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  1. I woke up on Saturday morning feeling a little sad. And no, my sadness did not come from the fact that my wife and I were embarking on the three-day sojourn of potty-training our 2-year-old. It was because my Timberwolves lost another heartbreaker the night before, eliminating them from the playoffs. Isn’t that a little pathetic that a grown man is emotionally affected by a basketball team losing? Sort of. But there’s more to fandom than being overly invested in a team’s performance. A good friend of mine from South Dakota cheers for the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Celtics, Tennessee Titans, New York Islanders, and Duke Blue Devils. He blames his dad for his strange allegiances: “I’m a second-generation bandwagoner,” he says. That’s not normal. Most sports fans cheer for their hometown team. There are outliers like those who jumped on Coach K’s bandwagon this March; those who cheer for a team because there is a certain player or coach you really like (for me that’s LeBron James); those who you really appreciate a team’s culture (a popular one here is the Tim Duncan Spurs teams); or those who just like a team’s uniforms (yup, clothes). Being a fan means being a part of something bigger than oneself: a fanbase, a culture, a team. Depending on level of commitment and following, it can often feel like you really are a part of the team. I followed the 2020 Twins closely, watching portions of all 60 games that year. That highly-anticipated season was filled with adversity, struggles, and resilience. After rallying to clinch the division on the last day of the season, the Twins were quickly extinguished in the playoffs by the Houston Astros. When I heard Jorge Polanco strikeout looking to end the series on the radio, tears rolled down my cheeks as I drove home. Not only did I ache for some long-awaited playoff success (it’s been 20 years for crying out loud), I wanted it for those players. I “knew” this group of men as much as someone can without ever having met them or even attended a game in-person that season (thanks, Covid). I watched them struggle and overcome. I saw their joys and pains. Sure, my reaction to their loss may have been a little much, and quite frankly had more to do with my emotional state and level of energy (we were new parents of a six-month old at the time). But that team made me feel something, be a part of something, and just have something to cheer for. Life is hard. We need things to pull us out of our own heads, out of our own agendas and plans. Sports is one such thing. It’s a chance to cheer. To take joy in something external to yourself that you have no control over. We try to take control over far too much in life; the outcome of your team’s season is not something you can control. Fandom is a chance to let go and just enjoy life. Sometimes, the lack of control can be painful: it can be even more agonizing to watch my team lose than it was when I was an athlete and lost a heartbreaking game. Because then, I was able to influence the outcome; I knew I had given every ounce of effort to succeed. So if I lost, I could live with it. When the Timberwolves lost on Friday, it continued to sting because I felt helpless in front of the situation. I watched as their season wilted away and couldn’t do anything to stop it. Often when fans feel this helplessness we rush to Twitter and b**** and moan about the team doing this, or failing to do that, as if we are owed something by our sports heroes. We so often forget that these animatronic athletic machines are human beings. They have families. Hopes and dreams. Fears. Wounds. Suffering. Contrary to popular opinion, money and fame don’t cover up the human condition these men and women deal with every day. Just like you and me. So next time your team loses, and you’re about to go to Twitter or your group chat with the boys, remember that there’s a person behind that uniform that has “failed” you. Quite honestly, the more I read what is written about them, hear their interviews, and watch their games, the more I can see the goodness inside of them and the humanity within them; which in turn has led to an appreciation for them outside of what they can do for my team. Take Patrick Beverly and Carlos Correa. I have always known that Pat Bev is a whiner, agitator, and kind of a jerk when he plays basketball; he’s the kind of guy you hate playing against, but love having on your team. Since he’s been in Minnesota, I’ve grown to appreciate the toughness, leadership, and energy he brings to a team and fanbase, without ignoring the not-so-good things about him. I hated Carlos Correa for what he did to not only take part in but lead the Astros sign-stealing scandal that helped win them a World Series in 2017. So, when he signed with the Twins in March, I was torn. I had “decided” that I loved the player (damn he can play) but hated the person. Ever since he put on a Twins uniform, he’s grown on me. He brings accountability to a clubhouse that is in desperate need of a bounceback year. His constant smile plastered on his face while patrolling shortstop reveals how he relishes playing a kid’s game as a grown man. He has his baby boy’s name etched in his glove, where most players have their own name and number. He’s shown deference that despite his massive salary and pedigree, he’s not trying to take over as the big man on campus. Thanks for showing me that you’re people too, C4 and Pat Bev. There’s a reason why we pace around our living rooms with the game on the line. Why we covertly pull out our phones at weddings to check the score. Why we rush to the nearest TV when the game’s on the line. Being a fan shows our need to belong to something, to find joy in daily life, and just let go of all the s*** that life throws at us. It isn’t just an obsession. It’s an expression of who we are. Check out my other unique sports content at the Bad Loser Blog; covering basketball, football, baseball, and the human side of sports.
