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  1. There’s an old Chinese proverb that “a good horse will never return to eat grass it's walked past”. Whoever came up with this proverb clearly didn’t know about the cutthroat free-agent market. After a whirlwind weekend of trades, the Twins are still left with gaps to address in their bullpen. However, there are still many available arms left on the market, many of whom donned Twins uniforms in the past. Here are four free-agent relievers that the Twins should re-sign without having to give up the Trevor Story fund. Tyler Clippard Twins’ Tenure: 2020 Tyler Clippard celebrated his fifteenth season in the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, where he quietly had one of his best seasons yet. In the most competitive division in baseball, Clippard held a 3.20 ERA, 1.303 WHIP, and 1.9 K/W ratio. At age 37, Clippard is one of the oldest relievers on the market and unlikely to get a long-term contract with any team. This makes him a cost-efficient and effective addition to the team as an alternative to Taylor Rogers or Caleb Thielbar in short relief scenarios. Blake Parker Twins’ Tenure: half of 2019 Blake Parker was designated for assignment during the height of the Bomba Squad era and was quickly picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies. Last season, we briefly saw him in Cleveland’s bullpen, where he was, dare we say, pretty good! It’s as close to a 180 as we’ve seen since his last days in Minnesota. His 3.09 ERA, 142 ERA+, and 2.64 SO/W in 43 innings last season are fairly comparable to Tyler Duffey’s statistics. Similar to Clippard, his age is a disadvantage on paper, but his price tag is unlikely to break the bank. Kohl Stewart Twins’ Tenure: 2018 - 2019 The Twins selected Kohl Stewart fourth overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, over the likes of Tim Anderson, Aaron Judge, and Twins’ legend Isiah Kiner-Falefa. He demolished the Minor Leagues until he was called up to the Majors in 2018, where he fizzled out almost immediately. Things have been challenging for Stewart since his release in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season due to having Type 1 Diabetes, pitched for two months last year with the Cubs until he was placed on the 60-day IL, and was offered only a minor league assignment with the Cubs. With that said, Kohl Stewart is only 26 years old, making him over a decade younger than the others on this list. With the addition of a Cutter last season, Stewart has a six-pitch repertoire with varying degrees of success. He currently relies heavily on his Sinker, which is by far his least effective pitch. If the Twins can focus Stewart on perfecting his virtually unhittable Slider and newly-added Cutter, Stewart can become a Sergio Romo-esque reliever with a Thielbar-esque story. Due to his recent misfortunes, Stewart is likely also the cheapest addition on this list, Signing Stewart to another Minor League assignment is low-cost with a high upside. Sergio Romo Twins’ Tenure: 2019 - 2020 Speaking of Sergio Romo, this fan-favorite has spent time with almost every team in the league with no signs of stopping. Last season, opponents had a paltry .219 batting average against his infamous Slider. Romo also pitched 61 2/3 innings last year, one inning more than his All-Star season in 2013. Romo is a workhorse who seems to defy time and gravity. His return to Minnesota will be a welcome relief (pun intended) for fans who have lost so many other favorites this past week. Who else would you like to see the Twins reunite with? Leave a comment below! View full article
  2. Tyler Clippard Twins’ Tenure: 2020 Tyler Clippard celebrated his fifteenth season in the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, where he quietly had one of his best seasons yet. In the most competitive division in baseball, Clippard held a 3.20 ERA, 1.303 WHIP, and 1.9 K/W ratio. At age 37, Clippard is one of the oldest relievers on the market and unlikely to get a long-term contract with any team. This makes him a cost-efficient and effective addition to the team as an alternative to Taylor Rogers or Caleb Thielbar in short relief scenarios. Blake Parker Twins’ Tenure: half of 2019 Blake Parker was designated for assignment during the height of the Bomba Squad era and was quickly picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies. Last season, we briefly saw him in Cleveland’s bullpen, where he was, dare we say, pretty good! It’s as close to a 180 as we’ve seen since his last days in Minnesota. His 3.09 ERA, 142 ERA+, and 2.64 SO/W in 43 innings last season are fairly comparable to Tyler Duffey’s statistics. Similar to Clippard, his age is a disadvantage on paper, but his price tag is unlikely to break the bank. Kohl Stewart Twins’ Tenure: 2018 - 2019 The Twins selected Kohl Stewart fourth overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, over the likes of Tim Anderson, Aaron Judge, and Twins’ legend Isiah Kiner-Falefa. He demolished the Minor Leagues until he was called up to the Majors in 2018, where he fizzled out almost immediately. Things have been challenging for Stewart since his release in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season due to having Type 1 Diabetes, pitched for two months last year with the Cubs until he was placed on the 60-day IL, and was offered only a minor league assignment with the Cubs. With that said, Kohl Stewart is only 26 years old, making him over a decade younger than the others on this list. With the addition of a Cutter last season, Stewart has a six-pitch repertoire with varying degrees of success. He currently relies heavily on his Sinker, which is by far his least effective pitch. If the Twins can focus Stewart on perfecting his virtually unhittable Slider and newly-added Cutter, Stewart can become a Sergio Romo-esque reliever with a Thielbar-esque story. Due to his recent misfortunes, Stewart is likely also the cheapest addition on this list, Signing Stewart to another Minor League assignment is low-cost with a high upside. Sergio Romo Twins’ Tenure: 2019 - 2020 Speaking of Sergio Romo, this fan-favorite has spent time with almost every team in the league with no signs of stopping. Last season, opponents had a paltry .219 batting average against his infamous Slider. Romo also pitched 61 2/3 innings last year, one inning more than his All-Star season in 2013. Romo is a workhorse who seems to defy time and gravity. His return to Minnesota will be a welcome relief (pun intended) for fans who have lost so many other favorites this past week. Who else would you like to see the Twins reunite with? Leave a comment below!
  3. We’ll do a lot of looking ahead to this Twins-Yankees ALDS here at Twins Daily over the coming days, but I thought it was also worthwhile to take a quick look back at how these teams have played against each other so far in 2019. There’s no denying the Yankees dominance over the Twins in postseason play, but it’s also completely irrelevant. Rocco Baldelli’s response to whether he was aware of the recent postseason history between the Twins and Yankees was the exact message the entire organization and its fans needed to hear. https://twitter.com/dohyoungpark/status/1177986288194113537 So how about 2019? The Twins went 2-4 against the Yankees this season, though New York only held the advantage in run differential by five (43-38). Here’s how things went at Yankee Stadium, with links to the Twins Daily game recap for each contest: May 3 | NYY 6, MIN 3 May 4 | MIN 7, NYY 3 May 5 | NYY 4, MIN 1 (8 innings) The Bomba Squad was uncharacteristically quiet in that series, and a few untimely errors crippled the pitching staff. There were three unearned runs allowed the first game and one more in the finale. The teams met again nearly two months later in Minneapolis. July 22 | MIN 8, NYY 6 July 23 | NYY 14, MIN 12 (10 innings) July 24 | NYY 10, MIN 7 The Twins evened up the season series at two games a piece, then had New York against the ropes in the second game at Target Field. The Twins led 8-2 through the first four innings, but suffered a crushing extra-inning loss in what was among the most thrilling games of the season. https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1178505743558959104 Over the entire season series, the Twins combined to hit a solid .254/.343/.512 (.855 OPS), but the Yankees had a much more impressive .327/.402/.588 line (.989 OPS). Poor starting pitching was a common theme throughout for both teams. Here’s a look at the numbers: NYY SPs: 8.54 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 6.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 1.045 OPS against in 26 1/3 innings. MIN SPs: 7.45 ERA, 1.97 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, 1.047 OPS against in 29 innings. Ick. The biggest separator was bullpen performance. Twins relievers combined for a 5.87 ERA in 23 frames while the Yankees pen posted a 3.38 ERA over 26 2/3 innings. Blake Parker managed to give up five runs while recording just five outs against the Yankees, so I guess take that with a grain of salt. Parker’s dreadful appearance in that July 23 madhouse of a game was his last in a Twins uniform. Considering the changes both these teams have gone through since late July, even this season’s previous matchups might not matter. That alone illustrates how completely ridiculous it is to drag any prior years into the conversation.
  4. I came across a lot of interesting facts and numbers from the time that these now major leaguers were just a bunch of hopeful kids attending classes everyday. Here’s a list that I’ve put together, with a personal experience shared at the end. Kyle Gibson was a vital part of the Twins rotation last year, after struggling for some years in the majors. That story is a bit similar to how his college career went down. He was off to a slow start, coming out of the bullpen during his freshman year for the Missouri Tigers, in 2007. But then, when he started being used as a starter in 2008, he turned the corner and pitched at a good level in the following two seasons. In his last year in college, when he posted a 3.21 ERA and 11.05 K/9. Gibby and the Tigers played the NCAA Regionals in all of the three years he was there. Kyle Gibson (Missouri, 2007-09) 3.66 ERA 63 games (29 starts) 259.0 IP 304 K (10.48 K/9) 0 HR 61 BB (2.10 BB/9) 1.16 WHIP 9 SV Tyler Duffey was drafted by the Twins in 2012 out of his hometown college, Rice University, in Houston. He spent three full seasons playing for the Owls between 2010 and 2012, helping the school claim its fourth conference championship in 2011. Curiously enough, do you know who was elected the conference MVP that year? That’s right...Duffey. He helped the Owls to finish the regular season in first place (16-8 conference record), with the highest number of wins (42-21 overall record) and to be the No. 24 program in the nation. He shared closing duties with former Twin J.T. Chargois. Tyler Duffey (Rice, 2010-2012) 3.06 ERA 92 games (1 start) 13 SV 152.1 IP 189 K (11.12 K/9) 14 HR (0.82 HR/9) 55 BB (3.24 BB/9) 1.21 WHIP Trevor Hildenberger also spent three seasons in college ball, but his overall numbers weren’t nearly as impressive as Duffey’s nor his stellar minor league totals. Coming out of high school, he pitched for the University of California, Berkeley starting in 2010, but he was redshirted during the 2011 season. His best season was his senior year, in which he posted a 2.83 ERA and tied the school record of 10 single-season saves. On May 10, 2014 he pitched three innings to earn a save, striking out six batters, his career high. Trevor Hildenberger (California, 2010-2014) 4.28 ERA 56 games (5 starts) 11 SV 106.0 IP 95 K (7.97 K/9) 3 HR (0.25 HR/9) 33 BB (2.77 BB/9) 1.34 WHIP Veteran relief pitcher Blake Parker wasn’t always a pitcher. During his three seasons playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, from 2004 to 2006, Parker played third base. Drafted in 2006, forgoing his senior year, he had a very slow start as a position player on rookie and A-ball and started his transition to the mound in 2007, to never turn back. As a batter in college, his best season was during his sophomore year when he had an .865 OPS and was an extra-base maniac, with a 54.55 XBH%. After maintaining a 2.85 ERA in ten years pitching in the minors, he knew he made the right call for his career. Blake Parker (Arkansas, 2004-06) .266/.344/.417 (.761 OPS) 129 games 504 AB 15 HR 79 RBI 16 SB 51 BB (8.79 BB%) 118 K (20.34 K%) Taylor Rogers is a superstar in the making right now, but his college career was nowhere near an indication of that. After being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in 2009, he decided not to sign with them and to attend the University of Kentucky. He was a starting pitcher for the Wildcats for three seasons and his performance comes as a shock for those of us who have been seeing him thriving at the major league level nowadays. Look at what his Wikipedia page has to say about his college career: “In 2010, he tied for the Southeastern Conference lead in losses (7) and runs allowed (68), as he went 4-7 with a 6.40 ERA. In 2011, he tied for second in the Southeastern Conference in losses (7), and was third-highest in runs allowed (56). In 2012, he was fourth in the Southeastern Conference in runs allowed (45)”. Can you believe this? Taylor Rogers (Kentucky, 2010-12) 5.34 ERA 45 games (42 starts) 249.0 IP 172 K (6.21 K/9) 25 HR (0.90 HR/9) 55 BB (1.99 BB/9) 1.46 WHIP Addison Reed's MLB career is pretty respectable. His college career? It was monstrous. In three seasons pitching for the Aztecs, Reed was one of the best pitchers in the country. During his sophomore year, in 2009, he led the nation with 20 saves in 20 save opportunities, striking out 38 batters in 27.2 IP (12.36 K/9) and finishing with a 0.65 ERA. He was named the 2009 National Stopper of the Year by the NCBWA. Addison Reed (San Diego State, 2008-10) 2.16 ERA 60 games (11 starts) 24 SV 132.0 IP 154 K (10.40 K/9) 10 HR (0.68 HR/9) 31 BB (2.09 BB/9) 1.05 WHIP Another player who had an astonishing college career was C.J. Cron. In three years playing for the Utah Utes, between 2009 and 2011, Cron was acknowledged as one of the best first basemen in the nation. Not only did he have extraordinary individual numbers, but he also helped the Utes reach the regional finals in 2009, his freshman year. During his junior year, he was named a first-team All-American by Baseball America, NCBWA, ABCA, Perfect Game, ESPN and the Collegiate Baseball newspaper (Louisville Slugger). He slashed .434/.517/.803 (1.320 OPS) that season. C.J. Cron (Utah, 2009-11) .396/.459/.713 (1.172 OPS) 157 games 641 AB 46 HR 198 RBI 62 BB (8.46 BB%) 75 K (10.23 K%) When the Twins signed Jason Castro to a three-year, $24,5 million contract in 2017, they did it for his defensive skills. As a major leaguer he hasn’t lived up to his minor league numbers and certainly not for his college numbers. Castro played very well offensively for Stanford, especially during his junior year. Not only did he lead the Cardinal in batting average (.376), hits (105), doubles (18) and RBI (73), he also earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors, second-team All-America accolades from Rivals.com and third-team All-America recognition by Baseball America, ABCA/Rawlings and Ping!Baseball. He was also a finalist for the Johnny Bench award honoring college baseball's top catcher. With Stanford reaching the College World Series that year, Castro was named to the All-College World Series team after hitting 6-for-18 (.333) during the event. Jason Castro (Stanford, 2006-08) .309/.381/.476 (.857 OPS) 162 games 540 AB 18 HR 106 RBI 62 BB (9.94 BB%) 83 K (13.30 K%) 11 SB Last, but not least (especially not for me, but I’ll get to that in a minute), there’s Mitch Garver, who played for four years for the University of New Mexico, in his hometown of Albuquerque. Garver was one of the best catchers in the nation. In his senior year, he slashed .390/.458/.589 (1.047 OPS) and led the team in multiple stats. But not only did he succeed individually, but he’s also led UNM to two of its three Mountain West Conference titles (2011 and 2012), including the very first in school history, making him one of the best Lobos of all time. Garver also takes much pride in his state’s roots. I don’t know if may of you will remember, but during Players Weekend last year, the catcher used a New Mexico flag bat. Mitch Garver (New Mexico, 2010-13) .351/.421/.527 (.948 OPS) 211 games 809 AB 18 HR 167 RBI 88 BB (9.51 BB%) 104 K (11.24 K%) 21 SB .384 BABIP What makes Garver’s college career so special to me? In 2013 I was granted a scholarship from my university in Brazil and I managed to spend six months in the U.S., studying at UNM. At the time, basketball was my main passion and I took every opportunity I had to go watch the Lobos basketball team, which was pretty good at that year (until a tragedy at March Madness…). But I took one chance to go to the Isotopes' park, home field of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, and attend the very first (and only) baseball game of my life. Back then, I didn’t follow baseball nearly as much as I do today. So I had no idea who any of those players were. It only occurred to me last year, when Garver started to get his first Major League chances, that he was very likely there, behind the plate, during that particular game. I checked, and, yes. He was at that game (check the picture above, which I took on that day). The Lobos trailed 4-2 on that February evening, the ballpark was empty before the game was finished and the pitcher I actually went there to watch, because we took one class together, didn’t even play (I think). But, in retrospect, I can see how meaningful that day was to me, and Garver was a part of that.
  5. March Madness is upon us. I’m nothing close to a college basketball specialist, but it seems to me that not even the most optimistic Minnesotan believes the Golden Gophers will go far in the Big Ten Tournament -- but, who knows? Either way, with or without the presence of the Gophers, many people will hop on the Bracketology train and go crazy during the month of March. Motivated by the school spirit brought by this event, I decided to look at how some Minnesota Twins did while they were playing in college.I came across a lot of interesting facts and numbers from the time that these now major leaguers were just a bunch of hopeful kids attending classes everyday. Here’s a list that I’ve put together, with a personal experience shared at the end. Kyle Gibson was a vital part of the Twins rotation last year, after struggling for some years in the majors. That story is a bit similar to how his college career went down. He was off to a slow start, coming out of the bullpen during his freshman year for the Missouri Tigers, in 2007. But then, when he started being used as a starter in 2008, he turned the corner and pitched at a good level in the following two seasons. In his last year in college, when he posted a 3.21 ERA and 11.05 K/9. Gibby and the Tigers played the NCAA Regionals in all of the three years he was there. Kyle Gibson (Missouri, 2007-09) 3.66 ERA 63 games (29 starts) 259.0 IP 304 K (10.48 K/9) 0 HR 61 BB (2.10 BB/9) 1.16 WHIP 9 SV Tyler Duffey was drafted by the Twins in 2012 out of his hometown college, Rice University, in Houston. He spent three full seasons playing for the Owls between 2010 and 2012, helping the school claim its fourth conference championship in 2011. Curiously enough, do you know who was elected the conference MVP that year? That’s right...Duffey. He helped the Owls to finish the regular season in first place (16-8 conference record), with the highest number of wins (42-21 overall record) and to be the No. 24 program in the nation. He shared closing duties with former Twin J.T. Chargois. Tyler Duffey (Rice, 2010-2012) 3.06 ERA 92 games (1 start) 13 SV 152.1 IP 189 K (11.12 K/9) 14 HR (0.82 HR/9) 55 BB (3.24 BB/9) 1.21 WHIP Trevor Hildenberger also spent three seasons in college ball, but his overall numbers weren’t nearly as impressive as Duffey’s nor his stellar minor league totals. Coming out of high school, he pitched for the University of California, Berkeley starting in 2010, but he was redshirted during the 2011 season. His best season was his senior year, in which he posted a 2.83 ERA and tied the school record of 10 single-season saves. On May 10, 2014 he pitched three innings to earn a save, striking out six batters, his career high. Trevor Hildenberger (California, 2010-2014) 4.28 ERA 56 games (5 starts) 11 SV 106.0 IP 95 K (7.97 K/9) 3 HR (0.25 HR/9) 33 BB (2.77 BB/9) 1.34 WHIP Veteran relief pitcher Blake Parker wasn’t always a pitcher. During his three seasons playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, from 2004 to 2006, Parker played third base. Drafted in 2006, forgoing his senior year, he had a very slow start as a position player on rookie and A-ball and started his transition to the mound in 2007, to never turn back. As a batter in college, his best season was during his sophomore year when he had an .865 OPS and was an extra-base maniac, with a 54.55 XBH%. After maintaining a 2.85 ERA in ten years pitching in the minors, he knew he made the right call for his career. Blake Parker (Arkansas, 2004-06) .266/.344/.417 (.761 OPS) 129 games 504 AB 15 HR 79 RBI 16 SB 51 BB (8.79 BB%) 118 K (20.34 K%) Taylor Rogers is a superstar in the making right now, but his college career was nowhere near an indication of that. After being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in 2009, he decided not to sign with them and to attend the University of Kentucky. He was a starting pitcher for the Wildcats for three seasons and his performance comes as a shock for those of us who have been seeing him thriving at the major league level nowadays. Look at what his Wikipedia page has to say about his college career: “In 2010, he tied for the Southeastern Conference lead in losses (7) and runs allowed (68), as he went 4-7 with a 6.40 ERA. In 2011, he tied for second in the Southeastern Conference in losses (7), and was third-highest in runs allowed (56). In 2012, he was fourth in the Southeastern Conference in runs allowed (45)”. Can you believe this? Taylor Rogers (Kentucky, 2010-12) 5.34 ERA 45 games (42 starts) 249.0 IP 172 K (6.21 K/9) 25 HR (0.90 HR/9) 55 BB (1.99 BB/9) 1.46 WHIP Addison Reed's MLB career is pretty respectable. His college career? It was monstrous. In three seasons pitching for the Aztecs, Reed was one of the best pitchers in the country. During his sophomore year, in 2009, he led the nation with 20 saves in 20 save opportunities, striking out 38 batters in 27.2 IP (12.36 K/9) and finishing with a 0.65 ERA. He was named the 2009 National Stopper of the Year by the NCBWA. Addison Reed (San Diego State, 2008-10) 2.16 ERA 60 games (11 starts) 24 SV 132.0 IP 154 K (10.40 K/9) 10 HR (0.68 HR/9) 31 BB (2.09 BB/9) 1.05 WHIP Another player who had an astonishing college career was C.J. Cron. In three years playing for the Utah Utes, between 2009 and 2011, Cron was acknowledged as one of the best first basemen in the nation. Not only did he have extraordinary individual numbers, but he also helped the Utes reach the regional finals in 2009, his freshman year. During his junior year, he was named a first-team All-American by Baseball America, NCBWA, ABCA, Perfect Game, ESPN and the Collegiate Baseball newspaper (Louisville Slugger). He slashed .434/.517/.803 (1.320 OPS) that season. C.J. Cron (Utah, 2009-11) .396/.459/.713 (1.172 OPS) 157 games 641 AB 46 HR 198 RBI 62 BB (8.46 BB%) 75 K (10.23 K%) When the Twins signed Jason Castro to a three-year, $24,5 million contract in 2017, they did it for his defensive skills. As a major leaguer he hasn’t lived up to his minor league numbers and certainly not for his college numbers. Castro played very well offensively for Stanford, especially during his junior year. Not only did he lead the Cardinal in batting average (.376), hits (105), doubles (18) and RBI (73), he also earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors, second-team All-America accolades from Rivals.com and third-team All-America recognition by Baseball America, ABCA/Rawlings and Ping!Baseball. He was also a finalist for the Johnny Bench award honoring college baseball's top catcher. With Stanford reaching the College World Series that year, Castro was named to the All-College World Series team after hitting 6-for-18 (.333) during the event. Jason Castro (Stanford, 2006-08) .309/.381/.476 (.857 OPS) 162 games 540 AB 18 HR 106 RBI 62 BB (9.94 BB%) 83 K (13.30 K%) 11 SB Last, but not least (especially not for me, but I’ll get to that in a minute), there’s Mitch Garver, who played for four years for the University of New Mexico, in his hometown of Albuquerque. Garver was one of the best catchers in the nation. In his senior year, he slashed .390/.458/.589 (1.047 OPS) and led the team in multiple stats. But not only did he succeed individually, but he’s also led UNM to two of its three Mountain West Conference titles (2011 and 2012), including the very first in school history, making him one of the best Lobos of all time. Garver also takes much pride in his state’s roots. I don’t know if may of you will remember, but during Players Weekend last year, the catcher used a New Mexico flag bat. Mitch Garver (New Mexico, 2010-13) .351/.421/.527 (.948 OPS) 211 games 809 AB 18 HR 167 RBI 88 BB (9.51 BB%) 104 K (11.24 K%) 21 SB .384 BABIP What makes Garver’s college career so special to me? In 2013 I was granted a scholarship from my university in Brazil and I managed to spend six months in the U.S., studying at UNM. At the time, basketball was my main passion and I took every opportunity I had to go watch the Lobos basketball team, which was pretty good at that year (until a tragedy at March Madness…). But I took one chance to go to the Isotopes' park, home field of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, and attend the very first (and only) baseball game of my life. Download attachment: MitchGarverLobos.jpg Back then, I didn’t follow baseball nearly as much as I do today. So I had no idea who any of those players were. It only occurred to me last year, when Garver started to get his first Major League chances, that he was very likely there, behind the plate, during that particular game. I checked, and, yes. He was at that game (check the picture above, which I took on that day). The Lobos trailed 4-2 on that February evening, the ballpark was empty before the game was finished and the pitcher I actually went there to watch, because we took one class together, didn’t even play (I think). But, in retrospect, I can see how meaningful that day was to me, and Garver was a part of that. Click here to view the article
