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  1. Bill Smith was in a no-win situation. In late-2007, He became the fifth general manager in Twins history, and he was immediately tasked with trading away baseball’s best starting pitcher. Minnesota had tried to work out an extension with two-time Cy Young award winner, but those conversations had stalled. The Twins were still multiple years away from a new stadium and the increased revenues they hoped it would provide, so the club looked to deal away one of the best pitchers in team history. During the offseason, there seemed to be three suitors for Santana’s services, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets. All three big market teams had the funds to meet Santana’s contract needs and they had the prospect capital to acquire a pitcher of his magnitude. Twins fans hoped to acquire some of the top talent available from these organizations. Boston had big-name prospects like Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz. The Yankee’s system included Phil Hughes, Joba Chamerlain, Melky Cabrera, and Ian Kennedy. While some of the Mets top farm hands were Fernando Martinez, Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, and Phil Humber. Rumors swirled for most of the offseason with many of the names mentioned above. Eventually, Minnesota settled on a package of players that included Gomez, Guerra, Mulvey, and Humber. Twins fans were disappointed, but maybe that was inevitable. Gomez, Guerra, and Humber had all been top-100 prospects during their professional careers, but it still didn’t feel like enough for the game’s best pitcher in the middle of his prime. The Mets were coming off a 2007 season where they collapsed at season’s end and they needed a boost to get them over the top in the NL East. Santana was a franchise altering player that could help them clear that bar. New York agreed to trade for Santana if they could sign him to an extension. He’d ink a six-year, $137.5 million and the rest is history. Santana’s first year in New York was his best as he led the league with over 234 innings pitched and a 2.53 ERA. He’d finish third in the Cy Young voting. In fact, his first three seasons were great for the Mets. He posted a 2.85 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP in 600 innings pitched, but injuries were starting to become a problem. Bone chips were removed from his elbow, he had rotator cuff surgery, and eventually shoulder injuries ended his career. From Minnesota’s perspective, things went from bad to worse. Gomez was rushed to the big leagues and hit .248/.293/.352 over two seasons. He’d be dealt to Milwaukee as part of the JJ Hardy trade, another bad Twins trade, and he’d become a two-time All-Star with the Brewers. The pitchers acquired in the deal struggled even more than Gomez in a Twins uniform. Guerra topped out at Triple-A in the Twins system and moved on to other organizations after 2014. He pitched in the big leagues last season with Philadelphia, but he has a career ERA of 4.81 with a 1.32 WHIP. Mulvey made two appearances with the Twins and allowed four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. In 2009, he was sent to Arizona to complete the trade for Jon Rauch. Humber pitched in 13 games for the Twins with an ERA north of 6.00 and he was granted his free agency after two seasons. He’d go on to pitch for Kansas City, Chicago, and Houston and fans may remember his perfect game for the White Sox. Just a few years after the trade, none of the players Minnesota acquired were still on the roster. Santana’s time in New York didn’t end well, but he was able to pitch three very good seasons for the Mets before injuries shortened his career. At the same time, Twins fans are left wondering if a better deal could have been made with the Red Sox or Yankees. What are your thoughts after looking back at this trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES — Tom Brunansky MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. Baseball is a beautiful game. The long season, the in-game decisions, and the chance of playoff glory make each season a new adventure. Minnesota’s playoff fate would have been drastically altered over their last four playoff appearances. There are certainly some things to consider when looking at these records. Obviously, the division will look different this year, but it goes beyond that. The franchise's destiny could have taken on a totally different route if seasons were limited to 82 games.2019: 53-29, 9 Games Up Minnesota still would have won the AL Central after 82 games, but the playoffs would have looked different for the Bomba Squad. New York had the top record in the AL after 82 games so Minnesota would have matched up with Houston in the first round. Besides matching up with the Astros, the Twins had the second-best record in the league and that would have meant home field advantage for the ALDS. 2017: 42-40, 2.5 Games Back Back in 2017, the Twins used a surge in the second half to separate themselves from the other teams in the American League and clinch the second Wild Card spot. After 82 games, the Twins wouldn’t have been so lucky. Minnesota would have been tied with Tampa Bay and Kansas City for the second Wild Card spot. This would have set up one crazy three-way tie breaker just for the opportunity to play the Yankees in another do-or-die game. 2010: 44-38, 1 Game Back Minnesota’s first year at Target Field had it’s share of memorable moments, but it wouldn’t have included the playoffs back in 2010. Through 82 games, the Twins trailed the Tigers by one game. Detroit would have walked away with the division, so maybe Minnesota had a shot at the Wild Card? Nope. Boston and New York were off to hot starts in the AL East and the Twins were five games behind the Red Sox for the lone Wild Card spot. 2009: 42-40, 3 Games Back 2009 was a fun season for the Twins as the club stormed back and forced an unforgettable Game 163 at the Metrodome. It might be the most exciting game in Twins history. It never would have happened if the season was shortened to 82 games. Minnesota would have trailed the Tigers by three games, and they would have been tied with the White Sox for second in the division. Either way, the Twins would have missed the playoffs and the drama of Game 163 would have never occurred. How would previous seasons change if they were limited to 82 games? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  3. 2019: 53-29, 9 Games Up Minnesota still would have won the AL Central after 82 games, but the playoffs would have looked different for the Bomba Squad. New York had the top record in the AL after 82 games so Minnesota would have matched up with Houston in the first round. Besides matching up with the Astros, the Twins had the second-best record in the league and that would have meant home field advantage for the ALDS. 2017: 42-40, 2.5 Games Back Back in 2017, the Twins used a surge in the second half to separate themselves from the other teams in the American League and clinch the second Wild Card spot. After 82 games, the Twins wouldn’t have been so lucky. Minnesota would have been tied with Tampa Bay and Kansas City for the second Wild Card spot. This would have set up one crazy three-way tie breaker just for the opportunity to play the Yankees in another do-or-die game. 2010: 44-38, 1 Game Back Minnesota’s first year at Target Field had it’s share of memorable moments, but it wouldn’t have included the playoffs back in 2010. Through 82 games, the Twins trailed the Tigers by one game. Detroit would have walked away with the division, so maybe Minnesota had a shot at the Wild Card? Nope. Boston and New York were off to hot starts in the AL East and the Twins were five games behind the Red Sox for the lone Wild Card spot. 2009: 42-40, 3 Games Back 2009 was a fun season for the Twins as the club stormed back and forced an unforgettable Game 163 at the Metrodome. It might be the most exciting game in Twins history. It never would have happened if the season was shortened to 82 games. Minnesota would have trailed the Tigers by three games, and they would have been tied with the White Sox for second in the division. Either way, the Twins would have missed the playoffs and the drama of Game 163 would have never occurred. How would previous seasons change if they were limited to 82 games? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Motorsports have never been Mike Holmberg’s thing. “I was never a car guy,” said the Minneapolis accountant. “I didn’t even own one until after college. That people raced them for money just seemed like one of those weird little subcultures that some people get wildly enthusiastic about. Like antiques or Phish.” With Holmberg’s beloved Minnesota Twins still sidelined due to the COVID-19 outbreak, he’s exploring his options. “The KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) games on ESPN are fine, but the hours don’t align with my job or teaching the kids,” said the 34-year-old. “Then I saw a story that NASCAR was going to do live racing this weekend. I’ve got nothing but time, so if I’m ever going to get into it…” The main hurdle is his utter lack of knowledge. For that, he’s called in outside assistance. “My cousin Tony lives in Sauk Rapids (MN) and has been going to races and demolition derbies his whole life,” said Holmberg. “How can I put this delicately? He’s kind of a dirtbag—mullet, sleeveless t-shirts, not always employable. But he knows racing like the back of his hand.” What Tony told Holmberg about NASCAR left him confused and curious. “OK, so apparently they make left turns the entire race. And they don’t have enough gas to run an entire race, so they gotta fill up the tank every so often. I asked Tony why they didn’t make a bigger tank or improve gas mileage so they didn’t have to stop and do this, and he said something about me and Jeff Gordon performing an intimate act on a farm animal. I don’t know who that is.” Holmberg’s cousin also made it very clear that NASCAR and Indy car racing are not the same thing. “I told him I’d heard of the Indianapolis 500 before, and you could hear the disgust in his voice when he said it may as well be the Mars 500 for all he cared. I said I’d also heard the name Dale Earnhardt before and he just got real quiet. I think he cried. Which is weird, because at Tony’s mom’s funeral he left during mass to put down a heater and play pull tabs at Jimmy’s Pour House. He’s not really an emotional guy.” To prep for this weekend, Holmberg has been watching archival footage suggested by Tony. “I’ve been watching clips on YouTube, and a thing that seems to happen a lot is that the drivers will get in these horrible, full-speed accidents, climb out of their vehicles unscathed, and then start brawling with each other. It’s the damnedest thing. I honestly think if Carlos Gomez hadn’t found baseball, he’d be perfect for this sport.” Image license here.
