents were held to two runs or fewer, including a pair of 2-1 squeakers and a 1-0 victory. A certain amount of good luck is inherently at play when you're scratching out wins like these. But the staff is legitimately winning games, and it's valuable to bank them while the bats continue to lag amidst a league-wide hitting scourge. Great performances are coming from all corners of the rotation and bullpen. Sonny Gray returned from the injured list on Saturday with an electric performance against Oakland, striking out seven over four scoreless innings. The previous day saw Josh Winder obliterate the A's in his second MLB start: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. The combination of he and Joe Ryan, who looked good once again in Tuesday's win over Baltimore and now sports a 1.63 ERA, is almost too much to handle. This franchise has been starved for impact rookie pitchers. Now we've got ALL the impact rookie pitchers. Of course, this conversation wouldn't be complete without a mention of Jhoan Duran, who's been just as uplifting to the bullpen as Ryan and Winder in the rotation. Duran was on his way to an appearance in the Lowlights column this week after allowing two homers and taking the loss on Thursday. Then he went out on Saturday and cemented a 1-0 win with two absurdly dominant innings. He allowed no hits. He struck out five. He got nine whiffs on 32 pitches. I'm not sure prime Aroldis Chapman comparisons are out of bounds at this point. Duran is lighting up the radar gun and flat-out blowing people away. His only weakness so far has been an odd proneness to the long ball – with four of the 10 hits he's allowed in 14 ⅔ leaving the yard – but that seems very flukish to me. The bullpen, in general, has been simply phenomenal. Over the past week Twins relievers allowed just three earned runs in 33 innings, good for a 0.87 ERA with a 38-to-6 K/BB ratio in 31 innings. The shockingly effective relief unit was absolutely pivotal in a weekend sweep of the Athletics. While the offense has been underwhelming overall, it's nice to see some secondary contributors stepping up, especially with Correa and Buxton hobbled. Larnach has been making a very strong impression, and getting plenty of tread. He started five of seven games last week before the groin injury surfaced, going 6-for-15 with a pair of doubles and five runs scored. Jorge Polanco notched nine hits in 25 at-bats, including the decisive solo shot in Saturday's win. José Miranda launched his first career home run and made it count in a 2-1 Friday win. Gilberto Celestino tallied six hits in 15 at-bats to push his average to .324. LOWLIGHTS It was a tough week for Bundy. His positive COVID diagnosis came on the heels of a nightmare outing against his former team in Baltimore. Over 3 ⅔ innings, he was touched up for a career-high nine earned runs, with the Orioles piling up 11 hits, two walks and two home runs in a ballpark that had been suppressing offense to the extreme. Bundy had given up six earned runs over six innings in his previous start, so he's seen his ERA balloon from 0.59 to 5.76 in a span of two outings. No one expected the extraordinarily strong start to sustain, but this is a jarring regression to the mean by any standard. It's the kind of all-out implosion that can put an inexpensive back-of-rotation flier like Bundy on the ropes very quickly in a suddenly crowded rotation. TRENDING STORYLINE Rotation adjustments lie ahead of the Twins. Even with Paddack going down, their starting mix is full between Gray, Ryan, Winder, Bundy, and Chris Archer. Bailey Ober is expected back in relatively short order. An overabundance of starting pitching depth is certainly not a "problem" anyone expected the Twins to deal with, and it's almost funny we're discussing it. Nevertheless, here we are. Even if they're cool to continue rolling with six, what happens when Ober is ready to come back? How many more bad outings can Bundy afford? Is it possible a move to the bullpen might breathe some life into his upper-80s fastball? LOOKING AHEAD Things get a bit more challenging this week with the Astros and Guardians coming to town. The Twins will need to play better ball than they did against Oakland if they want to win these series. How much will Buxton and Correa play? We shall see. TUESDAY, 5/10: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Justin Verlander v. RHP Joe Ryan WEDNESDAY, 5/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Urquidy v. RHP Chris Archer THURSDAY, 5/12: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Luis Garcia v. RHP Josh Winder FRIDAY, 5/13: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Shane Bieber v. RHP Sonny Gray SATURDAY, 5/14: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Triston McKenzie v. TBD SUNDAY, 5/15: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Zach Plesac v. RHP Joe Ryan
  5. Rather than opting for an ace on the free-agent market like Carlos Rodon or Kevin Gausman, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine swung a deal for Sonny Gray. They flipped relief pitching for Chris Paddack. They came to terms on a low-risk offer for Dylan Bundy. They trusted both Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Now a month in, it’s hard to suggest they were anything but right. That said, there’s no denying that pitchers have had the upper hand thus far. When pitching in cooler temperatures the ball travels shorter distances and hitters are less comfortable. Those things will both change as the game-time temperatures warm up, so some level of regression is to be expected. How can each be evaluated individually thus far, though? Joe Ryan 5 G 27.2 IP 1.63 ERA 3.08 FIP 9.1 K/9 2.3 BB/9 The Twins Opening Day starter has done nothing to suggest he wasn’t deserving of that nod. He’s been all but dominant in each of his four turns, and despite a FIP that suggests some regression may come, he’s still pitching well above what you’d expect from a lower-velocity fastball. Ryan’s expected ERA is 2.94 which is a slight step backward, but still a dazzling number. Although he’s giving up slightly more hard-hit contact, he’s halved the barrel rate opponents are putting up against him from last season. He’s actually dialed back the fastball usage about 15% and poured it into his slider, a pitch Minnesota's coaches love. He’s throwing about one mph harder this season, and he’s upped the whiff rate to 12.7%. Ryan is giving up even less contact than last season, and although batters are chasing a bit less often, they just haven’t been able to figure him out. There’s little opportunity for Ryan not to go down as the greatest trade return in Twins history. Flipping two months of an aging veteran for a guy profiling as a staff ace is incredible. Statcast seems to agree, and no level of regression should knock him out of being a significant contributor. Sonny Gray 2 G 6.1 IP 5.68 ERA 7.03 FIP 7.1 K/9 4.3 BB/9 It’s pretty impossible to draw conclusions on Gray from two short starts and then a stint on the Injured List. If anything, it’s heartwarming to feel like a better version will return for Minnesota. Gray’s velocity was down in the time he has spent on the mound, but again he pitched in cold and through injury. There’s not much reason to spend time here breaking down what was. The Twins traded for Gray because getting him out of Cincinnati should mean better production in a more friendly ballpark. This is all still to be determined. Bailey Ober 4 G 19.2 IP 2.75 ERA 3.54 FIP 7.3 K/9 2.3 BB/9 Of the two Twins holdovers, it may have been Ober that was more questionable despite the longer track record. He had less prospect pedigree and made it work to the tune of a 4.19 ERA last season. In year two, he’s been more stingy with the home runs, although walks are up and strikeouts are down. That said, he’s still showing plenty of reason to believe in the FIP category and it’s because of deception. Ober has a fastball that plays up because of his stature. Being so tall means the 92 mph pitch gets on batters quicker. He’s limited hard-hit contact, and while his stuff isn’t overpowering, the 37.7% chase rate means batters are playing into his pitches. Allowing Ober to expand the zone gives him more ways to beat you, and he’s been successful doing that thus far. Like Ryan, Minnesota has taken a chunk of fastball usage and put it into Ober’s slider. The results have been positive so far, and it makes for a guy whose floor continues to rise. Dylan Bundy 4 G 21.1 IP 2.95 ERA 2.94 FIP 8.0 K/9 1.3 BB/9 A guy that finished in the top 10 for Cy Young voting just two seasons ago shouldn’t be considered a breakthrough, but Bundy looked lost last year with the Angels. Now he’s still striking guys out, not giving up walks, and being tight with the longball. Bundy’s velocity is about the only thing on his Statcast profile that doesn’t scream amazing. He’s avoiding the barrel, confusing batters, generating soft contact, and everything about the results suggests sustainability. The 89.7 mph average fastball velocity is a career-low, but he’s only using the pitch 38.9% of the time. The splitter/slider combination is serving him well and everything else aligns with career norms. Minnesota didn’t have Bundy reinvent the wheel, but sequencing and pitchability have led him to a place where contact has avoided an opportunity for damage. The Twins have a strong infield defense and generating ground balls 48% of the time is only going to help turn batted balls into outs. Chris Paddack 4 G 20.0 IP 3.15 ERA 1.93 FIP 7.2 K/9 0.9 BB/9 Swinging a deal for Paddack, the Twins sought to find the guy who posted a 3.33 ERA for the Padres as a rookie. A few tweaks in and they may have unlocked something. Rather than having him pitch in the middle of the zone, Minnesota has elevated his target on fastballs and the results have been encouraging. Despite pitching in cold weather to start the season for the first time, Paddack has only seen a minor dip in velocity. The Twins have also pushed their new arm to utilize a slider and his curveball more, which has taken focus away from an exceptional changeup. He’s been among the best in baseball when it comes to limiting walks, and keeping runners off the basepaths has allowed him to avoid significant damage. Paddack’s numbers are good as they are, and they’d be even better if not for bad 1st innings in each of his first two starts. Getting this type of pitcher under team control in exchange for a reliever was always going to be a win, but Minnesota’s changes could bear significant fruit for both parties. There’s a lot of good news across this rotation. That’s not to say steps backward won’t happen, because the level they are currently competing at is truly extraordinary. That being said, it’s not as though the numbers are backed by truth, and even a bit of evening out looks to stay within a good place. When everyone was clamoring for the big names, Minnesota’s front office instead trusted the process to show big improvements derived from their internal belief.