  6. And my oddly specific intuition is mostly correct. Since that year, the Twins have been ranked the 29th, 25th, 4th, 23rd, 23rd, 21st, 19th and 18th best bullpen respectively by fWAR each year from 2011 to now. That comes out to an average of ~20th each year that is propped up massively by the one year it was actually good. Meaning that the bullpen has been near the top of the to-do list during the offseason for quite some time now. This offseason was no different, while the bullpen was technically the best it had been since 2013, it was obvious that they needed to upgrade with some reliever additions if they wanted a chance to build a stable pen. And so we waited and waited this offseason as cheap, reliable veteran relievers were signed and so far the bullpen addition has been … Blake Parker. I’m being a bit unfair here because Parker had an incredible 2017 with the Angels and was still pretty good last year. There also appears to be internal help as Fernando Romero has also been moved to the pen along with possibly Martin Perez or Adalberto Mejia. Also internally, Trevor Hildenberger and Addison Reed present themselves as interesting bounce-back candidates but I really only trust the server of sliders to actually do so (imaginary sliders, not real ones, it does annoy me slightly that Hildy’s best pitch is actually the changeup but that’s neither here nor there). One interesting thing from the numbers I presented earlier was that 2013 bullpen, going from 25th the year before to fourth is quite the drastic jump. While I won’t be looking at that bullpen specifically as the target of this article, I will be looking at another similar bullpen example in the Padres. San Diego’s bullpen in 2017 was ranked 24th in ERA, 29th in FIP, and 29th in fWAR. In 2018, their bullpen was ranked sixth in ERA, second in FIP, and second in fWAR. These are all major improvements from only a one year difference. How did they do it? Well hop on in and I’ll break down how their personnel changed and what the major factors for these drastic turnarounds were. Let’s start with the Padres in 2017, here are the eight relievers who logged the most innings for the Padres out of the bullpen in 2017 ranked by total innings: These players made up the majority of the second-worst bullpen that year, and here’s how they lined up in 2018 with asterisks on the returning players: A few things here, this is now the second straight article I have made that references Robbie Erlin, I don’t know how to feel about that. Also, the Padres really blurred the line between starter and reliever so many of these guys logged innings in both roles which forced me to check how they got their innings for this article to be accurate which was a pain in the butt. Also, Jordan Lyles has a negative career rWAR, stop giving him jobs. And finally, who was the leader in rWAR for the Padres last year? That’s right, Hunter Renfroe apparently was, what an odd team. Anyways, let’s ignore my semi-coherent rambling thoughts and talk about the topic at hand, the 2018 Padres only saw four guys remain from the previous year along with 4 fresh faces who made major impacts on the 2018 team. Where did all of these guys come from? Well, let’s break that down also: Free Agency-Craig Stammen, Jordan Lyles Trade-Matt Strahm, Robbie Erlin Developed-Adam Cimber, Phil Maton Waiver claim-Brad Hand, Kirby Yates An awfully balanced way to build a pen, almost suspiciously balanced. Why is it suspicious? I don’t know, it just is. Even those free agent additions weren’t big name tickets, as mentioned before, Lyles holds a negative career rWAR and Stammen was consistent for years with the Nationals but had missed two whole years of major league time before latching on with the Padres in 2017. Strahm was a talented lefty with the Royals who came over when the Royals were actually buyers in 2017 (if you can believe that) while Erlin was in the Mike Adams trade many moons ago (y’all remember Mike Adams)? Maton and Cimber were never highly rated prospects in the consistently great Padres system but worked themselves up through the ranks before getting their major league chances in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Hand and Yates are interesting cases. Hand was a struggling starter for years with the Marlins before San Diego claimed him, made him a reliever, and turned him into Andrew Miller Lite. Yates bounced around a few teams and had decent peripherals in some small samples but when even the Rays don’t want an extra look at you, that’s usually a bad sign. But he added a splitter when he joined the Padres and then became death, the destroyer of worlds. All in all, this is an awfully long-winded way of saying that a team doesn’t need to make a big splash to have an elite bullpen. The Padres used wood, glue and duct tape to build one of the best bullpens in the game thanks to their pitching coach Darren Balsley and a front office that has an eye for talent and the patience to let that talent develop. The Twins will look to somewhat follow suit as they advance in 2019 hoping that players like Matt Magill, Fernando Romero and possibly an NRI or two can improve under the eyes of Wes Johnson and stick in the Twins pen to give them a similar boost that the Padres saw in 2018. Talent takes many shapes, sometimes it's hard to see how a player can become great, but oftentimes they’re just a few adjustments away from letting their skill shine. Along with improving internally, the Padres were also forward thinking on how they could get the most from their pitching staff as they utilized them more as “out-getters” rather than designating them specifically as starters or relievers. On the outside, it doesn't appear as if the Padres made any major moves to go from one of the worst bullpens in baseball to one of the best. And even after they traded Hand and Cimber to the Indians, they went on to have the highest bullpen fWAR in all of baseball in the second half! All they did was improve everyone by just a little bit and the effects were enormous, having a system of internal improvement will yield results that ripple throughout the entire team more than any single signing can. So, if Wes and the boys prove to be the difference makers they all seem to be, the Twins could easily follow in the footsteps of the Padres and have a great bullpen in 2019. Oh, and last year the Padres paid less for all of those eight guys than what Addison Reed alone made.
  7. Assistant General Manager Rob Antony was interviewed by Darren Wolfson earlier this week. When Wolfson asked about Graterol joining the Twins, Anthony made the team’s position clear. “I would say absolutely,” Antony said. “That came into play when we talked about some of these guys some relievers that we talked about. We looked at each other and basically said, ‘Why not bring up Graterol?’” Graterol, the 20-year old righty, is working his way back from a shoulder issue- impingement- that had him on the injured list. In two appearances with the GCL Twins, he has thrown three scoreless innings by allowing one hit and striking out four. His fastball has been in the high-90s with good movement and some radar guns had him top out at 101 mph. He was added back to Pensacola's roster on Wednesday. “His arm feels great.” Antony went on to say. “So, we need to build him up and give him a few more outings and hopefully that continues, and I don’t think we’d be afraid to run him up here and see if he can’t be part of the equation in the bullpen.” In nine starts for Pensacola, Graterol has posted a 1.89 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP to go along with 46 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. Also, he has a 3.26 FIP, 8.69 K/9, 3.59 BB/9 and a 52.1% groundball rate. So far this season in the Southern League, the average age for pitchers is 24.3 years old. This means Graterol is almost a full month younger than the second youngest pitcher in the league. Even with the time missed because of injury, Graterol is still a consensus top-60 prospect in all of baseball. In their mid-season updates, Baseball America put him as their number 34 prospect, the highest of any major ranking. FanGraphs (52) and MLB.com (58) both had him in their top-60. Here at Twins Daily, he was our number three ranked prospect. Antony also hinted at the possibility of Graterol filling a multi-inning role that could be a big boost to a bullpen that has seemed to have a direct line to Rochester in recent weeks. Minnesota’s bullpen has completely transformed after parting ways with Matt Magill, Adalberto Mejia, Mike Morin and Blake Parker. Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson were added at the deadline, but Dyson is already on the injured list. Entering play on Wednesday, Minnesota’s bullpen had a 4.45 ERA, which ranked 17th in MLB. The Twins also don’t rank favorably when it comes to relievers FIP (23rd), BB/9 (25th), LOB% (23rd) and HR/FB (27th). Graterol’s talent could certainly help these numbers if he is healthy and the Twins feel he is ready to be added to the team’s 40-man roster. Antony didn’t beat around the bush. “I would not be surprised to see him up in Minnesota at some point. Maybe this month…” Do you think Graterol could help the Twins this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. Greetings, Twins Territory. While watching the FSN broadcast of Tuesday's 10-inning instant classic between the Twins and Yankees, i.e. what was shaping up to be called the "Miguel Sano game" before quickly being title-hijacked as the "Aaron Hicks Revenge Game", I was dumbstruck to hear Dick Bremer call Blake Parker "the Twins' most consistent reliever lately". You've gotta be kidding me, I thought. Parker makes me nervous every time he's on the mound. And especially today, against the Yankees. (Followed by: 5-pitch walk, line-drive double, Monster Double, strikeout, Monster Double, yielding 4 ER in 1/3 of an inning, for an ERA of ... 108.00.) We all have "a feeling about a guy" from time to time, where we can't exactly quantify what we're feeling, but where something seems to be true. And therefore, with this blog, I endeavor to take those "feelings" (either mine, or yours, dear reader - feel free to submit them to me!) and provide evidence that either substantiates or refutes them. I'm not a sabermetrician by any means, but as a 23-year veteran math teacher, I'm pretty good at research, tracking down data, and mental calculations. So, without further ado, let's dig into whether "Blake Parker was the Twins' most consistent reliever" before he... Got Yanked: Dick Bremer backed up his statement by stating that Parker hadn't given up a run in his previous 5 outings. This is true; in fact, he'd only yielded 1 ER in his previous 10 outings! But let's dig a little deeper into those 5 pre-Yankees appearances: July 3 @OAK: Twins win 4-3 in 12 innings. Parker enters bottom 10 (clean), pitches the 10th & 11th. 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 35 pitches, 20 strikes (57%). 10th: Walks Chapman on 5 pitches, walks Olson on 5 pitches. (Creates a mess: 1st & 2nd with 0 out in extra innings on the road. Leverage Index swells from 2.25 to 5.29.) Retires Davis on FC (1st & 3rd), retires Canha on FC (Chapman out at home), strikes out Laureano. (Cleans up the mess he created.) 11th: Yields 0-2 single to right to Grossman, immediately throws a WP allowing Grossman to advance to 2nd. (Creates a mess: runner on 2nd with 0 out. Leverage Index swells from 2.25 to 3.81.) Strikes out Barreto, strikes out Herrmann, gets Semien to foul out. (Cleans up the mess he created.) July 13 @CLE: Twins win 6-2. Parker enters with 2 outs bottom 7, and also pitches the 8th. With an inherited runner on 1st, gets Luplow to foul out to end the 7th. 8th: Strikes out Lindor, Mercado flies out, strikes out Santana. (Calms things down. Leverage Index goes from 1.83 to 0.36.) July 16 vs. NYM: Twins lose 3-2. Parker enters top 8 (clean), and also pitches to 3 batters in the 9th. 8th: McNeil flies out, Conforto lines a first-pitch single to right, walks Alonso. (Creates a mess: 1st & 2nd with 1 out. Leverage Index swells from 0.94 to 1.92.) Garver's passed ball allows runners to advance to 2nd & 3rd. Cano then grounds into the ridiculous double play at home and 3rd created by multiple Mets baserunning gaffes. (Rescued by Mets stupidity.) 9th: Ramos grounds out. Smith grounds out. Walks Frazier and is relieved by Magill. July 19 vs. OAK: Twins lose 5-3. Parker enters top 8 (clean). Strikes out Davis. Grossman lines a single to left. Herrmann lines into a 3-6 DP. (Gives up some hard contact, but faces only 3 batters.) July 20 vs. OAK: Twins lose 5-4. Parker enters top 8 (clean). Grossman flies out. Herrmann lines a single to center. Strikes out Profar. Semien grounds out. (Not bad. Leverage Index starts at 2.17 due to the Twins' narrow 4-3 lead at the time, but never exceeds 2.89.) SUMMARY: 5 outings: 1 clean (CLE), 2 other low-stress (OAK x2), and 2 where Parker created a big mess almost immediately and was lucky to escape with no runs allowed (I actually count this as 3, because it happened twice in the July 3 game). So on 3 out of 6 innings, Parker takes a clean situation and makes everybody nervous. I'm guessing Rocco and crew weren't interested in any more nail-biting induced by a veteran reliever who rarely pitches a simple, clean inning, and who has a 50% chance of filling the bases right after he enters the game. VERDICT: You've gotta be kidding me feeling is justified. "Twins Most Consistent Reliever" statement is not.