  2. In a typical season, if a player goes on the Injured List, they might miss a couple weeks and then come back having missed perhaps less than 10 percent of the season. Now, a similar minor injury could cause a player to miss as much as 25 percent of this shortened 60-game season. This means teams will need to have a heightened sense of care for their players to help avoid injuries, especially with the lack of rest days built into the schedule.All Twins fans were holding their breath last Monday afternoon, when Byron Buxton needed to be carted off the field after chasing down a Nelson Cruz home run. Fortunately, Buxton only suffered a mild left-foot strain and could be back in action for Opening Day. Freakish accidents like this could instantly change the outlook of a team’s season. So, how might an injury or two to a key player or two affect the Twins chances this season? To find the answer to this question, we should first look at the odds on baseball for this season, to gauge where the Twins chances are to win the division heading into the season. Right now, the Twins over/under win total for the season stands at 34.5. This gives the Twins a projected couple game leg up on the Cleveland Indians (32 wins) and the Chicago White Sox (31.5 wins) heading into the season. In total, the Twins currently are -150 to win the AL Central, which means they are being given a 60 percent chance to win the division. While this isn’t the perfect indicator of how things will break down, it is a strong baseline to use for projecting the season. The next thing to look at is how many wins should the Twins expect to lose as a result of a few key players missing some games due to injury. To do this, again we will look into projections to gauge a rough estimate, this time being the ZiPS projections over at Fangraphs in order to break down the expected WAR from the top players on the Twins roster. Altogether, there are 8 players on the Twins roster who project to be worth at least 1 WAR during the 2020 season. However, when you lower the criteria down to 0.8 WAR or higher, that list expands to 13 players, which is tied with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers for the highest in the MLB. For the purposes of this exercise, we will consider those 13 players as the key members of the Twins 2020 roster. Those 13 players include each of the 9 projected starting position players, along with 4 starting pitchers that include Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak. For the 9 position players, they had a weighted average (based on projected number of games played per player) of 0.021 WAR per game. To put that in simpler terms, the Twins should expect to have one less win for every 48 combined games that these players miss below what they are expected to play. This number could vary depending on which player(s) have to miss time, but on average this is what we should expect. For reference, here are the ZiPS projection breakdowns for each of those 9 players. Download attachment: 8C536D16-4FFE-4915-B6A8-D49A3C276848.png Next we will analyze how missed starts by those four starting pitchers will hurt the Twins. Again, we will use the weighted average (based on the projected number of starts per pitcher) of 0.10 WAR per start. This means for every 10 starts that these four pitchers miss, the Twins should expect to win one less game. Like the hitters, here are the ZiPS projects for those four Twins starting pitchers. Download attachment: DC122E4E-993C-4833-953D-BE7BDEDF16CB.png While 48 games missed by position players, or 10 missed starts by starting pitchers, per win may seem like a lot for a mere 60-game season, it could add up very quickly if a player or two suffers a severe injury early in the season, and wind up missing that amount of time by themselves. This won’t be that hard of a thing to have happen, given that recovery times for various injuries will still take the normal amount of time. This means that even intermediate injuries that have a 6-8 week recovery time, like a wrist fracture for example, are now essentially season ending injuries. One thing to keep in mind is these numbers are reflective of these players’ projected performance over a replacement level player. With the incredible depth that the Twins have, it can be expected that the negative effects of losing one or more of these players to an injury will be less severe, as players who would play more to fill in like Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave, Ehrie Adrianza, Rich Hill, Michael Pineda and Homer Bailey all project to play at above replacement level. Additionally, they have players in the minor league system like Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach and Lewis Thorpe who could be called upon to provide above replacement level play as well. This is a big advantage that the Twins will have over other organizations, who don’t have this level of depth, when it comes to dealing with the inevitable loss of players throughout the season. With the extreme importance that each game will have in this shortened season, a couple games here or there that go in the “L” column instead of the “W” column could make or break the season for the Twins. Luckily, the Twins seem better prepared than most to withstand a few short-term losses, but if those losses become long-term and teams like the Indians or White Sox are able to stay healthy, it could cost the Twins any chance they had of winning the division or even making the Postseason. Click here to view the article