  6. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Ryan 4.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO Homeruns: Jeffers (3) Top 3 WPA: Jeffers .330, Thielbar .133, Polanco .091 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Here’s how the Twins lined up in the second game of their four-game series against the Orioles. In the Twins lineup for the second consecutive day, the news that Jose Miranda made the big league club was making the rounds. The expectations for Joe Ryan have become absurdly high. While he wasn’t as dominant as he was in his last start against Detroit, he continued to impress, working quickly and effectively. His first inning was prolonged by a throwing error from Gio Urshela, allowing Trey Mancini to reach base. Ryan plunked Santander before wriggling out of the inning, despite throwing 25 pitches. The Twins meanwhile, continued their offensive trend from Monday’s game, struggling to put together effective at-bats against Orioles' standout Bruce Zimmerman. The game remained scoreless through three innings, due to some excellent defensive work from Carlos Correa. The Twins finally broke through in the fourth, with Miranda drilling a double into the right-center field gap, to collect his first hit and first RBI as Urshela scored from first base. In the bottom of the fourth, the Twins fell upon some incredibly bad luck. Austin Hays led off the inning with an infield single after drilling a ball into home plate at 77 mph. Rougned Odor followed up with a 42.8 mph double off the end of the bat, that just beat the shift. Tyler Nevin then reached on an error from Correa as the Orioles tied the game at 1-1. Just when it looked like the Orioles were in for a big inning, Anthony Bemboom flew into a double play, with Buxton doubling off Tyler Nevin at second base. Incredibly, Ryan managed to escape with just one run surrendered, taking the game to the fifth inning tied The Twins and Orioles traded one-run fifth innings. The Twins scored in the top of the inning with a Polanco single up the middle, after the Twins had two men on, and none out. The Orioles immediately replied in the bottom of the inning when a Mancini single scored Cedric Mullins, who had doubled to start the inning. Santander grounded into a force-out, blasting a ball at Ryan, who fielded, and threw to second to get Mancini, benefiting from a beautiful stretch and pick by Correa. In the sixth inning, the Twins finally opened up a meaningful lead. Gary Sanchez doubled and Trevor Larnach (who entered the game for Max Kepler) walked, to put runners on first and second with one out. Ryan Jeffers then deposited a three-run home run to left-center field. Jeffers, while not the same caliber of slugger as Mitch Garver, has played extremely well this season. Through the first month, he has put up a 107 wRC+, with excellent defense and framing numbers to boot. Caleb Thielbar worked through five outs of scoreless relief, striking out two. He was followed by Tyler Duffey, who managed five additional outs of scoreless relief. Thielbar and Duffey starting to get back on track will be of great relief to Twins fans, given their early-season struggles. Back-to-back doubles from Gilberto Celestino and Byron Buxton increased the lead to four in the ninth inning. Carlos Correa added another double, moving Buxton to third base with no outs. A Jorge Polanco sacrifice fly scored Buxton, increasing the lead to 7-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. Cody Stashak pitched a scoreless ninth to give the Twins the win. Minnesota is 4-1 on their current road trip, has won 11 of their last 12, and has moved to 15-9 on the young season. Winning is fun, and the Twins don't look to be slowing down anytime soon. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Jax 46 0 0 0 15 0 61 Duffey 8 0 0 17 0 18 43 Stashak 18 0 14 0 0 11 43 Coulombe 0 35 0 0 0 0 35 Thielbar 0 0 15 0 0 18 33 Duran 0 0 20 0 10 0 30 Pagán 0 0 0 0 27 0 27 Smith 0 0 9 0 2 0 11 Moran 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their series in Baltimore against the Orioles. Dylan Bundy will look to rebound from a poor outing in Tampa. Kyle Bradish goes for Baltimore. The first pitch is at 6:05 CT Postgame Interviews
  7. April can be challenging for batters and pitchers with cold weather and other adverse conditions. These pitchers posted impressive numbers even if those numbers didn't translate to the rest of the season. Here are the top-4 Aprils for starting pitchers in Twins history. 4. Bill Krueger (1992): 4 GS, 32.0 IP, 0.84 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 16 K, 4 BB, 0.99 WPA Bill Krueger is probably a very unfamiliar name to younger Twins fans, but he got off to a tremendous start to the 1992 season. Minnesota was coming off a World Series title, and they wanted to start the season on the right foot. During his first four starts, batters hit .165/.195/.220 (.415) against him as he pounded the strike zone. He picked up the win in all four appearances, but his fifth win didn't come until May 24. He'd pitch closer to his career totals over the next few months, and in August, the Twins traded him to the Montreal Expos for outfielder Darren Reed. 3. Francisco Liriano (2010): 4 GS, 29.0 IP, 0.93 ERA, 0.97 WHP, 27 K, 10 BB, 1.02 WPA The 2010 season was a special time in Minnesota as Target Field opened, and the Twins played to packed home crowds that entire season. Liriano got out of the gate quickly as he averaged more than seven innings per start that month and his three earned runs all came in his first start. He collected over 200 strikeouts by season's end while leading the AL in HR/9. After the calendar turned to May, his ERA quickly started going in the wrong direction, but he pitched close to 200 innings and helped the Twins win the AL Central title. 2. Joe Ryan (2022): 4 GS, 23.0 IP, 1.17 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 25 K, 6 BB, 0.92 WPA Starting pitching continues to evolve, and Ryan is one of the biggest success stories of the current regime. His 0.6 fWAR ranks in the top-20 among all starters, and he leads all of baseball in H/9. All of the runs scored against him have come off two home runs in his first two outings. He's also showing he can rely less on his fastball as he used it over 65% of the time last season, and he is down to 52% in 2022. It's doubtful for Ryan to keep these numbers for an entire season, but his performance level is far above what one would expect from a rookie. 1. Ervin Santana (2017): 5 GS, 35.0 IP, 0.77 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 26 K, 10 BB, 1.44 WPA Santana's tenure with the Twins didn't end ideally, so fans may forget how dominant he was at the beginning of the 2017 season. He averaged seven innings per start and pitched a complete game shutout in his third appearance of the year. Even though this is only five seasons ago, it seems like a lifetime when looking at Santana averaging 100 pitches per start. Later in the season, he was named to his second and final All-Star team. He led all baseball with five complete games and three shutouts, and he finished seventh in the AL Cy Young voting. How would you rank these players' April performances? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. Last Week's Game Results: Game 17 | MIN 5, DET 4: Wild Final Play Extends Win Streak to 5 Game 18 | MIN 5, DET 0: Twins Win Again in Another Great Ryan Start Game 19 | MIN 7, DET 1: Twins Sweep, Correa Comes Up Clutch Game 20 | TB 6, MIN 1: Bundy Roughed Up Early, Win Streak Over Game 21 | MIN 9, TB 1: Garlick Powers Twins to Lopsided Win Game 22 | MIN 9, TB 3: Winder Dominates, Twins Take Series Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/25 through Sun, 5/1 *** Record Last Week: 5-1 (Overall: 13-9) Run Differential Last Week: +21 (Overall: +23) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA) NEWS & NOTES While on his way to another strong outing on Thursday, with one run allowed through 3 ⅔ against Detroit, Bailey Ober was bothered by discomfort in his groin. He exited and headed to the injured list with what is hopefully a minor groin strain. Cole Sands was called up to replace him on the roster and provide length in the bullpen, and debuted on Sunday. Outside of that, it was a week mostly filled with relatively minor injuries and precautionary sittings. Gary Sánchez missed a few games due to soreness, but returned to action with no apparent issues. Byron Buxton was scratched on Saturday after suffering a hand contusion on an HBP Friday night. He returned to the lineup on Sunday and homered. Miguel Sanó played only two games due to knee soreness that first emerged on Tuesday and flared up on Saturday. He was placed on IL after Sunday's game and replaced on the roster by José Godoy. Meanwhile, they'll also need to soon find room for Alex Kirilloff and Sonny Gray, who are both on the comeback trail in the minors. HIGHLIGHTS I'm running out of superlatives for Joe Ryan. Or should I say, Joe Cool? Joe-lan Ryan? What the rookie is doing on the mound has been absolutely incredible for someone of his age and experience level. Calm, cool and collected, he just keeps mowing down opposing lineups. Most recently he matched a career-high with seven innings of shutout, one-hit ball against the Tigers, striking out nine with one walk as the Twins cruised to a 5-0 victory. Ryan continues to unleash a more balanced mix with heavier usage of the slider, to outstanding effect with opponents batting .185 and slugging .239 against the pitch. Ryan was very pleased to get some support in that outing from Carlos Correa, who is finally starting to put a slow start behind him. His defense has consistently been stellar but Correa is now beginning to wake up at the plate, with a three-hit, three-RBI game on Thursday snapping the shortstop out of a 4-for-26 slump. He carried his breakout over into the weekend series at Tampa, where he notched seven hits in 13 at-bats with a pair of RBIs and four runs scored. Joining him in the offensive awakening was Max Kepler, who followed up his strong series against the White Sox with a power display against Detroit, launching three homers and a double with five RBIs to key the lineup. Those three games raised his slugging percentage from .300 to .475, and by week's end it was all the way up to .514 following another strong series at Tropicana (3-for-9, HR, 2B, 4 RBI). Another development that simply must be highlighted is the rapid emergence of Griffin Jax in the bullpen. This was always seen as a hopeful possibility, but the weaponization of Jax as a reliever has occurred much more quickly and smoothly than anyone could've expected. Jax pitched twice in the Detroit series, tossing four scoreless innings with four strikeouts. In five relief appearances he has a 2.00 ERA and 11-to-3 K/BB ratio and 16% swinging strike rate. The elevation of his stuff in shorter stints has made a night-and-day difference. Here's a side-by-side look at his Statcast measurables from last year (as a starter) compared to this year. The increases in whiff rate and chase rate are staggering. Some other noteworthy performances from an absolutely outstanding week for the Twins: Josh Winder dazzled in his first major-league start on Sunday. Handed a big early lead, the rookie was workmanlike as he rattled off six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and one walk. He was efficient and in command while mixing a heavy dose of sharp sliders and curveballs with a fastball that averaged 95 MPH. Winder looks phenomenal. Minnesota's new bullpen kingpin made only one appearance on the week, but it was a brilliant one for Jhoan Duran: two perfect innings with three strikeouts in Saturday's blowout win over the Rays. Duran now has an 18-to-2 K/BB ratio through 11 MLB innings. Chris Paddack continued to show why the Twins targeted him in a pristine outing on Tuesday against Detroit, hurling 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball to set the stage for a wild walk-off win. Since struggling in his Twins debut against the Dodgers, Paddack has allowed three runs in 10.2 IP with a 10-to-1 K/BB ratio. Drawing four starts in six games against a lefty-heavy slate, Kyle Garlick showed why he's on the roster and why he gets slotted into the heart of the order against southpaws. He went 3-or-8 with three walks and made all of those hits count, including a pair of home runs against a dealing Shane McClanahan on Saturday. Unfortunately, he came out of Sunday's contest with right calf soreness and may be headed to the shelf. LOWLIGHTS Is the clock striking midnight on Caleb Thielbar's cinderella story? He struggled in another outing against Detroit on Tuesday, charged with two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. It was the third time in seven appearances Thielbar allowed a crooked number, which is not what you like to see from a one-inning reliever. Even after rebounding with a scoreless frame on Saturday, his ERA sits at 12.79 on the season. Thielbar's stuff has looked okay, and it's evident some bad luck has been at play (for example, Emilio Pagán coming in and immediately giving up a home run to score both runners Thielbar put aboard). Some patience is warranted based on his performance in 2020 and '21. But still: we're talking about a 35-year-old who was out of the majors for four years prior. And roster spots (both 26-man and 40-man) are at a premium for the team right now. It was otherwise difficult to find many bad performances in such a stellar week of baseball for the Twins. Dylan Bundy hit a speed bump with six earned runs allowed on Friday, but still delivered six innings. A few hitters had quiet runs, but obviously not enough to slow down the offense much overall. The Twins are playing clean, consistent baseball, letting their opponents make the mistakes and capitalizing when that happens. Rebounding after a beatdown in the Rays opener to outscore Tampa 18-4 on Saturday and Sunday was a remarkable showing of resilience. The first month of this 2022 season has felt like a polar opposite of 2021. TRENDING STORYLINE It's a nice problem to have, especially compared to last year, but the Twins are quickly running into a shortage of roster spots for all the players they'd like to have around. MLB teams must reduce their rosters from 28 to 26 on Monday, and the Twins were already facing a coming crunch with Gray and Kirilloff on their way back from IL. Ober seemingly won't be out long so they also need to plan around his return. There's another factor coming into play too: a scorching hot Royce Lewis at Triple-A. He went 7-for-16 last week with a home run, two doubles, two steals, six walks and only three strikeouts. Lewis is absolutely tearing it up in his first real action for more than two years, with a .320/.441/.587 slash line through 21 games in St. Paul. Lewis stated before the season his intention to prove himself ready for the big leagues, and he's doing exactly that. Obviously there is no short-term opening at shortstop for the Twins, but you wonder if they'll start mixing in some looks at other positions to create a path for him. Showing sharpness at third base or in the outfield corners open one up. This idea is not so much fanciful as it is practical – Lewis is already on the 40-man roster and the Twins could potentially use a right-handed bat with both Garlick and Sanó hurting. (Notably, José Miranda would also be a fit...) LOOKING AHEAD With the Rays out of the way, the Twins now rolling into what should – theoretically – be one of their softest stretches of the year. The Orioles and Athletics are barely trying this year so the coming week represents a chance to fatten up before things get considerably tougher with the Astros and Guardians following on the schedule. On Monday, Paddack is scheduled to face off against old friend Tyler Wells in Baltimore. MONDAY, 5/2: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Chris Paddack v. RHP Tyler Wells TUESDAY, 5/3: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Joe Ryan v. LHP Bruce Zimmermann WEDNESDAY, 5/4: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Dylan Bundy v. RHP Kyle Bradish THURSDAY, 5/5: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Chris Archer v. RHP Spenser Watkins FRIDAY, 5/6: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – LHP Cole Irvin v. RHP Josh Winder SATURDAY, 5/7: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP James Kaprielian v. RHP Chris Paddack SUNDAY, 5/8: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP Daulton Jefferies v. RHP Joe Ryan
  9. Every starter, aside from maybe Sonny Gray, had some question marks heading into the season. Could Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan at least maintain, if not build off, their successful campaigns in 2021? Can Dylan Bundy return to his 2020 form, or was that just the exception to his otherwise Mediocre career? What will we get out of Chris Archer, and who will get innings when he inevitably misses time? We don't have the answer to all of those questions, but we can start to get the answers to some of them, which is reflected in the voting. And all those questions existed before the Twins traded for Chris Paddack the day before the season started, which opened up questions about the bullpen. We undoubtedly need more time to answer all of those questions, but all that considered, I think we can be happy about the first month of the season. Without further ado, let's see how Twins Daily writers voted. Honorable Mention #2: Joe Smith Joe Smith had quietly been a great addition to the Twins bullpen. Raise your hand if you knew that Smith had a 0.00 ERA over 7 2/3 innings across nine outings. [Embarrassingly keeps hands at his side]... yeah, either did I. The bullpen took its lumps early, but the elder statesmen has been the model of consistency for the first month of the season, and his veteran presence could prove to benefit some of the younger arms in the bullpen. The 38-year-old knows what a playoff team looks like when he sees one. He's pitched in the postseason over five different seasons, including 2017-2019 with the Indians and Astros, where he appeared in the ALCS (2018) and World Series (2019). That experience can be invaluable to a pitching staff that lacks a postseason resume. Honorable Mention #1: Dylan Bundy Are we getting the 2020 version of Dylan Bundy? Of course, It's too early to say for sure, and he was roughed up in his final start of the month but otherwise was brilliant for the Twins in April. The key for him, well, really any pitcher but especially Bundy, will be to limit the free bases and home runs. He did just that in April with a 1.27 BB/9 and 0.84 HR/9 supplemented with an 8.02 K/9, and his 2.95 ERA ended up being 0.68 runs higher than his xERA. The early results are promising, but we need a more significant simple to see if the bing, the bang, and the boom are here to stay. Pitcher of the Month: Joe Ryan Can Joe Ryan build off his cup of coffee from 2021? Uh, yeah. The rookie right-hander fooled hitters all month to the tune of a 25:6 K: BB ratio and a 1.17 ERA over 23 innings across four starts. His 2.65 xERA suggests that regression is likely, but that's not surprising, and I think he would still be the winner if that were his actual ERA for April. But that’s not just a great month for a rookie; that's a great month for any starting pitcher, no matter how long they've been doing it. He accrued 0.6 fWAR, which was good enough for 19th in all of baseball among starters. It's been a fantastic start to the 25-year-olds Major League Baseball career. He’ll look to continue improving in the month of May, starting with an outing against the lowly Baltimore Orioles. If you were to rank your top 3 for the month of April, are these the three you would have ranked? In the same order?