  5. Cara Daugherty, 24, is working toward her master’s degree in Germanic Studies at the University of Minnesota. For now, her studies are taking a backseat to figuring out the correct phrasing for the reported elevation of German native Max Kepler to the leadoff spot in 2019. “The local media wants a fancy word like schadenfreude for this situation,” says Daugherty, who declined to name the personalities in question, but characterized them as “talk radio jackals” and “podcasters” who are constantly emailing and texting her for the right turn of phrase. “Everyone seems to agree that it’s a real roll of the dice on the team’s part,” says the Minneapolis resident. “But they also agree it would be pretty cool if there was a mysterious German word to tack on to the decision. ‘Rubes love big words’ is what one of them told me.” Her research, which has keyed in on words and phrases like “hubris”, “throwing darts”, and “Carlos Gomez, but in a black turtleneck”, has so far returned zero applicable results. “It just ends up being a string of angry-sounding words,” says Daugherty. “Nothing elegant or pithy to really bring the feeling of dread mingled with blind hope into view.” Erik Solheim, Daugherty’s faculty adviser, says this is not the first time such an issue has arisen. “Back when the Twins transitioned Miguel Sano to the outfield, we had a couple requests from media to winnow that entire disaster into one word or phrase,” says Solheim. “The best we could do was ‘Auf jeden Rechen auf dem gottverdammten Parkplatz treten’, which roughly translates to ‘stepping on every rake in the goddamn parking lot’,”
  6. As things stand right now, the Twins appear to be content opening the season with a bench of Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, Mitch Garver and Kennys Vargas. Considering the possible (see: likely) suspension for Miguel Sano, Zack Granite could also find his way into this group out of the gate. Of the names above, it's Vargas who is likely the most on the bubble. Out of options, and having bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues a season ago, he's probably the first to go if space is needed. Under the assumption that Vargas is the quintessential 25th man, the question revolves around whether or not he can be improved upon. From a construction standpoint, Vargas almost certainly needs to be replaced by a bat first player. Grossman figures to see regular time as the designated hitter, while Adrianza and Escobar have similar skill sets despite Eduardo toting the more capable bat. Garver is entrenched as the backup catcher, and should serve as a platoon option for starter Jason Castro. Bringing in another utility man means Minnesota relies solely on Grossman as the outfield option (which is currently the case), and the lack of a true bat could expose Grossman being heavily reliant on his on-base prowess. In an ideal world the Twins greatest addition to the bench would be in the form of a right-handed hitting outfielder. Offering the potential to pair with Max Kepler (should his facing left-handed pitching continue to be an issue) as well as play in a rotation across the corner spots makes a lot of sense. Between Adrianza, Escobar and Garver, each of the infield positions has a true and capable backup. After posting a -21 DRS in 630+ innings in the outfield during 2016, Grossman shored things up somewhat totaling a -3 DRS mark across 350+ innings a year ago. There's still plenty to be desired with the glove, but he showed that he can be less of a liability than he had previously been. Among the options, former Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez has an intriguing profile. He would give the club positional flexibility across all three positions, and posted a .340 OBP in 2017 with some pop. At 32 the hope would be that he could be had on a short-term deal, and that could be intriguing to Minnesota. Another more elderly option comes in the form of Jose Bautista. This would be a relative leap of faith given his age (37) and 2017 season. After posting a .674 OPS there's reason to believe that he's simply cooked. Bautista is just one year removed from an .800+ OPS however, and if you could get him on a minor-league deal or something incentive-laden there would be a level of intrigue. If you want to go more of an unconventional route, a versatile super-utility type could be a fit. Noted as a possible fit by Zone Coverage's Brandon Warne on Twitter, former Minnesota shortstop Eduardo Nunez has some appeal. Nunez played 20 games in the outfield a season ago for San Francisco, and he got some time out there for the Twins in his first stint with the club. His career -3 DRS across 322 OF innings slots in line with 2017 Grossman, and I'm not a big fan of non-traditional outfielders playing the position. That said, Nunez's .801 OPS from 2017 is more than enticing. He's posted a .778 OPS over the last two seasons while playing in at least 110 games during each. It seems if given semi-regular playing time, he can be an offensive asset as well. At the end of the day Kennys Vargas should probably be given a final shot. His career .748 is far from abysmal, and the .833 OPS in 47 games during the 2016 season was exciting. Vargas hasn't proven to be much of an OBP guy (just .311 for his career), and the 251/65 K/BB ratio is more than concerning. All of his eggs remain in the power basket, and if he's not taking free bases then he needs to be accumulating power numbers in bunches. At 27 he's no longer a prospect, and the Twins likely have a significant amount of information to feel comfortable with their evaluation of him. This seems like a no-lose scenario, with a slight opportunity for a win. Vargas is hardly a red flag on the 25-man, and you could do much worse. What Minnesota could also do is look for some competition or even to supplant him completely, and in turn, raise the water level as a whole. There are a few more weeks for us to see how this all plays out, but it'll be a story line worth watching this spring. Originally published at Off The Baggy.
  7. With just a handful of days left until pitchers and catchers officially report to Fort Myers for spring training, Minnesota is nearing the end of its offseason. The main focus when it comes to additions is starting pitching, and due to the market, that remains the one area left unattended at this point. Whether before or after spring training officially kicks off I expect that to be dealt with. What remains to be seen is whether or not Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have interest in adding a bat to supplement their bench.As things stand right now, the Twins appear to be content opening the season with a bench of Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, Mitch Garver and Kennys Vargas. Considering the possible (see: likely) suspension for Miguel Sano, Zack Granite could also find his way into this group out of the gate. Of the names above, it's Vargas who is likely the most on the bubble. Out of options, and having bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues a season ago, he's probably the first to go if space is needed. Under the assumption that Vargas is the quintessential 25th man, the question revolves around whether or not he can be improved upon. From a construction standpoint, Vargas almost certainly needs to be replaced by a bat first player. Grossman figures to see regular time as the designated hitter, while Adrianza and Escobar have similar skill sets despite Eduardo toting the more capable bat. Garver is entrenched as the backup catcher, and should serve as a platoon option for starter Jason Castro. Bringing in another utility man means Minnesota relies solely on Grossman as the outfield option (which is currently the case), and the lack of a true bat could expose Grossman being heavily reliant on his on-base prowess. In an ideal world the Twins greatest addition to the bench would be in the form of a right-handed hitting outfielder. Offering the potential to pair with Max Kepler (should his facing left-handed pitching continue to be an issue) as well as play in a rotation across the corner spots makes a lot of sense. Between Adrianza, Escobar and Garver, each of the infield positions has a true and capable backup. After posting a -21 DRS in 630+ innings in the outfield during 2016, Grossman shored things up somewhat totaling a -3 DRS mark across 350+ innings a year ago. There's still plenty to be desired with the glove, but he showed that he can be less of a liability than he had previously been. Among the options, former Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez has an intriguing profile. He would give the club positional flexibility across all three positions, and posted a .340 OBP in 2017 with some pop. At 32 the hope would be that he could be had on a short-term deal, and that could be intriguing to Minnesota. Another more elderly option comes in the form of Jose Bautista. This would be a relative leap of faith given his age (37) and 2017 season. After posting a .674 OPS there's reason to believe that he's simply cooked. Bautista is just one year removed from an .800+ OPS however, and if you could get him on a minor-league deal or something incentive-laden there would be a level of intrigue. If you want to go more of an unconventional route, a versatile super-utility type could be a fit. Noted as a possible fit by Zone Coverage's Brandon Warne on Twitter, former Minnesota shortstop Eduardo Nunez has some appeal. Nunez played 20 games in the outfield a season ago for San Francisco, and he got some time out there for the Twins in his first stint with the club. His career -3 DRS across 322 OF innings slots in line with 2017 Grossman, and I'm not a big fan of non-traditional outfielders playing the position. That said, Nunez's .801 OPS from 2017 is more than enticing. He's posted a .778 OPS over the last two seasons while playing in at least 110 games during each. It seems if given semi-regular playing time, he can be an offensive asset as well. At the end of the day Kennys Vargas should probably be given a final shot. His career .748 is far from abysmal, and the .833 OPS in 47 games during the 2016 season was exciting. Vargas hasn't proven to be much of an OBP guy (just .311 for his career), and the 251/65 K/BB ratio is more than concerning. All of his eggs remain in the power basket, and if he's not taking free bases then he needs to be accumulating power numbers in bunches. At 27 he's no longer a prospect, and the Twins likely have a significant amount of information to feel comfortable with their evaluation of him. This seems like a no-lose scenario, with a slight opportunity for a win. Vargas is hardly a red flag on the 25-man, and you could do much worse. What Minnesota could also do is look for some competition or even to supplant him completely, and in turn, raise the water level as a whole. There are a few more weeks for us to see how this all plays out, but it'll be a story line worth watching this spring. Originally published at Off The Baggy. Click here to view the article
