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  1. The Twins’ bullpen has leaked runs and caused headaches all year long, motivating the front office to improve it at the deadline. They filled the holes with a bang, and now the arm barn looks like a real strength. Despite all the issues and the 19 crippling blown saves, the Twins had one advantage in their bullpen: a young, terrific weapon in Jhoan Durán, who’s carried the late-innings all year. Griffin Jax, another first-year reliever, has been more than serviceable with a 3.49 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 43 innings. It’s Durán, though, who made fixing the bullpen woes at the deadline easier than it appeared. Durán is tied with Guardians’ generational closer Emmanuel Clase for the most Win Probability Added among relievers in the American League (2.80). He owns a sterling 2.15 ERA in 46 innings, striking out 58 and walking only 10. Durán’s emergence is a primary reason why the Twins are in first place. It’s hard to imagine where they’d be without him. Durán’s excellence allowed the Twins to flip the bullpen picture completely. They already had one outstanding right-handed reliever and then traded for another. Jorge Lopez, who now has a 1.64 ERA in nearly 50 innings, completes one of the more overwhelming duos in baseball. López and Durán have combined for a 1.87 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 96 ⅓ innings. While Durán wows with one of the hardest four-seam fastballs in baseball, López induces chopper after chopper with a turbo sinker at 98-100 mph. It’s a deadly combo for opposing hitters. The late innings will primarily belong to the two flamethrowers, but Michael Fulmer is an under-the-radar pickup for the Twins. Fulmer shuts down right-handed hitters, holding them to a .136 batting average and zero homers in 102 plate appearances. Fulmer has given up one extra-base hit to a righty all season, a double from his new teammate Gio Urshela on July 24th. No righty has barreled Fulmer this season. In a division and league loaded with right-handed talent, he should continue to thrive in those matchups. Fulmer and Jax both have elite sliders, holding opponents to a combined .170 batting average. Depth is as important as the stars, and Trevor Megill has filled in wonderfully. Megill has a sub-2 ERA in 19 outings, regularly reaching 100 with his fastball while showing good command. Megill, Durán, and López all average over 97 mph with their primary fastballs. When’s the last time the Twins had three high-velocity arms in their bullpen? Caleb Thielbar hasn’t shined in the ERA department, but his 3.09 Fielding Independent Pitching shows he’s been unlucky. Thielbar has a 1.38 ERA over his last 13 innings and a 2.90 ERA over his last 34 outings. He’s a reliable lefty and has held left-handed hitters to a .180/.281/.260 line. Even Emilio Pagán, who the Twins demoted to a lower-leverage role, has a 3.18 ERA and 2.23 FIP with 21 strikeouts over his last 12 outings. This bullpen picture gets even brighter if he can fill a vital sixth-inning role. Pagán could redeem some of his value with a solid final two months. It’s impossible to ignore the bullpen’s issues up to this point. Pagán and Tyler Duffey have allowed 40 earned runs in 79 ⅓ innings. Joe Smith, while excellent early, was so poor that the Twins DFA’ed him despite being the largest bullpen acquisition of the offseason. Even with the much-improved outlook, there’s still hope and depth outside the 26-man roster. If Jorge Alcalá can return, he’d provide Rocco Baldelli with another high-octane option for the late innings. Alcalá posted a 0.82 ERA with 27 strikeouts over his final 22 innings of 2021. Jovani Moran, who the Twins optioned Wednesday, has a 1.93 ERA in 20 outings with the Twins this year. Kenta Maeda, a relief ace for the Dodgers in the past, is working to return for the stretch run in the Twins’ bullpen. They still have to play the games and stay healthy, but this group looks excellent. The Twins have seldom had this many reliable relievers in one bullpen, and they’ve never had a duo with the weaponry of Durán and López. If the Twins win the division and make a run into October, the bullpen will be a crucial reason why. What do you think of the Twins’ revamped bullpen? Comment below! View full article
  2. Despite all the issues and the 19 crippling blown saves, the Twins had one advantage in their bullpen: a young, terrific weapon in Jhoan Durán, who’s carried the late-innings all year. Griffin Jax, another first-year reliever, has been more than serviceable with a 3.49 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 43 innings. It’s Durán, though, who made fixing the bullpen woes at the deadline easier than it appeared. Durán is tied with Guardians’ generational closer Emmanuel Clase for the most Win Probability Added among relievers in the American League (2.80). He owns a sterling 2.15 ERA in 46 innings, striking out 58 and walking only 10. Durán’s emergence is a primary reason why the Twins are in first place. It’s hard to imagine where they’d be without him. Durán’s excellence allowed the Twins to flip the bullpen picture completely. They already had one outstanding right-handed reliever and then traded for another. Jorge Lopez, who now has a 1.64 ERA in nearly 50 innings, completes one of the more overwhelming duos in baseball. López and Durán have combined for a 1.87 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 96 ⅓ innings. While Durán wows with one of the hardest four-seam fastballs in baseball, López induces chopper after chopper with a turbo sinker at 98-100 mph. It’s a deadly combo for opposing hitters. The late innings will primarily belong to the two flamethrowers, but Michael Fulmer is an under-the-radar pickup for the Twins. Fulmer shuts down right-handed hitters, holding them to a .136 batting average and zero homers in 102 plate appearances. Fulmer has given up one extra-base hit to a righty all season, a double from his new teammate Gio Urshela on July 24th. No righty has barreled Fulmer this season. In a division and league loaded with right-handed talent, he should continue to thrive in those matchups. Fulmer and Jax both have elite sliders, holding opponents to a combined .170 batting average. Depth is as important as the stars, and Trevor Megill has filled in wonderfully. Megill has a sub-2 ERA in 19 outings, regularly reaching 100 with his fastball while showing good command. Megill, Durán, and López all average over 97 mph with their primary fastballs. When’s the last time the Twins had three high-velocity arms in their bullpen? Caleb Thielbar hasn’t shined in the ERA department, but his 3.09 Fielding Independent Pitching shows he’s been unlucky. Thielbar has a 1.38 ERA over his last 13 innings and a 2.90 ERA over his last 34 outings. He’s a reliable lefty and has held left-handed hitters to a .180/.281/.260 line. Even Emilio Pagán, who the Twins demoted to a lower-leverage role, has a 3.18 ERA and 2.23 FIP with 21 strikeouts over his last 12 outings. This bullpen picture gets even brighter if he can fill a vital sixth-inning role. Pagán could redeem some of his value with a solid final two months. It’s impossible to ignore the bullpen’s issues up to this point. Pagán and Tyler Duffey have allowed 40 earned runs in 79 ⅓ innings. Joe Smith, while excellent early, was so poor that the Twins DFA’ed him despite being the largest bullpen acquisition of the offseason. Even with the much-improved outlook, there’s still hope and depth outside the 26-man roster. If Jorge Alcalá can return, he’d provide Rocco Baldelli with another high-octane option for the late innings. Alcalá posted a 0.82 ERA with 27 strikeouts over his final 22 innings of 2021. Jovani Moran, who the Twins optioned Wednesday, has a 1.93 ERA in 20 outings with the Twins this year. Kenta Maeda, a relief ace for the Dodgers in the past, is working to return for the stretch run in the Twins’ bullpen. They still have to play the games and stay healthy, but this group looks excellent. The Twins have seldom had this many reliable relievers in one bullpen, and they’ve never had a duo with the weaponry of Durán and López. If the Twins win the division and make a run into October, the bullpen will be a crucial reason why. What do you think of the Twins’ revamped bullpen? Comment below!
