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  1. We are less than two weeks away from the 2022 Major League Baseball regular season. The free agent frenzy was every bit the excitement we had hoped for following the lockout and teams are largely complete at this point. The American League Central Division had just one Postseason participant, but the hope would be for two with the field expanding to 12 teams. The Chicago White Sox return as the division winners and will look to carry that crown for a second season. While there’s no juggernaut here, it should be expected that there’s no cellar dweller either. Here’s how I see the division shaking out with PECOTA projections in parentheses. Chicago White Sox 89-73 (91-71) Chicago really didn’t do a whole lot this winter, but they also really didn’t need to. Having Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez for a full season will represent the greatest benefit they could gain from the offseason. Kendall Graveman makes an already good bullpen better, and Joe Kelly only enhances that. They should still have a very strong lineup, and the hope would be continued dominance from the rotation. There’s no doubt that they are the favorites here. Minnesota Twins 85-77 (86-76) If there’s a team that could go up or down more than almost any other in baseball it could be Minnesota. Byron Buxton is a superstar, and now he has a partner in Carlos Correa. How much resurgence could Gary Sanchez or Gio Ursehla find in their new home? Sonny Gray is a dependable arm, but from there it’s questionable veterans and untested rookies. If things go bad, it will likely be because the arms simply weren’t enough. This could be a very good team, a mediocre team, or a relatively bad team virtually all tied to what happens on the mound. Detroit Tigers 77-85 (67-95) Javier Baez’s deal with Detroit surprised many because of the assumed tie between Carlos Correa and A.J. Hinch. Baez has plenty of flaws but some of them are a bit overstated. He gives a winning presence to a team on the cusp. Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson should be in the lineup soon, and Akil Baddoo turned out to be a bad man last year. I don’t know how well they’ll pitch, but acquiring Eduardo Rodriguez was a smart move. Kansas City Royals 75-87 (70-92) Prospects are the name of the game for the Royals. Bobby Witt Jr. looks like a superstar as does both M.J. Melendez and Nick Pratto. Salvador Perez put up insane numbers a season ago and will look to replicate that performance. Pitching is questionable here too, and I’m not sure Zack Greinke has much left in the tank. The bullpen is uninspiring, and there’s plenty of lineup holes. They’re getting better, but not there yet. Cleveland Guardians 73-89 (77-85) You don’t have to look much further than the newly named Guardians to find the Central’s most rudderless team. The farm system isn’t elite, but the Major League roster is also barren. Jose Ramirez is amazing, and a healthy Shane Bieber is lights out, but beyond that there’s very little to like here. A lot of post-hype prospects and guys that have ceilings they never got close to touching reside on this roster. Alongside their lack of spending this offseason, deciding not to blow it up was a weird path forward. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  2. Forget the fact that 2020 was an uncharacteristically weird and difficult year in and of itself, trying to deduce anything from the shortened baseball season proved impossible. Back to a more traditional slate in 2021, we have some storylines to actually dive into. Rather than focusing just on the Minnesota Twins, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the division as a whole. The AL Central was projected to be among baseball’s worst, and while that may be true, there are some signs of hope across the board. New contenders emerged, and talents have risen. Here’s a few of my takeaways from each of the competitors within the division. Chicago White Sox Expected to compete with the Twins for an AL Central division title, Chicago ran away with it. Up by more than double-digits for most of the second half, this season was not the Southsiders playing little brother to the nationally branded Cubs anymore. This wasn’t much of a race from about May on, and that was definitely to Chicago’s credit. Tony La Russa’s club dealt with more injuries than anyone in the division, and despite depth seeming like a question, they weather and excelled through the storm. Luis Robert looks like an absolute problem, and Eloy Jimenez is going to hit a boatload of homers. Lance Lynn has been a Cy Young candidate all year, and Liam Hendriks has been every bit the stud closer he was signed to be. Sustainability appears to be there for the White Sox, and if anyone wants to knock them off their throne they’ll need to rise up in a big way. If there’s opportunity for Chicago it may come down to a lack of challenge. They’ve played .500 baseball since mid-season, but they haven’t had anyone provide a test within the division. Depending on how the Postseason goes for them, tenacity could be ratcheted up in 2022 and a 100-win campaign may be their next goal to surpass. Cleveland The most notable thing that Cleveland has done this year may be changing their name to the Guardians. This was a team expected to take a step backwards and it has. Built largely around stud pitching, they’ve dealt with substantial injuries to the rotation. Once baseball cracked down on