  8. With just a handful of days left until pitchers and catchers officially report to Fort Myers for Spring Training, Minnesota is nearing the end of its offseason. The main focus when it comes to additions was starting pitching, and due to the market, that remains the one area left unattended at this point. Whether before or after spring training officially kicks off I expect that to be dealt with. What remains to be seen is whether or not Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have interest in adding a bat to supplement their bench. As things stand right now, the Twins appear to be alright opening the season with a bench of Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, Mitch Garver, and Kennys Vargas. Considering the possible (see: likely) suspension for Miguel Sano, Zack Granite could also find his way into this group out of the gate. Of the names above, it's Vargas that is more than likely the most on the bubble. Out of options, and having bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues a season ago, he's probably the first to go if space is needed. Operating under the assumption that Vargas is the quintessential 25th man, the question revolves around whether or not he can be improved upon. From a construction standpoint, Vargas almost certainly needs to be replaced by a bat first player. Grossman figures to see regular time as the designated hitter, while Adrianza and Escobar have similar skillsets despite Eduardo toting the more capable bat. Garver is entrenched as the backup catcher, and should serve as a platoon option for starter Jason Castro. Bringing in another utility man means Minnesota relies solely on Grossman as the outfield option (which is currently the case), and the lack of a true bat could expose Robbie being heavily reliant on his on-base prowess. In an ideal world the Twins greatest addition to the bench would be in the form of a right-handed hitting outfielder. Offering the potential to pair with Max Kepler (should his facing left-handed pitching continue to be a detriment) as well as play in rotation across the corner spots makes a lot of sense. Between Adrianza, Escobar, and Garver, each of the infield positions has a true and capable backup. After posting a -21 DRS in 630+ innings in the outfield during 2016, Grossman shored things up somewhat totaling a -3 DRS mark across 350+ innings a year ago. There's still plenty to be desired with the glove there, but he showed that he can be less of a liability if need be. Among the options, former Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez has an intriguing profile. He would give the club positional flexibility across all three positions, and posted a .340 OBP in 2017 with some pop. At 32 the hope would be that he could be had on a short-term deal, and that could be of intrigue to Minnesota. Another more elder option comes in the form of Jose Bautista. This would be a relative leap of faith given his age (37) and 2017 season. Posting a .674 OPS there's reason to believe that he's simply cooked. Bautista is just one year removed from an .800+ OPS however, and if you could get him on a minor-league deal or something incentive-laden there would be a level of intrigue. If you want to go more of an unconventional route, a versatile super-utility type could be a fit. Noted as a possible fit by Zone Coverage's Brandon Warne on Twitter, former Minnesota shortstop Eduardo Nunez has some appeal. Nunez played 20 games in the outfield a season ago for San Francisco, and he got some time out there for the Twins in his first stint with the club. His career -3 DRS across 322 OF innings slots in line with 2017 Grossman, and I'm not a big fan of non-traditional outfielders playing the position. That said, Nunez's .801 OPS from 2017 is more than enticing. He's posted a .778 OPS over the last two seasons while playing in at least 110 games during each. It seems given semi-regular playing time, he can be an offensive asset as well. At the end of the day Kennys Vargas should probably be given a final shot. His career .748 is far from abysmal, and the .833 OPS in 47 games during the 2016 season was exciting. Vargas hasn't proven to be much of an OBP guy (just .311 for his career), and the 251/65 K/BB ratio is more than concerning. All of his eggs remain in the power basket, and if he's not taking free bases then he needs to be accumulating them in bunches. At 27 he's no longer a prospect, and the Twins likely have a significant amount of information to feel comfortable with their evaluation of him. This seems like a no lose scenario, with a slight opportunity for a win. Vargas is hardly a red flag on the 25 man, and you could do much worse. What Minnesota could also do is look for some competition or even to supplant him completely, and in turn, raise the water level as a whole. There's a few more weeks for us to see how this all plays out, but it'll be a storyline worth watching this spring. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  9. Corey Koskie, 3B (2002) The 2002 season saw some of the best individual defensive seasons in team history. Corey Koskie manned the hot corner for the Twins that season and he compiled a 21.9 Fangraphs DEF total, the highest DEF ranking in club history. His 19.9 UZR ranking is also the top total in the club’s record books. If you extrapolate that total out to 150 games, his 22.4 UZR/150 would be more than four runs higher than his next closest competitor. Jacque Jones, LF (2002) While Koskie was dominating at third base, Jacque Jones was also performing very well in left field. His 11.5 DEF score is the seventh best in team history but his 17.6 UZR is the third best overall. He is the lone corner outfielder to rank in the top 20 for UZR and DEF. As a younger player, he spent time playing center field and those instincts clearly translated to his corner outfield spot. His season in left field was the best corner outfield season by any player in team history. Carlos Gomez, CF (2008) While Hunter and Puckett are legendary in center field, Gomez compiled arguably the best center field season in team history. His 20.1 DEF and 17.9 UZR totals only trail Koskie’s 2002 season at third base. When it comes range runs (RngR), Gomez tracked down more balls in his vicinity than any player in team history. His 18.9 RngR total was 4.5 runs higher than Koskie’s 2002 total. He lost out on the Gold Glove to Grady Sizemore but he scored much better than him according to defensive metrics. Torii Hunter, CF (2003) Seeing Hunter run hard into the Metrodome “baggie” was a common sight during the Twins renaissance in the early 2000s. Hunter won nine Gold Gloves but his best defensive season came in 2003. His 18.4 DEF is third in team history and his 16.2 UZR is one of the team’s four seasons of over 15.0 UZR. When it comes to RngR, only Gomez and Koskie rank higher with their seasons mentioned above. Hunter might be the team’s best defensive player all-time and the 2003 campaign was his crowning achievement. Byron Buxton, CF (2017) Buxton became the first Twins player to sweep the Gold Glove, Platinum Glove and Wilson Best Defensive Player. Some of these awards are new editions to the postseason awards circuit but it is an accomplishment to earn multiple honors naming a player as the top defender in the league. When it comes to the defensive metrics, Buxton’s totals are below Gomez (2008) and Hunter (2003). Buxton’s window as the league’s best defender might be small but he still compiled one of the team’s best defensive campaigns. Who gets your vote for the best defensive season in team history? Koskie? Hunter? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  10. Believe it or not, Tuesday’s match-up between the Twins and the Yankees will be the sixth AL Wild Card game. Major League Baseball expanded their playoff format in 2012 to add more drama with a one-game playoff to decide who would move on to face the best regular season team. There has been some drama and plenty of story-lines. Are there any trends that can be found in the previous games? Let’s take a look back.2012 AL Wild Card Game Baltimore Orioles 5, Texas Rangers 1 Yu Darvish faced off against Joe Saunders in the AL’s inaugural Wild Card game. Both clubs scored runs in the first frame as the starters worked out some kinks. From there, Darvish and Saunders pitched shutout baseball until the sixth. Adam Jones drove in a run on a sacrifice fly and Nate McLouth added an RBI single in the seventh. Former Twin Joe Nathan would allow two insurance runs in the ninth inning to bolster Baltimore’s lead. The Orioles relief trio of Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, and Jim Johnson did not allow a run over the final 3.1 innings. 2013 AL Wild Card Game Tampa Bay Rays 4, Cleveland Indians 0 Tampa Bay entered the AL’s second Wild Card game having already defeated the Texas Rangers in a tie-breaker game. Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb was outstanding on the mound as he recorded 6.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts. Cobb had missed 50 games during the regular season after taking a line-drive off his head. Former Twin Delmon Young homered in the third inning off rookie Danny Salazar. Desmond Jennings went 2-for-3 in the game with a double and two RBI. Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney combined for 2.1 shutout innings to finish off the Indians. 2014 AL Wild Card Game Kansas City Royals 9, Oakland Athletics 8 (12 Innings) Royals fans were just getting a taste of a wild playoff run as the club would use this game as a launching pad for a run to the AL pennant. This game was originally touted as a pitching battle between Oakland’s Jon Lester and Kansas City’s James Shields but neither would see the end of this one. Former Twins Josh Willingham and Nick Punto made appearances in the game but wound up on the losing end. Kansas City scored three runs in the eighth inning and another in the ninth to tie the game. The A’s would take the lead in the top of the 12th inning but the Royals couldn’t be stopped. Big hits from Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez pushed the Royals to the ALDS. 2015 AL Wild Card Game Houston Astros 3, New York Yankees 0 The Astros, like the Twins this season, headed to New York City after multiple years of futility. Houston had averaged 104 losses in their previous four seasons. Dallas Keuchel was pitching on three days rest for the first time in his career and pitched masterfully. In six shutout innings, he scattered three hits and struck out seven. He became the first pitcher with a scoreless postseason start on three day’s rest since Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series. Colby Rasmus and former Twin Carlos Gomez homered to help the Astros win their first postseason game since the 2005 NLCS. Fans in New York were booing with every out in the late innings. Houston moved on to face Kansas City, the eventual World Series Champions. 2016 AL Wild Card Game Toronto Blue Jays 5, Baltimore Orioles 2 (11 Innings) Edwin Encarnacion’s walk-off three-run home run sent Toronto fans home happy. While this game might be remembered for its ending, others might remember it for the moment when a fan threw a nearly full can of beer at Orioles left fielder Hyun Soo Kim while he caught a deep fly ball in the eighth inning. Jose Bautista smacked a solo home run to start the scoring in the second inning. Mark Trumbo hit a two-run shot to account for all of Baltimore’s offense. Orioles manager Buck Showalter opted not to use closer Zach Britton in extra-innings and that could have been the difference in the game. Ubaldo Jimenez gave up two singles and the big fly to end the game. Some important hits from former Twins and one upset at Yankee Stadium were all part of previous AL Wild Card games. Let's hope some of this history repeats itself on Tuesday night. Click here to view the article