  10. 1. The Central looks weak Sooner or later, the White Sox will find their stride. They’re missing key pieces from a roster that won 93 games and the division in 2021. Third baseman Yoán Moncada is progressing toward a return from an oblique injury. Lance Lynn, who threw 157 outstanding innings for an excellent rotation last year, is hoping to return in late May from knee surgery. 2020 Silver Slugger winner Eloy Jiménez likely won’t be back until the summer months, but he’s on the mend. The cavalry is coming. Even then, the White Sox have evident flaws. Their defense is the worst in the American League by Outs Above Average, and Defensive Runs Saved. Bullpen stalwarts Liam Hendriks and Aaron Bummer are struggling to get outs in the late innings. Without Lynn, the rotation is thin. Dallas Keuchel has been terrible, while Vince Velasquez can’t keep runners off base. The White Sox’s depth is far from what it was in 2021, and they’re digging a hole early. The Tigers and their fans hoped the team would produce a hot start, burying the rebuild in the rearview. The opposite is happening. The Tigers have lost 12 of their first 18 games with a weak offense and equally lousy defense. Desperately needing a run, the Tigers must go to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers this weekend. It’s too early to call a season doomed, but things are rough in the Motor City. The Guardians made some noise early, pairing good offensive production with their outstanding pitching. They’ve crashed back to earth since that solid 7-5 start. They’re struggling to score runs, an expected trend when their only hitters with track records are superstar José Ramírez and streaky slugger Franmil Reyes. It’s possible Cleveland surprises, but their ceiling feels limited. The Royals could present challenges for the competitive teams in the division. They've already won series' against the Twins and White Sox, and they're always tricky at Kauffman. I'd be surprised if they won more than 75 games, but I wouldn't completely write them off as a walk-in-the-park matchup. 2. They have a competent starting rotation It’s unlikely Twins starters will continue to pitch as well as they have, but the perception of the rotation has changed considerably since Opening Day. Joe Ryan is better than he was last September. Chris Paddack is, too. The Twins will get their projected No. 1 starter, Sonny Gray, back in short order (hamstring). The Twins' rotation is taking shape. Dylan Bundy won’t post a sub-1 ERA this year, but he may finish as a solid No. 4 starter in a competitive rotation. That’s not insignificant, especially considering his 6.06 ERA and 5.51 FIP from a year ago. Bundy’s presence as a five-inning, three runs or less starter is potentially a massive development for the Twins. Bailey Ober had been rock-solid before his groin injury, and Paddack has pitched like a No. 3. There’s a real chance the Twins will have at least an average starting rotation by the trade deadline. That outcome felt like a long shot less than a month ago, so I’m still setting the expectations relatively low. If the Twins have a winning team and are within striking distance of the playoffs, I’d expect them to make that move for an impact starter. They’ll need him if October becomes a reality. 3. They have depth, with more on the way In the preseason, the 2021 Twins looked to have substantial depth in all roster areas. That couldn’t have been further from the outcome. The Twins quickly learned they lacked viable backups at almost every position, especially in the rotation. Injuries hampered the young starting pitchers in the minors, though, which hasn’t been the case early this year. Fingers crossed. Royce Lewis is performing exceptionally well in St.Paul. José Miranda was in serious consideration for an Opening Day roster spot after a terrific Minor League season in 2021. Beyond them, Spencer Steer, an underrated versatile infielder, is raking at Double-A Wichita. The Twins have desirable depth in the infield. A healthy Alex Kirilloff would go a long way in the outfield, sending Trevor Larnach down the depth chart. The most important storyline for the 2022 Twins remains with the young starters. Simeon Woods Richardson has yet to allow a run through 21 ⅔ innings for Wichita. Matt Canterino is back on track after a shaky start, and his stuff looks pristine. Jordan Balazovic is still on the injured list with a knee strain, but he is still their best pitching prospect. There look to be reinforcements in both the rotation and bullpen. The Twins have a long way to go, and it’s wise to watch with a skeptical eye, but it’s hard not to get excited about where they could go this year.
  11. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K (90 pitches, 58 strikes, 64.4%) Home Runs: Max Kepler, 2 (4), Ryan Jeffers (2) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.322), Max Kepler (.223), Ryan Jeffers (.078) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Joe Ryan – and his cool turtleneck – picked up where he left off after his previous two outstanding starts. He pitched superbly right from the get-go, tossing four scoreless frames on 54 pitches. The first hit allowed by him came only in the fourth, but by that point, he had already induced nine swinging strikes. Also, in the fourth, he matched his season-high in strikeouts with seven. He did get some help from some excellent fielding, including a great stop from Carlos Correa, but his most important help came from the batter’s box. Max Kepler kept the hottest streak he’s had in a while going. Facing former teammate Michael Pineda, Max provided Ryan with some run support by hitting two early, solo home runs in his first two plate appearances. He now has four homers in the season, something that in 2021 didn’t happen until May 16. His increased productivity could be one of Minnesota’s most significant uplifts for this season, should it carry on. Ryan pitched a couple more 1-2-3 innings to reach six scoreless frames on only 76 pitches. That allowed him to become the first Twins starter this year to make it into the seventh. He did so and tossed yet another 1-2-3 innings, completing the brilliant seven-inning shutout. After giving up that Cabrera single in the fourth, he retired ten consecutive batters, almost effortlessly dominating the Tiger lineup. According to MLB.com's Do-Hyoung Park, Joe Ryan now has 57 strikeouts through his first nine starts, a new club record. Bert Blyleven held that record until tonight, with 50 punchouts. The offense came through with some more breathing room to make Ryan's evening even better with a four-hit fifth. Trevor Larnach opened the inning with a leadoff double and was followed by a rocket (110.9 mph exit velocity) from Ryan Jeffers, a two-run home run. In that same inning, two more batters reached against Pineda, but they were stranded. The offense continued to hit the ball hard, producing another run for the Twins in the bottom of the seventh. Larnach hit yet another leadoff double, and he was pushed across in the very next at-bat by a Jeffers double. Both of those hits surpassed 107 mph exit velocity and gave Minnesota a 5-0 lead. Joe Smith and Danny Coulombe had no trouble whatsoever shredding the uninspired Detroit offense, tossing a couple of clean innings on 30 pitches, making it a memorable, all-around performance by the Twins. What's next? Before heading to the east coast for a seven-game road trip, the Twins close out the series tomorrow with Bailey Ober (2.81 ERA) dueling against lefty Tarik Skubal (2.30 ERA). The first pitch is scheduled for 12:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Winder 0 61 0 0 0 61 Thielbar 22 0 0 27 0 49 Coulombe 28 0 0 0 20 48 Pagán 0 0 0 23 0 23 Smith 0 13 0 0 10 23 Stashak 22 0 0 0 0 22 Duffey 0 0 0 19 0 19 Duran 0 18 0 0 0 18 Jax 0 0 0 10 0 10
  12. Growling Expectations The Tigers, coming off five straight losing seasons, expect to compete in 2022. They won 77 games in manager A.J. Hinch’s first season with the club, finishing in third place in the Central in 2021. While the Tigers surprised with nearly 80 wins, they feasted off a historically bad division. It hasn’t been a clean start, as the Tigers have won only six of their first 15 games. The offense has been poor, and they’ve dealt with many injuries. So far, performance hasn’t met the loftiest expectations Tigers fans have had since they won four straight AL Central titles from 2011 to 2014. How Detroit won 77 games in 2021 is somewhat remarkable. Tigers position players accounted for 9.4 fWAR, the third-lowest in MLB. The pitching staff accumulated 10.2 fWAR, tied for 8th-lowest. It wasn’t a good team, but it was a significant step forward in a new era with Hinch. There is reason for optimism in the Motor City. The Tigers' hopes start with former No. 1 pick Casey Mize, who is currently on the injured list with an elbow sprain. Lefty Tarik Skubal is off to a terrific start and harnesses a fastball in the mid-90s. The Twins have trouble against velocity-oriented lefties, and they’ll see Skubal in Thursday’s finale. Current Twins do have six homers in 73 plate appearances against him. Speaking of lefties, the Tigers signed former Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodríguez for five years and $77 million this offseason. Rodríguez has given up eight runs in 13 innings with an elevated fly-ball rate. He's set to pitch the series opener on Tuesday. Many Twins fans thought the team should bring back veteran Michael Pineda to round out the rotation. Instead, Pineda signed with the Tigers for one year and $5.5 million, and he pitched well in his first start, throwing 60 pitches and holding the Yankees down for five innings. Pineda will return to the Target Field mound Wednesday in a different uniform. The Tigers also added a new shortstop in Javier Báez on a six-year, $140 million deal. Báez is a divisive but highly talented player and can carry an offense for prolonged periods. He’s also an elite defender at shortstop, saving 46 runs since his debut in 2014. Of course, that comes with extreme swing-and-miss and long stretches of slumps Detroit’s offense posted a measly 93 wRC+ in 2021 (100 in league average), even with a Jeimer Candelario breakout and strong seasons from rookie Akil Baddoo and career minor-leaguer Eric Haase. This year, 2020’s first overall pick Spencer Torkelson joins the lineup. Torkelson looked like a complete hitter in the minors, and he enters the series hitting .217/.345/.435 in 15 games. The Tigers have a dynamic and semi-dangerous set of hitters, especially after the late addition of Austin Meadows. Mr. 3000 Miguel Cabrera is always a focus, and the Tigers have a group that could cause problems for the Twins. THREE SERIES X-FACTORS: 1. Carlos Correa Byron Buxton frankly took control of the Twins’ sweeping of the White Sox over the weekend. He leads the American League with 1.3 fWAR and a .946 slugging percentage. He can completely flip any game, and the Tigers certainly know the damage he is capable of. Carlos Correa, meanwhile, is hitting a light .192 with minimal power. If he can get going behind Buxton, the Tigers will have trouble keeping this lineup down for three games. 2. Javier Báez Báez is back after a thumb injury landed him on the 10-day injured list. He has the highest upside of any Tiger and is hitting the middle of the order. Báez, like Buxton, can heat up and dominate in a hurry. The Twins will feed him a steady diet of breaking balls, but if they hang it, he’ll bang it. Báez presents a simple but not easy challenge. 3. The bullpens The Tigers’ bullpen ranks first in the American League with a 2.30 ERA. Gregory Soto is evolving into an elite closer, and Michael Fulmer has found a new (and successful) home as a reliever. The Twins sport the 7th-highest bullpen ERA in MLB (4.16). If current trends hold, the Twins may be in trouble in the late innings. Pitching Probables Tues (6:40 CT): RHP Chris Paddack (0-2, 5.00 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wed (6:40 CT): RHP Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thurs (12:10 CT): RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) What do you think the keys to this week's series are?