  3. If I showed you this statcast page without context, what Twins pitcher would you think it is? As well as: -0.1 War or a 95 ERA+ (100 is league average) Well first off it looks average or slightly below, so you could pick a name out of a hat from the Twins bullpen. Okay, maybe you're an "old school" guy and you like more conventional metrics of success. How about a 5.59 ERA in June or a 13.50 ERA in July? Maybe 17 earned runs in his past 15 innings pitched? That's Taylor Rogers. I was told that Rodgers was an elite reliever that the stupid front office traded away! So I'm being a little negative, that's fair to say, but I have grown so annoyed with fans trying to spin this trade like the Twins just traded away Mike Trout for a bucket of baseballs. There were many clear reasons why the Twins moved on from Rogers. Yes to be fair a lot of those numbers aren't extremely bad, but for someone being paid 7.3 million those are underperforming numbers. Taylor Rogers would've been traded in 2021 had it not been for his finger injury, that has been widely reported by multiple sources. I would imagine the Twins felt similar with Rogers as they did with Jose Berrios (whose trade is looking better every day) That is the thought that "We've seen the best out of this guy, and he's about to get paid by someone. That's not gonna be us." Rogers is due to be a FA after this season and he is going to get a large contract, I'm fine with that not being the Twins because he has regressed slowly every season and there is no indication that will stop now. So after all, looks like you can take the man out of the Twins bullpen, But you can't take the Twins bullpen out of the man. (Also, slight thanks to MN Sportswriter of the Year Aaron Gleeman's tweet on Rogers for inspiring this)
  4. About a week ago, I started a thread entitled "A Few Random Thoughts". Since then, the Twins have continued to win games and (mostly) look promising doing it. I have assembled another helping of tidbits for discussion. I hope they generate discussion and debate. 1) Injuries have happened, most notably upcoming surgery for Miguel Sano. Those injured are Sano (1st base), Garlick (corner OF), and Kirilloff (corner OF/1st base). As usual, when injuries occur, they seem to cluster. First base options now are Luis Arraez and Jose Miranda. 2) Two starting pitchers remain on on the Injured List. Both look like they will be back shortly. If/when all return, Winder probably goes back to a long relief role. I would predict that someone will be injured or ineffective and that Winder doesn't spend much time in the long relief role in May, unless he is the one who is ineffective. 3) Dylan Bundy impressed me with his six innings of work in the game the Twins lost to Tampa Bay. He gave up four runs before he got an out, but still managed to limit the bullpen to two innings. That he gave up six runs shows how little margin for error he has without overpowering stuff. That he pitched six innings showed that he can make adjustments on the fly and be effective. 4) By trading both Mitch Garver and Ben Rortvedt, the Twins bet big on Ryan Jeffers, who hit below the Mendoza Line in 2021. Right now, it looks like an excellent bet. The batting average is subpar, but the OPS+ is over 100 and he is a good receiver. Gary Sanchez is not a perfect complement to Jeffers, but he has been okay behind the plate and not an automatic out. 5) The promotion of Jose Miranda highlights the importance of positional flexibility. I would expect that Miranda will get a lot of starts at first base, due to the injuries of Sano and Kirilloff, and that he is comfortable playing first probably led to his promotion over someone else. 6) I fear this might be a lost season for Alex Kirilloff. From the reports I've read, he is not pain-free and early results from St. Paul do not show a hitter who is able to mash at that level, much less the next level. My expectation for this season for Kirilloff was that he would establish himself as a major league regular on the way to a fine career. Now I am wondering if that ever will happen. 7) Last night, Caleb Thielbar and Tyler Duffey had good outings. Up to that point, both had had disappointing starts to their season. Both veterans seemed to have more zip on their fastball and Thielbar featured much better command of all his pitches. The bullpen pitcher who concerns me most is Emilio Pagan. Far too many walks and deep counts, combined with a propensity to give up home run balls worries me. He is being used in high-leverage situations and really hasn't hurt the team yet, but it's nervous time when he's on the mound. My list is a bit shorter than last week, probably because the team has played so well. Please discuss and comment. Thanks!
  5. Less than two weeks until Opening Day and some things are taking shape while other things remain undetermined. Some things won't really be determined in Ft. Myers, such as the split in playing time between Sanchez and Jeffers. Some things are taking shape. Here are some of my observations: 1) Byron Buxton has batted lead off. Would the Twins consider having a guy who homered once every 13 plate appearances on top of the order? Luis Arraez is more of the classical lead off guy, but he's hit down in the order when both he and Buxton have been in the lineup. 2) Positions played--Kirilloff has played left, right and first base, Gordon has played second and short, So far, Gordon hasn't played in the outfield and Urshela hasn't played shortstop, where a week ago he was projected to be the starter, 3) Taylor Rogers looks like he's going to be the closer. He is pitching in the early innings against as many major leaguers as he can. 4) The pitchers seem to be ahead of the hitters. The Twins haven't looked great at the plate, but the opponents aren't hitting much either. 5) The rotation seems to be taking shape, but it looks like there will be room for multiple-inning relief or openers. To start the season, it appears that the young arms won't be going even five innings. Gray and Bundy might be ready to go six by Opening Day. 6) There's a chance that a couple of rookies will be on the pitching staff. Duran has been impressive as has Winder. With Dobnak's injury, there would seem to be a starting job available for Winder (or maybe coming in after the opener). 7) It doesn't seem that any non-roster players have forced their way on the roster so far. Beckham has gotten in a lot of games, and Smeltzer has had two good performances, but there haven't been many wow moments from non-roster players.
  6. The Twins face the soon-to-be re-nicknamed Cleveland team in game three of a four game series at Target Field (weather permitting). Last night the Twins prevailed 8-7 despite allowing four home runs and two unearned runs. Winning pitcher Griffin Jax provided 4.1 innings of acceptable relief and some hefty hitting by Luis Arraez and others was just enough. The weather forecast for Minneapolis is for rain to start this afternoon and last through the evening hours. The ground is parched and the rain is needed, but it would be nice for the Twins to get this game in today. Here in southeast Minnesota, the rain has already begun. I think either the game starts on time or it won't be played. Kenta Maeda starts for the home team. He's looked better, but certainly not on the level he performed in the shortened 2020 season. The Twins' bullpen has been used for over half of the innings in the series. It will be interesting to see how many innings Maeda will work if the game is in fact played. Lineup notes: Lefty hitting Trevor Larnach and Luis Arraez start against Sam Hentges, who is making his fourth start for Cleveland. Rookies Nick Gordon and Alex Kirilloff will begin the game on the bench despite good hitting yesterday. Max Kepler also is on the bench after another oh-fer as he continues to find his stroke. There are options for the Twins offensively, but the injuries they have are all to right handed hitters. Lineups: Pitching LAYER W-L ERA WHIP IP H K BB HR S. Hentges 1-1 6.40 1.89 32.1 45 37 16 5 K. Maeda 3-2 4.85 1.44 52.0 60 50 15 11 Cleveland (41-32) hitters HITTERS H-AB RBI HR SB AVG C. HernandezDH 60-278 28 11 0 .216 A. RosarioSS 63-238 23 5 7 .265 J. Ramirez3B 66-256 44 16 6 .258 E. RosarioLF 66-260 42 6 9 .254 B. Bradley1B 14-56 15 6 0 .250 J. NaylorRF 59-231 21 7 1 .255 E. Clement2B 4-13 1 0 0 .308 B. ZimmerCF 15-66 5 0 4 .227 R. RiveraC 12-50 8 1 0 .240 Twins (32-43) hitters ITTERS H-AB RBI HR SB AVG J. Polanco2B 66-260 30 9 6 .254 J. Donaldson3B 49-198 29 10 0 .247 N. CruzDH 69-230 39 16 1 .300 T. LarnachRF 32-129 12 5 0 .248 R. JeffersC 19-93 14 5 0 .204 M. Sano1B 38-197 34 14 0 .193 L. ArraezLF 52-176 20 1 0 .295 G. CelestinoCF 4-34 1 1 0 .118 A. SimmonsSS 48-196 14 2 0 .245
  7. The Twins visit Seattle in the second game of their series with the Mariners. They lost last night 4-3 as the bullpen yielded three runs in four innings. The Twins continue to hit and allow home runs. They are (were) second in MLB in homers and third in allowing home runs. If you want to see home runs, go to a Twins game. JA Happ takes the hill versus a pretty weak Seattle lineup. Happ has struggled, as almost all of the Twins pitchers have, with allowing homers. The Twins bullpen leads MLB in losses, not a stat to lead the majors. Luis Arraez returns to the Twins starting lineup, hitting leadoff and playing second base. Nick Gordon gets another start in center field and apparently Byron Buxton is not yet ready to go. OK, diehard fans, enjoy another late night watching two below .500 teams square off. Pitchers: PLAYER W-L ERA WHIP IP H K BB HR J.A. Happ 3-2 5.75 1.37 56.1 60 39 17 10 C. Flexen 5-3 4.68 1.39 59.2 71 36 12 7 Lineups--Twins HITTERS H-AB RBI HR SB AVG L. Arraez2B 39-142 14 1 0 .275 J. Donaldson3B 45-186 26 10 0 .242 T. LarnachLF 27-99 9 3 0 .273 N. CruzDH 58-195 31 13 1 .297 J. PolancoSS 56-224 30 9 3 .250 A. KirilloffRF 31-122 19 5 0 .254 M. Sano1B 32-177 32 13 0 .181 N. GordonCF 11-32 2 1 5 .344 B. RortvedtC 6-40 4 1 0 .150 Mariners HITTERS H-AB RBI HR SB AVG J.P. CrawfordSS 64-234 23 3 2 .274 J. FraleyCF 14-51 15 4 4 .275 T. France1B 52-210 22 3 0 .248 K. Seager3B 55-255 40 13 2 .216 D. Moore2B 24-132 22 6 9 .182 T. MurphyC 23-127 14 6 0 .181 J. BauersRF 24-119 9 3 0 .202 L. TorrensDH 16-90 6 2 0 .178 S. Long Jr.LF 3-20 0 0 0 .150