  11. 2012 AL Wild Card Game Baltimore Orioles 5, Texas Rangers 1 Yu Darvish faced off against Joe Saunders in the AL’s inaugural Wild Card game. Both clubs scored runs in the first frame as the starters worked out some kinks. From there, Darvish and Saunders pitched shutout baseball until the sixth. Adam Jones drove in a run on a sacrifice fly and Nate McLouth added an RBI single in the seventh. Former Twin Joe Nathan would allow two insurance runs in the ninth inning to bolster Baltimore’s lead. The Orioles relief trio of Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, and Jim Johnson did not allow a run over the final 3.1 innings. 2013 AL Wild Card Game Tampa Bay Rays 4, Cleveland Indians 0 Tampa Bay entered the AL’s second Wild Card game having already defeated the Texas Rangers in a tie-breaker game. Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb was outstanding on the mound as he recorded 6.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts. Cobb had missed 50 games during the regular season after taking a line-drive off his head. Former Twin Delmon Young homered in the third inning off rookie Danny Salazar. Desmond Jennings went 2-for-3 in the game with a double and two RBI. Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney combined for 2.1 shutout innings to finish off the Indians. 2014 AL Wild Card Game Kansas City Royals 9, Oakland Athletics 8 (12 Innings) Royals fans were just getting a taste of a wild playoff run as the club would use this game as a launching pad for a run to the AL pennant. This game was originally touted as a pitching battle between Oakland’s Jon Lester and Kansas City’s James Shields but neither would see the end of this one. Former Twins Josh Willingham and Nick Punto made appearances in the game but wound up on the losing end. Kansas City scored three runs in the eighth inning and another in the ninth to tie the game. The A’s would take the lead in the top of the 12th inning but the Royals couldn’t be stopped. Big hits from Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez pushed the Royals to the ALDS. 2015 AL Wild Card Game Houston Astros 3, New York Yankees 0 The Astros, like the Twins this season, headed to New York City after multiple years of futility. Houston had averaged 104 losses in their previous four seasons. Dallas Keuchel was pitching on three days rest for the first time in his career and pitched masterfully. In six shutout innings, he scattered three hits and struck out seven. He became the first pitcher with a scoreless postseason start on three day’s rest since Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series. Colby Rasmus and former Twin Carlos Gomez homered to help the Astros win their first postseason game since the 2005 NLCS. Fans in New York were booing with every out in the late innings. Houston moved on to face Kansas City, the eventual World Series Champions. 2016 AL Wild Card Game Toronto Blue Jays 5, Baltimore Orioles 2 (11 Innings) Edwin Encarnacion’s walk-off three-run home run sent Toronto fans home happy. While this game might be remembered for its ending, others might remember it for the moment when a fan threw a nearly full can of beer at Orioles left fielder Hyun Soo Kim while he caught a deep fly ball in the eighth inning. Jose Bautista smacked a solo home run to start the scoring in the second inning. Mark Trumbo hit a two-run shot to account for all of Baltimore’s offense. Orioles manager Buck Showalter opted not to use closer Zach Britton in extra-innings and that could have been the difference in the game. Ubaldo Jimenez gave up two singles and the big fly to end the game. Some important hits from former Twins and one upset at Yankee Stadium were all part of previous AL Wild Card games. Let's hope some of this history repeats itself on Tuesday night.
  12. May 7, 1965 Twins Commit Seven Errors The Twins committed seven errors in a 13-5 loss to the White Sox on their home turf in Bloomington. Shortstop Zoilo Versalles and third baseman Rich Rollins each committed two errors, while Harmon Killebrew, Earl Battey and St. Paul native Jerry Kindall added one each. Every infielder plus the catcher committed an error. Despite the seven errors, Twins pitching still gave up 10 earned runs. Nimrod, MN native Dick Stigman started the game for the Twins and lasted just 3 ⅔ innings, allowing four runs (all earned) on five hits. The Twins would salvage the season and capture the American League Pennant. May 7, 1978 Smalley Draw Team-Record 5 Walks Roy Smalley set a team single-game record when he walked 5 times in a 15-9 Twins win in Baltimore. Smalley also hit a double in his sixth at-bat, driving in left fielder Willie Norwood. Smalley walked in each of the first three innings, the first two vs. 1990 Hall of Fame inductee Jim Palmer who only lasted 1 ⅔ innings, allowing six runs on three hits and five walks. Willie Norwood stole second during each of Smalley’s first three at-bats, which eventually ended in walks anyway. The Twins scored nine of their 15 runs in the first three innings. Starting for the Twins was Alexandria, MN High School graduate Gary Serum, who only lasted 4 ⅓ innings, allowing five runs on eight hits, but did not walk a batter. May 7, 1989 Dan Gladden Makes Second Pitching Appearance Dan Gladden made his second big league pitching appearance in a 12-1 loss in Cleveland. Gladden allowed only one run on two hits and a walk. Not bad considering that Cleveland had scored 11 runs over seven innings against Minnesota’s full-time professional pitchers. By the way, how about Gimenez getting out of the inning on four pitches yesterday, eh? May 7, 2000 Tom Kelly Wins 1,000th Game Tom Kelly became the 46th manager in major league history to win 1,000 games as Minnesota beat Detroit 4-0 at the Metrodome. Joe Mays, who entered the game with an 0-4 record, pitched a complete game five-hit shutout for the Twins. May 7, 2002 Mary Tyler Moore Throws Out First Pitch May 7, 2008 Carlos Gomez Hits for the Cycle Leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez hit for the “natural cycle” in reverse in a 13-1 Twins win versus the White Sox in Chicago. Gomez led off the game with a home run, and then hit a triple, double and single. Gomez had three RBI, two runs scored and also struck out twice. Nick Punto hit the first of his two home runs of the season. Livan Hernandez pitched the complete game for the Twins, improving to 5-1. Keep in touch with the @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter.
  13. While such a quiet Winter Meetings may have been frustrating under the Terry Ryan regime, it is completely understandable under Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. As Nick wrote last night, "The Twins moved quickly on Jason Castro, because doing so was necessary to lock up the coveted catcher, but now there is little need for urgency." They should not feel pushed to rush on a Brian Dozier trade. They are 100% correct in saying that they need to be "inspired" to trade him. They should expect elite, young pitching in return. I agree with their philosophy of taking a broad view of the organization before jumping into too much drastic. That’s why I think they’re wise in keeping a lot of the current front office, shifting some people around, and bringing in new talent when it is available. Likewise, they need to know the ins and outs of their 40-man roster and the entire minor league system. While they certainly had some information on everyone in the organization, they likely have grown their knowledge of their new organization tenfold since taking over. There is talent in the organization. Consider in the last year or two the Twins have called up Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Jose Berrios, JT Chargois. Adalberto Mejia was acquired in the Eduardo Nunez deal, and he’s a solid starting pitching prospect who should get more of an opportunity in 2017. Also in the next year or two, we could see players like Mitch Garver, Nick Gordon, Engelb Vielma, Nick Burdi, Jake Reed, Mason Melotakis, Trevor Hildenberger, John Curtiss, Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Felix Jorge, Fernando Romero, Tyler Jay and others. I’m not naive enough to think that they will all pan out. I do know that the more players with the potential of the above names, the more likely that a few of them will pan out and become very good major leaguers and several more will still be able to contribute in a role of some sort. Add to that list a few more prospects with big league potential from a likely Brian Dozier trade, and that’s encouraging. But again, that’s not to say that the Twins should do nothing at all. It’s just important to know that they don’t have to have all of their offseason transactions complete by Thursday. We have heard that the Twins have had discussions regarding Dozier. Yesterday, we learned that they’ve had some discussions regarding Brandon Kintzler. We heard last week that they’ve had some discussions about Kennys Vargas. And, while we haven’t heard it, I would think that some discussions have been had about Hector Santiago. The Winter Meetings are about having those discussions in person. Some deals could be made today or tomorrow, but some discussions with teams or free agents could linger for the next few weeks. And, frankly, there are always still quality players available in January. So, the crickets are chirping, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. BRIAN DOZIER UPDATE TUESDAY RECAP A few things did happen at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. Here’s a quick rundown: Mike Berardino informed us early in the day on Tuesday that the Twins had re-signed RHP Yorman Landa to a minor league deal. That is almost surprising because why wouldn't they wait until after Thursday's Rule 5 draft to do that. Assuming he's actually signed (and hasn't just agreed to terms) before Thursday morning's Rule 5 draft, he would be eligible to be selected. The big news was, without question the Chris Sale trade to the Boston Red Sox. While there were