sticky substances, few organizations found it more detrimental than these guys did. Star reliever James Karinchak is a mess, and there’s more uncertainty about a future direction for this club than ever. Jose Ramirez remains a stud, but it still was probably a down year by his standards. Team options remain each of the next two seasons, and while it will be picked up, there’s little reason for a talent like this to be a part of a rebuild. Cleveland doesn’t have much around the diamond, has remained lost in the outfield, and they could be looking at Terry Francona deciding his health won’t allow for a return. Consistently one of the division’s best, this is definitely looking like an opportunity for a changing of the guard. They haven’t been horrible by any means, but the lack of anything noteworthy happening for Cleveland this season is about as descriptive as one could imagine. Detroit Tigers Arguably one of the best surprises this season has been the emergence of the Detroit Tigers. Under new management in the form of A.J. Hinch, this isn’t a Ron Gardenhire club looking to get through to the next wave anymore. Detroit has been the best team in the division since about the halfway point, and that’s scary for anyone uncertain if they’re figuring it out. Miguel Cabrera reached his milestone, but this team is all about the youth movement. Matt Manning made his debut, Casey Mize has looked the part at times, and Akil Baddoo has looked like one of the best Rule 5 Draft selections in history. Add in that top prospects like Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene are both at Triple-A and the talent pool gets even scarier for this club. I’m not sure we’ve seen enough to suggest Detroit is making the leap in 2022 yet, but there’s no doubt the arrow for the organization is pointing straight up. Hinch is a good man to lead them. The front office needs to be a bit more forward thinking and show aggressiveness, but the Tigers don’t reside in the doldrums anymore. Kansas City Royals I picked the Royals to unseat Cleveland for third in the division this year, and while they’re six games behind, the narrative is of a fast start and then quickly gassing out. Kansas City made some interesting moves this offseason in hopes of raising their water level. Most of them had safe floors and low ceilings. With peaks coming early for a lot of that talent, they sputtered quickly and never really leveled off. The Royals are in a weird spot with many of their regulars. Salvador Perez put up a career year but will be 32-years-old despite now being signed through 2025. Carlos Santana has not been good, and Andrew Benintendi needed a late season surge to save his slash line. The rotation has seen some great exposure for youth like Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, and even Jackson Kowar. Is it enough to jumpstart the turnaround in 2022 though? Helping the Royals out will be a pair of infielders ready to rake. Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Prato both appear big-league ready, and they should be able to step in quickly next season. This is a team with plenty of questions, not a ton of certain answers, but some very intriguing options. Minnesota Twins If there was a group that failed in the division there’s no where else to turn than the Twins. Expected to defend two straight division titles, they never made things interesting with Chicago. Pitching started out a disaster and then shifted between which group was to blame. The offense took a while to get going, and then major injury issues set them back again. Three of the best developments this season came in the form of health proving performance for Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, and Byron Buxton. The two former talents had down years with small sample sizes while playing through injury last season. Buxton only further substantiated that he’s among the best in the game when available. Both of the first two will be back, and while the third is under contract, he’s a year from free agency and the organization much decide which way to go. Baldelli will be working through adversity for the first offseason of his career. Derek Falvey must retool the roster with talent that can be paired with youth in order to take a step forward. It was also made abundantly clear that too much depth is never a problem you’ll have. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  3. Home runs by Alex Kirilloff and Jorge Polanco and an explosive eighth inning pushed the Minnesota Twins past the Detroit Tigers Saturday afternoon. Box Score Ober: 3 1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Alex Kirilloff (8), Jorge Polanco (11) Top 3 WPA: Jorge Polanco .454, Luis Arraez .128, Alexander Colomé .124 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) It appeared as though a win simply wasn’t in the cards for the Twins for the majority of the game on Saturday afternoon. Starting pitcher Bailey Ober started off the game strong, striking out the side in the first inning, but flamed out brightly during the Tigers’ second time through the order. Niko Goodrum and Zack Short crushed balls over the fence and Harold Castro brought in another to give Detroit a 4-0 lead after four innings. But, remarkably, things started to go the Twins’ way in the second half of the game. Derek Law and Danny Coloumbe came on in relief for Ober and pitched 3 ⅔ innings of scoreless ball. Alex Kirilloff blasted a home run over the right centerfield fence to cut the