  3. All Twins fans were holding their breath last Monday afternoon, when Byron Buxton needed to be carted off the field after chasing down a Nelson Cruz home run. Fortunately, Buxton only suffered a mild left-foot strain and could be back in action for Opening Day. Freakish accidents like this could instantly change the outlook of a team’s season. So, how might an injury or two to a key player or two affect the Twins chances this season? To find the answer to this question, we should first look at the odds on baseball for this season, to gauge where the Twins chances are to win the division heading into the season. Right now, the Twins over/under win total for the season stands at 34.5. This gives the Twins a projected couple game leg up on the Cleveland Indians (32 wins) and the Chicago White Sox (31.5 wins) heading into the season. In total, the Twins currently are -150 to win the AL Central, which means they are being given a 60 percent chance to win the division. While this isn’t the perfect indicator of how things will break down, it is a strong baseline to use for projecting the season. The next thing to look at is how many wins should the Twins expect to lose as a result of a few key players missing some games due to injury. To do this, again we will look into projections to gauge a rough estimate, this time being the ZiPS projections over at Fangraphs in order to break down the expected WAR from the top players on the Twins roster. Altogether, there are 8 players on the Twins roster who project to be worth at least 1 WAR during the 2020 season. However, when you lower the criteria down to 0.8 WAR or higher, that list expands to 13 players, which is tied with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers for the highest in the MLB. For the purposes of this exercise, we will consider those 13 players as the key members of the Twins 2020 roster. Those 13 players include each of the 9 projected starting position players, along with 4 starting pitchers that include Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak. For the 9 position players, they had a weighted average (based on projected number of games played per player) of 0.021 WAR per game. To put that in simpler terms, the Twins should expect to have one less win for every 48 combined games that these players miss below what they are expected to play. This number could vary depending on which player(s) have to miss time, but on average this is what we should expect. For reference, here are the ZiPS projection breakdowns for each of those 9 players. Next we will analyze how missed starts by those four starting pitchers will hurt the Twins. Again, we will use the weighted average (based on the projected number of starts per pitcher) of 0.10 WAR per start. This means for every 10 starts that these four pitchers miss, the Twins should expect to win one less game. Like the hitters, here are the ZiPS projects for those four Twins starting pitchers. While 48 games missed by position players, or 10 missed starts by starting pitchers, per win may seem like a lot for a mere 60-game season, it could add up very quickly if a player or two suffers a severe injury early in the season, and wind up missing that amount of time by themselves. This won’t be that hard of a thing to have happen, given that recovery times for various injuries will still take the normal amount of time. This means that even intermediate injuries that have a 6-8 week recovery time, like a wrist fracture for example, are now essentially season ending injuries. One thing to keep in mind is these numbers are reflective of these players’ projected performance over a replacement level player. With the incredible depth that the Twins have, it can be expected that the negative effects of losing one or more of these players to an injury will be less severe, as players who would play more to fill in like Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave, Ehrie Adrianza, Rich Hill, Michael Pineda and Homer Bailey all project to play at above replacement level. Additionally, they have players in the minor league system like Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach and Lewis Thorpe who could be called upon to provide above replacement level play as well. This is a big advantage that the Twins will have over other organizations, who don’t have this level of depth, when it comes to dealing with the inevitable loss of players throughout the season. With the extreme importance that each game will have in this shortened season, a couple games here or there that go in the “L” column instead of the “W” column could make or break the season for the Twins. Luckily, the Twins seem better prepared than most to withstand a few short-term losses, but if those losses become long-term and teams like the Indians or White Sox are able to stay healthy, it could cost the Twins any chance they had of winning the division or even making the Postseason.