rumors involving the Nationals earlier in the week, it sounds as if the Red Sox made their offer late last week and let the White Sox see if anyone could top it. Well, offering Yoan Moncada (the #1 prospect in baseball), Michael Kopech (a risk, but a guy who throws 100+ and ‘could’ be a starter) and two other prospects would be tough to beat. Making it better for the White Sox, the Red Sox are still on the hook for the $30 million signing bonus they gave Moncada. For the Red Sox, well, they have a rotation of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez. The White Sox likely aren’t done, and they will likely maintain contact with the Nationals. Jose Quintana is one of the more underrated starting pitchers in baseball, and the Nationals may be a place for him to go. The White Sox will likely also continue shopping 3B Todd Frazier and RP David Robertson. The Red Sox were actually quite busy on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, the acquired reliever Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers for three young players including corner infielder Travis Shaw. Thornburg is another strong bullpen arm ready to set up for Craig Kimbrel. Shaw is the guy who beat out Pablo Sandoval as the Red Sox opening day third baseman. Sandoval ended up having surgery. He returned to the Instructional League this fall, and clearly the Red Sox would like him to be their third baseman and this helps open that up for him. The Red Sox also signed veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland. Moreland has an OPS over 1.000 in his career at Fenway Park. He also is statistically one of the best first basemen in baseball defensively. Makes me wonder if Hanley Ramirez makes the move to DH at this point. After midnight, Bob Nightengale tweeted that the Cubs and Royals have an agreement in place. Wade Davis will go to the World Series champs with OF Jorge Soler heading to the Royals. Davis has just one year left on his contract. Soler is immensely talented, but he’s stuck behind the likes of Ben Zobrist, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and even Albert Almora in the Cubs talented outfield. A couple of former Twins players found 2017 homes on Tuesday. Carlos Gomez re-signed with the Texas Rangers. He agreed to a one year, $11.5 million deal (pending physical, of course). Wilson Ramos, who would have made a ton of money if not for his late-season knee injury, agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Rays on a two year deal with $12.5 million guaranteed and incentives that could push the deal to $18.25 million over those two years. Again, it is pending physical, which, based on how his rehab is going, could be complex. He is likely to miss at least the first half of the 2017 season, so my assumption is that his incentives would be simply based on Games Played or Plate Appearances. If he’s healthy and able to play, he’ll make more money. But the Rays minimize their risk somewhat too. Yesterday, we heard that Cleveland was talking to Edwin Encarnacion, probably the best hitter on the market. He’s not a guy I would necessarily want to see in the lineup against the Twins 19 times a season. Tuesday, we learned that they talked to another former Blue Jays hitter as well, Jose Bautista. The thought of him hitting against the Twins 19 games a year, rather than six of seven, is a bit scary. Aroldis Chapman allegedly has a $92 million offer on the table. To me, that would likely be a six year deal, right? The Yankees have said they haven’t offered him that. It’s hard to believe that Miami would have offered him that. So, who could have made that offer? Or, is that a case of an agent leaking something, hoping to boost the deals that Chapman has already been offered. He’s going to get paid, for sure. Kenley Jansen is going to make a ton of money too. Feel free to ask questions, discuss rumors or transactions, and enjoy the day.
  14. Crickets... That's the sound coming from Minnesota Twins camp so far at the Winter Meetings in Washington DC. There has been some Brian Dozier talk, though some of that was because he was scheduled to be at the meetings for other reasons. They promoted a couple of guys in the scouting department. They signed Ben Paulsen to a minor league deal. Traditionally, Wednesday is the busiest day at the Winter Meetings. The first few days involve a lot of discussions, and then the GMs (and Chief Baseball Officers) take what they've heard and start to reach agreements, be it with free agents or with other trade partners.While such a quiet Winter Meetings may have been frustrating under the Terry Ryan regime, it is completely understandable under Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. As Nick wrote last night, "The Twins moved quickly on Jason Castro, because doing so was necessary to lock up the coveted catcher, but now there is little need for urgency." They should not feel pushed to rush on a Brian Dozier trade. They are 100% correct in saying that they need to be "inspired" to trade him. They should expect elite, young pitching in return. I agree with their philosophy of taking a broad view of the organization before jumping into too much drastic. That’s why I think they’re wise in keeping a lot of the current front office, shifting some people around, and bringing in new talent when it is available. Likewise, they need to know the ins and outs of their 40-man roster and the entire minor league system. While they certainly had some information on everyone in the organization, they likely have grown their knowledge of their new organization tenfold since taking over. There is talent in the organization. Consider in the last year or two the Twins have called up Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Jose Berrios, JT Chargois. Adalberto Mejia was acquired in the Eduardo Nunez deal, and he’s a solid starting pitching prospect who should get more of an opportunity in 2017. Also in the next year or two, we could see players like Mitch Garver, Nick Gordon, Engelb Vielma, Nick Burdi, Jake Reed, Mason Melotakis, Trevor Hildenberger, John Curtiss, Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Felix Jorge, Fernando Romero, Tyler Jay and others. I’m not naive enough to think that they will all pan out. I do know that the more players with the potential of the above names, the more likely that a few of them will pan out and become very good major leaguers and several more will still be able to contribute in a role of some sort. Add to that list a few more prospects with big league potential from a likely Brian Dozier trade, and that’s encouraging. But again, that’s not to say that the Twins should do nothing at all. It’s just important to know that they don’t have to have all of their offseason transactions complete by Thursday. We have heard that the Twins have had discussions regarding Dozier. Yesterday, we learned that they’ve had some discussions regarding Brandon Kintzler. We heard last week that they’ve had some discussions about Kennys Vargas. And, while we haven’t heard it, I would think that some discussions have been had about Hector Santiago. The Winter Meetings are about having those discussions in person. Some deals could be made today or tomorrow, but some discussions with teams or free agents could linger for the next few weeks. And, frankly, there are always still quality players available in January. So, the crickets are chirping, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. BRIAN DOZIER UPDATE TUESDAY RECAP A few things did happen at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. Here’s a quick rundown: Mike Berardino informed us early in the day on Tuesday that the Twins had re-signed RHP Yorman Landa to a minor league deal. That is almost surprising because why wouldn't they wait until after Thursday's Rule 5 draft to do that. Assuming he's actually signed (and hasn't just agreed to terms) before Thursday morning's Rule 5 draft, he would be eligible to be selected.The big news was, without question the Chris Sale trade to the Boston Red Sox. While there were rumors involving the Nationals earlier in the week, it sounds as if the Red Sox made their offer late last week and let the White Sox see if anyone could top it. Well, offering Yoan Moncada (the #1 prospect in baseball), Michael Kopech (a risk, but a guy who throws 100+ and ‘could’ be a starter) and two other prospects would be tough to beat. Making it better for the White Sox, the Red Sox are still on the hook for the $30 million signing bonus they gave Moncada. For the Red Sox, well, they have a rotation of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez.The White Sox likely aren’t done, and they will likely maintain contact with the Nationals. Jose Quintana is one of the more underrated starting pitchers in baseball, and the Nationals may be a place for him to go. The White Sox will likely also continue shopping 3B Todd Frazier and RP David Robertson.The Red Sox were actually quite busy on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, the acquired reliever Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers for three young players including corner infielder Travis Shaw. Thornburg is another strong bullpen arm ready to set up for Craig Kimbrel. Shaw is the guy who beat out Pablo Sandoval as the Red Sox opening day third baseman. Sandoval ended up having surgery. He returned to the Instructional League this fall, and clearly the Red Sox would like him to be their third baseman and this helps open that up for him.The Red Sox also signed veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland. Moreland has an OPS over 1.000 in his career at Fenway Park. He also is statistically one of the best first basemen in baseball defensively. Makes me wonder if Hanley Ramirez makes the move to DH at this point.After midnight, Bob Nightengale tweeted that the Cubs and Royals have an agreement in place. Wade Davis will go to the World Series champs with OF Jorge Soler heading to the Royals. Davis has just one year left on his contract. Soler is immensely talented, but he’s stuck behind the likes of Ben Zobrist, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and even Albert Almora in the Cubs talented outfield.A couple of former Twins players found 2017 homes on Tuesday. Carlos Gomez re-signed with the Texas Rangers. He agreed to a one year, $11.5 million deal (pending physical, of course).Wilson Ramos, who would have made a ton of money if not for his late-season knee injury, agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Rays on a two year deal with $12.5 million guaranteed and incentives that could push the deal to $18.25 million over those two years. Again, it is pending physical, which, based on how his rehab is going, could be complex. He is likely to miss at least the first half of the 2017 season, so my assumption is that his incentives would be simply based on Games Played or Plate Appearances. If he’s healthy and able to play, he’ll make more money. But the Rays minimize their risk somewhat too.Yesterday, we heard that Cleveland was talking to Edwin Encarnacion, probably the best hitter on the market. He’s not a guy I would necessarily want to see in the lineup against the Twins 19 times a season. Tuesday, we learned that they talked to another former Blue Jays hitter as well, Jose Bautista. The thought of him hitting against the Twins 19 games a year, rather than six of seven, is a bit scary.Aroldis Chapman allegedly has a $92 million offer on the table. To me, that would likely be a six year deal, right? The Yankees have said they haven’t offered him that. It’s hard to believe that Miami would have offered him that. So, who could have made that offer? Or, is that a case of an agent leaking something, hoping to boost the deals that Chapman has already been offered. He’s going to get paid, for sure. Kenley Jansen is going to make a ton of money too.Feel free to ask questions, discuss rumors or transactions, and enjoy the day. Click here to view the article