  13. Last Week's Game Results: Game 10 | MIN 8, BOS 3: Garlick, Polanco Homer as Twins Split in Boston Game 11 | KC 4, MIN 3: Duffey Implodes as Twins Waste Winnable Game Game 12 | KC 2, MIN 0: Another Solid Pitching Performance Gets Wasted Game 13 | MIN 1, KC 0: Joe Cool Dazzles, Slough of Singles Game 14 | MIN 2, CWS 1: Twins Catch Break, Win Thriller Game 15 | MIN 9, CWS 2: Buxton, Bundy Lead in Comfortable Win Game 16 | MIN 6, CWS 4: Twins End White Sox Sweep with a Bang Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/18 through Sun, 4/24 *** Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 8-8) Run Differential Last Week: +13 (Overall: +2) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (0.5 GA) NEWS & NOTES Thankfully it was a week filled with more good news than bad news on the injury front. First, the bad news: Jorge Alcalá was moved to the 60-day injured list with his elbow inflammation showing no signs of improvement. He'll be out until at least June, dealing a serious blow to the Twins' bullpen outlook. Replacing him on the 40-man roster is José Godoy, who joined the team as a third catcher. The additional depth was needed with Minnesota's top two backstops experiencing some (hopefully minor) issues. Gary Sánchez was scratched on Saturday due to abdominal tightness and Ryan Jeffers was scratched on Sunday due to a knee contusion. Neither player was placed on IL, although seemingly neither was available on Sunday. With a cortisone injection improving the condition of his ailing right wrist, Alex Kirilloff is set to start a brief rehab stint in St. Paul on Tuesday. He may rejoin the Twins next weekend. Meanwhile, Byron Buxton is already back and making a HUGE impact. We'll get to that shortly. HIGHLIGHTS The refreshingly impressive Twins rotation kept on rolling in Boston, Kansas City, and back home into Minneapolis. Check out the yeoman’s work in each successive game Monday through Saturday: Dylan Bundy @ BOS: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Chris Archer @ KC: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K Chris Paddack @ KC: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Joe Ryan @ KC: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K Bailey Ober vs. CWS: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Dylan Bundy vs. CWS: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Add in Chris Archer's so-so effort on Sunday (3 IP, 2 ER) and the rotation posted a 2.21 ERA in seven games last week. Starting pitching is carrying this team in April. Joe Ryan's outing was perhaps the most critical of the bunch last week – he was masterful Thursday in a 1-0 victory where the Twins needed every bit of his greatness. With a marked increase in his slider usage (up to 31.2% in his first three starts, from 16.0% in 2021) Ryan continued to relentlessly attack the zone while inducing whiffs and weak contact. Dylan Bundy lowered his ERA for the season to 0.59 (third-lowest in baseball) with a pair of excellent starts. His early success owes to a few factors, but a big one is that he's pounding the strike zone at one of the highest rates in the league. His fastball has been extremely effective, despite ranking in the 9th percentile for velocity (averaging just 89.0 MPH). Hitters are batting .133 against it with zero extra-base hits through three starts. The offense's breakout on Saturday, which saw them score more runs (9) than they had in the previous four games (6) was keyed in part by Luis Arraez, who went 4-for-5 in the contest and is now slashing .354/.426/.458 after a 9-for-21 run. But the true star of the week – and stop me if you've heard this before – was Buxton. He only started three games, taking a few games off to make sure all was well with his sore knee, but the team's best player wasted no time making his presence felt. After a 1-for-4 game as DH against Kansas City on Thursday, Buxton started in center at Target Field on Saturday night and went 4-for-4 with a home run, HBP, and three runs scored. On Sunday, he came through with a clutch game-tying two-run homer in the seventh and then walked it off with an epic three-run blast in the 10th. It was a really special moment. There really aren't words to describe what Buxton is doing right now. He's single-handedly winning ballgames. He has hilariously accumulated 1.4 fWAR in a span of 10 games. His WPA in Sunday's game alone (0.761) was higher than all but seven MLB players had accumulated ALL season. This is amazingly fun to watch. I continue to believe Buxton's contract extension will go down as the most important move this franchise has ever made. LOWLIGHTS Up and down the lineup, hitters continue to generally struggle. Carlos Correa finally notched some hits, going 6-for-22, but they were all singles and he also mixed in three GIDPs. Trevor Larnach, who went 2-for-22 with eight strikeouts, looks like he belongs in Triple-A (and will likely soon head back). Max Kepler failed to register an extra-base hit or RBI; his slugging percentage sits at .300 yet he's still batting fourth or fifth every time he's in the lineup. But make no mistake: Miguel Sanó continues to be the biggest laggard on offense for the Twins. Following a 2-for-22 week, his slash line sits at an embarrassing .083/.224/.146, and the supposed slugger has produced just one home run and three RBIs in 15 games. It's a weird deal with Sanó. The process isn't bad. He's taking good at-bats and making hard contact, with barrel and chase rates that rank among the best in the league. But there's constantly no payoff and it's hard to view it all as just bad luck. On Sunday, in a key spot with the tying run on second in the 10th, he got the green light on a 3-0 count and popped out to the catcher. I mean come on dude. On the bullpen front, Tyler Duffey coughed up another close lead and saw it turn into a loss on his ledger. While his meltdown Tuesday in Kansas City was less damaging than the blown save against Seattle – this time the offense had three chances to tie or take a lead, although of course they failed – it was substantively much uglier. Rather than getting dinked and dunked on a string of hits like in his first blown save, Duffey gave up a pair of long home runs in KC on absolute meatballs left out over the plate. He left that outing with the worst Win Probability Added (-0.88) of any pitcher or hitter in the big leagues. With his season starting to feel like an Alex Colomé redux, Duffey bounced back on Friday night. Rocco Baldelli gave a strong vote of confidence to his embattled veteran, handing Duffey the ball with a one-run deficit in the eighth against the top of the Chicago order, and Duff delivered: a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. Hopefully it's a sign of stabilization to come, because the Twins really need Duffey to be a Dude in that bullpen – especially in light of the unfortunate Alcalá news. TRENDING STORYLINE What is the plan with Gilberto Celestino? That is the big looming question in my mind right now. He's 23 years old, and still very much a developing prospect – he's played a total of 75 games above Single-A in the minors – yet for some reason Celestino is relegated to stagnation on the big-league bench. He's been with the Twins since Opening Day, accruing just 10 at-bats (with one hit) in three weeks. I get that the 40-man roster situation is a bit challenging, but this is getting ridiculous. Not only does Celestino offer very little as a bench player for the Twins, but more importantly, this is terrible for his development. He needs regular at-bats. I understood carrying him as a short-term patch while the Twins pursued Justin Upton, but if that's not happening ... what are we doing here exactly? LOOKING AHEAD Having passed their first test against an AL Central contender in flying colors, the Twins will now welcome another one to Target Field as Detroit visits for a three-game series. We're slated to see old friend Michael Pineda on Wednesday night. Then it's off to a Tampa for three games against the always-tough Rays. It feels like the Twins have faced an inordinate number of left-handed starters early on this year, and that trend continues with (at least) four southpaws on the upcoming docket. The health situations of Sánchez and Jeffers will be worth closely monitoring. TUESDAY, 4/26: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez v. RHP Chris Paddack WEDNESDAY, 4/27: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Joe Ryan THURSDAY, 4/28: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tarik Skubal v. RHP Bailey Ober FRIDAY, 4/29: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Dylan Bundy v. TBD SATURDAY, 4/30: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Chris Archer v. LHP Shane McClanahan SUNDAY, 5/1: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Chris Paddack v. LHP Josh Fleming
  14. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan. 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K (65 pitches, 57 strikes, 67%) Home Runs: none Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.383), Emilio Pagan (.181), Joe Smith (.137) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Joe Ryan Experience was in mid-season form on Thursday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. Coming off a stellar start at Fenway on April 15th, the young Twins' ace mirrored his performance in America's Heartland...only better. Ryan notched his first shutout appearance of the season against the Royals, giving up only two hits to a sneaky-good Kansas City offense. The only two hits for the Royals came on a Michael Taylor single in the third inning and a one-out Andrew Benintendi triple in the fourth. And while the fourth inning triple provided a threat, Nick Gordon caught a Salvador Perez pop-out in center field and gunned Benintendi out at the plate to extinguish the fire. Ryan may not have the 'ace aura' that is associated with a team's top arm, but the numbers shun the doubters. Through three starts and 14 innings, the San Francisco native has held hitters to a .168 batting average with 11 strikeouts and just four walks. All signs are pointing towards an incredible 2022 season for the 25-year-old. The Twins' offense was far from perfect but showed great poise after a pair of dry games at the plate. The one through five hitters in the Twins batting order each notched singles along with two from nine-hitter Nick Gordon. Trevor Larnach continued his impressive start to the season when he roped a line-drive single to left field in the seventh inning. Despite an overall offensive slump from the team, Larnach's start to the season has been incredibly promising. Buck BACK! Just one week after a frightening injury while sliding into second base, franchise staple Byron Buxton returned to the lineup in the DH role on Thursday. Buxton laced a single in the fifth inning that sent Nick Gordon to third and reinstated his hitting ways. As noted on the broadcast from Dick Bremer, the combo of Nick Gordon and Buxton as nine-hitter and leadoff man has the potential to be incredibly exciting. Bullpen Rolls While the Twins' offense continues to warm up, the pitching staff has done an incredible job pulling their weight. The bullpen was no exception in the late innings on Thursday afternoon. The legend of Jhoan Duran pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning with a pair of strikeouts on just 15 pitches. There's no doubt that the organization has found Duran's home as a rock-solid, late-inning flame thrower. Submariner Joe Smith followed suit with a scoreless eighth inning while Emilio Pagan garnered his first save of the year with a scoreless ninth inning. What's Next? After a week-long road trip, the Twins head back home to Target Field to take on division-foe Chicago at 7:10 pm CST. Bailey Ober (1-1, 3.27 ERA) will square off against Michael Kopech (0-0, 1.00 ERA) in a matchup between arguably the two best teams in the AL Central. It's also Grateful Dead night..buy those tickets! Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