  8. The 2021 Minnesota Twins have a very bad, beyond terrible, no-good bullpen. We all know that. Let's take a break from the 2021 Minnesota Twins Dumpsterfire Bullpen, and talk about something closely related, the Ryan Pressly trade. As part 1 in a series where we'll take a look back at trades "Falvine" made early in their tenure, and re-evaluate them, what's more fitting for right now than this deal that has an impact on Twins' bullpens of past, present, and future? The Trade: Houston Astros Receive: RP Ryan Pressly (MLB) Minnesota Twins Receive: P Jorge Alcala (MiLB), OF Gilberto Celestino (MiLB) Twins' fans weren't fans of this one at first, especially as Pressly went on to be dominant down the stretch in 2018 posting a 1.49 FIP in 23.1 IP after his arrival in Houston. In 2019 he followed that performance up with an All-Star appearance in a season worth 1.7 WAR. All this and Twins' fans had yet to see Celestino or Alcala in the Majors. So at this point some of y'all may be saying "So if we weren't fans of it at first, why would we be fans now?" The answer, Jorge Alcala. He had a 3.79 xFIP in 2020 and has followed it up with a 3.80 xFIP so far in 2021 (although he has had some home-run-itis lately, but that should regress to the mean according to xFIP). He has started to become a quality reliever, and has just barely hit a year of service time. Oh, and don't forget the Twins' number 8 prospect according to MLB.com, and Buxton's heir apparent, Gilberto Celestino. He's not going to be Buxton, but he does profile as an eventual starting center fielder. So let's break down exactly what each team got in terms of production. Houston Astros: --Ryan Pressly 3.1 WAR paying $2,800,000 and eventually the right to overpay him by a LOT. Minnesota Twins: --Jorge Alcala 0.5 WAR paying minimum MLB salary, and 5 more years of team control. --Gilberto Celestino Nothing, yet. However he is the 8th best prospect the Twins have, which holds considerable value for the future Hey, it all seems okay. A trade where the Twins probably got more value, but the Astros got a reliever that helped them hold on to leads given to them by trash cans, leading them deep into the playoffs. All parties involved come away happy, the makings of a wonderful trade. All stats are thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs, photo is thanks to MLB.com
  9. We managed to cover a lot in our final 73 minutes. First and foremost, what signing Josh Donaldson means. We also discussed how the bullpen and rotation may look and if it makes sense to start dealing prospects. It was a fun ride while it lasted. Thanks for being a part of it! As always, all of our podcasts are available here or you can download directly from iTunes here. Wish John the best at @MillerJohnP.
  10. If you read my article last week on the 2019 Minnesota Twins bullpen, then you already know my thoughts on how the season went. It was a roller coaster ride for the ages. For my article today, though, I will be moving past 2019 and looking ahead to the offseason. I will be looking at where things currently stand for the Twins bullpen, what decisions need to be made, and what potential arms could be acquired on the free agent market as I look to build what I believe should be the Twins bullpen on opening day of 2020. Let’s dive right in... As we start our process for building the Twins 2020 Opening Day bullpen, we first need to establish how many arms will make up the group of relievers. In case you hadn’t heard, 2020 will be the first season where teams will employ a 26-man active roster (previously 25). With that in mind, I assume the opening day roster will shake out like this: 9 starting batters 4 bench players 5 starting pitchers 8 bullpen pitchers Now that we have established how many spots we have for our bullpen we can begin assigning names to those spots. Locks: Taylor Rogers ( L ) Trevor May ( R ) Tyler Duffey ( R ) Zack Littell ( R ) Cody Stashak ( R ) None of these names should be a surprise at this point. They all did enough to prove that they are worthy of being in the bullpen on opening day of 2020. There’s a chance that Stashak or Littell could pitch themselves out of favor in 2020 if they regress, but given their ages and their progress as the season went on, I don’t expect that to happen. Of note regarding these five names: only Trevor May is not under team control for the next two seasons following 2020. Question Mark: 6. Sergio Romo ( R ) As an impending free agent, Romo is no sure thing to be back with the Minnesota Twins. With that being said, I do think that there is mutual interest for him to come back to Minnesota on another one year deal. From the Twins’ point of view, Romo was very effective in his 23 innings with the Twins, posting a 3.18 ERA and completely shutting down right handed hitters, holding them to a .205 batting average. From Romo’s point of view, Minnesota seems to be a good fit for him as well, he quickly became a fan favorite at Target Field this year, he figures to have a prominent role in the bullpen again next season and, well, there’s this…I’ve got Romo slotted as the 6th member of the 2020 bullpen. The Long Man: 7. Randy Dobnak ( R ) There are four potential names that could fill the “long man” spot in the bullpen to start the 2020 season: Smeltzer, Thorpe, Gibson and Dobnak. I ended up going with Dobnak. First, I believe that the Twins will cut ties with Gibson. I do think that this spot would be Gibson’s if he was willing to reduce his role to a reliever, but I believe another team will offer Gibson a contract to be their starter and he will leave Minnesota. Lewis Thorpe is someone that I believe the organization has hopes of being their long term starter, with which I agree — he should start 2020 as a starting pitcher either with the Twins or at Rochester. That left me with deciding between Dobnak and Smeltzer. While Smeltzer got much of the long man work through the final months of the 2019 season, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see another “Rochester shuttle” situation, I think that Dobnak did enough in 2019 and has the minor league track record to prove that he’s worthy of getting the first look. The Final Spot: 8. ??? This spot was originally supposed to be Sam Dyson’s, but we all know how that turned out. As a result, we need to find an 8th reliever for the bullpen. I’m going to leave my selection until the end, after parsing out all of the various options. First we’ll take a look at the internal options, then take a look at the free agent market, and we’ll make a decision. Of note: Up to this point our Twins bullpen has 6 right handers and 1 left hander. The preference will be to assign a lefty to our final bullpen spot. Internal Options Devin Smeltzer ( L ) - See above. Smeltzer is a solid option for the 8th spot in our bullpen. He would provide a lefty arm and performed admirably for the Twins in 2019, posting a 3.86 ERA in 49 innings, although his 4.58 FIP and 7.0 K/9 suggest that he may not be as good as his numbers appear on the surface. Brusdar Graterol ( R ) - Brusdar showed that his stuff was legit in limited innings with the Twins in 2019. His velocity and strikeout rate certainly lived up to the billing. I do believe, though, that he will start the 2019 season in AAA as he builds up his arm strength to join the club as a starting pitcher in 2020. It’s possible that Graterol could be a reliever eventually, but not in 2020. Trevor Hildenberger ( R ) - Crazy how quickly things can change in the MLB, huh? Just two years ago at this time we were counting on Hildy to be the relief arm of the future for this team, but after injuries and poor performance have derailed his last two seasons, I find it hard to imagine him starting 2020 anywhere other than the minor leagues. Fernando Romero ( R ) - See Hildenberger, Trevor. Poor performance from 2019 doesn’t lend any confidence in putting a once promising bullpen prospect into the 2020 opening day plans for the Twins. Free Agent Options Will Smith - SF Giants ( L ) - The 30 year old southpaw from San Francisco is the top left handed reliever option in free agency this year. Smith is coming off a great season in which he produced a 2.76 ERA and 13.2 K/9 in 65 innings of work. While he fills a need of another strong lefty reliever in the bullpen, I’m not sure that the Twins will pay the ~$8-10M/year premium that it will cost to sign him when they have a bigger need in the rotation. Jake Diekman - Oakland Athletics ( L ) - The flame throwing left hander, Diekman, is certainly another enticing free agent option for the Twins the offseason. The career 3.90 ERA and 11.2 K/9 numbers are very solid and would be a welcome addition to this Minnesota Twins bullpen. He should not be the final arm in this bullpen, though, as there is another lefty who will be a better fit for the 2020 Minnesota Twins. Which leads me to… Drew Pomeranz - Milwaukee Brewers ( L ) - Pomeranz was a longtime starter who was converted to a full time reliever this summer after being acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline. This change unlocked a dynamite arm who helped lead the Brewers to a wild card crown this season. Now an impendending free agent, I think he would be an excellent addition to this Minnesota Twins team, and shouldn’t be as costly as the Will Smith’s of the world. He is a left handed arm that destroys left handed hitters, which this team does not currently have outside of Taylor Rogers. In his career, Pomeranz has allowed left handed hitters to hit for a .626 OPS in 208 innings, including an outstanding .512 OPS against lefties as a relief pitcher. Drew Pomeranz is number 8 in my 2020 Twins bullpen. What are your thoughts on the 2020 Opening Day bullpen that I built? Please let me know in the comments below.