  15. The primary job of a lead-off hitter is to get on base and set the table for the more slugging-heavy hitters to come. This is not news. However, in addition to getting on base, a lead-off hitter is often asked to work the starting pitcher a little bit -- not to the extent of laying off of a hittable pitch, but a nine-pitch plate appearance that ends in a strikeout isn’t an entirely negative outcome since it provides the rest of the team with a sense of what that day’s starter has on offer. As I mentioned earlier this season, taking pitches has been one of the few things that Twins hitters have been doing well, so they have some options: http://i.imgur.com/z6mWJNu.png League Average: 3.89 P/PA So the Twins have some options for patience at the top of the order, but how many of these guys can fulfill the primary task of getting on base consistently? http://i.imgur.com/pnFx3cz.png The obvious name on neither of these two lists is Santana’s. He owns a team-worst (among qualified hitters) 3.56 P/PA and his Gomez-esque .256 OBP is the spared from being the low-water mark by the recently demoted Eddie Rosario’s almost unfathomably bad .227 OBP. Santana’s speed makes him interesting when he’s on base, last night’s TOOTBLAN notwithstanding, but he’s not giving the team enough additional value to justify giving him more plate appearances than literally anyone else. Paul Molitor has had Santana’s usage right for the last week or so: Hit him ninth to limit the damage he can do, and if he does get on base, so much the better. Given the way the season is progressing, it would be interesting to see how Byung-Ho Park or Miguel Sano would do leading off, but that’s not a serious suggestion for the long-term, if for no other reason than it would virtually guarantee than any homers hit would be solo home runs. Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe offer only fractional upgrades at best over Dozier, and while Dozier’s no Byron Buxton, he is notably faster on the bases than either of the others. This leaves three serious candidates who can both get on base and take an extra pitch or two on their way: Mauer, Dozier, and Nunez, who have combined to lead off in 29 of the Twins’ 40 games. Nunez has been tremendously fun to watch this year, and he’s as good a bench bat as the Twins have had in recent years, but the other shoe is going to drop with him. His .395 BABIP is built largely on flyballs falling in and isn’t supported by an increase in his hard hit percentage. Even if his BABIP dropped to .320, which would still be good for a career high, it would vastly diminish his suitability to lead off. This all assumes that Nunez even gets consistent playing time once Eduardo Escobar returns, which is far from a given. I have been on the bandwagon to bat Joe Mauer second for about as long as it had wheels and a seat, but I understood the theory behind hitting him third. On those early-2000s teams where “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in” was less a team mantra and more a foundational principle, Mauer was clearly in group three and tasked with driving in runs, then being driven in himself by the actual power hitters. Not his ideal usage, perhaps, but his lot in the lineup anyway. This year’s team was never designed to “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in” and they certainly aren’t tricking anyone into thinking that’s their path to glory. They’ve already hit nearly as many home runs in May (17) as they did in all of April (21) and baseballs fly further in warm weather, so it’s reasonable to assume they’re going to actually start scoring a reasonable amount of runs that way; however, if theycontinue to hit solo home run after solo home run, they’ll need to hit an astronomical number of home runs to actually challenge their opponents. Far better to pull a page out of crazy Earl Weaver’s playbook and hit home runs with people on base. Maximizing the average value of a home run hit by the 3-4-5 hitters means ignoring the relative value of slugging for a lead-off hitter -- the increase in expected runs of having a runner on second or third base with no outs -- in favor of fully optimizing for OBP. It also means pairing the hitter with the highest probability of being on base with the hitters most likely to drive him in. So, not only should Mauer be leading off for the foreseeable future, but Park and Sano should be moved up in the order to maximize the likelihood of both of them getting a chance to hit with Mauer available to drive in. Ideally, the Twins would have another high-OBP hitter with slightly more speed to hit ahead of Mauer, as a lineup of XXXX, Mauer, Sano, and Park would be a nice setup, but that hitter doesn't appear to be on the Twins’ roster right now. As long as the hitter in the second slot, between Mauer and Sano, doesn’t have a proclivity for ground balls, having someone hit there shouldn’t change the expected value of setting the lineup this way much at all. This makes Dozier an ideal candidate to bat second. Yes, he’s not a “get ‘em over” guy, but that doesn’t matter. He has the team’s second lowest groundball rate and there’s virtue in giving Dozier the second most plate appearances on the team since he has typically been an offensive asset. Molitor has sent the Twins out with 36 lineups in 40 games, trying to find something that works, but not once has Mauer lead off with Dozier batting right behind him. A top four of Mauer, Dozier, and either Park and Sano or Sano and Park stands to give the Twins the best shot of scoring an early run and of taking advantage when the lineup turns over thanks to Santana. Given how often the lineup is shifting, it seems fairly likely we’ll see this top four sometime this season, hopefully sooner rather than later.
  16. For much of the past 15 years or so, the Twins have had very easy decisions to make with the first spot in the batting order. Jacque Jones settled there, then handed the position over to Shannon Stewart, who was a fixture atop the order until 2006 when Luis Castillo joined the team. He held the role until 2008 when it was briefly handed over to Carlos Gomez, who promptly hit .246/.281/.345 and lost the job to Denard Span. Span locked the role down, holding it until he was traded prior to the 2013 season. (Strangely in 2011, despite Span’s prowess leading off, the team felt that Ben Revere deserved nearly a full-season look in the lead-off spot; he wasn’t quite as bad as Gomez, hitting .291/.322/.349, but still not good enough to keep the team from reverting back to Span.) Since Span’s departure, Brian Dozier has been the Twins’ lead-off hitter of choice, though at various times he has shared the gig with Danny Santana or Aaron Hicks. Dozier has been a fine choice at the top of the order, posting a .243/.313/.459 line when hitting first, but he’s a little more in the mold of Jones (.289/.328/.471) than Span (.285/.352/.389). Does one type of hitter make more sense than the other given how the rest of the Twins' lineup shakes out?The primary job of a lead-off hitter is to get on base and set the table for the more slugging-heavy hitters to come. This is not news. However, in addition to getting on base, a lead-off hitter is often asked to work the starting pitcher a little bit -- not to the extent of laying off of a hittable pitch, but a nine-pitch plate appearance that ends in a strikeout isn’t an entirely negative outcome since it provides the rest of the team with a sense of what that day’s starter has on offer. As I mentioned earlier this season, taking pitches has been one of the few things that Twins hitters have been doing well, so they have some options: http://i.imgur.com/z6mWJNu.png League Average: 3.89 P/PA So the Twins have some options for patience at the top of the order, but how many of these guys can fulfill the primary task of getting on base consistently? http://i.imgur.com/pnFx3cz.png The obvious name on neither of these two lists is Santana’s. He owns a team-worst (among qualified hitters) 3.56 P/PA and his Gomez-esque .256 OBP is the spared from being the low-water mark by the recently demoted Eddie Rosario’s almost unfathomably bad .227 OBP. Santana’s speed makes him interesting when he’s on base, last night’s TOOTBLAN notwithstanding, but he’s not giving the team enough additional value to justify giving him more plate appearances than literally anyone else. Paul Molitor has had Santana’s usage right for the last week or so: Hit him ninth to limit the damage he can do, and if he does get on base, so much the better. Given the way the season is progressing, it would be interesting to see how Byung-Ho Park or Miguel Sano would do leading off, but that’s not a serious suggestion for the long-term, if for no other reason than it would virtually guarantee than any homers hit would be solo home runs. Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe offer only fractional upgrades at best over Dozier, and while Dozier’s no Byron Buxton, he is notably faster on the bases than either of the others. This leaves three serious candidates who can both get on base and take an extra pitch or two on their way: Mauer, Dozier, and Nunez, who have combined to lead off in 29 of the Twins’ 40 games. Nunez has been tremendously fun to watch this year, and he’s as good a bench bat as the Twins have had in recent years, but the other shoe is going to drop with him. His .395 BABIP is built largely on flyballs falling in and isn’t supported by an increase in his hard hit percentage. Even if his BABIP dropped to .320, which would still be good for a career high, it would vastly diminish his suitability to lead off. This all assumes that Nunez even gets consistent playing time once Eduardo Escobar returns, which is far from a given. I have been on the bandwagon to bat Joe Mauer second for about as long as it had wheels and a seat, but I understood the theory behind hitting him third. On those early-2000s teams where “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in” was less a team mantra and more a foundational principle, Mauer was clearly in group three and tasked with driving in runs, then being driven in himself by the actual power hitters. Not his ideal usage, perhaps, but his lot in the lineup anyway. This year’s team was never designed to “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in” and they certainly aren’t tricking anyone into thinking that’s their path to glory. They’ve already hit nearly as many home runs in May (17) as they did in all of April (21) and baseballs fly further in warm weather, so it’s reasonable to assume they’re going to actually start scoring a reasonable amount of runs that way; however, if theycontinue to hit solo home run after solo home run, they’ll need to hit an astronomical number of home runs to actually challenge their opponents. Far better to pull a page out of crazy Earl Weaver’s playbook and hit home runs with people on base. Maximizing the average value of a home run hit by the 3-4-5 hitters means ignoring the relative value of slugging for a lead-off hitter -- the increase in expected runs of having a runner on second or third base with no outs -- in favor of fully optimizing for OBP. It also means pairing the hitter with the highest probability of being on base with the hitters most likely to drive him in. So, not only should Mauer be leading off for the foreseeable future, but Park and Sano should be moved up in the order to maximize the likelihood of both of them getting a chance to hit with Mauer available to drive in. Ideally, the Twins would have another high-OBP hitter with slightly more speed to hit ahead of Mauer, as a lineup of XXXX, Mauer, Sano, and Park would be a nice setup, but that hitter doesn't appear to be on the Twins’ roster right now. As long as the hitter in the second slot, between Mauer and Sano, doesn’t have a proclivity for ground balls, having someone hit there shouldn’t change the expected value of setting the lineup this way much at all. This makes Dozier an ideal candidate to bat second. Yes, he’s not a “get ‘em over” guy, but that doesn’t matter. He has the team’s second lowest groundball rate and there’s virtue in giving Dozier the second most plate appearances on the team since he has typically been an offensive asset. Molitor has sent the Twins out with 36 lineups in 40 games, trying to find something that works, but not once has Mauer lead off with Dozier batting right behind him. A top four of Mauer, Dozier, and either Park and Sano or Sano and Park stands to give the Twins the best shot of scoring an early run and of taking advantage when the lineup turns over thanks to Santana. Given how often the lineup is shifting, it seems fairly likely we’ll see this top four sometime this season, hopefully sooner rather than later. Click here to view the article
  17. May 7, 1965 Twins Commit Seven Errors The Twins committed 7 errors in a 13-5 loss to the White Sox at home. Shortstop Zoilo Versalles and third baseman Rich Rollins each committed two errors, while Harmon Killebrew, Earl Battey and St. Paul-native, Jerry Kindall, added one each. Every infielder plus the catcher committed an error. Despite the 7 errors, Twins pitching still gave up 10 earned runs. Nimrod, MN-native, Dick Stigman, started the game for the Twins and lasted just 3 ⅔ innings, allowing 4 runs (all earned) on 5 hits. May 7, 1978 Roy Smalley Walks Team-Record 5 Times Roy Smalley set a team single game record when he walked 5 times in a 15-9 Twins win in Baltimore. Smalley also hit a double in his sixth at-bat, driving in left fielder, Willie Norwood. Smalley walked in each of the first three innings, the first two vs. 1990 Hall of Fame inductee, Jim Palmer, who only lasted 1 ⅔ innings, allowing 6 runs on 3 hits and 5 walks. Willie Norwood stole second during each of Smalley’s first three at-bats, which eventually ended in walks anyway. The Twins scored 9 of their 15 runs in the first three innings. Starting for the Twins was Alexandria (MN) High School alumnus, Gary Serum, who only lasted 4 ⅓ innings, allowing 5 runs on 8 hits, but did not walk a batter. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160430_104832_zpsefqvhtjl.jpg May 7, 1989 Dan Gladden Makes Second Pitching Appearance Dan Gladden made his second big league pitching appearance in a 12-1 loss in Cleveland. Gladden allowed only 1 run on 2 hits and a walk. Not bad considering that Cleveland had scored 11 runs over seven innings against Minnesota’s full-time professional pitchers. May 7, 2000 Tom Kelly Wins 1,000th Game Tom Kelly became the 46th manager in Major League history to win 1,000 games as Minnesota beat Detroit 4-0 at the Metrodome. Joe Mays, who entered the game with an 0-4 record, pitched a complete game, 5-hit shutout for the Twins. http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160430_103740_zpsnc7c6kkk.jpg May 7, 2008 Carlos Gomez Hits for the Cycle Leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez hit for the “natural cycle” in reverse in a 13-1 Twins win versus the White Sox in Chicago. Gomez led off the game with a home run, and then hit a triple, double and single, in that order. Gomez had 3 RBI, 2 runs scored and also struck out twice. Nick Punto hit the first of his two home runs of the season. Livan Hernandez pitched the complete game for the Twins, improving to 5-1 Keep in touch by like the Twins Almanac on Facebook, and by following @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter.
  18. Vegas’ Line: 87.5 wins What The Line Is Saying "Last year was no fluke. This was a good team and should be even better this year." They’ll Beat Vegas If… …the team doesn't have one enormous sophomore slump. The team is young, there is still some talent coming and, for the most part, they proved to themselves that they can win. The next step is improving their 6-13 record last year against the rival Texas Rangers. If they do, watch out. If you beat Vegas, you can win a free Harry’s Razor starter set. Just leave a comment with your choice of the “Over” or” Under” and your reasoning. At the end of the season, for each team, we’ll randomly pick one of the winning predictions for a free Truman Razor set. They’ll Lose To Vegas If… Their starting pitching takes a big step backwards. Last year they led the AL in ERA, despite having just two pitchers, Dallas Keuchel and Colin McHugh, who had over 22 starts. The added Doug Fister this offseason to try to help with that, but he is coming off an injury-marred year. I’ll Bet The…. OVER Last year was impressive to those who follow team arcs, but this is the year the Astros are positioned to really impress the more casual fans. If they can get past their issues with the Rangers, the sky is the limit. Now it’s your turn. Give us your prediction in the comment section (you’ll need to register first) and you’re automatically entered. We’ll be giving out a free Harry’s Razor Truman Set to one of the winning correct predictions for each team, so we’ll be give away 15 sets of razors! You can also click over to Harry’s Razors and get $5 off on your first order using the promo code ‘gleeman’.
  19. Show us you can beat Vegas and you can win a Harry’s Razor starter kit! They were only a surprise if you weren't paying attention. They competed early, made big moves at the trade deadline and hung on for 86 wins and their first playoff appearance since 2005. They lose Scott Kazmir from the deadline, but Carlos Gomez is still on the team and they made some strategic bullpen signings.Vegas’ Line: 87.5 wins What The Line Is Saying "Last year was no fluke. This was a good team and should be even better this year." They’ll Beat Vegas If… …the team doesn't have one enormous sophomore slump. The team is young, there is still some talent coming and, for the most part, they proved to themselves that they can win. The next step is improving their 6-13 record last year against the rival Texas Rangers. If they do, watch out. If you beat Vegas, you can win a free Harry’s Razor starter set. Just leave a comment with your choice of the “Over” or” Under” and your reasoning. At the end of the season, for each team, we’ll randomly pick one of the winning predictions for a free Truman Razor set. They’ll Lose To Vegas If… Their starting pitching takes a big step backwards. Last year they led the AL in ERA, despite having just two pitchers, Dallas Keuchel and Colin McHugh, who had over 22 starts. The added Doug Fister this offseason to try to help with that, but he is coming off an injury-marred year. I’ll Bet The…. OVER Last year was impressive to those who follow team arcs, but this is the year the Astros are positioned to really impress the more casual fans. If they can get past their issues with the Rangers, the sky is the limit. Now it’s your turn. Give us your prediction in the comment section (you’ll need to register first) and you’re automatically entered. We’ll be giving out a free Harry’s Razor Truman Set to one of the winning correct predictions for each team, so we’ll be give away 15 sets of razors! You can also click over to Harry’s Razors and get $5 off on your first order using the promo code ‘gleeman’. Click here to view the article
  20. Here is Benson’s swing in September 2011 during his only stint at the Major League level. http://i.imgur.com/yrJlZk4.gif Does that swing look familiar? It’s basically Brian Dozier. Getting that front foot out and down early and then let the hands and hips supply the power. That style is no accident as it has been passed down to numerous hitters throughout the organization. In 2011, Baseball America’s David Laurila interviewed Benson along with then-New Britain Rock Cats hitting instructor Tom Brunansky and wondered what if any philosophies were being instilled by the coaching staff throughout the system. “Absolutely,” Benson replied. “Stay as quiet as possible at the plate, get your foot down early, and especially with Bruno, working on where I need to get to in order to get extension through the baseball.” Keep quiet. Foot down early. These have been the tenets of the Minnesota Twins’ hitting philosophy for some years. It is the offensive version of “pitch to contact”. In 2013, Bobby Tewksbary -- the private hitting instructor responsible for helping cultivate the swings of Chris Colabello and Josh Donaldson through his Elite Swing Mechanics program -- visited the Minnesota Twins camp. In scouting Benson’s hacks Tewksbary noted “I would bet he had really good patterns earlier in his career, then has been coached out of them. I hope he finds the right feel again. All scouting reports say he is a tremendous athlete and I know it isn’t fun to struggle like he has.” Benson wasn’t the only hitter whose athleticism was coached out of them in the system. After demonstrating decent movements with his lower half and hand load while in , the Twins eventually reduced Byron Buxton’s swing patterns to the same muted, compact linear mechanics as seen by Benson above. Rather than try to embrace his natural movements, the organization eliminated them. Stop moving. Get