  15. The void in quality in the rotation of the Minnesota Twins was obvious looking back on a miserable 2021 season. Derek Falvey, arriving from the Guardians with a sterling reputation for developing a pipeline of pitching talent, presided over a season in which everything went wrong, particularly pitching. Most Twins fans assumed the rotation would be a priority in a truncated off-season before 2022. At the very least, the Twins would strengthen their rotation with a solid mid-rotation free-agent starter, right? Wrong. While Twins territory lamented, the organization passed on the likes of Jon Gray, Carlos Rodon, Kevin Gausman, and Robbie Ray. Instead, the Twins signed Dylan Bundy before the lockout. Since the lockout ended, they added Chris Archer as a free agent and traded for Chris Paddack. While this iteration of the rotation is undoubtedly improved, it hardly inspires confidence. Twins fans know arms are on the way; Cole Sands, Louie Varland, Simeon Woods-Richardson, and Matt Canterino, to name a few. But why do the Twins seem so averse to committing to free-agent pitchers for any length of time? While it is likely that part of the reason is simply striking out on free agent offers, other clues lie in the development of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Derek Falvey uttered his now-famous desire to ‘build a sustainable winner’ in Minnesota upon arriving at Target Field. It’s accepted that developing a pipeline of pitching talent takes 5-6 years. The Twins' front office is now entering year six, and fans are starting to see the impact of that development. My argument is that the Twins are attempting to be loosely competitive in 2022; their real goal is a window of 2023 and beyond. We can examine the development of Ryan and Ober as a proxy for organization principles of pitcher development. Here are three common practices the Twins have leveraged to maximize Ryan and Ober that will be evident in the next wave of starting pitching talent that hits Target Field. Maximize Velocity Bailey Ober has a unique set of tools. He amassed a 32% K% throughout his MiLB career, an impressive number he combined with a 3.4% BB%. While Ober has had strong command since being drafted in the 12th round in 2017 (Falvey’s first draft), his fastball velocity was consistently at or below 90 mph throughout his MiLB career. When he reached the majors, Ober’s fastball velocity had increased to 92.3 mph. Ober’s height (he’s 6’9) allows him a top ten release extension in major league baseball. Put simply, Ober’s so tall he releases the ball closer to the plate than most pitchers, speeding batters up. Adding velocity, (via release extension or refining mechanics) is a skill-set the Twins have mastered and shown an ability help their pitchers translate onto the field. Work the Fastball Up It’s notable that five out of six members of the Twins rotation in 2022 have a track record of excellent control. In 2021 the average BB/9 across major league baseball was 3.3. Consider the Twins' internal rotation members and their numbers in 2021; Ryan 1.69, Ober 1.85. Ryan and Ober have fastball spin percentiles of 34 and 38, respectively. While it’s been well documented that Ryan has a flat fastball, his VAA (vertical attack angle) allows it to thrive and gives it a rising effect, a tendency that is maximized with fastballs up in the zone. While not all fastballs have the ability to outperform their inputs in the way Ryan’s does, the Twins have found success in going up in the zone, particularly for pitchers who don’t have elite velocity. You can see how this plays out in how Ober leverages his excellent control to locate his fastball up The Slider Revolution Throwing fastballs up in the strike zone is not a good plan in isolation, particularly if the pitch doesn’t benefit from the deception that Joe Ryan’s does. For Ober, this meant revamping his slider. Midway through 2021, he debuted a new slider, reworked to appear more distinct in velocity than his curveball. Ober added velocity to the pitch and more depth to the break. In the final month of Ober’s old slider, it surrendered a .294 xBA; this dropped to .270 the following month and .215 the month after that. In his first start of 2022, he threw the pitch 29%, compared to just 18% in 2021. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober are good pitching prospects and will likely have long, meaningful MLB careers with Minnesota. The Twins development staff has done excellent work with both, turning them into roughly 1.5 fWAR pitchers. Ultimately, they serve as placeholders at the front of the Twins' rotation. Soon they will be supplemented by Josh Winder, Louie Varland, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands, and Jordan Balazovic. A number of the pitchers joining Ryan and Ober have the better raw velocity and stuff and, therefore, a higher ceiling as starting pitchers. It’s easy not to believe in the pitching factory Falvey has worked to develop in Minnesota. I do. It’s likely we’ll know who will lead the front of the Twins rotation by the end of 2022.
  16. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K (82 pitches, 60 strikes, 73.1%) Home Runs: Miguel Sanó (1) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.189), Miguel Sanó (.170), Luis Arráez (.109) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Twins lose Buxton early but score four runs on five hits It was an eventful start to the game for Minnesota. Eight pitches into the first inning, Byron Buxton left the game with an apparent leg injury. He popped up to shallow left, and when Boston’s defense couldn’t make the play because of the sun, he sprinted and slid into second when the injury occurred. He immediately headed to the dugout and was replaced by Nick Gordon. On the brighter side of the inning, Luis Arráez snapped an 0-for-7 funk with a liner to center, and yet again, the Red Sox defense couldn’t take care of it, allowing Gordon to score the game’s first run easily. Even though Jorge Polanco drew a walk, helping to drive Nick Pivetta’s pitch count to 26, Minnesota had to settle for the one run in the first. But that wouldn’t last long. After Joe Ryan cruised through the bottom first on only eight pitches, striking out two and throwing strikes on every pitch, the offense ambushed Pivetta, scoring three runs on three hits. After Trevor Larnach drew a one-out walk, Miguel Sanó followed with a moon shot that went over the ‘green monster’ to make it 3-0 Twins. That was his first base hit of the season. Could his biggest early-season problem be the cold weather? Later on, Gordon singled to center with two outs, only to be brought home in the following at-bat by an Arráez double, making it 4-0 Minnesota. That’s the second multi-hit game for Luis this season. Closing out the inning with 54 pitches, Pivetta was done after two. Alex Verdugo got Boston a run back in the bottom of the second with a solo homer to center. Ryan looks excellent through six; the offense adds on After a somewhat shaky opening day start, Ryan looked superb today at Fenway. Boston hitters simply couldn’t figure him out, especially his slider, which produced whiffs 47% of the time in the first five innings. He also managed to get out of jams during the fourth and fifth innings when Boston had two runners on in each of them. In the meantime, he got even more run support from the bats. Carlos Correa and Polanco reached on a walk and a single to open the fifth inning, and both of them scored on a Gary Sánchez ground ball, making it 6-1 Minnesota. With those two runs batted in, Sánchez now has more RBI against Boston than any other team in the majors. Ryan continued his fantastic outing with a 1-2-3 sixth, shredding through Red Sox hitting with his off-speed offerings. By the end of the inning, he had produced an astonishing 19 swinging strikes, a career-high for him. Overall, 40% of his pitches were either called strikes or swinging strikes. Duran breaks Twitter, Boston’s rally comes up short Jhoan Duran took over once Ryan departed, and he baffled local fans and media with an incredible seventh inning. He retired the side on eight pitches which averaged 98.2 MPH and touched 102 MPH. His performance drew the attention of several national media accounts on Twitter. Boston got to him during the eighth, scoring three runs. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a leadoff double and was pushed across a couple of at-bats later by a Kike Hernandez double. Then, Rafael Devers followed that with a two-run home run to the corner right, cutting the Twins lead in half. Duran cooled down and struck out the final two batters to end the inning. With the Red Sox getting dangerously close, Minnesota needed some insurance runs. Reliever Matt Barnes retired Arráez to open the top of the ninth, but he gave up a couple of walks against the following two batters. The Twins cashed in on both of those walks, first with a Max Kepler single and then with a slow groundout from Larnach with the bases loaded, bringing the lead back to four. Emilio Pagán came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth, and he threw a clean 1-2-3 inning to secure the win. What’s Next? For game two on Saturday, the Twins turn to Sonny Gray, who is set to face Boston’s Tanner Houck. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Duran 11 0 0 0 34 45 Thielbar 19 18 0 0 0 37 Romero 0 34 0 0 0 34 Pagán 0 20 0 0 11 31 Winder 0 28 0 0 0 28 Jax 0 0 22 0 0 22 Smith 19 3 0 0 0 22 Coulombe 0 14 0 0 0 14 Duffey 14 0 0 0 0 14
  17. Sa-No Go? At the end of the 2021 season, Miguel Sano seemed to have found a rhythm and confidence in his swing. He finished the season with 30 home runs and 75 RBIs. Spring training fans seemed to get their hopes up as Sano seemed to be in the same form that he was in last season and hitting home runs like it was nothing. In the season-opening series, Sano struggled at the plate. In the four-game series with the Mariners, Sano had 16 plate appearances and went 0-for-13 with three walks and six strikeouts. . While we consider a truncated spring training, hitting off Double-A and Triple-A pitchers, other players in the line-up were getting multiple hits by the third regular-season game. Sano is 0-for-13 and Alex Kiriloff is just 1-for-15 so far. While it's still early in the season and only 16 plate appearances, fans are unsure that Sano has what it takes to be a productive part of this team in the lineup offensively. Yes, he gets on base, but is that enough? In an interview with Phil Miller from the Star Tribune, Rocco Baldelli explained that he feels differently. He feels there are too few at-bats to go off of and that Sano has been working hard at laying off bad pitches. That is true, and he does seem to have more plate discipline; maybe he's just getting another slow start. His defense has been outstanding to start, so maybe we just need to trust Rocco on this one. We have pitching For the first time in four baseball seasons, I feel good about the pitching. The pitching has been impressive thus far, and rookie Joe Ryan did not disappoint in his first Opening Day start. He seemed to settle down after getting over his first-inning jitters and giving up two runs. He had four strikeouts. In Game 2, Sonny Gray had his Twins debut and matched Joe Ryan with four strikeouts and two runs. Sonny, like Ryan, was pulled early, leaving fans frustrated again with another managerial decision by Rocco. Both pitchers are solid starters and have strong fastballs that make hitters chase. They both have a strong command of the mound and control of the strike zone. When looking back at the games, compared to Bailey Ober, both pitchers held the Mariners to two runs in five innings, which isn't too bad for a new guy and a rookie. Even if some are frustrated with Rocco pulling the starters early, the Twins have a strong bullpen. The bullpen has players from trades, rookies, and everything in between: like Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, and Jharel Cotton. They all gave fans impressive performances and a lot of confidence in our bullpen and, oddly, our front office. New reliever Jhoan Duran (affectionately known as "Durantula" or "Hurricane") has become a fan favorite with his nasty pitches. In the three innings pitched in the series, Duran's velocity was over 101 MPH. With Taylor Rogers going to the Padres and Tyler Duffey struggling in game two, Duran is a very welcome addition to the bullpen and could be a solid contender for a closer. The front office continues to surprise us with their trades and acquisitions to bolster the pitching staff. The Twins may not have the ace we are looking for in our starters, but we certainly have the depth and ability to move players around to keep us in contention until we do. These bats are on fire Not only was the weather for opening day chilly, but so were the bats. As the weather warmed up, so did the bats. By game three of the series against Seattle, the players were making contact. The first person to bring life to a game was Gio Urshela. Urshela seemed a little unsure in spring training, but it didn't take him long to find his stride in Minnesota, leading with the first Minnesota Twins home run of the season in game one. Over the next three games, other hitters quickly followed suit: Luis Arraez, Max Kepler, Carlos Correa, and Byron Buxton, who hit his second-fastest home run at 112.3 MPH. Gary Sanchez, who came over with Gio Urshela in the Yankee trade, left many Twins fans with negative feelings and doubted his position on this team. Sanchez wasted no time getting to work to show us that he indeed is an asset and has a lot to offer this lineup as the designated hitter. In-game one, Sanchez swung often and swung hard. With the crowd cheering his name in the bottom of the ninth, Sanchez fell short in the last hit of the game, thinking he hit a home run, accompanied by a bat-flip. Unfortunately, because of the cold weather, the ball did not carry as far as not only Gary thought but the entire stadium and both teams. In the third game, Sanchez didn't come up short of a home run when he hit a grand slam to give the Twins a five-run lead over the Mariners, with a very well-earned bat flip. It seems that the Bomba Squad may be back in action! Come back for more Top Three Takes after each series!