  11. The Minnesota Twins bullpen of 2019 was a roller coaster ride that would rival even the most thrilling attraction at Valley Fair. In this article, we’ll be taking a ride on the 2019 Twins "bullpen coaster" as I go through all the various peaks and valleys that the relief group experienced in 2019. Prior to the start of the season, expectations for the Twins bullpen were certainly a mixed bag following a disappointing 2018 which saw the Twins relievers finish 22nd in the majors with a 4.45 ERA. After Twins fans pleaded with Falvey and Levine all offseason to acquire relief arms, the 33-year old journeyman, Blake Parker, was the only reliever that the front office duo signed. While the Twins knew they had a budding star in Taylor Rogers, it appeared that the Twins would otherwise be leaning heavily on a bunch of unproven question marks the likes of Parker, Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Adalberto Mejia and Fernando Romero. Names like Tyler Duffey and Zack Littell were starting the season in the minor leagues and Cody Stashak was a complete unknown. Fangraphs, however, was more bullish than most on the Twins bullpen, ranking the unit 11th in the majors in their pre-season power rankings. Peak #1: Hot start Just like the rest of the Twins ballclub, the bullpen exceeded any and all expectations to kick off the 2019 season. The bullpen coaster reached its first peak of the year, though, on May 26 when the Twins shut out the Chicago White Sox, 7-0. On this day, the Twins bullpen recorded 3.2 scoreless innings from Magill, May, Rogers and Duffey to push the Twins to 20 games over .500 with a 36-16 record. Through this point in the season the Twins were seventh in the American League in ERA at 4.07 and fifth in the American league in FIP at 3.89. This great performance was thanks in large part to the four relievers who pitched in the May 26 shut out who had to this point posted ERAs of 1.54 (Magill), 3.79/3.79 (May), 1.31 (Rogers) and 2.63 (Duffey). Valley #1: The Yankee Debacle The Bullpen stayed hot through the month of June, but as the calendar flipped from June to July our bullpen coaster began it’s steep decline. In a period of 17 games from July 1 - July 23 the Twins relievers posted an ERA/FIP of 5.32/4.31 with a -1.61 WPA during that time. During this same stretch, three Twins relievers were DFA’d due to poor performance - the previously mentioned Matt Magill, Adalberto Mejia, and Mike Morin. The culmination of poor bullpen performance, and the first valley on our bullpen coaster, was the 14-12 heartbreaking loss to the Yankees on July 23. In a game that featured 16 runs, 35 hits, and 6 bombas, the stats that will stick with Twins fans from this game are the two blown saves and nine earned runs from the bullpen. Blake Parker surrendered four runs to turn a 9-5 lead to a 10-9 deficit. Then, after a heroic Sano bomba, Taylor Rogers surrendered two runs to turn a 11-10 lead to a 12-11 deficit. Finally, after Polanco tied the game to force extra innings, Kohl Stewart surrendered two runs to turn a 12-12 tie game to a demoralizing 14-12 loss. Following the game, the Twins DFA’d their fourth reliever in 11 days by letting Blake Parker go and all of a sudden the Twins bullpen found themselves at rock bottom. Peak #2: The Trade Deadline The silver lining to the July decline and the Yankee debacle was that it forced the front office to realize that acquiring relief arms at the deadline was no longer a luxury, but a necessity. The voices clamoring for bullpen help were getting louder, and lo and behold the front office acted. First by acquiring the 36-year old, right handed reliever, Sergio Romo. In Romo the Twins acquired a proven winner with a nasty slider that killed right handed hitters. The general feeling, though, was that the Romo acquisition wasn’t enough and we needed more arms. Then, in the 11th hour of the trade deadline, news broke that the Twins acquired veteran reliever, Sam Dyson, and things were looking up for this bullpen. Dyson was arguably the best arm that was moved at the deadline and filled the missing setup man role for the Bomba Squad. Falvey and Levine got us the help we needed, we were primed for a resurgent second half of the season, and the bullpen coaster reached its final peak. Or so we thought... Valley #2: Damaged Goods While the Romo acquisition was looking like a slam dunk for the Twins, the Dyson experiment was not quite looking the same. In his first appearance with the Twins on August 3rd, Dyson didn’t record a single out, allowed 3 runs, and posted a -0.46 WPA. The following day, after a second straight shaky performance, Dyson was placed on the injured list with bicep tendonitis in what turned out to be a chronic issue that he had been experiencing since before coming to Minnesota (AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE?!). At this point Twins fans across Minnesota feared that Dyson was damaged goods, and finally on September 26 their fears were realized when Dyson was shut down for good. What was the final piece to the Twins bullpen turned out to be a net-negative and Minnesota was once again stuck in a valley, needing guys from within the organization to hold on for dear life as they fought for the AL Central crown. Peak #3: Late Season Resurgence The Twins needed the current crop of arms in the organization to step up in Dyson’s absence, and step up they did. The group that got it done for the Twins in August and September was a mix of guys who contributed throughout the year (Duffey, Rogers and May) along with a group of kids who played far above their age and expectations (Littell, Stashak and Graterol). The bullpen coaster peaked, though, on September 14 when the Twins played a bullpen game to complete a double header sweep of the Indians and all but seal up the AL Central. After 3.2 mediocre innings from Lewis Thorpe, the Twins blanked the Indians for the final 5.1 innings thanks to scoreless outings from Stashak, Graterol and May. Overall, in August and September the Twins bullpen posted a 3.51 FIP, best in the American League. The unit that Twins fans thought would cost them the division ended up winning them the division in a bullpen game. Pretty cool. Valley #3: October Disappointment Heading into the Playoffs, the Twins had a plethora of question marks. They had just two viable starting pitchers, Arraez’s ankle was a question mark, Kepler hadn’t played in weeks, the list goes on and on. What Twins fans were confident in, though, was our group of bullpen arms. The same group that carried the team through August and September seemed primed to carry them through October. The narrative flipped quickly, though, when Baldelli brought in Zack Littell to start the fifth inning of game one. Littell clearly was not up to the moment as he faced three batters, while allowing two runs. The next inning, Baldelli brought in Cody Stashak who allowed home runs to LeMahieu and Gardner to seal a game one loss. Game two of the ALDS was even worse for the Twins bullpen thanks mostly in part to Tyler Duffey serving up a grand slam to Gregorius, all but ending the game (and series) before it even started. All in all, the Twins bullpen posted a 7.56 ERA in 25 innings and, unfortunately, the bullpen coaster ended the 2019 campaign in a valley. You can say a lot of different things about the 2019 season for the Minnesota Twins bullpen, but you can’t say that it was boring. As you can see, the season was truly a roller coaster ride unlike any that I can remember. Although we ended 2019 in a valley, I look forward to the 2020 group climbing up the chain and reaching new peaks.