  9. Standings Check-In The Twins enter play on Thursday with a three-game lead in the AL Central. At the beginning of June, the Twins were up 10.5 games as Cleveland had squeaked out a .500 record up to that point. By the end of June, Minnesota still had a comfortable eight game lead, but then Cleveland really turned on the heat. The Indians have gone 13-4 in July with two of their losses coming against the Twins. Some will point to Cleveland’s recent opponents as the reasons for their success, but they are winning the games in front of them. According to Baseball Reference, the Twins have a 96.2% chance of making the playoffs and a 90.9% chance of winning the division. They put Cleveland’s odds at 9.1% to win the division and 41.1% to make the playoffs. Also, the site projects Minnesota’s best possible record as 104-58 and their worst record as 91-71. On the flip side, Cleveland’s best record is projected as 96-66 and their worst record could be 83-79. Cleveland’s best and Minnesota’s worst would put the Twins back into the AL Wild Card Game. Cleveland currently sits in the first Wild Card spot with Oakland trailing by one game. Twins fans saw how good Oakland has been in their recent match-up and the A’s have a 7-3 record over their last 10 games. Boston and Tampa Bay sit two games behind the A’s, which means the Twins are six games up from being on the outside looking in. Multiple Weaknesses Minnesota has been running through a steady group of relievers from Rochester over the last couple weeks. This comes on the heels of the club parting ways with Matt Magill, Mike Morin and Adalberto Mejia. Minnesota cleared multiple roster spots without making any immediate additions to the bullpen. Cody Stashak made his MLB debut last night and he might have been the most effective Twins pitcher in a crazy game. Other players like Lewis Thorpe and Kohl Stewart are also getting some relief opportunities. Twins relievers have seen some struggles in recent weeks albeit it has come against some strong opponents. Trevor May has given up multiple leads with some hanging breaking balls that ended up over the fence. He was even asked to pitch over 50 pitches in one game. On Thursday, Blake Parker was designated for assignment or release. Ryne Harper and Tyler Duffey have also had some blemishes on their record as of late. Even the team’s best reliever, Taylor Rogers, has seen some leads slip through his hands. Realistically, the bullpen needs some help and Rochester might not have the pieces the team needs. The bullpen hasn’t been Minnesota’s only weakness. Fans have been frustrated with the Twins inability to get clutch hits with runners in scoring position, especially with the bases loaded. Twins batters have combined for an .820 OPS with runners in scoring position. However, the club has had 91 at-bats with the bases loaded this season while hitting .195/.213/.286 with only four extra-base hits. There seems to be some kind of hang-up when three men are on base instead of just having runners in scoring position. Looming Trade Deadline Minnesota could address some of their issues through trades in the next seven days. Earlier this week, Derek Falvey joined Darren Wolfson on his podcast to discuss the upcoming trade deadline. This year’s deadline is different since team’s cant make waiver trades after July 31. Falvey believes there will be a flurry of moves right before the deadline. Minnesota has given some consideration to being the first team to pull the trigger on a big trade, but that likely would mean the team is going to have to overpay to set the market. Falvey went on to say, the Twins are interested in improving “overall pitching depth.” This could be starters, relievers or maybe the team can get creative. He mentioned, “If there are ways to add to our starting rotation, our pitching depth, is there a way to add to the bullpen at the same time?” Fans might not want to hold out for any blockbuster trade. He believes the team is most likely looking for “supplements” to the current roster. If the team is going to win this year, it is going to be because of “the group that’s in the clubhouse right now.” To some, that might not exactly be a vote of confidence. However, the Twins need to avoid doing anything brash, because those type of trades can come back to haunt an organization. Do you think there’s a chance the Twins don’t make the playoffs? What would the repercussions be for the organization? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Other Stories of Interest Byron Buxton’s Not So Secret Value Twins Getting Greatness from Utility Buyer Beware: Avoiding a Chris Archer Trade
  10. Coming into the season, I think it is fair to say that most Twins fans were underwhelmed at best with what the front office did to address the bullpen. With the trade deadline fast approaching fans are anxious for the team to upgrade a few relief arms. Assuming the Twins do add a few arms, is it possible that Derrek Falvey and Thad Levine have actually created a new efficiency in creating a bullpen?Aside from adding Blake Parker, who seemed like a rather marginal upgrade, the Twins really didn’t do much to address the bullpen during the offseason. Instead they extended Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler and made several key offensive additions). Rather than adding any big-named, high-priced relievers, the Twins have chosen to roll with minor league free agent signings and their own internal candidates. In some cases it worked remarkably well (as expected with Taylor Rogers and somewhat surprisingly with Ryne Harper), others have been serviceable but haven’t quite taken the step forward that we would have hoped (Trevor May), and some have been a disaster (Fernando Romero and Trevor Hildenberger). The Twins have relied upon the Rochester/Minneapolis shuttle and found some useful pieces, most recently in Zack Littell. Tyler Duffey has also been pretty good for the most part and Devin Smeltzer, Kohl Stewart, and Sean Poppen have provided some useful outings, both starting and in relief. The bullpen is currently sixth in the American League in ERA and first in WPA (Thanks Taylor Rogers!). Although the Twin’s bullpen has been surprisingly effective this year, I don’t think anyone would argue that they couldn’t use at least one more late-inning shut-down reliever along with a quality middle reliever, preferably a lefty. However, not jumping in to make a big off-season reliever signing or two is looking more and more prudent. A quick glance at the stat lines of the top free agent relievers will show how inconsistent the signings were, Well, outside of the Yankees, unfortunately. In general, signing free agent relievers seems to be a crapshoot, as the past couple of seasons have shown. Even with the somewhat suppressed contract amounts of the last two seasons, staying clear of the FA reliever market was shrewd in that Twins avoided the burden of being committed to a potentially ineffective reliever for multiple years. This of course saves the Twins money, but more importantly it keeps them from feeling an obligation to continue running out an ineffective reliever because of money owed, as it is much easier to cut a player who isn’t tied to a large salary (as we’ve seen recently with Matt Magill and Mike Morin). It also makes it more palatable to take on added salary in a trade, whether starter or reliever. This brings us to the potential beauty of the Twins’ plan, if it is in fact their plan. If they do decide to add relievers through trades they have a much better idea of what they are getting than they would through free agency. The Twins are obviously closely monitoring potential trade targets and are aware of how relievers have pitched recently. Although there is always the risk that a player could regress for the remainder of the regular season and/or in the postseason, the odds are certainly lower than that of an off-season acquisition. Plus, relievers who have some years of team control left tend to be younger and therefore less likely for regression than more volatile, older free agents through the remainder of their time with the Twins. Waiting gives the Twins the advantage of seeing the direction in which the potential trade target is trending. They have the luxury of going after the hot hand(s). The Twins are in a great position to make some trades. With a stacked farm system, the Twins can afford to part with a few quality prospects to go after a high-quality reliever or two with some years of team control left, and/or go after upcoming free agents without giving up any top prospects. Falvey and Levine have done a nice job of building the farm system and definitely place a high value on prospects. They undoubtedly have a notion of which prospects are untouchable and seem unlikely to needlessly give away prospects. The front office seems keen to keep the best long- term interests of the team intact (as they should), but with a first place team they are almost obligated to strengthen the pen through some trades. Whether or not this is something the front office cleverly plotted out or just fell into. That is, staying away from free agent relievers, testing/developing internal options, and waiting to make a trade or two (or three) appears ingenious in hindsight. We’ll find out soon enough. Click here to view the article
  11. Aside from adding Blake Parker, who seemed like a rather marginal upgrade, the Twins really didn’t do much to address the bullpen during the offseason. Instead they extended Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler and made several key offensive additions). Rather than adding any big-named, high-priced relievers, the Twins have chosen to roll with minor league free agent signings and their own internal candidates. In some cases it worked remarkably well (as expected with Taylor Rogers and somewhat surprisingly with Ryne Harper), others have been serviceable but haven’t quite taken the step forward that we would have hoped (Trevor May), and some have been a disaster (Fernando Romero and Trevor Hildenberger). The Twins have relied upon the Rochester/Minneapolis shuttle and found some useful pieces, most recently in Zack Littell. Tyler Duffey has also been pretty good for the most part and Devin Smeltzer, Kohl Stewart, and Sean Poppen have provided some useful outings, both starting and in relief. The bullpen is currently sixth in the American League in ERA and first in WPA (Thanks Taylor Rogers!). Although the Twin’s bullpen has been surprisingly effective this year, I don’t think anyone would argue that they couldn’t use at least one more late-inning shut-down reliever along with a quality middle reliever, preferably a lefty. However, not jumping in to make a big off-season reliever signing or two is looking more and more prudent. A quick glance at the stat lines of the top free agent relievers will show how inconsistent the signings were, Well, outside of the Yankees, unfortunately. In general, signing free agent relievers seems to be a crapshoot, as the past couple of seasons have shown. Even with the somewhat suppressed contract amounts of the last two seasons, staying clear of the FA reliever market was shrewd in that Twins avoided the burden of being committed to a potentially ineffective reliever for multiple years. This of course saves the Twins money, but more importantly it keeps them from feeling an obligation to continue running out an ineffective reliever because of money owed, as it is much easier to cut a player who isn’t tied to a large salary (as we’ve seen recently with Matt Magill and Mike Morin). It also makes it more palatable to take on added salary in a trade, whether starter or reliever. This brings us to the potential beauty of the Twins’ plan, if it is in fact their plan. If they do decide to add relievers through trades they have a much better idea of what they are getting than they would through free agency. The Twins are obviously closely monitoring potential trade targets and are aware of how relievers have pitched recently. Although there is always the risk that a player could regress for the remainder of the regular season and/or in the postseason, the odds are certainly lower than that of an off-season acquisition. Plus, relievers who have some years of team control left tend to be younger and therefore less likely for regression than more volatile, older free agents through the remainder of their time with the Twins. Waiting gives the Twins the advantage of seeing the direction in which the potential trade target is trending. They have the luxury of going after the hot hand(s). The Twins are in a great position to make some trades. With a stacked farm system, the Twins can afford to part with a few quality prospects to go after a high-quality reliever or two with some years of team control left, and/or go after upcoming free agents without giving up any top prospects. Falvey and Levine have done a nice job of building the farm system and definitely place a high value on prospects. They undoubtedly have a notion of which prospects are untouchable and seem unlikely to needlessly give away prospects. The front office seems keen to keep the best long- term interests of the team intact (as they should), but with a first place team they are almost obligated to strengthen the pen through some trades. Whether or not this is something the front office cleverly plotted out or just fell into. That is, staying away from free agent relievers, testing/developing internal options, and waiting to make a trade or two (or three) appears ingenious in hindsight. We’ll find out soon enough.