  4. We’ve done it, Twins fans. We’ve officially made it to Spring Training! Baseball games at Target Field will be played before we know it. As the team assembles in Ft. Myers, some of the burning questions that will assuredly be asked of Rocco Baldelli are “Who will be hitting leadoff?” or “What will the batting order be?” It’s a fun exercise as a fan because there really seems to be no wrong answer with this team. If Rocco wanted to, he could draw names out of a hat and the 2020 Twins would score some runs. This lineup has no weak spots. Check out this article from Mike Petriello about how deep the Twins are. The 2020 lineup is similar to the ‘19 version except the Twins are getting a full season of Luis Arraez and of course, they added Josh Donaldson. I’ve been calling them the “Bomba Squad 2.0”. No matter how you slice it, the 2020 Twins lineup is downright silly. The definition of #FunToWatch. They have a real opportunity to break their own major league record of 307 bombas hit in 2019. It got me thinking… How does the 2020 Twins lineup potentially compare to one of the most lethal teams of all-time - The 1927 “Murderers’ Row '' New York Yankees? Of course, the ‘27 Yankees are widely considered to be one of the best, if not the best team in baseball history. They won 110 games, a record at the time, and cakewalked their way to a 4-game sweep of the Pirates in the World Series. Four players in the starting lineup ended up in the Hall of Fame: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and Earle Combs. You might be asking yourself, there’s no way the 2020 team holds a candle to one of the best teams of all-time? Well, it’s potentially closer than you think… 1927 Yankees Top 9 Starting Position Players - SLG % C Pat Collins - .418 1B Lou Gehrig - .765* 2B Tony Lazzeri - .482 SS Mark Koenig - .382 3B Joe Dugan - .362 OF Bob Meusel - .510 OF Babe Ruth - .772* OF Earle Combs - .511 UTIL Ray Morehart - .328 *I would like to point out how insane Gehrig and Ruth’s SLG % were. They were #1 and #2 atop the league in 1927. The third highest SLG % that year was Al Simmons at .645. Those poor 1920’s era pitchers... Combined: AB’s: 4217 1B: 874 2B: 253 3B: 85 HR: 152 SLG: .53189 2020 Twins Top 9 Starting Position Players - Using ‘19 SLG% C Mitch Garver - .630 1B Miguel Sano - .576 2B Arraez - .439 SS Polanco - .485 3B Donaldson - .521 OF Rosario - .500 OF Buxton - .513 OF Kepler - .519 DH Cruz - .639 Combined: AB’s: 4008 1B: 608 2B: 244 3B: 16 HR: 247 SLG: .53193 That’s right. The 2020 Twins projected lineup actually out-slugged the 1927 Yankees (by .0004). Granted, the comparison is a little unfair since I am using 2019 stats. Not to mention the ‘27 Yankees performed better than the Twins in many scenarios (OPS, R/G, and AVG). But for this scenario, I choose to ignore that and only focus on the 2020 Twins being better than the 1927 Yankees at something. Speaking of something, SLG % isn’t the only stat that the 2020 Twins had an advantage over the 1927 Yankees. They also hit more home runs (247 - 152), had more total bases per plate appearance, and had more hitters with an above average OPS relative to the rest of the league. Think about these stats for a second. Who would have thought that entering the 2020 season, we’d be talking about the Twins and Murderers’ Row in the same breath. Imagine telling a Twins fan that after the 100-loss 2016 season. So there you have it. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have slowly constructed one of the most terrifying offenses in the game today, maybe...ever? OK, that might be a stretch. Only time will tell. Here’s to hoping the 2020 “Bomba Squad 2.0” season ends the same way as the Murderers’ Row - with a World Series victory.
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