  12. Game 2 of the four game series between the Twins and Rangers in Arlington. Today it will be Minor versus Odorizzi, a matchup of surprise All-Stars. Runs should be hard to come by at least while the starters are on the mound.Minor had a lousy July (20 earned runs in 27.1 innings), but has thrown fifteen shutout innings so far in August. Odorizzi has similarly bounced back from a tough patch and has won his last two decisions and pitched effectively in his last three starts. Both bullpens have had issues since the All-Star break. The Twins' pen will be rested because Pineda and Smeltzer combined to pitch all nine innings yesterday. There probably will be an additional arm in the bullpen for the Twins, since Devon Smeltzer was optioned back to Rochester after his four-inning appearance last night. While Minor's splits vs. left and right handers are pretty inconsequential, it figures the Twins will load up with right handed bats against the Ranger lefty. Yesterday's play did not affect the pennant race. Both Minnesota and Cleveland won. Minnesota still holds a half game lead going into play today. The Tribe faces New York at Yankee Stadium again tonight. You might detect a halfhearted "go Yankees" from me, but I'll try to keep that on the down-low. Picks to sit and picks to click: Polanco has struggled some offensively, particularly against LH pitching, if I'm managing the Twins, I rest Jorge against the tough left hander. Arraez has a .320 slugging percentage versus lefties--all of his hits vs. same-side pitchers are singles--and with the Texas heat, every possible player should get a break, so Schoop (.861 OPS vs. LH) for the rookie. Mitch Garver had raked against southpaws all year. I expect a couple hits including at least one extra-base hit. Marwin Gonzalez has been raking, especially from the right side and I expect his late-season surge to continue. Go Twins!! Twins Garver c Arraez LF Polanco DH Sanó 3B Kepler cf Cron 1B Gonzalez RF Schoop 2B Adrianza SS Odorizzi p Rangers Choo DH Santana 1B Andrus SS Calhoun LF Mazara TD Odor 2B DeShields cf Kiner-Falefa 3B Mathis c Minor p
  13. Do we know what they are doing right now? Does the front office? Right now the bullpen is: Taylor Rogers Tyler Duffey Ryne Harper Trevor May Cody Stashak Carlos Torres Lewis Thorpe Devin SmeltzerHalf of them are rookies (and/or starting pitchers) or Carlos Torres - which means they are all pretty much supposed to be used in lower leverage situation, one would think. Are they forcing Rocco to use Rogers/Duffey/Harper/May as his go-to guys in close games? Were they just trying to stop him from using Magill/Parker/Morin in high leverage situations? If so, they picked a bad time to hamstring bullpen depth and paid the price. On a positive note, you gotta think this means they are GUARANTEED to be bringing in multiple arms to help in some capacity. While we might be worried they thought Magill and Parker would be 'good enough' down the stretch and in October, I feel pretty confident they don't think the bottom 4 guys in the current 'pen are good enough for a playoff hopeful team in a knife fight for the division title. I'm thinking they are looking to at least add two arms to the bullpen. So maybe down the stretch it would look like: Taylor Rogers MLB Veteran Set-up Trevor May MLB Veteran LHP Tyler Duffey Ryne Harper Cody Stashak AAA Express Fresh-arm-manNot super exciting and would need one of May/Duffey/Harper to go on a run, but would be an improvement over what they've been working with up until this point... Of course, this is assuming Rogers wasn't ruined over the last two series. When they DFA'd the three guys before the Oakland series, but then only replaced them with Stewart and Thorpe, I had a thought that maybe they thought they had a deal in place for some arms, but then something happened at the 11th hour and the deal fell apart. Why else would they DFA those guys and only have AAA SP as replacements?
  14. If you're not interested in hearing about all the targets, but you were intrigued - one way or another - by all the talk last night about Ian Kennedy, fast forward to 43:09 where we start talking about how it just makes too much sense to make a deal with the Royals. As always, all of our podcasts are available here or you can download directly from iTunes here.
  15. The reality, though, is that we all know things are going to fall somewhere in the middle for both buyers and sellers. We know the Twins need help - definitely in the bullpen and possibly in the rotation - and the next couple of weeks are going to be full of rumors and speculation. Over the next two weeks, I’m going to present a series to you that hopefully takes a different look at things. Today’s part - Part 1 - will start by focusing on next year, but we’ll get more into that soon. Part 2 will be a continuation of today’s article, but will look at the financial side of things. Especially who this regime has invested in. Part 3 will update an article I posted seven weeks ago looking at who might the Twins be most motivated to move? Part 4 (the teams) and Part 5 (the players) will narrow the focus as the deadline approaches. And, finally, Part 6 will be me revisiting something I’ve done in the past, playing GM for a Day. ---- The Twins leadership has banged the same drum repeatedly over time. They aren’t interested in committing future dollars, but they value control. Beyond Jorge Polanco's and Max Kepler's contract extensions, only Marwin Gonzalez is on the books for a guaranteed dollar amount next year. Nelson Cruz and Martin Perez have buyouts on team options. Which is really just a fancy way of maybe telling us they overvalue prospects and pre-arbitration-eligible player. You could assume they value guys in arbitration too, but as price increases and control decreases, the value decreases quickly. And then they hit free agency. The Twins will have five guys hitting the ranks of free agency after the season: Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda, Jason Castro and Jonathan Schoop. Knowing how the organization values control, we need to look at next year before we can look at the moves for the next few weeks. (Seems backwards though.) Assuming the free agent leave and the Twins add no other players, here’s a guess at how things could look on the 25-man and 40-man roster: C: Mitch Garver 1B: C.J. Cron 2B: Luis Arraez 3B: Miguel Sano SS: Jorge Polanco LF: Eddie Rosario CF: Byron Buxton RF: Max Kepler DH: Nelson Cruz Bench: Marwin Gonzalez (UTIL) Bench: Jake Cave (OF) Bench: Willians Astudillo (C/3B) Bench: Ehire Adrianza (SS) SP: Jose Berrios SP: Martin Perez SP: Devin Smeltzer SP: Lewis Thorpe SP: Sean Poppen RP: Taylor Rogers RP: Ryne Harper RP: Trevor May RP: Blake Parker RP: Fernando Romero RP: Matt Magill RP: Tyler Duffey On assignment: LaMonte Wade On assignment: Nick Gordon On assignment: Kohl Stewart (P) On assignment: Stephen Gonsalves (P) On assignment: Zack Littell (P) On assignment: Trevor Hildenberger (P) On assignment: Ryan Eades (P) To be added: Brusdar Graterol (P) To be added: Jhoan Duran (P) To be added: Wander Javier (SS) To be added: Jorge Alcala (P) To be added: Luis Rijo (P) To be added: Griffin Jax (P) To be added: Lewin Diaz (1B) To be added: Travis Blankenhorn (2B/3B) Not adding: Luke Raley (OF), Gilberto Celestino (OF), Jovani Moran (P) No room: Mike Morin (P) (Edit: Morin was DFA'd yesterday before the game.) Other top prospects: Royce Lewis (SS), Alex Kirilloff (OF), Trevor Larnach (OF), Jordan Balazovic (P), Brent Rooker (OF), Yunier Severino (2B), Blayne Enlow (P), Ben Rortvedt ©, Jose Miranda (3B), Edwar Colina (P), Akil Baddoo (OF), Ryan Jeffers © First thing, I’ve not actually adding eight guys to the roster, but for this exercise, I wanted to have a full 40-man just so that we can work backwards. Let’s take a closer look. Mitch Garver, C.J. Cron, Luis Arraez, Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez seem to fill out the top 10 position players pretty well. Garver has split duties with Castro, but has become the more regular catcher. Schoop departs and Arraez slides in nicely. This leaves spots for a backup catcher (Willians Astudillo), a backup shortstop (Ehire Adrianza) and a fourth outfielder (Jake Cave). Astudillo and Cave both have options left, if needed. Gonzalez could serve as the fourth outfielder and backup infielder too. Adrianza is a smooth fielder. But when your only concern is whether or not to upgrade your bench next year… that seems like a winter question, not the trade deadline. The rotation - with 60% on expiring deals - is much more interesting. Jose Berrios will be the Opening Day starter in 2020 and beyond. Martin Perez is very likely to slot into one of the other four spots. The Twins will not go into next season slotting three rookies - Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe and Sean Poppen - in those spots. Could one break the rotation? Maybe. But that’s two starters, minimum, that need to be acquired between now and March. If the rotation is interesting, the bullpen is downright messy. Taylor Rogers is the Ace. Ryne Harper has been fantastic and, at this point, probably is at least written in dark pencil for next year. Trevor May has the ability but hasn’t been consistent. There’s no doubt that he can be a part of a very good major league bullpen though. And then… questions. Blake Parker and Matt Magill are controllable, but replaceable. Fernando Romero has upside, but has been a disaster and out of options after his year. Tyler Duffey has been OK at times, but is also out of options. Zack Littell and Trevor Hildenberger could be solutions, but both can start the year in the minors. I also had to get rid of Mike Morin, who is out of options. There are other options, like Kohl Stewart, if the Twins wanted to try him out in the bullpen. But as much depth as there is in the system, there are no great answers for next year to the bullpen question either. What we have above is the sketchings of the 2020 team. Print it out, make changes, run your own projections. Because there is a 100% chance that it changes before the spring… and a lot of fans that hope it changes before August 1.