  12. Box Score Berríos: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 61.1% strikes (55 of 90 pitches) Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Sanó (9), Cave (1), Cron (17) Multi-Hit Games: Cron (3-for-5, HR, RBI), Cave (2-for-3, HR) WPA of +0.1: Berríos .366, Cron .356, Cave .250, May .142 WPA of -0.1: Kepler -.113, Cruz -.121, Polanco -.155, Astudillo -.161, Rogers -.269 (chart via FanGraphs) Coming into this game, the Twins were having some rather rocky previous few games. After having a winning record in all of its seven, ten-game splits so far in the season, Minnesota had more losses than wins in their current ten-game split, with a 2-3 record. They were able to avoid a three-game losing streak on Friday night, as they have done all year, though. They were able to get a second straight win even though they had to face an, at times, very difficult opposing starter in lefty Danny Duffy. Even though Duffy isn’t having a very good year, coming into this game with a 4.64 ERA, he had posted a 2.61 ERA in his last five starts against the Twins, striking out nine batters per nine innings. It was by no means an easy task. But, José Berríos also came into the game carrying great recent success against the Royals. In his last six starts against them, he’s posted a 2.48 ERA, not once giving up more than three runs or pitching fewer than six innings. Sanó slowly ending his slump Miguel Sanó had a brutal series against the Boston Red Sox earlier in the week, going 0-for-13 with nine strikeouts. He then became the rally sparker late in Friday’s game, hitting a clutch solo home run to tie the game in the eighth inning. That didn’t change the fact that he finished the game in a 1-for-19 sequence. So he was determined to end that slump for good. He homered again on Saturday, in the second inning, to put the Twins ahead. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1142502957591740421 For the first time in the past ten games, the Twins recorded three home runs in a game. The last time they did so was on June 12th against the Mariners. Minnesota continues on the path to break the single-season home run record, as they are now on pace to hit 311 homers. Here’s a look at how Jake Cave (his first of the year) and C.J. Cron went back-to-back in the eighth. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1142524336785514496 Berríos leaves and the Royals take advantage Everything was going smoothly until the beginning of the eighth inning. Berríos had completed seven shutout innings with only 83 pitches. But he started suffering from a blister on his right ring finger and gave up a single and a walk to open the inning. Both of those runners ended up scoring as Taylor Rogers couldn’t strand them. Kansas City then tied the game in the inning, as Jorge Soler was hit by a pitch from Rogers and scored later. For the second time this week, the Twins were going to extra innings after Trevor May pitched a scoreless ninth. Patiently, Minnesota was able to score a couple more runs to retake the lead in the tenth. After Luis Arráez and Cave reached on a single and a hit-by-pitch, Cron got his third hit of the day to earn his second RBI. It was followed by Eddie Rosario’s double to add one more insurance run and give Blake Parker some breathing room to earn his tenth save of the year in the bottom of the inning. Bullpen continues good stretch Any compliments given to the Twins bullpen this year will sound weird. Although Minnesota relievers aren’t having a very good year, they’ve had some brilliant stints, the current one included. Before this afternoon game, the Twins bullpen pitched 31 innings in the previous eight games, posting a 2.03 ERA. It also should be said that more than half of those innings - sixteen and two-thirds - were pitched against the current World Series champions. Despite the fact that Rogers couldn’t hold on to the advantage late in regulation and got his third blown save of the year, the Twins bullpen is now posting a 2.11 ERA in the past nine games. May earned his second win of the season. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1142548859874189312 Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
  13. A rare blown save from Taylor Rogers sent the game to extra innings, but C.J. Cron led the offensive rally in the tenth inning and Minnesota took the third game of the series against the Royals. The Twins become the first team in the American League to reach 50 wins this year.Box Score Berríos: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 61.1% strikes (55 of 90 pitches) Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Sanó (9), Cave (1), Cron (17) Multi-Hit Games: Cron (3-for-5, HR, RBI), Cave (2-for-3, HR) WPA of +0.1: Berríos .366, Cron .356, Cave .250, May .142 WPA of -0.1: Kepler -.113, Cruz -.121, Polanco -.155, Astudillo -.161, Rogers -.269 (chart via FanGraphs) Coming into this game, the Twins were having some rather rocky previous few games. After having a winning record in all of its seven, ten-game splits so far in the season, Minnesota had more losses than wins in their current ten-game split, with a 2-3 record. They were able to avoid a three-game losing streak on Friday night, as they have done all year, though. They were able to get a second straight win even though they had to face an, at times, very difficult opposing starter in lefty Danny Duffy. Even though Duffy isn’t having a very good year, coming into this game with a 4.64 ERA, he had posted a 2.61 ERA in his last five starts against the Twins, striking out nine batters per nine innings. It was by no means an easy task. But, José Berríos also came into the game carrying great recent success against the Royals. In his last six starts against them, he’s posted a 2.48 ERA, not once giving up more than three runs or pitching fewer than six innings. Sanó slowly ending his slump Miguel Sanó had a brutal series against the Boston Red Sox earlier in the week, going 0-for-13 with nine strikeouts. He then became the rally sparker late in Friday’s game, hitting a clutch solo home run to tie the game in the eighth inning. That didn’t change the fact that he finished the game in a 1-for-19 sequence. So he was determined to end that slump for good. He homered again on Saturday, in the second inning, to put the Twins ahead. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Click here to view the article
  14. Of course this would happen. On the day Craig Kimbrel reportedly reached an agreement to sign with the Cubs, the Twins bullpen blows a two-run lead in the seventh inning. This is pretty much the most Minnesota Sports way this day could have possibly gone.Box Score Perez: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 60.9% strikes (56 of 92 pitches) Home Runs: Buxton (7), Cruz (8), Polanco (10) Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4, HR) WPA of +0.1: Buxton .191, Polanco .156 WPA of -0.1: Sano -.137, Perez -.218, Parker -.500 Download attachment: Win65.png (chart via FanGraphs) The Twins held a 6-5 lead through six innings, but rain caused this game to be delayed more than an hour and a half. The Twins scratched across an insurance run once play resumed, but Blake Parker was ready to play his role in throwing gasoline on what was already a hot talking point across Twins Territory. I don’t know that you’ll find a Twins fan or baseball analyst who believes the Twins bullpen is fine as it’s currently constructed. So for Kimbrel to sign and Parker to give up three runs to blow the lead within a matter of hours is only going to increase the attention paid to that storyline. Parker gave up a two-run homer to Jordan Luplow and a solo shot to Roberto Perez. Just for good measure, Tyler Duffey gave up a solo homer to Francisco Lindor in the eighth. It’s worth mentioning that the Twins came into tonight 34-2 when holding a lead entering the seventh inning. Things like this haven’t happened all that often this year, it’s just that we’ve all been expecting doom for so long that it feels like they have. Perez Struggles Again Martin Perez entered this start having posted a 5.59 ERA over his previous four outings. His last time out against Tampa Bay was particularly ugly, as he gave up six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. Perez opened his evening by walking the leadoff man, Francisco Lindor, on four pitches. The Twins lineup was making noise again tonight, creating plenty of breathing room, but Perez wasn’t sharp once again tonight. There were a few bad-luck, seeing-eye singles mixed in, but Perez struggled to find the strike zone. When he did, he didn’t miss many bats. He threw only 60.9 percent of his pitches for strikes and got just four swinging strikes on his 92 pitches. That’s the fewest swings and misses he’s had in an outing this season, which is particularly striking because he had four appearances of fewer than four innings coming into tonight (he started the year in the bullpen, remember?). It was a bit of a sloppy game for the Twins. Perez and Jason Castro had some troubles, accounting for both a wild pitch and a passed ball. Also, Miguel Sano committed his second error of the season. Only two of the five runs Perez gave up were earned. Still, he was given a 5-1 lead at one point and could not seal the deal. Cleveland Pen Battles Through Trying Times This appeared to be a tough matchup for Cleveland from the get-go. Carlos Carrasco was placed in the IL due to a blood condition, resulting in the team being forced to go with a bullpen game. As if that wasn’t a challenge enough, I imagine the rain delay didn’t help things. They used seven pitchers tonight. Momentum isn’t something that can be quantified, but for Cleveland to win this game under these circumstances has to have injected some swagger into that clubhouse. The Good Stuff It wasn’t all bad. The Twins lineup was out there hitting bombas again. Byron Buxton absolutely obliterated an 0-2 pitch for a three-run homer. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Pen65.png Next Game Thu at CLE, 6:10 pm CT (Berrios-Bauer) Last Game CLE 5, MIN 2: Twins Can’t Figure Out Bieber, Lindor Lifts Cleveland More from Twins Daily Will Minnesota Be a Fit for Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel? 2019 MLB Draft Day 2 Thread MLB Draft Day 3 Thread Click here to view the article
  15. Box Score Perez: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 60.9% strikes (56 of 92 pitches) Home Runs: Buxton (7), Cruz (8), Polanco (10) Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4, HR) WPA of +0.1: Buxton .191, Polanco .156 WPA of -0.1: Sano -.137, Perez -.218, Parker -.500 (chart via FanGraphs) The Twins held a 6-5 lead through six innings, but rain caused this game to be delayed more than an hour and a half. The Twins scratched across an insurance run once play resumed, but Blake Parker was ready to play his role in throwing gasoline on what was already a hot talking point across Twins Territory. I don’t know that you’ll find a Twins fan or baseball analyst who believes the Twins bullpen is fine as it’s currently constructed. So for Kimbrel to sign and Parker to give up three runs to blow the lead within a matter of hours is only going to increase the attention paid to that storyline. Parker gave up a two-run homer to Jordan Luplow and a solo shot to Roberto Perez. Just for good measure, Tyler Duffey gave up a solo homer to Francisco Lindor in the eighth. It’s worth mentioning that the Twins came into tonight 34-2 when holding a lead entering the seventh inning. Things like this haven’t happened all that often this year, it’s just that we’ve all been expecting doom for so long that it feels like they have. Perez Struggles Again Martin Perez entered this start having posted a 5.59 ERA over his previous four outings. His last time out against Tampa Bay was particularly ugly, as he gave up six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. Perez opened his evening by walking the leadoff man, Francisco Lindor, on four pitches. The Twins lineup was making noise again tonight, creating plenty of breathing room, but Perez wasn’t sharp once again tonight. There were a few bad-luck, seeing-eye singles mixed in, but Perez struggled to find the strike zone. When he did, he didn’t miss many bats. He threw only 60.9 percent of his pitches for strikes and got just four swinging strikes on his 92 pitches. That’s the fewest swings and misses he’s had in an outing this season, which is particularly striking because he had four appearances of fewer than four innings coming into tonight (he started the year in the bullpen, remember?). It was a bit of a sloppy game for the Twins. Perez and Jason Castro had some troubles, accounting for both a wild pitch and a passed ball. Also, Miguel Sano committed his second error of the season. Only two of the five runs Perez gave up were earned. Still, he was given a 5-1 lead at one point and could not seal the deal. Cleveland Pen Battles Through Trying Times This appeared to be a tough matchup for Cleveland from the get-go. Carlos Carrasco was placed in the IL due to a blood condition, resulting in the team being forced to go with a bullpen game. As if that wasn’t a challenge enough, I imagine the rain delay didn’t help things. They used seven pitchers tonight. Momentum isn’t something that can be quantified, but for Cleveland to win this game under these circumstances has to have injected some swagger into that clubhouse. The Good Stuff It wasn’t all bad. The Twins lineup was out there hitting bombas again. Byron Buxton absolutely obliterated an 0-2 pitch for a three-run homer. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1136418611927474176 The lineup also combined to go 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position and five of the Twins’ run were scored with two outs. Trevor May made things interesting in the sixth, but he got out of it unscathed and struck out a pair of batters. He was averaging 96.1 mph with his four seamer tonight. He had been sitting at 94.8 mph with that pitch coming into this evening. But who am I kidding? You’re a Minnesota sports fan. You’re only here to cry in your beer (or coffee, depending on when you’re reading this) and lament about not being able to have nice things. That’s OK, we’re all here for you, lol. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1136496021943357440 Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Game Thu at CLE, 6:10 pm CT (Berrios-Bauer) Last Game CLE 5, MIN 2: Twins Can’t Figure Out Bieber, Lindor Lifts Cleveland More from Twins Daily Will Minnesota Be a Fit for Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel? 2019 MLB Draft Day 2 Thread MLB Draft Day 3 Thread
  16. On the latest Gleeman and the Geek Parker Hageman noted that, in talking with a Twins official, the feel in the clubhouse is decidedly different in 2019. It’s one thing for that to be the case when you have the best record in baseball, but the reality for this team is that this is how things have been from the beginning. In constructing this roster Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were both calculated and decisive, but maybe there was more to it than a talent overhaul. From an internal standpoint the two linchpins have long been Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Buxton was the guy who put in all the effort and had plenty of hurdles placed in his way. Sano was the talented slugger that looked to rely on that alone. Byron went home and got his confidence back. Miguel put in work and looked to commit for the first time in his career. From the two guys most necessary on the roster, the front office got the buy in they desperately needed. In looking at the external additions there seems to be a common theme. Blake Parker was non-tendered by the Angels as was Brewers second basemen Jonathan Schoop. C.J. Cron was DFA’d by the Rays. Ryne Harper was a 30-year-old minor league journeyman, and Matt Magill was an unproven commodity. All five of these players began the 2019 season on the 25-man roster, and it seemed to lead to the desired outcome. The trio of former big leaguers had all seen previous success. Parker worked in a high leverage closer role the season before, Cron was coming off a career high in homers, and Schoop was once an All-Star at an offensively starved position. Feeling snubbed could be a motivating factor for each of them, but it would be coming through the lens of a team that believed in their resurgence and wanted them on board. A season ago Minnesota was able to land veterans Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison on friendly pacts with the market scrutinizing their value. The snub there likely had the players feeling a level of frustration toward potential suitors, all while missing out on valuable ramp-up time in Spring Training. Those emotions of discontentment spilling over into the clubhouse or regular season would be an understandable thing to grasp. In a free agency redo prior to 2019, the group brought in represented a different narrative and could likely feel an immediate sense of buy-in regarding their individual abilities. There’s plenty of reason to be weary of unproven commodities, and both Magill and Harper represent that category. Neither of them had seen a high level of big-league success, and in a bullpen that was going to include question marks, counting on both was a big ask. That again was a level of buy-in shown by the front office that could certainly be responsible for fueling the 2019 production. Both have been backed by vocal support and have been put in position to succeed. In recent seasons it has been hard to tab the “leader” of Minnesota’s clubhouse. Paul Molitor wasn’t seen as that presence and Joe Mauer wasn’t necessary cut of that cloth. Brian Dozier was always the guy, but it wasn’t ever a role for which he seemed destined. Now it’s hard to examine that clubhouse from afar and not assume that the room is made up almost entirely of leaders. Nelson Cruz is a strong veteran presence, and perspective is offered by some of the acquired talent. Kyle Gibson has done important work to take a stand, and the developed talent are all carrying their individual loads. Juggling a room of personalities is never going to be an easy ask in any situation and creating the right infrastructure will always be the desired goal. Rocco Baldelli appears to be the empowering leader, and his staff looks to play the part of a collaborative group. From the day the front office was changed over, it is that collaboration word that became a tag line. Although it took a couple of years for them to reinvent the wheel in the organization it appears now that we’ve come full circle. The Twins are winning and it’s a ton of fun, both for fans and those in the room. We can sit here and assume that the cohesiveness and leadership followed the results, or we can assume that, more than likely, it’s a driving factor in getting the ball rolling.