  18. Stop losing sleep over pitching Out of the 16 pitchers on the roster, only three appeared on last season’s Opening Day roster (Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala). This reformation came quietly, with the Twins choosing to promote from within and to sign smaller names in larger quantities. The biggest changes came from trades, which have already reaped some benefits (@ Twins legend, Gio Urshela). This is the most pitchers that Minnesota has carried on their roster in the past five years, with the Twins opting to add exclusively pitching to their expanded roster. The Twins learned the hard way last season that quantity can override quality. This new approach prevents a single point of failure, such as when the Twins were forced to consistently use Alex Colomé after the mass exodus in the bullpen. It doesn’t hurt that the Twins supplemented quantity without compromising quality. Jhoan Duran’s performance made fans forget about Brusdar Graterol and Taylor Rogers. Jorge Alcala is coming into his own, putting away the Mariners in 13 pitches. Going into tomorrow, the Twins have eight completely fresh bullpen arms, which is equal to the total number of pitchers in the bullpen last season. The pitching may not be the best in the AL Central, but the Twins have taken the necessary steps to prevent a nuclear meltdown. Alex Kirilloff will lead the team in strikeouts This is not necessarily a bad thing, with Shohei Ohtani, Randy Arozarena, and Salvador Perez appearing collectively in the top 10 strikeout leaderboard last season. The Twins’ strikeout leader in Miguel Sanó struck out a career-high 185 times but also walked a career-high 59 times last season. He continues to trend in this direction. Gary Sánchez lived a very similar narrative in New York. However, the young rookie has the most to prove in this group. He was on a hot streak before a season-ending injury last year, with some doubting his impact on the team post-injury. Alex Kirilloff wants to be in the elite class of the Buxtons and Correas of the world, and he has the talent to back it up. There is no doubt that Kirilloff will swing for the fences if given the opportunity. Joe Ryan is the real deal The bats were quiet, but Joe Ryan had a good outing in his first Opening Day start and sixth start overall against a much improved, playoff-hungry Seattle Mariners team. Even though his one mistake to Mitch Haniger cost the game, he worked himself out of every other jam. Outside of pitch count, Ryan’s stats today don’t fall too far behind Robbie Ray’s, with Ray collecting one more strikeout. However, Ryan’s composure falls in the footsteps of the Cy Young winner. One of Ray’s biggest assets is his ability to regain control after a mistake on the mound. On paper, Ryan had the worst start of his career, but his ability to minimize damage and regain control are all signs of a future ace like Ray. Today, Ryan showed maturity in his experience beyond his years. The Front Office (probably) knew what they were doing Although it would’ve been nice to have Mitch Garver or Josh Donaldson’s bat in the lineup today, things have shaken out decently thus far. Gio Urshela was the hero of the game, and Carlos Correa was in mid-season form. Promoting Jhoan Duran has given fans someone exciting to root for. As mentioned above, the brand new pitching staff looks to be an improvement from last season. Even though the season is long and many things can still go wrong, the Front Office had done a passable job of addressing some of the biggest concerns from last year. As Penny Lane once said, “it’s all happening.” …and Jose Berríos getting pulled in the first inning didn’t hurt this argument. Fan-favorite Frankie Montas didn’t fare too well either…
  19. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K (70 pitches, 42 strikes, 64%) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (1) Bottom 3 WPA: Byron Buxton (-.214), Carlos Correa (-.173), Gary Sanchez (.152), Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Ryan gives up an early home run, departs after four innings Joe Ryan was named the Opening Day starter for the Twins, becoming the first rookie starting pitcher to do so in precisely 53 years: on 4/8/1969, rookie Tom Hall took the mound, and he pitched into the sixth against the Royals in Kansas City to open the season. With only 26 2/3 big league innings in his career, Ryan became the Opening Day starter with the fewest such innings in franchise history and the first in the majors since David Nied in 1993. The first two times through the Seattle order were anything but smooth for Ryan. Having given up only five total walks in his five 2021 starts, he gave up three in the first three innings while also hitting a batter. He hung a fastball against Mitch Haniger in the first, which was crushed for a two-out, two-run home run. Seattle couldn't build momentum and add on despite posing a constant threat during the first three innings. Ryan closed out each of those innings with a strikeout, two against Eugenio Suárez. He also got some big help from a great defensive play by Carlos Correa in the third, which almost started a double play. Speaking of the new guy, he was responsible for Minnesota’s only hit early, as reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray – and his famous pants – cruised through the Twins lineup. In his first at-bat with Minnesota, C4 smacked a fastball down the middle for a single. Minnesota gets on the board, Duran impresses in majors debut Minnesota managed to get on the board in the fourth, with another new guy making a good first impression. Gio Urshela, once known for his efficiency against off-speed pitches, took Ray deep for the Twins’ first home run of the season. The fourth inning was also the final one for Ryan in the ballgame, as he once again failed to prevent baserunners from reaching. Rocco Baldelli brought in flame-throwing prospect Jhoan Duran for his Major League debut for the next two innings, and the Dominican didn’t disappoint. Duran didn’t get off to a good start, giving up back-to-back singles to open the inning. However, with his pitches reaching 100.7 MPH on the radar gun and showing off some nasty movement, he managed to blow past the heart of the Mariner lineup, striking out the next four batters. His velocity wasn’t the same during his second inning out there, but he still managed to hold off Seattle. The bats can’t provide the rally against Ray, Seattle’s bullpen Ray continued to dominate the Twins' offense and did so economically, as his pitch count didn’t hit 90 until the seventh inning. With one of baseball’s best bullpens last season, Mariner relievers managed to keep the Twins offense out of the game in the final two innings. After a 1-2-3 inning from reliever Paul Sewald in the eighth, Minnesota had one inning to try and spark a rally, and they almost did. Luis Arráez replaced Urshela in the ninth, and he put together a superb nine-pitch that ended in a leadoff single. It all came down to Gary Sánchez with two outs and a man on, and he put on a good fight but eventually flew out, merely inches away from a walk-off homer. A positive takeaway from this game for the Twins was the excellent pitching performance, especially from the bullpen. After Duran pitched two scoreless frames, Jorge Alcalá and Danny Coulombe kept Seattle scoreless for the rest of the game. Minnesota’s relievers combined for five scoreless innings, with three hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts. What’s Next? On Saturday, the series continues when Sonny Gray will make his Twins debut against Logan Gilbert. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:10 pm. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet (pitch counts were not available for Tuesday's spring training game) MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Ober 56 0 0 0 0 56 Duran 0 0 0 0 31 31 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 27 27 Alcalá 10 0 0 0 13 23 Cotton 22 0 0 0 0 22 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 0 0 Duffey 0 0 0 0 0 0 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0 Romero 0 0 0 0 0 0 Smith 0 0 0 0 0 0 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  20. Breaking Down the Opening Day Roster On Thursday, the Twins finalized their Opening Day roster, with a few surprises rounding out the fringes. The most noteworthy names on the official 28-man squad heading into the season are rookie Josh Winder (serving as a long man in relief), Gilberto Celestino serving as the fourth outfielder (very temporarily, I suspect), and newcomer Jhon Romero edging Griffin Jax for a final bullpen spot. Matthew Taylor wrote a great article posing one pivotal question for each player on the 28-man roster. Oh, and the shakeup we'll cover next also added a very surprising twist to the season-opening mix. Catch Up on the Last-Minute Trade Between Minnesota and San Diego You can never count this front office out. Just when it looked like they were going to roll into the regular season with a conspicuously thin starting rotation, the Twins pulled the trigger on a big trade on the morning of MLB Opening Day. In a last-minute stunner, the team traded its longtime closer and best reliever Taylor Rogers, along with Brent Rooker, to San Diego for starter Chris Paddack and reliever Emilio Pagán. Seth Stohs offered some immediate reaction when the move was announced on Thursday morning, and Ted Schwerzler followed up with analysis of the trade's impact. Joe Ryan vs. Robbie Ray: How Big is Seattle's Matchup Edge? It has the makings of a serious mismatch on paper: the reigning Cy Young winner going up against a rookie with five MLB starts under his belt. JD Cameron has you covered with a full breakdown of the Ryan vs. Ray tilt. As he notes, "Ray could not contrast more markedly with Ryan in experience, build, or arsenal." Elsewhere, Andrew Mahlke wrote about how the Twins are showing major confidence in Ryan by giving him the Opening Day nod. Theo Tollefson pointed out that Ryan is in rare air as a rookie. Our Official Season Preview Guide The Twins experienced a lot of change over the past offseason. Your best bet for getting fully up to speed is by grabbing a copy of Twins Daily 2022 Season Preview. Featuring contributions from JD, Lucas, Nash, Rena, David, Seth, and myself, this PDF breaks down each of the club's biggest offseason moves – the Correa signing, the Buxton extension, the Gray trade, and much more – while also highlighting rookies who are likely to debut and laying out 22 crucial things to know before the first pitch. The guide is free to all caretakers. Buy in for a minimum of one month at six bucks, and it's yours. Stick with us if you're so inclined. But make sure you grab the guide. Position by Position Roster Analysis Over the past few weeks, I've been running through in-depth breakdowns of every position on the team as the season gets underway – from catchers to relievers. The questions we seek to answer in these pieces: What's the outlook? How's the depth? What's the plan going forward? Read up on the 2022 Minnesota Twins roster: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field Position Analysis: Designated Hitter Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher Position Analysis: Relief Pitcher Get Acquainted with the Top Prospects We recently unveiled our Twins top prospects tracker. I highly recommend bookmarking it and checking back often. It'll be updated throughout the season as stocks rise and fall. If you're looking for a detailed analysis of the organization's best upcoming talent heading into this 2022 season, you can read my overview of the system or click through to profiles on each of the top 20 Twins prospects (spoiler alert: MANY of them are going to debut this year): 20. Steve Hajjar, LHP: Big 6-foot-5 southpaw drafted in the 2nd round last year, touted for his changeup. 19. Edouard Julien, INF: Versatile fielder drew 101 BB in 112 G last year at Single-A, good for a .434 OBP. 18. Spencer Steer, INF: Mashed 24 homers in a breakthrough power season, playing mostly 2B and 3B. 17. Blayne Enlow, RHP: Looked to be clicking last year before TJ surgery, which will cost him '22 season. 16. Emmanuel Rodríguez, OF: Extreme contact woes marred otherwise highly encouraging rookie-ball debut. 15. Louie Varland, RHP: Honored as the org's top minor-league pitcher in '21 thanks to dazzling A-ball performance. 14. Cole Sands, RHP: Polished righty has posted a 2.53 ERA, 10.3 K/9 in two seasons since joining Twins system. 13. Matt Wallner, OF: Huge raw power will play if he can shore up his plate discipline and whiffing tendency. 12. Gilberto Celestino, OF: Was overwhelmed during rushed MLB debut, but the skills are undeniable. 11. Noah Miller, SS: 38th pick in '21 draft out of HS swings from both sides with legit chance to stick at short. 10. Josh Winder, RHP: Absurdly dominant between AA/AAA last year, and is basically ready to go at 25. 9. Chase Petty, RHP: Team's top draft pick from last summer was a high-school phenom with 100-MPH heat. Traded to Reds for Sonny Gray. 8. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP: Mechanics and control hold back premium arsenal, but he's still young. 7. Jhoan Duran, RHP: Imposing flamethrower has makeup to dominate but must get past scary elbow issues. 6. Matt Canterino, RHP: His 1.13 ERA and 76 Ks in 48 IP since being drafted in 2019 say it all, good and bad. 5. Joe Ryan, RHP: Amazing numbers in minors were made to look legit during 5-start run with Twins. 4. Jordan Balazovic, RHP: Safest combination of ceiling, floor, and proven durability among arms in the system. 3. José Miranda, 2B/3B: Perennial breakthrough candidate broke through with minor-league season for the ages. 2. Royce Lewis, SS: Missed 2 straight years, but has the elite skills, athleticism, and drive to catch up fast. 1. Austin Martin, SS/OF: Headliner of 2022 deadline sell-off is a worthy top prize, with evident star qualities. Finally, a Word to Our Community I originally published this stream of thoughts on Twitter, but figured I would do so here as well, because you all are the people I was really addressing: It's almost Opening Day. An Opening Day some of us (legitimately) thought would never come. I'm feeling really excited and just gonna gush a little bit. In February we celebrated the 10th birthday of Twins Daily. It's been a wild and amazing ride. I feel both proud and humbled to have played a small role in it. John Bonnes, Parker Hagemen, Seth Stohs and Brock Beauchamp are the best partners and friends a guy could ask for. We've developed something so special that we're hoping to extend it into new markets. We joined forces with a Brewers site, Brewer Fanatic, with the goal of bringing our same model of community-based independent coverage to fans in Milwaukee. It's a movement! We also just launched a "Caretaker" program at TD which gives members a way to financially support our operation, mainly because they want to see it sustain and grow while supporting our creators. The response has been unbelievable. Seriously. Twins Daily is, and always has been, driven by the talented and dedicated people that contribute their time and energy to its cause. We have assembled so many that I can't even try to fit them all in a series of tweets. Y'all are amazing. You are the future. Baseball is ultimately a small part of life. Following it closely is a hobby and diversion. But it matters, a lot, to so many of us. That's become clearer than ever over the past few years as fans have repeatedly grappled with the prospect of losing their beloved summer pastime. Personally, this sport has connected me to John, and Seth, and Parker, and Brock. And basically everyone I know on through this community. I never would've guessed when I started a blogspot in 2005 that this obsessive side hustle would turn into something so integral to who I am. Our site's success instills in me a deep faith that this model can keep carrying fandom and online coverage forward. I'm stoked. The internet, for all its imperfections, is perfect for bringing together all sorts of random folks around a shared passion and pursuit. We're not competing with mainstream media or traditional journalism. We're adding to them. Twins fans have never had access to more awesome content and diverse perspectives. That was the entire goal of this endeavor from the start. THANK YOU. See you at the ballpark.