  16. The Minnesota Twins bullpen was the dominant topic yesterday for...various reasons. It looks like it will remain a dominant topic as we head toward the July trade deadline. This blog series will be all about the Twins bullpen, but won't be concerned with internal or external additions. I wanted to take a look at how the coaching staff is tweaking the pitch selection of the current Twins relievers, and how that compares to the usage across their careers. I won’t pretend to know the reasons why pitch selection is changing, but it’s interesting to see the trends with a third-ish of the season under the belt. Disclaimer: I am by no means a pitching analyst, and I have just started to dive into the world of Baseball Savant. I highly recommend you try it out, too. You'll probably find some things I am missing. Taylor Rogers No need to introduce this guy. Taylor Rogers has become a relief ace after years as a marginal starting pitching prospect, followed by some time as a lefty specialist. The pitch percentage by season chart shows a major clue to how his 2018 breakout began, and that is the usage of his slider. Slider – “The Rog” "The Rog" (the new nickname I have just bestowed for the slider) is the only pitch that Rogers has thrown at an increased rate in 2019. It jumped from 13.1% of his pitches thrown last year to 50.3% in 2019.It's a large key to his success against right-handed hitters, as he's able to paint both sides of the plate with superior break. The results have not been quite as dominant as it was in 2018, but "The Rog" still holds opposing batters to a .244 BA and a .333 SLG (last year was .122 BA with a .195 SLG). For some context, he's thrown the slider 315 times since debuting in 2018, and given up a total of 4 extra base hits. I’m confident the slider will continue to be filthy, as the spin has increased and exit velocity has decreased to 85.3 MPH from 87 MPH last season. Curveball The other obvious change in Rogers' repertoire is the decrease of his curveball. The fact that his curve has become a rarity is far more surprising to me than the increased use of his slider. Rogers threw a curve for 33.4% of his pitches in 2018, but only 1.8% so far in 2019. 1.8% translates to 7 whole pitches in 2019. I'm not quite sure why Rogers isn't throwing his curve, because it was wildly effective last year. Rogers threw curveballs 316 times in 2018, allowing just 1 extra base hit with a .121 BA and .195 SLG. The spin on his curve was in the 89th percentile in 2018, and the average exit velocity was a paltry 82.7 MPH. The spin has remained above 2700 in 7 tries this season. If he threw it more, it would warrant a nickname (a la “The Rog”). Jeremy Heffner and Wes Johnson must have their reasons. Maybe Statcast is classifying some sliders as curves. Maybe po-tay-to is po-tah-to? Sinker Statcast classifies Rogers’ fastball as a sinker. Sinkers averaging 94.2 MPH are usually quite filthy. It’s trending near his career average in terms of percentage of pitches thrown, but has been dethroned as his favorite pitch due the success of his slider. Regardless, the sinker is a key to establish his breaking balls and it’s going to appear in almost every plate appearance. Rogers’ sinker has been more effective in 2019, nearly matching the performance of his slider this season. It’s always nice when average velocity increases on non-breaking pitches, and Rogers’ sinker has increased by 0.7 MPH from 2018. That seems to be a common trend across Wes Johnson’s pupils. Four-Seamer Rogers has thrown a four-seam fastball once this season. It deserves one sentence. It nearly hit Gordon Beckham in 0-2 count with the bases loaded. Overall Takeaway Rogers has continued his dominance with breaking balls, but the pitch selection has shifted to favor his slider over his curveball. The slider hasn’t been quite as dominant as 2018, but improvements to the spin and exit velocity suggest that it’s a pitch worth throwing more than he did last year. That doesn’t quite explain the severe drop-off in curveballs thrown, maybe there’s an explanation that can’t be defined by Statcast. Regardless of this shift, he's still the ace of the bullpen.
  17. I recently moved to the Anaheim area and was lucky enough to be able to attend Tuesday evenings' game (5/21/19). I also was able to get to a Dodgers' game a few weeks ago against the Nationals. I've been watching the Twins all season on TV (the 5pm start and 8pm finish of the weekday games is glorious), and I am always confident that we are going to end up having a shot to win any game as long as we keep it within 2 or 3 runs because our lineup is beautiful (so deep). The Twins won handedly last night as you all know, but throughout the game something about the team just does not give me that championship edge feel. Especially when I was just able to see a squad like the Dodgers mash the ball around and seemingly always be in control of the game. (I am 'young' and have never seen a Minnesota championship, so I may just be thinking it is never going to occur for any of the teams that I love.) There are so many things to love about the team especially on the offensive side, it feels like runs can be scored at absolutely any part of the lineup with so many great on base percentages and guys mashing balls all over the gaps and out of the park. Maybe this bullpen just doesn't do it for me. Maybe they will clean it up. What do the Twins need to give them that edge? Do you think they already have all of the pieces for a championship run? If we are missing something, what and how do we acquire? GO TWINS GO
  18. The Twins played their 39th game this season yesterday. Their record remains the best in baseball (by percentage points), despite a 5-3 loss to Detroit. While 40 games is closer to the 1/4 mark, there are more than 24 hours between games to consider where the Twins are and what changes (if any) should be made. Obviously, with that good record, the weaknesses aren't too glaring and the strengths are pretty evident. Why are the Twins 25-14? Power and pitching are the easy answers. They are on a club-record pace for long balls, with a lineup that legitimately could have eight or nine 20-homer hitters. Starting pitching has been well above expectations, as well, with José Berríos putting up ace numbers, while probably the two biggest surprises are Jake Odorizzi and Martín Pérez, both of whom have been outstanding. The bullpen has, on balance, gotten the job done. There have been hiccups in the 'pen, especially callups and middle inning guys, but one can only point to a game or two where the bullpen is to blame for a loss. If Marwin Gonzalez is considered part of the bench, the Twins have a deep and versatile group of players to fill in. Gonzalez has gotten over 500 plate appearances every year since 2016 while playing multiple positions. Willians Astudillo and Ehire Adrianza also play multiple positions and either of the two primary catchers are hitting well right now. Garver can also play multiple positions. The team's defense is far better with centerfielder Byron Buxton playing full-time and healthy. The three new defenders in the infield have been very good, as well. Super-utility player Gonzalez has been the principal 3rd baseman and probably will be until third baseman Miguel Sanó returns. Here is one person's thoughts on problems for this club: 1) Bullpen--Blake Parker has gotten the job done as a closer, Taylor Rogers has continued to be an outstanding late-inning arm. Beyond that, there are questions. Trevor May has been OK as a 7th-8th inning guy, but he's been inconsistent. Trevor Hildenberger has faltered recently. It doesn't appear that the manager trusts any of the other bullpen pitchers with high-leverage situations. Another arm or two is needed, if the Twins want to get to October and win games in postseason. 2) Starting depth--The front four starters have been great. Miguel Pineda has struggled, but shows signs of shaking off the rust. Beyond that, it appears the Twins best hopes to bolster their starting rotation are in AA (or just promoted to AAA). Teams almost always need more than five starters and the cupboard is pretty bare beyond #5 for the Twins. 3) Speed and a backup outfielder--Way down the list, but the Twins have only one real threat on the base paths. Buxton has all but two of the teams stolen bases and demonstrates his blazing speed running out extra-base hits and tracking fly balls. Jake Cave is a major league player, but is essentially a backup corner outfielder and he is backing up two left-handed hitting corner outfielders. It would be helpful if the Twins had a speedy, good defensive outfielder who hit right handed and handled LH pitching. These are my thoughts at almost 40 games. I wonder how they'll change after 81, the halfway point.