  17. If Devin Smeltzer was nervous on the mound as he made his Major-League debut for the Twins on Tuesday night against the Brewers, it didn't show. Smeltzer, who began the season at Double-A Pensacola, provided the first-place Twins with one of the best starts by a pitcher making his MLB debut in Twins history. No, he wasn't awarded with the Win, but the Twins had a big seventh inning against the Brewers bullpen and held on to the lead to split the two-game series with the Crew.Box Score Devin Smeltzer: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 76.8% strikes (53 of 69 pitches) Home Runs: Eddie Rosario (17) Multi-Hit Games: Jorge Polanco 2-for-4 WPA of +0.1: Devin Smeltzer (.365), Willians Astudillo (.159), WPA of -0.1: Jonathan Schoop (-.110), (chart via FanGraphs) The Devin Smeltzer Show Hey, when a guy makes his MLB debut, it is always going to be a story. But as we know, with Smeltzer, there’s always a bigger story. The fact that he made his major league debut as a 23-year-old when he was diagnosed with cancer as a nine year old is remarkable. The fact that he has been cancer-free for several years is remarkable. His willingness to give back and support others who are dealing with what he has dealt with is, yes, remarkable. Catch Cancer Looking Katie’s Krusaders And his major league debut was, in fact, remarkable. Six shutout innings with just 69 pitches, and 53 of them were strikes. He struck out seven batters. And as easy as he made things look in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, he really had to do some work to get through the second and third inning. The second began with a leadoff triple, but he was stranded at third. In the next inning, a leadoff double was stranded. It was an emotional night for Smeltzer's family, friends and long-time supporters… A Possible Storyline for Discussion I think we can all agree that Rocco Baldelli has done a nice job of not overusing his relievers. However, on Monday night, Taylor Rogers struggled and gave up an eighth-inning, go-ahead, two-run homer to Orlando Arcia. On Tuesday, Blake Parker came in for the eighth inning and gave up a two-run homer that cut the lead to 5-2. Taylor Rogers, pitching for the third straight game, started the ninth inning by giving up a solo home run. He got the next two outs before Ryne Harper came on and got the final out. As I said, I think that we all agree that the long-term benefits of rest for key bullpen arms is important. But in the short-term, might that mean some rust? Might that potential cause some short-term heartburn? Or, do we just give credit to a strong Brewers lineup in this case and realize that even the better guys aren’t going to be perfect every time? Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Wednesday - Day Off Thursday - 6:10 @ Tampa Bay- Martin Perez (7-1, 2.95 ERA) vs TBD Friday - 6:10 @ Tampa Bay - Jose Berrios (7-2, 3.20 ERA) vs TBD Saturday - 12:10 @ Tampa Bay - Kyle Gibson (5-2, 4.08 ERA) vs TBD Last Game MIN 5, MIL 4: Hader Closes the Door on the Twins Win Streak Click here to view the article
  18. Box Score Devin Smeltzer: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 76.8% strikes (53 of 69 pitches) Home Runs: Eddie Rosario (17) Multi-Hit Games: Jorge Polanco 2-for-4 WPA of +0.1: Devin Smeltzer (.365), Willians Astudillo (.159), WPA of -0.1: Jonathan Schoop (-.110), (chart via FanGraphs) The Devin Smeltzer Show Hey, when a guy makes his MLB debut, it is always going to be a story. But as we know, with Smeltzer, there’s always a bigger story. The fact that he made his major league debut as a 23-year-old when he was diagnosed with cancer as a nine year old is remarkable. The fact that he has been cancer-free for several years is remarkable. His willingness to give back and support others who are dealing with what he has dealt with is, yes, remarkable. Catch Cancer Looking Katie’s Krusaders And his major league debut was, in fact, remarkable. Six shutout innings with just 69 pitches, and 53 of them were strikes. He struck out seven batters. And as easy as he made things look in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, he really had to do some work to get through the second and third inning. The second began with a leadoff triple, but he was stranded at third. In the next inning, a leadoff double was stranded. It was an emotional night for Smeltzer's family, friends and long-time supporters… https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1133537488037801984 And for Jack Morris… https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1133540812480847877 And for Devin Smeltzer too… https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1133569549154918400 Buxton vs The Wall (Part) Advantage, the Wall. Yasmani Grandal led off the second inning with a blast to the wall in left center field. Byron Buxton raced toward the bullpens, leapt, and just missed the ball. And then, he slammed into the wall. His glove flew one direction. His body was five feet in the air, parallel to the ground. And he landed hard. Fortunately, the initial diagnosis was “right knee bruise.” It could have been much worse. Zach Davies Is No Romantic Despite such a nice MLB debut, Smeltzer got a No Decision because Brewers starter Zach Davies was also very good. Like Smeltzer, Davies doesn’t throw hard. He topped out maybe at 90, sat at 88 most of the time. But he was equal to the task, as he has been for much of the season for the Brewers. He used an impressive two-seam fastball most of the night and hit his spots throughout the night. Like Smeltzer, Davies threw six shutout innings. Another Big Inning The Twins have found a way to have a big offensive innings at least once in most games the last several weeks. On Tuesday night, that inning came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Lefty Alex Claudio came in. He’s been very tough on left-handed batters. So, of course, Jason Castro blooped a single to left. Willians Astudillo then grounded to second, but Keston Hiura threw toward second and hit the back of Castro’s helmet. The ball ricocheted into center field which allowed Castro to go to third base and Astudillo to hustle into second. Max Kepler, who has been crushing lefties of late, provided a big line drive double off the wall in right field to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1133556346924675072 A couple of batters later, CJ Cron doubled in a run, and then Eddie Rosario stepped to the plate with two runners on and uncoiled for his 17th homer of the season to give the Twins a 5-0 lead. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1133558888001785856 A Possible Storyline for Discussion I think we can all agree that Rocco Baldelli has done a nice job of not overusing his relievers. However, on Monday night, Taylor Rogers struggled and gave up an eighth-inning, go-ahead, two-run homer to Orlando Arcia. On Tuesday, Blake Parker came in for the eighth inning and gave up a two-run homer that cut the lead to 5-2. Taylor Rogers, pitching for the third straight game, started the ninth inning by giving up a solo home run. He got the next two outs before Ryne Harper came on and got the final out. As I said, I think that we all agree that the long-term benefits of rest for key bullpen arms is important. But in the short-term, might that mean some rust? Might that potential cause some short-term heartburn? Or, do we just give credit to a strong Brewers lineup in this case and realize that even the better guys aren’t going to be perfect every time? Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Wednesday - Day Off Thursday - 6:10 @ Tampa Bay- Martin Perez (7-1, 2.95 ERA) vs TBD Friday - 6:10 @ Tampa Bay - Jose Berrios (7-2, 3.20 ERA) vs TBD Saturday - 12:10 @ Tampa Bay - Kyle Gibson (5-2, 4.08 ERA) vs TBD Last Game MIN 5, MIL 4: Hader Closes the Door on the Twins Win Streak
  19. By the end of next week, the Minnesota Twins will be more than a third of the way through their 2019 schedule. After completing a dominant sweep in Anaheim, they have the best record and second-best run differential in baseball. Their lead in the AL Central has ballooned to eight games. We're still a week away from June, but it is not by any means too early to start thinking big.It's been a long time since Twins fans last had the luxury of contemplating things like pennant races and playoff rotations and jockeying for home field advantage. I can't remember ever having any such thoughts before the end of May. But we're at a point where talking about the Twins as likely postseason entrants and World Series contenders is not fanciful. It's almost obligatory. Throughout the entirety of a drawn-out rebuilding process that began with a 99-loss season in 2011, Minnesota has been future-focused. At their best (in 2015 and '17), they straddled the line, scrapping for an unlikely postseason berth while keeping their eyes trained on a championship window to come. Here in 2019, if perhaps slightly ahead of schedule, the window has been thrust open. The future is now. There is nothing fluky or superficial about the stunning success of this Twins team. Finding weaknesses is tough. The lineup continues to reaffirm that its unparalleled 1-through-9 power and run-scoring prowess are for real. The rotation has no blatant holes. (Michael Pineda gets some flack, but all his numbers outside of a bloated HR rate – and correspondingly high ERA – are quite good for a fifth starter.) And the bullpen has, thus far, been beyond respectable. As Matt Braun concluded in a blog entry here on Thursday, "These guys have actually been pretty good, so lay off them for now." He makes many fair points, noting that the unit rates well in key categories like FIP and leverage metrics. There's no doubt Twins relievers have performed extraordinarily well thus far. But as I view the Twins through this new, unfamiliar lens – sudden division favorites with legitimate championship aspirations – the bullpen does weigh on me. It's almost inconceivable at this point, given how absurdly consistent they've been since Day 1, but eventually this team will hit some turbulence. The bats will go through some quieter periods, and the starters will experience downspells or injuries. In the dog days of the summer, we will really see this bullpen tested. As much as this team has surpassed my every expectation, even the most optimistic side of me can't see it grading out too well in those moments. And when it comes to matching up against the other kingpins in the American League? Houston, New York and Boston have deep pens custom-built for October. Tampa Bay, as usual, has a vast assortment of incredibly effective relievers that no one's ever heard of – in fact, they have the game's best bullpen ERA. I guess you could put the Twins in the same boat as the Rays, a club they seemingly modeled their approach after. Like Minnesota, Tampa has opportunistically traded away good relievers, filling the vacancies through internal pipeline or low-wattage additions. Both teams have mostly eschewed free agency; as you watch Addison Reed get cut loose with his millions in dead money, while Blake Parker and Ryne Harper continually deliver, it grows a lot tougher to question that strategy. The Twins are finding ways to extract the most out of their talent. Pitching coaches Wes Johnson and Jeremy Hefner are clearly getting through with good info. Rocco Baldelli's decision-making and usage patterns have been strong, from my view, and he places a clear focus on taking care of his players. All these factors help elevate a group toward its true potential. Still, unless some sort of supernatural enchantment is at play (and it's getting a little harder to rule that out with each passing day), no objective onlooker can view this bullpen with great confidence going forward. Taylor Rogers is clearly awesome. I'm willing to buy into Parker, although his 1.10/3.87 split in ERA/FIP points to a clear luck element to his ridiculously good results thus far. After those two, the Twins have: Trevor May. Sadly not anywhere near the same guy he was last year. His swinging strike rate is down to single digits (from an elite 15.4% last year), because his stuff isn't compelling people to swing outside the zone, which is also leading to too many walks. May's throwing as hard as ever and it isn't hard to envision him turning that corner, but so far he hasn't.Ryne Harper. There's no knocking his splendid performance up to this point. But he's a 30-year-old MLB rookie whose fastball sits in the high-80s. He's going to need to keep doing it for quite a while longer before lifting all shrouds of doubt.Matt Magill. The Twins were believers. They had him in their bullpen plans before an injury sidelined him to start the year, and since joining the team in late April, Magill has validated their faith. He might be one of the least intimidating-looking pitchers in baseball but his spectacular velocity – 95 and 88 on average with the fastball and slider – belie his aesthetic. He has ridden that stuff to copious strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA. This is clearly a higher-caliber pitcher than we saw last year, but everyone recalls the way his hot start turned ice cold in 2018.Mike Morin. He has thrown strikes and gotten people out. (8.1 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 1 ER). What more could you ask? But it's only nine appearances. He's also a 28-year-old who has thrown 24 MLB innings over the past two years, and owns a 3.99 career ERA in Triple-A.Austin Adams. Can't help but be impressed by his arm out of the gates. He throws even harder than Magill, and looked dominant in two outings before getting blown up by the Angels on Thursday. His nightmare outing in Anaheim (0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 ER) will set his numbers back for a while. And it served as a reminder: As good as some of these relievers look at times, and as much as the Twins might be optimizing their repertoires and usage, these are still pitchers signed to minor-league contracts, drawing zero demand from the league at large. Him, Magill, Morin, Harper. And the next guy can more or less be placed in the same group.Tyler Duffey. He almost certainly would've been waived from the 40-man roster during the offseason, if not for holding an option that allowed the Twins to stash him at Triple-A. Now he's in the Minnesota bullpen and looking very much like the dominant reliever we all dreamed he could be. Duffey is finally showing some bite on his heater, and in combination with his ever-vexing curveball, it's piling up strikeouts.So after Parker and Rogers, you have May and then five guys that are more or less veteran Triple-A pitchers thrust into MLB action. With the exception of Adams' implosion, they've all handled it beautifully. All are awesome individual stories, and given the substance behind each of these performances, it isn't that hard to see any one of them sustaining. But... all of them? That feels like too tall an ask, even in this possibly enchanted season. Depth is of the essence. And that's where the pressing concerns emerge. The front office was planning around Trevor Hildenberger and Fernando Romero (and maybe Reed) as key late-inning contributors, but at present both are struggling as part of a GHASTLY bullpen at Rochester: The Triple-A rotation hasn't been so hot either. There's no credible help at the highest level of the minors. Double-A is a little more interesting, and on Thursday, Brusdar Graterol's presence in Minneapolis raised considerable intrigue among the fan base. It sounds like Graterol was here for evaluation, but the idea of a call-up wasn't that far-fetched, which says quite a lot for 20-year-old pitcher (and for the Twins' underlying need). He's been absurdly dominant in Double-A. Alas, the right-hander recently dealt with a trapezius issue and the Twins will smartly place his welfare ahead of the team's. With that in mind, who's going to help this bullpen? The internal reinforcement slate at present is not inspiring. The MLB Draft is suddenly less than two weeks away, meaning that Craig Kimbrel is about to be freed from his burdensome compensation pick tether. That'll fire up the discussions around him again, which is fair. But I maintain that the trade market is a superior avenue. That's how the Astros acquired the best reliever in baseball (from the Twins, unfortunately) and it's a big part of how Tampa constructed its bullpen. The Twins are sneakily well positioned. Their relief corps has performed well, so no trade partner is going to be able to leverage it as an urgent weakness against them. At the same time, the Twins are more motivated to be proactive than other big-market contenders, who are largely flush with high-paid, established options. Will this press them to make a hard push for Kimbrel on the other side of the draft? Or to be aggressive early in the trade market and snatch a big arm? I'll be interested to find out. Most of all, I'm just giddy to be be in a position to think about such things. Click here to view the article
  20. It's been a long time since Twins fans last had the luxury of contemplating things like pennant races and playoff rotations and jockeying for home field advantage. I can't remember ever having any such thoughts before the end of May. But we're at a point where talking about the Twins as likely postseason entrants and World Series contenders is not fanciful. It's almost obligatory. Throughout the entirety of a drawn-out rebuilding process that began with a 99-loss season in 2011, Minnesota has been future-focused. At their best (in 2015 and '17), they straddled the line, scrapping for an unlikely postseason berth while keeping their eyes trained on a championship window to come. Here in 2019, if perhaps slightly ahead of schedule, the window has been thrust open. The future is now. There is nothing fluky or superficial about the stunning success of this Twins team. Finding weaknesses is tough. The lineup continues to reaffirm that its unparalleled 1-through-9 power and run-scoring prowess are for real. The rotation has no blatant holes. (Michael Pineda gets some flack, but all his numbers outside of a bloated HR rate – and correspondingly high ERA – are quite good for a fifth starter.) And the bullpen has, thus far, been beyond respectable. As Matt Braun concluded in a blog entry here on Thursday, "These guys have actually been pretty good, so lay off them for now." He makes many fair points, noting that the unit rates well in key categories like FIP and leverage metrics. There's no doubt Twins relievers have performed extraordinarily well thus far. But as I view the Twins through this new, unfamiliar lens – sudden division favorites with legitimate championship aspirations – the bullpen does weigh on me. It's almost inconceivable at this point, given how absurdly consistent they've been since Day 1, but eventually this team will hit some turbulence. The bats will go through some quieter periods, and the starters will experience downspells or injuries. In the dog days of the summer, we will really see this bullpen tested. As much as this team has surpassed my every expectation, even the most optimistic side of me can't see it grading out too well in those moments. And when it comes to matching up against the other kingpins in the American League? Houston, New York and Boston have deep pens custom-built for October. Tampa Bay, as usual, has a vast assortment of incredibly effective relievers that no one's ever heard of – in fact, they have the game's best bullpen ERA. I guess you could put the Twins in the same boat as the Rays, a club they seemingly modeled their approach after. Like Minnesota, Tampa has opportunistically traded away good relievers, filling the vacancies through internal pipeline or low-wattage additions. Both teams have mostly eschewed free agency; as you watch Addison Reed get cut loose with his millions in dead money, while Blake Parker and Ryne Harper continually deliver, it grows a lot tougher to question that strategy. The Twins are finding ways to extract the most out of their talent. Pitching coaches Wes Johnson and Jeremy Hefner are clearly getting through with good info. Rocco Baldelli's decision-making and usage patterns have been strong, from my view, and he places a clear focus on taking care of his players. All these factors help elevate a group toward its true potential. Still, unless some sort of supernatural enchantment is at play (and it's getting a little harder to rule that out with each passing day), no objective onlooker can view this bullpen with great confidence going forward. Taylor Rogers is clearly awesome. I'm willing to buy into Parker, although his 1.10/3.87 split in ERA/FIP points to a clear luck element to his ridiculously good results thus far. After those two, the Twins have: Trevor May. Sadly not anywhere near the same guy he was last year. His swinging strike rate is down to single digits (from an elite 15.4% last year), because his stuff isn't compelling people to swing outside the zone, which is also leading to too many walks. May's throwing as hard as ever and it isn't hard to envision him turning that corner, but so far he hasn't. Ryne Harper. There's no knocking his splendid performance up to this point. But he's a 30-year-old MLB rookie whose fastball sits in the high-80s. He's going to need to keep doing it for quite a while longer before lifting all shrouds of doubt. Matt Magill. The Twins were believers. They had him in their bullpen plans before an injury sidelined him to start the year, and since joining the team in late April, Magill has validated their faith. He might be one of the least intimidating-looking pitchers in baseball but his spectacular velocity – 95 and 88 on average with the fastball and slider – belie his aesthetic. He has ridden that stuff to copious strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA. This is clearly a higher-caliber pitcher than we saw last year, but everyone recalls the way his hot start turned ice cold in 2018. Mike Morin. He has thrown strikes and gotten people out. (8.1 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 1 ER). What more could you ask? But it's only nine appearances. He's also a 28-year-old who has thrown 24 MLB innings over the past two years, and owns a 3.99 career ERA in Triple-A. Austin Adams. Can't help but be impressed by his arm out of the gates. He throws even harder than Magill, and looked dominant in two outings before getting blown up by the Angels on Thursday. His nightmare outing in Anaheim (0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 ER) will set his numbers back for a while. And it served as a reminder: As good as some of these relievers look at times, and as much as the Twins might be optimizing their repertoires and usage, these are still pitchers signed to minor-league contracts, drawing zero demand from the league at large. Him, Magill, Morin, Harper. And the next guy can more or less be placed in the same group. Tyler Duffey. He almost certainly would've been waived from the 40-man roster during the offseason, if not for holding an option that allowed the Twins to stash him at Triple-A. Now he's in the Minnesota bullpen and looking very much like the dominant reliever we all dreamed he could be. Duffey is finally showing some bite on his heater, and in combination with his ever-vexing curveball, it's piling up strikeouts. So after Parker and Rogers, you have May and then five guys that are more or less veteran Triple-A pitchers thrust into MLB action. With the exception of Adams' implosion, they've all handled it beautifully. All are awesome individual stories, and given the substance behind each of these performances, it isn't that hard to see any one of them sustaining. But... all of them? That feels like too tall an ask, even in this possibly enchanted season. Depth is of the essence. And that's where the pressing concerns emerge. The front office was planning around Trevor Hildenberger and Fernando Romero (and maybe Reed) as key late-inning contributors, but at present both are struggling as part of a GHASTLY bullpen at Rochester: https://twitter.com/NickNelsonMN/status/1130269630042451968 The Triple-A rotation hasn't been so hot either. There's no credible help at the highest level of the minors. Double-A is a little more interesting, and on Thursday, Brusdar Graterol's presence in Minneapolis raised considerable intrigue among the fan base. It sounds like Graterol was here for evaluation, but the idea of a call-up wasn't that far-fetched, which says quite a lot for 20-year-old pitcher (and for the Twins' underlying need). He's been absurdly dominant in Double-A. Alas, the right-hander recently dealt with a trapezius issue and the Twins will smartly place his welfare ahead of the team's. With that in mind, who's going to help this bullpen? The internal reinforcement slate at present is not inspiring. The MLB Draft is suddenly less than two weeks away, meaning that Craig Kimbrel is about to be freed from his burdensome compensation pick tether. That'll fire up the discussions around him again, which is fair. But I maintain that the trade market is a superior avenue. That's how the Astros acquired the best reliever in baseball (from the Twins, unfortunately) and it's a big part of how Tampa constructed its bullpen. The Twins are sneakily well positioned. Their relief corps has performed well, so no trade partner is going to be able to leverage it as an urgent weakness against them. At the same time, the Twins are more motivated to be proactive than other big-market contenders, who are largely flush with high-paid, established options. Will this press them to make a hard push for Kimbrel on the other side of the draft? Or to be aggressive early in the trade market and snatch a big arm? I'll be interested to find out. Most of all, I'm just giddy to be be in a position to think about such things.