  21. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli announced Thursday afternoon that the team's starter for Opening Day will be a rookie righty, Joe Ryan. Ryan, who only made five starts with the Twins in 2021, will become the third Major League pitcher to make his sixth career start on an Opening Day. Both Steve Busby and Juan Guzman pitched eight full seasons in the big leagues. What, if anything, do their histories tell about Ryan's future from an Opening Day standpoint? Ryan's performance with the Twins in September 2021 was very solid. After he returned from pitching in the Olympics in Tokyo for Team USA, he made two starts with the Saints before getting his call up to the Majors on September 1. Ryan is no stranger to pitching on big stages. Ryan's counterpart on the mound will be Seattle Mariners ace and 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray. Ryan's predecessors in this historic start also faced challenging opponents in their Opening Day starts. For Busby in 1973, his Kansas City Royals faced off against strikeout king Nolan Ryan and the California Angels. Guzman and the Texas Rangers were facing the face of a franchise for their Opening Day in 1986, Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays. On April 6, 1973, Busby's Opening Day performance ended up with a loss for the Royals. Busby pitched 4 1/3 innings before being yanked by Royals manager Jack McKeon. Busby gave up three earned runs on seven hits and a walk. He walked one batter. The Angels ended up not scoring any more runs after Busby was pulled, and even though the Royals scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth against Ryan, it wasn't enough. Ryan threw a complete game and did what Nolan Ryan did best. He struck out 12 batters in the game. Guzman's 1986 Opening Day start looked much different than Busby's. Even facing the reigning AL ERA champ in Stieb, the Rangers' offense scored three runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Stieb was taken out after 4 1/3 innings pitched, and Guzman held the Blue Jays scoreless to that point in the game. Guzman eventually gave up three runs to the Blue Jays in the top of the sixth but powered through the mishap and threw eight innings. Guzman's stat line for his Opening Day start ended with three earned runs on eight hits over eight innings. He struck out three and didn't issue any walks. The Rangers beat the Blue Jays 6-3, giving Guzman his fourth career win in his sixth career start. Like Busby and Guzman, Ryan's mound opponent is an established ace in Robbie Ray. The defending AL Cy Young Award winner will be a formidable opponent to match up against on the mound for Ryan. Still, Baldelli has strong confidence in Ryan to be the guy for the Twins to start their season. So, what can history show Ryan based on the two other pitchers who made their sixth career start on Opening Day? Of course, it tells us nothing. When a sample size is just two, nothing can be learned from those two starts. After a three-week spring training, Ryan shouldn't have any expectations to pitch like his predecessors, certainly not to pitch eight innings like Guzman. Instead, he will create his unique performance against the Mariners that can hopefully lead to a Twins win. It will be a great game nonetheless as the Twins return to the field for 2022 and give fans the first rookie Opening Day starter since Tom Hall in 1969. Get your predictions in. How will Joe Ryan perform in his first Opening Day start (hopefully first of many)? How will the Twins do against Robbie Ray? Leave your comments and predictions below.
  22. Opening Day is finally here, albeit delayed due to the weather. Regardless, get your warm clothes ready, prep your ‘162-0’ or ‘the season is lost’ Tweets, and get ready to enjoy the time of year when optimism reigns, if only fleetingly. On Friday, golden boy Joe Ryan, an immediate favorite with Twins fans and (extreme) darkhorse for AL Rookie of the Year, will open the 2022 season for Minnesota. What could go wrong? Simple, he’s facing Robbie Ray, a pitcher whose backside is so prominent that his pants have their own Twitter account. More relevantly, Ray is the reigning Cy-Young winner and fresh off signing a 5-year, $115 million deal with the rejuvenated Mariners this offseason. So what can Twins fans expect from the pitchers, their arsenals, and the matchup? Joe Cool Minnesota acquiring six years of Ryan in exchange for the 0.2 fWAR Nelson Cruz provided the Rays late in 2021 is a gift that will continue to give for the Twins. Despite his perceived proximity to the majors at the time of the trade, Ryan’s continued ascent has been impressive. In a five start stint at the end of 2021, Ryan struck out 30% of hitters he faced, walked just 5%, and produced an xERA of just 2.99. In spite of this, no one would have expected Ryan to get the Opening Day nod for the Twins. A shortened spring training, other Twins pitchers at various stages of readiness, and Ryan’s general unflappability ultimately convinced the Twins. Ryan becomes the first rookie to start on Opening Day since Tom Hall in 1969, a season in which Minnesota won 97 games on their way to being swept in the AL Championship Series by the Orioles. An Ace in the Hole Ray could not contrast more markedly with Ryan in experience, build, or arsenal. The 6’2 left-hander had a breakthrough season in 2021 for Toronto and earned himself an excellent payday with what should be a fun and relevant Mariners team. Ray accumulated 3.9 fWAR in 2021 on his way to his first Cy-Young award. The Mariners ace maintained his electric ability to strike out opposing hitters last season, doing so at an incredible 32.1% clip (5th best in baseball). Additionally, he finally managed to overcome the challenge that had plagued him throughout his previous six season, control. Ray walked just 6.4% of opposing hitters in 2021, down from his career average of 10.3% (17.9% in 2020!) Ray did seem to benefit from some batted ball luck in 2021, his 2.84 ERA belying his peripheral numbers, most of which slotted into the 3.3-3.6 range. Make no mistake, however, Ray is dominant on his day. It remains to be seen how cold conditions will impact both pitchers when they square off in Minneapolis. Pitching Arsenals Ryan has an extremely unusual pitching arsenal. He throws a four-seam fastball, typically up in the zone, around 66% of the time, at just 91 mph. Ryan relies on a combination of an extremely low release point and high attack angle to create a rising effect on his fastball. In short, it’s consistently deceptive in a way that makes hitters swing underneath it. Ryan also offers a slider (16%), a changeup (10%), and a curveball (8%). The changeup was extremely effective in a small sample in 2021, while the development of Ryan’s slider as a legitimate third pitch will be one of the decisive factors in his possible ascension from good to great. Ray does not rely on deception. He’s essentially a two pitch pitcher, throwing an explosive fastball (60%) that averages 95 mph pretty much all over the place. Ray also throws a very hard slider (30%) 88-92 mph down and away from right-handed hitters or down and in to left-handed hitters. Ray gives up plenty of hard contact, with an average exit velocity harder than Ryan’s. It will be incumbent on the Twins’ right-handed hitters to play well on Friday in order to force him from the game. The Offenses The final X-factor in this intriguing matchup is the lineups for each team. Twins fans have been excited by Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa’s combined offensive masterclass in spring training. The offense represents the greatest strength of the Twins lineup. What about Seattle? Seattle has a solid core of offensive veterans on their team. Mitch Haniger and Adam Frazier were joined by Nick Gordon's former high school teammate Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez in an off-season trade with Cincinnati. The excitement surrounding the team is bound up in a rising cluster of potential superstar rookies, led by Wisconsin native Jared Kelenic, and uber-prospect Julio Rodriguez. After struggling in the majors initially, Kelenic finished the spring hot, clubbing three home runs in his last four days for Seattle. J-Rod is a different animal altogether. The consensus global top three prospects is projected to finish with 3.4 fWAR by ZiPS, as a rookie. Rodriguez managed a 173 wRC+ in AAA in 2021. Prepare to be amazed. PECOTA projects Seattle to finish 2022 with 83 wins, in or around the range most projection systems have the Twins finishing the forthcoming season. Seattle will be a good opening test for Minnesota. They are an emerging team, with young offensive star power, trying to win. Best of luck, Joe Ryan. The matchup Twins fans get to look forward to on Opening Day is as historic as it is unlikely. After recent seasons stymied by COVID-19 and a Commissioner-imposed lockout, the outcome at Target Field is unlikely to matter. Baseball will be back. That alone should be enough to put a smile on all of our faces. Of course, what will happen in the small sample size that is one Opening Day game in the cold weather after a three-week spring training? There's no way to know. But, make your predictions. How will these pitchers do? How will the game end up? Leave your Comments below.