  19. Here we are on May 9th and the Twins have the best record in Major League Baseball. They have had some low moments, but mostly everything has gone as well as, or better than, expected. Chatter about the Twins has been positive, especially after dominating a bad Baltimore team and then winning a series (and the season series) against the Houston Astros. A 4-2 road trip, including a dominant sweep in Toronto have put the Twins a season-high 11 games over .500. I doubt everything will continue to come up roses for the Twins, it never does. They will suffer injuries and players will slump or disappoint. Even in the best of years, these things happen. However, it appears that in most respects, the team assembled by the relatively new executive team of Falvey and Levine is set up well to handle struggles and snags when they occur. Let's look at what has transpired in the mostly cold and wet months of April and early May. With the exception of Miguel Sanó, the offense has been healthy and rolling. The Twins are in the top tier in the league for run-scoring, home runs, slugging and OPS. They don't walk much (most of the lineup is comprised of aggressive hitters), but they don't strike out much, relative to the rest of the league. The Twins are averaging well over five runs a game, playing many games in poor weather conditions. They appear set to challenge team records in runs scored and home runs this year. The power is well-distributed, with most of the regular lineup already hitting six or more homers. They have endured slumps from regulars and a slow start from Marwin Gonzalez (who has essentially replaced Sanó) without suffering much on the scoreboard. Pitching has been a surprise. The team is in the top half of many key pitching stats, including runs per game, quality starts, shutouts, innings pitched by starters, and opponent's batting average. Three of the five starters have been outstanding, with a fourth (Kyle Gibson) rounding into form in recent starts. The starters good work has taken pressure off of the bullpen. The bullpen hasn't been spotless, but they've gotten the job done. The late-inning quartet of May, Hildenberger, Rogers and Parker has been satisfactory, if not dominating. Defensively, the team is also doing very well. New acquisitions Gonzalez, Schoop and Crom have all played well in the field and the team has mostly been able to keep it's regular outfielders on the field, all of whom are plus defenders. Individual performances of note include José Berríos ascending to ace or near ace status. Jorge Polanco playing good defense and breaking out with the bat, Martín Pérez finding a few mph on his fastball and coming up with a cut fastball to (so far) become an outstanding rotation piece. The catching duo of Mitch Garver and Jason Castro (with a few appearances by Willians Astudillo) has been outstanding with the bat and has been given credit for helping the pitching improve. On the negative side, Marwin Gonzalez hasn't hit much, new rotation member Michael Pineda has struggled mightily in his last four starts and several relievers at the front end of the bullpen have had trouble getting people out. Many more players have stepped it up beyond those mentioned. Basically, the good play to this point has been a team effort. Can this run continue? Well, I think the competition changes with many more games against familiar opponents in the Central Division--three of those teams (KC, Chicago and Detroit) are in one stage or the other of rebuilding--so the schedule figures to be somewhat more favorable. I doubt the Twins can keep hitting so many homers (they are on a pace to hit almost 300!) and I also doubt the pitching will continue to be dominant, but there is no doubt that they are improved. I think the need going forward this year is adding pitching. A starter to perhaps supplant Pineda and a strong bullpen arm would be helpful and when injuries happen, such improvements might be vital. The Twins are now considered favorites to win the Central, but they need to keep doing what they're doing. Credit for this improvement should be given to Falvey and Levine, who also hired rookie manager Rocco Baldelli. They've shown they pay attention to the metrics that are part of the game now and made good decisions in putting together a team for today without breaking the bank or mortgaging the future. There's a long way to go, but the ride this year promises to be fun and it might be magical.
  20. You can listen directly here or download directly from iTunes here. Additionally, you can access all the previous episodes as well. Let us know what you think and thanks for listening!
  21. In an era when bullpen has higher profile that starters it is surprising to see a team that prides itself on analytic decisions trade away the pitcher with the most potential and raw stuff to the American League's best team. Yes we got two prospects, but they are still raw and a gamble while Pressly is 29 and in his prime. Of course all our pitching gurus must answer for the disparity between his 3.40 Twins ERA (not bad) and his 0.77 Astro ERA (amazing). Or his whip - 1.364 Twins and 0.60 Astros. To quote the NYT - "Pressly rarely betrays any signs of emotional turmoil, whether it emanates from a poignant moment or from the stakes of a game heating up. He is a major component in a revamped Astros bullpen for the defending world champions, who had so many fraught moments last October that they had to turn to starting pitchers to close games." https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/sports/baseball/astros-red-sox-alcs-ryan-pressly.html?emc=edit_th_181016&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=275511921016 He generated twice as much WAR in 1/2 as many games with the Astros. "Only three pitchers who threw at least 60 innings this season have had a swing-and-miss rate higher than Pressly: Craig Kimbrel of the Red Sox, Edwin Diaz of Seattle and Josh Hader of Milwaukee, three of baseball’s elite relievers." "Pressly is the latest pitcher to experience a renaissance in Houston, which has been at the forefront of baseball’s analytics revolution. Charlie Morton has posted the two best years of his career, Gerrit Cole allowed fewer hits and struck out more than he ever has — leading baseball with 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings — and Justin Verlander has rediscovered his Cy Young form at 35. All three were All-Stars this season." Yes our FO is gaining an unearned reputation as analytics leaders, but the proof is in the way the roster is constructed and the players develop. So far not so good Now we will seek to build a weak bullpen by hitting the FA market and hoping we find a guy who can make the pen better - a guy like Ryan Pressly.
  22. What do we make of the Twins bullpen in this era where bullpens have supplanted starters? Closers, Openers, Lefty and righty specialists, relievers for innings 5,6,7,8,9. Lots of warm ups, lots of wasted time. In my world we would not have openers and we would limit the teams to 4 pitchers per nine innings which would really make the manager think about who to bring in and when - if they are on their third pitcher in the sixth inning. We might have to teach starters to learn what starters in the past learned – how to conserve themselves, who to put max effort into, and to think about quick outs instead of 6 – 9 pitch outs. But my dream does not count so what should the Twins do about their 2019 – 2020 Bullpens? We have the following players in our current Bullpen: Belisle – overused – even if it is once a week or once a month Hildenberger – overused and should not be in the ninth Reed – Can he be what he once was? May – just to make everyone angry, I will tell you I think he is overrated. Drake – Not on a good team, but are we a good team? Magill – Nice surprise can he keep it up? Busenitz – running out of chances Rogers – finishing the best of all Mejia – Not sure what to think of him in BP Goya- Our opener specialist Duffey – Hope your next team can get you effective again Curtiss – okay, but Vasquez – Nice to see the advance, but do they really expect him in MLB next year? Gimenez – I know he is a ringer Which ones do you want to keep? They are all on the 40 man roster. Who would you DFA – I would choose Gimenez, Belisle, Busenitz, Duffey as my for sure DFA group, but would not mind if we could move up from Curtiss, Magill, and Drake. Then in the minor leagues we have: A different Reed Anderson Moran Stashak Molina Harper All were included in Seth Stoths minor league reliever of the year. Only Vasquez, Moya, Curtiss, and Busenitz were called up from the entire list. Why not all of them in September? I know service time, etc. Anyone you want to predict will be on the roster in the next two seasons? Go ahead and move starters in if you want, I have not seen enough of the young pitchers to want Gonsalves, Stewart, Little, DeJong in my pen. Here is the Relief pitcher Free Agent Class for your shopping pleasure – but remember that very few relief pitchers can sustain their effectiveness and seldom to they come in and shine for their new club: Adam Ottavino (33 years old, 2.2 WAR) Jeurys Familia (29, 1.8) David Robertson (34, 1.3) Craig Kimbrel (31, 1.2) Sergio Romo (36, 1.0) Jesse Chavez (35, 1.0) Oliver Perez (37, 0.8) Jake Diekman (32, 0.7) Tony Sipp (35, 0.7) Brad Brach (33, 0.7) Zach Duke (36, 0.7) Joe Kelly (31, 0.6) Justin Wilson (31, 0.6) Mark Melancon (34, 0.5) -- Can opt out of the two years and $28 million remaining on his contract. Tyler Clippard (34, 0.4) Andrew Miller (34, 0.4) Kelvin Herrera (29,0.4) Tony Barnette (35, 0.3) Aaron Loup (31, 0.3) Bud Norris (34, 0.3) Jonny Venters (34, 0.3) Adam Warren (31, 0.3) John Axford (36, 0.2) Greg Holland (33, 0.2) Shawn Kelley (35, 0.2) Jerry Blevins (35, 0.1) Santiago Casilla (38, 0.1) Fernando Salas (34, 0.0) Ryan Madson (38, 0.0) Zach McAllister (31, 0.0) Blake Wood (33, 0.0) Daniel Hudson (32, -0.1) Zach Britton (31, -0.1) Jorge De La Rosa (38, -0.1) Jeanmar Gomez (31, -0.1) AJ Ramos (32, -0.2) Jim Johnson (36, -0.2) Matt Belisle (39, -0.2) Randall Delgado (29, -0.2) Boone Logan (34, -0.3) Brad Ziegler (39, -0.3) Cody Allen (30, -0.3) Hector Santiago (31, -0.4) Peter Moylan (40, -0.4) Junichi Tazawa (33, -0.6) Blaine Boyer (37, -0.9) Josh Tomlin (34, -1.3) David Phelps (32, N/A) -- Hasn't appeared in the Majors in 2018. Joaquin Benoit (41, N/A) -- Hasn't appeared in the Majors in 2018. https://www.mlb.com/news/2019-mlb-free-agents/c-293292274 Not easy because we are not blessed with great arms like some teams and we have not shown an ability to develop them. With the average now close to 4 pitchers per game per team and going up can we get by with 8 relief pitchers – five starters and that makes 13. Can relief pitchers come in every other game? https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-bullpens-took-over-modern-baseball/ Don Mattingly got steamed https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/mlb/miami-marlins/article218196470.html on September 15 when the two teams – Phillies and Marlins used a total of 15 relievers in one game! No pitcher recorded 6 outs in the game. So what happens next – that was a September open roster game, but will we start to see rosters with a second catcher, a utility man and the rest pitchers? Stay tuned. Give it a try – who will you depend upon?