  21. Byron Buxton made a beautiful defensive play — this time with his arm — but it ended with Mitch Garver being assisted off the field, not putting any weight on his left leg. It was the loudest Target Field has been all year, immediately followed by concern for Garver, who hit his ninth home run earlier in the game.Box Score Gibson: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 56.8% strikes (50 of 88 pitches) Home Runs: Garver (9) Multi-Hit Games: None WPA of +0.1: Parker .229 WPA of -0.1: None Download attachment: Win514.png (chart via FanGraphs) With the Twins clinging to a one-run lead, Brian Goodwin sent a solid single into center field. Buxton corralled the in-between hop, set himself and fired a bullet to home plate, right on the money, to nail Shohei Ohtani trying to score the game-tying run. This play … wow. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Bullpen514.png Next Three Games Wed vs. LAA, 12:10 pm CT (Odorizzi-Cahill) Thu at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (TBD-Swanson) Fri at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (TBD) Last Game LAA 5, MIN 4: More Missed Opportunities Click here to view the article
  22. Box Score Gibson: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 56.8% strikes (50 of 88 pitches) Home Runs: Garver (9) Multi-Hit Games: None WPA of +0.1: Parker .229 WPA of -0.1: None (chart via FanGraphs) With the Twins clinging to a one-run lead, Brian Goodwin sent a solid single into center field. Buxton corralled the in-between hop, set himself and fired a bullet to home plate, right on the money, to nail Shohei Ohtani trying to score the game-tying run. This play … wow. https://twitter.com/twinsbeisbol/status/1128491809896747008 Garver did an excellent job at positioning himself wisely to make the catch and tag at home plate, but sometimes trouble just seems to find you no matter what you’re doing. Ohtani slid into his foot and Garver had to be assisted off the field. https://twitter.com/dohyoungpark/status/1128498451900194816 According to old friend Rhett Bollinger, who is now the MLB.com beat writer for the Angels, that thrown from Buxton was 98.6 mph and traveled 253 feet. That play ended up being the difference in the game, as Blake Parker protected the one-run lead to earn his seventh save of the season. Gibby’s Strike Rate If there’s one number you can look at in regard to Kyle Gibson and have a pretty good indication of his overall performance it’s his strike percentage. When Gibson is able to throw a good amount of strikes, things typically go very well. If not, it tends to catch up with him eventually. This has typically been characterized as Gibson nibbling. I’m not so sure if that’s necessarily accurate, I think it has more to do with his command than his confidence. But whatever your takeaway with Gibson’s difficulties throwing strikes, the numbers don’t lie. Check this out: When Gibson has a strike rate of 60% or higher, which has happened in exactly half of his starts this season, he’s tremendous. Unfortunately, Tuesday was not one of those nights. Gibson carried a shutout into the sixth inning, but he gave up three runs on four hits and a walk before being pulled. RISP Review A couple games ago I touched on how much this team was struggling to hit in clutch situations. Eddie Rosario got things off to a great start in this game. With two down and a runner in scoring position in the first inning, Rosie drove in Jorge Polanco with a single. Buxton drove in the Twins’ second run on another hit with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep that mojo working. The Twins loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh inning, but C.J. Cron struck out to end the threat. Angels reliever Taylor Cole started the at bat with a slider out of the zone, threw a changeup that Cron fouled off, then amped it up to pound two 95 mph fastballs on the outside edge. Three-Pitcher Inning Rocco Baldelli used three pitchers in the seventh inning. Ryne Harper, who recorded the final out of the sixth inning, faced the first three batters. Tyler Duffey was called upon to face right-handed hitter David Fletcher. He gave up a single and Mike Morin was brought in to face left-handed hitter Tommy La Stella. Strange. I’m not sure I’ve seen a three-pitcher inning where they were all right-handers. Usually there’s a LOOGY in the mix somewhere. Maybe this tells us that Morin, who has a killer changeup, is effectively the Twins LOOGY right now. The Shift Works! Well … sometimes. After a poor run of luck on the shift last night and some good conversations in the comments section of the game recap, I tried to pay closer attention to when it did work and wanted to come away with some visual evidence . There were a couple instances it worked, but the big one resulted in Mike Trout grounding into a double play. https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1128460871494176768 Of course, the shift taketh and the shift giveth away. There were times it did not work, like when Shohei Ohtani hit a dribbler through the infield for an RBI single in the sixth inning. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1128501339950948352 Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Wed vs. LAA, 12:10 pm CT (Odorizzi-Cahill) Thu at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (TBD-Swanson) Fri at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (TBD) Last Game LAA 5, MIN 4: More Missed Opportunities
  23. Box Score Odorizzi: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 66.3% strikes Home Runs: Adrianza (1) Multi-Hit Games: None WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi .473, Parker .170, Rogers .124, Adrianza .123 WPA of -0.1: Rosario -.100 (chart via FanGraphs) There are certain things, even in the early going, that can give you certain vibes as a fan that your team may be on the verge of something special. Certain events just hit you and let those “this is our year” vibes to start flowing. Jake Odorizzi and the Twins bullpen shutting out the Houston Astros lineup would be one of those things. Ehire Adrianza hitting a home run off Justin Verlander for the only run of a game would be another one. Both those things happened tonight. It took Odorizzi just 86 pitches to get through seven innings. That’s a solid mark for any pitcher, but Odo isn’t exactly known for his efficiency. He got 13 swinging strikes on those 86 pitches, improving upon the career-high rate he carried into this outing. Odorizzi has gotten swinging strikes on 13% of his pitches this year. Last season, only nine qualified starters had a swinging strike rate above 13%, and Odorizzi was at 10.2%. Not surprisingly, the strikeout rates are also encouraging for Odorizzi in the early going of this season. He's now struck out exactly a quarter of the batters he's faced so far. That would represent a career high and a nice boost from his 22.8 K% from last year. Odorizzi needed a grand total of just 21 pitches to get through the third through fifth innings. He ran into trouble in the sixth, issuing a one-out walk followed by a single. We’ve seen him unravel in similar situations before, but he struck out both Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel to end the threat. While Odorizzi was cruising, Justin Verlander was also carving up the Twins. But there was a different look to the lineup tonight. They entered this game with a league-low 3.76 pitches per plate appearances. Tonight, they had a batter work an at-bat of six pitches or more in each of Verlander’s six innings. The longest of those was a 10-pitch walk for Max Kepler to lead off the first inning. Eddie Rosario had a nine-pitch at-bat that ended in a strikeout, and one of those longer plate appearances produced the game’s only run. In the third inning, Ehire Adrianza fell behind Verlander 1-2. He fouled off the fourth pitch to extend the at-bat, then watched two balls go by. Ehire deposited pitch No. 7 into the stands. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1123023350429732864 Verlander was nasty, but all that work resulted in him needing 100 pitches to get through six innings. He turned things over to the bullpen at that point. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a drop off. The Houston bullpen held the Twins scoreless for two innings. Taylor Rogers looked incredibly nasty in a scoreless eighth inning before Blake Parker took care of business in the ninth. Parker gave up a leadoff single, but managed to induce a double play ball from the next batter. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1123055528349802496 Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Tue vs. HOU, 6:40 pm CT (Pineda-Cole) Wed vs. HOU, 7:10 pm CT (Perez-McHugh) Thu vs. HOU, 12:10 pm CT (Berrios-Peacock) Last Game MIN 4, BAL 1: Kepler Sets Tone, Gibby Brings It Home
  24. All across Twins Territory, fans seem to be doing their best to contain their excitement. Their mantra has been it’s only April, it’s only the Orioles, we still don’t know much about this Twins team. That all could change over the course of this week. A big performance against the Astros and the Yankees would make it difficult for even the most reserved Midwesterner to temper excitement. The Twins got things off to a great start Monday evening.Box Score Odorizzi: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 66.3% strikes Home Runs: Adrianza (1) Multi-Hit Games: None WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi .473, Parker .170, Rogers .124, Adrianza .123 WPA of -0.1: Rosario -.100 Download attachment: Win429.png (chart via FanGraphs) There are certain things, even in the early going, that can give you certain vibes as a fan that your team may be on the verge of something special. Certain events just hit you and let those “this is our year” vibes to start flowing. Jake Odorizzi and the Twins bullpen shutting out the Houston Astros lineup would be one of those things. Ehire Adrianza hitting a home run off Justin Verlander for the only run of a game would be another one. Both those things happened tonight. It took Odorizzi just 86 pitches to get through seven innings. That’s a solid mark for any pitcher, but Odo isn’t exactly known for his efficiency. He got 13 swinging strikes on those 86 pitches, improving upon the career-high rate he carried into this outing. Odorizzi has gotten swinging strikes on 13% of his pitches this year. Last season, only nine qualified starters had a swinging strike rate above 13%, and Odorizzi was at 10.2%. Not surprisingly, the strikeout rates are also encouraging for Odorizzi in the early going of this season. He's now struck out exactly a quarter of the batters he's faced so far. That would represent a career high and a nice boost from his 22.8 K% from last year. Odorizzi needed a grand total of just 21 pitches to get through the third through fifth innings. He ran into trouble in the sixth, issuing a one-out walk followed by a single. We’ve seen him unravel in similar situations before, but he struck out both Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel to end the threat. While Odorizzi was cruising, Justin Verlander was also carving up the Twins. But there was a different look to the lineup tonight. They entered this game with a league-low 3.76 pitches per plate appearances. Tonight, they had a batter work an at-bat of six pitches or more in each of Verlander’s six innings. The longest of those was a 10-pitch walk for Max Kepler to lead off the first inning. Eddie Rosario had a nine-pitch at-bat that ended in a strikeout, and one of those longer plate appearances produced the game’s only run. In the third inning, Ehire Adrianza fell behind Verlander 1-2. He fouled off the fourth pitch to extend the at-bat, then watched two balls go by. Ehire deposited pitch No. 7 into the stands. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Bullpen429.png Next Three Games Tue vs. HOU, 6:40 pm CT (Pineda-Cole) Wed vs. HOU, 7:10 pm CT (Perez-McHugh) Thu vs. HOU, 12:10 pm CT (Berrios-Peacock) Last Game MIN 4, BAL 1: Kepler Sets Tone, Gibby Brings It Home Click here to view the article
  25. Early Season Results Minnesota’s limited amount of games to start the season has certainly altered the bullpen’s results. Only three pitchers have appeared in double-digits games (Trevor May, Trevor Hildenberger, and Taylor Rogers). Blake Parker and Taylor Rogers have split save situations with both players earning three saves or more. There have been some surprises so far this season. Minus one appearance in Houston, Ryne Harper has been outstanding. There’s reason to believe he could continue this in the weeks ahead. Hildenberger, Rogers, and Parker have also been outstanding. Does that mean the Twins aren’t that desperate to add depth to the bullpen? The Ninth Inning Question Craig Kimbrel might not want to pitch outside of the ninth inning. With 333 saves, he currently ranks in the top 14 on the all-time list. He’s a long way away from catching Mariano Rivera’s 652 saves, but there is room for him to move up the list. Even if he signs after the draft this season, he could still pass Rollie Fingers (341 saves) and Randy Myers (347 saves). Also, Kimbrel might not be willing to pitch outside of the ninth inning. Rocco Baldelli has been open to using relief pitchers in the best situation. Would Kimbrel be willing to enter the game in the seventh inning if the opposing team’s best hitters were scheduled to appear. Relief pitching has drastically changed during the last handful of seasons. Kimbrel might be more worried about his long-term legacy than the results of team he has little connection tio. Trickle Down Effect If Kimbrel came in to be the team’s closer, other strong relief pitchers would be able to be utilized in earlier innings. May, Hildenberger, Rogers, and Parker could be utilized in earlier innings. Pushing all of the relief pitchers back an inning would mean the starters don’t need to go as long. This could make the bullpen even stronger and it could allow the Twins even more separation in the American League Central Division. Will Kimbrel solve everything that is wrong with this team? No… But he could add depth to a strong core. This could be the difference in a first-round exit and a competitive team in the AL Championship Series. Could Kimbrel make that much of a difference? I believe he can…
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