your foot down. Like Benson, Carlos Gomez was also instructed to get his foot down early and remain still at the plate -- not matter how much his instincts told him to move and create rhythm. This led to a 645 OPS during his Minnesota tenure before reinventing himself in Milwaukee as a centerfielder with power. http://i.imgur.com/MPgEXuA.gif Before http://i.imgur.com/8JbMzO4.gif After If you were a speed guy, regardless of your power potential, the Twins would outfit their hitters with a specific swing which may or may not be the best fit. But it wasn’t just speedy outfielders that received this treatment. Danny Valencia was another victim of the team’s outdated teachings. In 2010, the third baseman had an excellent rookie campaign, hitting for power and average as a 25-year-old. His power jumped in 2011 but his pull tendencies allowed the league to quickly figured him out and his numbers suffered greatly. It wasn’t until he hit the ripe age of 30 and the Blue Jays organization that he was able to change his ingrained approach. He got his foot down later. He generated power through creating depth in his load process. In short, just the opposite of what the Twins taught him. The result was a career-high in home runs (18). https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/statuses/627566890098016256 Of course, not everyone has had instant success when throwing off the swing shackles. When Benson was selected off waivers by the Texas Rangers in 2013, he immediately changed his mechanics but his season in the Rangers organization left a lot to be desired. That was followed by a year in Miami’s system in which he performed well in AA but now was significantly older than the league’s average. In 2015 he came one cut away from making the Atlanta Braves roster out of camp before being assigned to the minors (where he was eventually cut midseason). http://i.imgur.com/yrJlZk4.gif Before http://i.imgur.com/fbXwTfC.gif After Benson may put it all together in his age-28 season, similar to how Valencia did for his age-30 year, and provide the Twins with outfield depth a phone call away in Rochester but you have to wonder what Benson’s career might have looked like had he been given an opportunity with more appropriate mechanics. After all, most evaluators agree that Benson was one of those rare five-tool talents. There are signs that the organization is not going to repeat the mistakes of the past. While it may have been coincidental, since the Twins dismissed minor league hitting coordinator Bill Springman for “philosophical differences” prior to the 2014 season, there appears to be less of an emphasis on adhering to the no movement/foot down early. Since then, inside the organization, players who would normally be expected to maintain the low movement/foot down early method have been encouraged to make adjustments. Prime example is outfielder Max Kepler whose transition to a big leg kick to generate power in his breakout year. In a conversation with Chattanooga hitting coach Chad Allen -- who Springman had a hand in hiring -- Allen affirmed that the swing change was by design, motivated by the staff. Meanwhile Brunansky has said in the past that he isn’t interested in remaining rigid when it comes to a player’s swing. He noted that he has not tried to change Oswaldo Arcia’s big leg kick and loud hand movements despite the decline in performance. When Aaron Hicks struggled to perform from the left side and felt that a leg kick would help, Brunansky worked with him to refine it, not remove it. On the front office side, the Twins have locked up Byung Ho Park to a four-year deal, an indication that they are not deterred by Park’s big movement swing patterns. Previously, the Twins were notoriously blamed for ruining players' swing or hindering their potential by forcing them into the Twins' mold. Their reputation preceded them as hitters would leave the organization, find success elsewhere, and occasionally disparage the instruction they received in the system. Now, when it comes to developing the talent in the system, the organization seems to be headed in the right direction.
  21. As your turkey and pumpkin pies were still being digested from Thanksgiving dinner, you may have missed the news that the Minnesota Twins had signed old friend Joe Benson to a minor league contract. Benson, you may recall, was a promising center fielder in the organization who was ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100 list. He was lauded by scouts and prospect evalutators as a rare five-tool player. However, injuries and ineffectiveness facilitated his exit in 2013. Because of his potential, Benson has bounced around the minor leagues with Texas to Miami to Atlanta to Sugar Land to New York. Now headed for his age-28 season, Benson is back with his original team and ready to provide depth in the Rochester outfield. The following this isn’t a story or analysis on Benson, per se. This is a tale about the Twins’ hitting philosophy and how it has changed over the past few years.Here is Benson’s swing in September 2011 during his only stint at the Major League level. http://i.imgur.com/yrJlZk4.gif Does that swing look familiar? It’s basically Brian Dozier. Getting that front foot out and down early and then let the hands and hips supply the power. That style is no accident as it has been passed down to numerous hitters throughout the organization. In 2011, Baseball America’s David Laurila interviewed Benson along with then-New Britain Rock Cats hitting instructor Tom Brunansky and wondered what if any philosophies were being instilled by the coaching staff throughout the system. “Absolutely,” Benson replied. “Stay as quiet as possible at the plate, get your foot down early, and especially with Bruno, working on where I need to get to in order to get extension through the baseball.” Keep quiet. Foot down early. These have been the tenets of the Minnesota Twins’ hitting philosophy for some years. It is the offensive version of “pitch to contact”. In 2013, Bobby Tewksbary -- the private hitting instructor responsible for helping cultivate the swings of Chris Colabello and Josh Donaldson through his Elite Swing Mechanics program -- visited the Minnesota Twins camp. In scouting Benson’s hacks Tewksbary noted “I would bet he had really good patterns earlier in his career, then has been coached out of them. I hope he finds the right feel again. All scouting reports say he is a tremendous athlete and I know it isn’t fun to struggle like he has.” Benson wasn’t the only hitter whose athleticism was coached out of them in the system. After demonstrating decent movements with his lower half and hand load while in , the Twins eventually reduced Byron Buxton’s swing patterns to the same muted, compact linear mechanics as seen by Benson above. Rather than try to embrace his natural movements, the organization eliminated them. Stop moving. Get your foot down. Like Benson, Carlos Gomez was also instructed to get his foot down early and remain still at the plate -- not matter how much his instincts told him to move and create rhythm. This led to a 645 OPS during his Minnesota tenure before reinventing himself in Milwaukee as a centerfielder with power. http://i.imgur.com/MPgEXuA.gif Before http://i.imgur.com/8JbMzO4.gif After If you were a speed guy, regardless of your power potential, the Twins would outfit their hitters with a specific swing which may or may not be the best fit. But it wasn’t just speedy outfielders that received this treatment. Danny Valencia was another victim of the team’s outdated teachings. In 2010, the third baseman had an excellent rookie campaign, hitting for power and average as a 25-year-old. His power jumped in 2011 but his pull tendencies allowed the league to quickly figured him out and his numbers suffered greatly. It wasn’t until he hit the ripe age of 30 and the Blue Jays organization that he was able to change his ingrained approach. He got his foot down later. He generated power through creating depth in his load process. In short, just the opposite of what the Twins taught him. The result was a career-high in home runs (18). Of course, not everyone has had instant success when throwing off the swing shackles. When Benson was selected off waivers by the Texas Rangers in 2013, he immediately changed his mechanics but his season in the Rangers organization left a lot to be desired. That was followed by a year in Miami’s system in which he performed well in AA but now was significantly older than the league’s average. In 2015 he came one cut away from making the Atlanta Braves roster out of camp before being assigned to the minors (where he was eventually cut midseason). http://i.imgur.com/yrJlZk4.gif Before http://i.imgur.com/fbXwTfC.gif After Benson may put it all together in his age-28 season, similar to how Valencia did for his age-30 year, and provide the Twins with outfield depth a phone call away in Rochester but you have to wonder what Benson’s career might have looked like had he been given an opportunity with more appropriate mechanics. After all, most evaluators agree that Benson was one of those rare five-tool talents. There are signs that the organization is not going to repeat the mistakes of the past. While it may have been coincidental, since the Twins dismissed minor league hitting coordinator Bill Springman for “philosophical differences” prior to the 2014 season, there appears to be less of an emphasis on adhering to the no movement/foot down early. Since then, inside the organization, players who would normally be expected to maintain the low movement/foot down early method have been encouraged to make adjustments. Prime example is outfielder Max Kepler whose transition to a big leg kick to generate power in his breakout year. In a conversation with Chattanooga hitting coach Chad Allen -- who Springman had a hand in hiring -- Allen affirmed that the swing change was by design, motivated by the staff. Meanwhile Brunansky has said in the past that he isn’t interested in remaining rigid when it comes to a player’s swing. He noted that he has not tried to change Oswaldo Arcia’s big leg kick and loud hand movements despite the decline in performance. When Aaron Hicks struggled to perform from the left side and felt that a leg kick would help, Brunansky worked with him to refine it, not remove it. On the front office side, the Twins have locked up Byung Ho Park to a four-year deal, an indication that they are not deterred by Park’s big movement swing patterns. Previously, the Twins were notoriously blamed for ruining players' swing or hindering their potential by forcing them into the Twins' mold. Their reputation preceded them as hitters would leave the organization, find success elsewhere, and occasionally disparage the instruction they received in the system. Now, when it comes to developing the talent in the system, the organization seems to be headed in the right direction. Click here to view the article
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