  23. Projected Rotation: Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer Depth: Josh Winder, Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Cole Sands, Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak Prospects: Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods Richardson, Louie Varland, Blayne Enlow THE GOOD There's a lot of talent in this pipeline. It started coming to fruition a year ago, when Bailey Ober emerged as the team's steadiest starter and Joe Ryan arrived late with an eye-opening first impression. The Twins will be looking for more of where that came from this year, with a bevy of their top prospects in the high minors and at an age (23-25) where players tend to enter the big-league ranks. Whether or not it was their plan from the start to rely heavily on this group, it clearly is now after the club mostly whiffed on impact rotation additions during the offseason. One notable exception is Sonny Gray, who was acquired from Cincinnati in exchange for Chase Petty and instantly becomes the team's most accomplished starter. Gray gives the Twins some serious juice and cred at the top of the rotation. The 32-year-old owns a career 3.61 ERA and is a two-time All-Star – most recently in 2019 when he posted a 2.87 ERA and was worth 4.5 fWAR for the Reds. Gray was a successful starter in his early seasons with Oakland, but reinvented himself as a strikeout pitcher in Cincy, posting the three highest K-rates of his career while raising his swinging strike rates from the mid-20% range to low-30%. He was lights-out in his official spring debut on Sunday. Despite his track record and rep, Gray won't be the club's Opening Day starter come Thursday at Target Field. Instead that honor goes to Ryan, who is still technically a rookie after making five starts in 2021. Per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com, he becomes just the third player since 1961 – and first in 35 years – to draw an Opening Day nod within the first six starts of his career. This decision probably has much more to do with Gray's readiness than anything else, but Ryan's done enough to earn it on his end. He's been spectacular everywhere in the minors, with a 2.67 ERA and 13.0 K/9 in three seasons. He looked great for the Twins late last year, flirting with a no-hitter in his second MLB start. He's been excellent this spring, allowing no runs on three hits over five innings with a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio. Following Ryan and Gray in the rotation, presumably, will be Ober. The big right-hander established himself and solidified his roster spot with an outstanding rookie performance. The question, of course, is whether he can back it up, but on the surface there is little reason to think Ober can't sustain as a solid mid-rotation starter. At the back end, the Twins are hoping to catch lightning with a pair of buy-low veteran free agents. Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer are interesting in that both were once heralded young arms and have earned top-10 Cy Young finishes at various points. But both are pretty far removed from sustained success. Realistically, the Twins are hoping that Bundy rebounds to his pre-2021 baseline, which was roughly an average pitcher (98 ERA+) who was reliable from a durability standpoint, while Archer – who hasn't posted an above-average ERA since 2017 – finds some semblance of his previous form. Neither is a total longshot. Either of these guys could turn into assets. But really their function is to handle early innings while prospects in the minors get up to speed and make their cases. Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, and Cole Sands are all among the high-upside pitchers with a very real chance of making an impact for the Twins this season. It's an exciting time. THE BAD I read the words now and they haunt me. Like corrosive acid, they eat away at my very soul. "If the Twins have ever fielded a better and deeper rotation than the one they're set to line up this year, I can't remember it," I wrote when introducing last year's starting pitching analysis. "From top to bottom (and beyond) this unit looks stacked." If I meant it in terms of a Jenga stack ready to topple, I would've been on the right track. But I didn't. After breaking through as one of the best in the league in 2019 and 2020, the pitching staff totally fell apart last year, and the rotation was a prime culprit. Twins starters ranked 25th in fWAR and ERA, and 24th in FIP and WHIP. One of their rotation mainstays, Kenta Maeda, struggled before requiring Tommy John surgery (he MIGHT make it back late this year) and the other was traded away at the deadline. Losing José Berríos hurts. A whole lot. While perhaps not living up to the lofty title of "ace," he was a clear front-line starter – one of the league's most consistent and durable pitchers. He basically never missed a start with the Twins and combined quantity with quality. La MaKina, who would've been under contract with Minnesota this year, was the real deal and he will be greatly missed. Berríos was the Twins' Opening Day starter in 2019 and 2020. Maeda took that honor last year, earning it with a Cy Young runner-up performance in '20. Now both are out of the picture, and the shift to Ryan as Opening Day starter epitomizes the front office's strategy with the rotation: shifting from proven high-caliber veterans to risky unproven minor-leaguers who aren't all that highly regarded outside of the Twins braintrust. I'm not saying it can't work. But there's a good chance it won't, and if so, this will not reflect well at all on a front office that seemingly straddled the line of reloading and rebuilding, trading their 2021 first-rounder for Gray and throwing $35 million at Carlos Correa. What's the point of all this if your rotation won't give you a chance? The optimistic side of me can buy into the idea of a rotation the features Ryan, Gray, Ober, Bundy and Archer offering enough to support a strong lineup en route to a playoff berth. But as alluded before, it's the depth behind them that frightens me. Aaron Gleeman mentioned on a recent episode of Gleeman and the Geek that Twins teams have needed an average of 17 different starters per season. With so few stable assets in place, the Twins are going to be heavily reliant on their existing talent for reinforcements beyond a thin and questionable front line. It's a bold and high-stakes vote of self-confidence. THE BOTTOM LINE Last year, it seemed like the Twins had starting pitching depth. They didn't. This year, it seems like the Twins don't have starting pitching depth. Maybe they do. Really, it comes down to largely to health, which is in many ways uncontrollable and luck-driven. The front office has left itself little margin for error on this front by investing in reclamation projects and handing the team's destiny to a stable of unproven commodities. Injuries and ill-fated signings ravaged the club's depth in 2021 and left the Twins scrambling for answers. It was understandable as a one-year blip. Another season of dreadful pitching performance will not be nearly as tolerable, and would leave Derek Falvey and Thad Levine open to all the criticism they'll receive. Their defiantly minimalist approach to the offseason pitching market will only be excusable if their methodically developed pitching pipeline pays off, and fast. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field Position Analysis: Designated Hitter
  24. Congratulations are in order for the rookie, as it is rare for a pitcher this new to the league to get an opening day start. Ryan getting the nod on opening day shows that the Twins are extremely confident in him, but they also may have a problem with their starting rotation. Thanks for the Memories, Nelson First, who would have thought the return would have been this immense when the Twins dealt Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays in July of 2021. Obviously, the Twins received Ryan, who is now an MLB dot com Top-100 prospect, and the Twins' opening-day starter, along with right-handed pitcher Drew Strotman, who is the Twins' 19th-best prospect according to MLB dot com. The Twins traded away 59 games of a designated hitter who hit .226/.283/.442 (.725) with a 96 wRC+ for the Rays. Over that stretch for the Twins, the designated hitter spot hit .244/.353/.463 (.816) with a wRC+ of 124. As crazy as it sounds, the Twins actually upgraded their designated hitter position by trading away Cruz and spreading out designated hitter at-bats. Josh Donaldson (30 starts), Brent Rooker (10 starts), Miguel Sano (6 starts), Jorge Polanco (6 starts), Luis Arraez (4 starts), Mitch Garver (2 starts), and Max Kepler (1 start) all received at-bats in the designated hitter role. This combination of players was more productive for the Twins in the DH role than Cruz was for the Rays. Considering that the Twins upgraded at DH and received their opening-day starter for the following season, this trade looks like a massive win for Derek Falvey and company. Positives Obviously, the Twins giving a rookie a nod on opening day for the first time since Tom Hall in 1969 shows the immense amount of confidence they have in Ryan. Ryan has had a good spring training thus far, throwing five innings, allowing no runs, and striking out six. It has been a minimal sample size, but Ryan has looked very sharp and poised in both starts he has made. Ryan has been a strikeout machine in his professional baseball career despite having below-average velocity. Ryan averaged 13 strikeouts per nine throughout the minor leagues, and his success continued in his five big league starts, striking out 30 batters in 26 2/3 innings. He was 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA, but poor batted-ball luck inflated his ERA. His xERA was 2.99, suggesting that he is better than the 4.05 figure. So how does Ryan have so much success with below-average velocity? Does he throw the majority of his pitches as off-speed pitches? Nope, it's more like the opposite. Of 616 pitchers to throw at least 250 pitches in 2021, Ryan had the 25th highest fastball percentage, throwing a fastball 65.8 percent of the time. For Ryan, it all comes down to deception and movement. Of that same group of pitchers to throw at least 250 pitches in 2021, Ryan had the 33rd most vertical movement on his fastball (18.3 inches). This puts him in the top six percent of pitchers in terms of vertical movement on his fastball. Additionally, Ryan may be so effective because of his unorthodox release point. Ryan has an extremely low release point, as among 555 right-handed pitchers with a four-seam fastball in MLB, Ryan has the 24th lowest average release point (5.05 feet), and nobody with a lower release point than him throws the pitch as frequently as he does. His unorthodox deception and movement make his fastball appear to be rising, making it very tough on hitters. TwinsDaily's own Parker Hageman does a great job of highlighting this below. Between Ryan's strong track record of strikeouts and his unorthodox fastball, there is a reason to believe that he will be a solid contributor to the Twins pitching staff in 2022 and on, making it easy to see why the Twins have so much confidence in him. Negatives Although Ryan is an up-and-coming pitcher for the Twins, it is tough to justify having an inexperienced pitcher be the opening-day starter for a team that wants to contend. A team that signed Carlos Correa to the largest deal ever for an infielder. A team that, as Ted Schwerzler would say, "paid the man" when they extended Byron Buxton for seven years. A team that went out and traded their first-round pick from just last year to acquire Sonny Gray, who most people presumed would take the role of staff ace. It is a little problematic when you realize that Ryan is one of the least experienced pitchers in MLB history to get the opening-day nod for his team. As Twins beat writer Do-Hyoung Park points out, there have only been two other pitchers in MLB history to make an opening-day start within their first six career games, and Joe Ryan is the first one to do it since the disposable camera was invented (1987). I'm as big of a Joe Ryan fan as anyone, but starting him on opening day says more about the Twins' starting rotation than anything. How many other teams would Ryan be the opening day starter for if you look around the league? Five? Less? How many of these teams expect to contend? I would guess that this number is zero. Concluding Thoughts Yes, it may be problematic for the Twins rotation if they see a guy with five career starts as their best starting pitcher going into the year. Fortunately, most people still see Sonny Gray as the staff ace, but Ryan will start on opening day for whatever reason the Twins management and coaching see fit. Although it may be problematic right now, man, will it be fun. There weren't many moments in a disappointing 2021 season that were very memorable, but every start Ryan made was great entertainment. The confidence he exudes is unparalleled among rookies. Maybe a young, confident pitcher is what the Twins need to set the tone for the 2022 season. What do you think? Is Joe Ryan the right choice to start opening day for the Twins? Share your thoughts on this decision in the comments below and start a discussion. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins!
  25. I share my motto for the upcoming Twins season with '90's science fiction TV show "The X-Files." I want to believe. However, looking at this pitching staff, I am having a hard time suspending my disbelief to buy in with this team. Who the heck is going to pitch? Who will play in the outfield when Buxton and/or Kepler are inevitably injured at some point this season? Who is the closer? Before the internet, folks would prepare for the upcoming season by reading one of the many preview magazines that cost an arm and a leg at the grocery store. My dad would always say that you could tell how good a team would be by how many times the preview of it said "if." There are way too many "ifs" this year for me to take the Twins seriously. I don't think they will be awful, but I don't think they are in any way a World Series team this season. Of course I am also on record as saying I thought the Wild would stink this season. So it goes. "If" Byron Buxton stays healthy... "If" Bailey Ober can be successful... "If" Dylan Bundy is one of the few reclamation projects this FO has tried that works... "If" Joe Ryan, Josh Winder, etc can be stretched out for a full season... "If" Chris Archer can provide competent innings, let alone return to his all star form... "If" Alex Kirilloff develops into an impactful, everyday player... "If" Gary Sanchez cuts down on his strikeouts... "If" Jorge Polanco can repeat his monster 2021 season... "If" Ryan Jeffers can be a solid full time catcher... There are too many "ifs" this year. I think there will be high points this season and I hope that the team is competitive well into October. But they will need a lot of things to go their way. I have been a Twins fan since I was born, and I always WANT the team to do well. I just don't know how to convince myself that they will be good this season.
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