  23. The Twins have ridden the roller coaster during the Paul Molitor era. Up in 2015, way down in 2016, a peek at the playoffs in 2017 and now way down in 2018. The roller coaster claimed a front-office victim in longtime GM Terry Ryan two years ago and now there has to be some heat on field manager Molitor after this season's extreme disappointment. The complaints about the old regime included being too "old school", including pitch-to-contact staffs, not using advanced metrics, cookie cutter approaches to hitting, and of course, not spending enough to bring in and keep talent. Fair complaints all, I think. However, in the Levine/Falvey era, we see little real progress and a real lack of talent in the upper minors. This year's crop of September call-ups is among the most uninspiring in recent memory. I believe there are two keys to being competitive and sustaining that competitiveness for a number of years. The first is pitching. Levine and Falvey are supposed to be pitching guys. They have acquired pitching, but with mixed results at best. Their best talent at the top levels of the farm system doesn't have many, if any, outstanding talents. Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi didn't move the needle much for the big club this year. Perhaps they have suffered from some bad luck and just need to add quality until it sticks and stays. All I can say is this, the Twins rank in the bottom third of almost every meaningful pitching stat. You don't win year after year with far below average pitching. The other component which is missing in my opinion is defense. For the last two years, the Twins have gone with a primary shortstop who is well below average defensively, couple that with a revolving door in center field this year, the trading of the regular second baseman and the season-ending injury to primary catcher Jason Castro, and you have a toxic mess turning outs into outs. Further, and if there is one complaint about Molitor that sticks, it is this. The team has been woeful at executing fundamental baseball. I'm talking about throwing to the proper base, making needless throws, failing to hit cutoff men and the like. Add in that opposing baserunners are taking extra bases like free gifts and this is tough to watch. I think the front office needs to commit to pitching and defense in a big way this offseason. That would include making every effort to keep their most gifted defender (Byron Buxton) in Minnesota and on the field as much as possible. Secondly, I think the Twins need a defensive-minded shortstop, with the idea that Jorge Polanco can move to what I think is his natural position, second base. On the pitching front, more and better arms to augment the so-so rotation (I think Gibson/Berrios/Odorizzi is fine for #2-4) and a questionable bullpen. I like May/Hildenberger/Rogers, but more is needed included a closer. The Twins have been in the baseball wilderness long enough. They need to have a solid plan for improvement, stick with it and stay relevant not for an occasional year, but consistently. I think the long suffering fan base deserves it.
  24. I've not followed this season as closely as I would have liked, but it has been disappointing for sure. In reading the posts after the Twins traded a quarter of their roster, mostly for prospects, it seemed that the back channel conversation was about when the Twins would be good enough to contend. I think they can as soon as next year. First of all, the lineup has a lot of young veterans who could (and should) make a step forward next year. Sano and Buxton have had high expectations, but only about a season and a half of good results between the two of them--Sano's rookie year and first half of 2017 and Buxton's second half of '17--Kepler hasn't become even a good player despite excellent tools and a great swing, Rosario has broken out, Polanco missed half a season with a suspension. I think three or four of those five could be All-Stars or near All-Stars next year. I'm thinking that an acquisition or two of pitchers with what is coming back next year will make the mound corps pretty good. Berrios has a ways to go, but he's had a handful of dominant starts, Gibson has been very good, and even when he doesn't have his best stuff, he's given the team a chance to win. Add a solid starter and then pick from Meija, Pineda, Gonsalves, Odorizzi, maybe Stewart and Slegers to fill out the rotation. In the bullpen, a veteran arm or two with Rogers, Moya, Hildy, a perhaps revitalized Reed are the start of a good pen. There is money to spend so that shouldn't be a problem. Catching should be better with Castro and an improved Garver manning that duty. There seem to be three or four "super teams" and Cleveland is also very good, but things can change pretty quickly. I certainly hope that the FO approaches 2019 with the idea of contending. I'm too old to wait for rebuilds lasting several years!
  25. By now, most of us have noticed how Matt Magill has been a solid arm in the Twins bullpen this season. He made his first appearance of 2018 in a clunker of a game (which I attended ) on April 29th against the Cincinnati Reds. He threw 2.1 innings that Sunday and gave up just 3 hits and 0 earned runs, adding 2 punch-outs as well. So far this year with the Twins, he’s given up a total of 3 ER over 23.2 IP, for an ERA of 1.14. Magill was drafted in 2008 in the 31st round to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had two briefs stints in the majors with both the L.A. Dodgers (2013) and the Cincinnati Reds (2016) before joining the Minnesota Twins (2018). During that time, he had ERA’s of 6.51 and 6.23 respectively. He’s clearly been around for a while; so why the recent success on the bump? In my mind, there’s two simple reasons: He’s throwing more strikes:In 2013 as a starting pitcher, Magill gave 28 free passes in 27.2 IP (BB/9 = 9.11 – ouch.) In 2016 as a relief pitcher, he had a BB/9 of 10.38 in just 4.1 IP Now, in 2018, he currently holds a BB/9 of 1.3 – and that is fun to watch [*]His stuff is a lot better: His fastball velocity has an average of 95.1 MPH so far in 2018, compare that to 93.1 MPH in 2016, and 91.8 MPH in 2013. He’s getting more movement on both his 4-seam fastball, and his “cutter” or hard slider. Check out the charts from FanGraphs below on the horizontal movement for Magill's pitches (2018 first, 2016 second). For your reference, a positive value on horizontal movement means the ball will be moving away from a right-handed hitter, and therefore a negative value means the ball is tailing in on a righty. Clearly, in 2018 he’s getting more movement on that cut fastball (FC), slightly more run in on the righties, and again more velocity with the 4-seamer (FA). This could be a contributing factor to why he's been so effective this season at producing weak contact (.219 BABIP - Nice!). Check out the vertical movement below (2018 first, 2016 second): Again, the notable difference is with the cut fastball (FC). Magill is throwing the ball over the plate, and he has increased his velocity considerably, while getting more movement on his cutter. This is a recipe for continued success and I believe it’s time for Molitor to start utilizing him in higher leverage spots. Can somebody explain to me why he hasn’t gotten this chance yet? Let me know what you think in the comments! -Miles
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