lead to 4-2 in the sixth. Jorge Polanco added three more in the seventh with his 11th home run of the season. Alexander Colomé pitched a scoreless top of the eighth inning after allowing a leadoff double and four Twins’ runners touched home in the bottom of the frame. After the dust had settled, the Twins had turned a 4-0 deficit with an 8.2% win expectancy into a 9-4 win, clinching a series victory over the Tigers. While their opponent was not exactly the same caliber of, say, a Chicago or Boston, the Twins’ win on Saturday should provide the masses with a breath of fresh air. The bullpen performed well, the offense came through in the clutch, one of the franchise’s premier prospects hit a mammoth bomb. At the end of the day, a quality win is a quality win, regardless of opponent. A Note on Ober Although Ober struggled against an iffy Tigers lineup, he continued to display signs of promise for the future. By now it has been well established that his fastball is significantly improved from the last time he played live ball in 2019 and it is that improvement that helped propel him into the majors this season. However, the key for him moving forward is all about process. At 92-94 mph, Ober isn’t going to overpower batters on a consistent basis. That is where his strong command and control comes into play. If he is able to place a 94 mph heater wherever he wishes, he becomes a much more dangerous opponent. However, over his last two starts, his command has been mediocre at best. He walked three during his win over the White Sox and two against the Tigers on Saturday. But, I wonder if the Twins are working with him on improving his pitch placement. Ober consistently works his fastball up in the zone with up-and-away being the second most frequent location it was deployed against Detroit; this is where his fastball is most effective. He couples his fastball with a sharp curveball down in the zone. In the minors, pitchers of Ober’s caliber can get away with somewhat shoddy pitch command/location. That won’t fly against a major league batting order. Making adjustments on the fly to where he is looking to throw the ball would help explain at least some of the control issues Ober has displayed as of late. His strikeout numbers are there, but once his command improves and he starts missing more barrels, he’ll be right in-line to contend for a rotation spot moving forward. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Law 0 0 50 0 0 27 77 Thielbar 29 0 20 0 20 0 69 Duffey 17 0 0 15 0 21 53 Rogers 31 0 0 6 0 0 37 Robles 12 0 0 0 24 0 36 Colomé 0 14 0 0 0 17 31 Coulombe 0 12 0 0 0 13 25 Alcala 0 0 0 0 23 0 23 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  4. Box Score Ober: 3 1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Alex Kirilloff (8), Jorge Polanco (11) Top 3 WPA: Jorge Polanco .454, Luis Arraez .128, Alexander Colomé .124 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) It appeared as though a win simply wasn’t in the cards for the Twins for the majority of the game on Saturday afternoon. Starting pitcher Bailey Ober started off the game strong, striking out the side in the first inning, but flamed out brightly during the Tigers’ second time through the order. Niko Goodrum and Zack Short crushed balls over the fence and Harold Castro brought in another to give Detroit a 4-0 lead after four innings. But, remarkably, things started to go the Twins’ way in the second half of the game. Derek Law and Danny Coloumbe came on in relief for Ober and pitched 3 ⅔ innings of scoreless ball. Alex Kirilloff blasted a home run over the right centerfield fence to cut the lead to 4-2 in the sixth. Jorge Polanco added three more in the seventh with his 11th home run of the season. Alexander Colomé pitched a scoreless top of the eighth inning after allowing a leadoff double and four Twins’ runners touched home in the bottom of the frame. After the dust had settled, the Twins had turned a 4-0 deficit with an 8.2% win expectancy into a 9-4 win, clinching a series victory over the Tigers. While their opponent was not exactly the same caliber of, say, a Chicago or Boston, the Twins’ win on Saturday should provide the masses with a breath of fresh air. The bullpen performed well, the offense came through in the clutch, one of the franchise’s premier prospects hit a mammoth bomb. At the end of the day, a quality win is a quality win, regardless of opponent. A Note on Ober Although Ober struggled against an iffy Tigers lineup, he continued to display signs of promise for the future. By now it has been well established that his fastball is significantly improved from the last time he played live ball in 2019 and it is that improvement that helped propel him into the majors this season. However, the key for him moving forward is all about process. At 92-94 mph, Ober isn’t going to overpower batters on a consistent basis. That is where his strong command and control comes into play. If he is able to place a 94 mph heater wherever he wishes, he becomes a much more dangerous opponent. However, over his last two starts, his command has been mediocre at best. He walked three during his win over the White Sox and two against the Tigers on Saturday. But, I wonder if the Twins are working with him on improving his pitch placement. Ober consistently works his fastball up in the zone with up-and-away being the second most frequent location it was deployed against Detroit; this is where his fastball is most effective. He couples his fastball with a sharp curveball down in the zone. In the minors, pitchers of Ober’s caliber can get away with somewhat shoddy pitch command/location. That won’t fly against a major league batting order. Making adjustments on the fly to where he is looking to throw the ball would help explain at least some of the control issues Ober has displayed as of late. His strikeout numbers are there, but once his command improves and he starts missing more barrels, he’ll be right in-line to contend for a rotation spot moving forward. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Law 0 0 50 0 0 27 77 Thielbar 29 0 20 0 20 0 69 Duffey 17 0 0 15 0 21 53 Rogers 31 0 0 6 0 0 37 Robles 12 0 0 0 24 0 36 Colomé 0 14 0 0 0 17 31 Coulombe 0 12 0 0 0 13 25 Alcala 0 0 0 0 23 0 23 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. As teams begin to kick off a more traditional Spring Training with the goal of completing it entirely this season, we’re now looking forward to a full 162-game slate. The Twins return as repeat AL Central Division champions, and they’ll look for a three-peat in 2021. Shuffling has taken place throughout the Central with Chicago having had a strong offseason, Cleveland selling off, and Kansas City quietly making some noise. Last year I put this projection piece out in February, and then needed to come up with an amended version at the end of July. Let’s hope for good health and as much baseball as we can handle this time around. Here’s how I have the AL Central going, along with PECOTA projections in parenthesis. Minnesota Twins 97-63 (90-72) It’s more than fair to suggest the Twins could’ve taken further steps forward this offseason, however they had the least to improve upon. Piece did depart, but none of them were substantial contributors and the addition of Andrelton Simmons should make a massive impact defensively. This team is going to go as far as a healthy Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton allow them too. It’d be great if Miguel Sano were the Nelson Cruz aging insurance along the way. Expect additions at the deadline, and a stable of prospects are near ready to contribute. Chicago White Sox 90-72 (82-80) There’s no denying that the South Siders have closed even more of the gap. That said, I still think this club is in for some regression given the unpredictability of youth. They broke out in a big way during a shortened 2020 campaign that afforded them the luxury of small sample sizes. Thinking back to the 2018 Twins, a similar swoon could happen here. The talent level is too great to drift too far, but they should be considered a runner-up. Postseason expectations are a must however, and they shouldn’t have much problem achieving that. Kansas City Royals 78-84 (72-90) While the Royals are not yet there, and they are waiting on some offensive prospects to step up, they did a lot of nice things this winter. The Mike Minor signing was an underrated one, and Carlos Santana should provide a steadying veteran presence for them. I like Brady Singer and Kris Bubic in the rotation and think there’s a different trajectory here than in years past. This isn’t a Kansas City club yet ready to compete, but they’re substantially better than the bottom feeding Tigers and should have more firepower than Cleveland. Cleveland Indians 77-85 (85-77) Rather than load up for one last go with a strong rotation and a final year of Francisco Lindor, Cleveland decided to punt on 2021. The rotation is top heavy with Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale, but beyond that there’s more question marks with upside than anything. They’ve done a good job developing arms, and I’d expect that to continue, but it still needs to be proven. There isn’t much talent in the field or at the plate, and if they aren’t going to compete it makes little sense to hang onto Jose Ramirez. Assuming he’s dangled at the deadline, they could accelerate the rebuild they’re now destined for. Detroit Tigers 65-97 (66-96) A.J. Hinch has a tall task in front of him as this isn’t a club rich with talent akin to the Astros teams he’s used to having led. That said, there’s going to be a handful of prospects that filter into Comerica this year, and Detroit has one of the best systems in the game. I’d expect some of those kids to take their lumps, and even if they do produce, there’s just not enough on the roster to raise the overall water level. That said, this club isn’t far from turning the corner and adding pieces with a focus on competing once again. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  6. So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance Minnesota’s strong start to the shortened season greatly increased the club’s chances of qualifying for the postseason, especially considering the newly implemented expanded playoff format. The Twins are currently the seventh overall seed in the American League, but they have over a 90% chance of making the playoffs with the second highest change of winning one of the two wild card spots. Looking around the division and its looking increasingly likely that the AL Central will have three playoff teams and there is an outside chance at four clubs qualifying. Chicago and Cleveland have been back and forth at the top of the AL Central, but each club has over a 98% chance of making the playoffs. Tampa Bay and Oakland, the AL’s top-two teams, have the best odds to make the postseason tournament. Looking in the Rearview Mirror Behind the Twins in the AL standings are a group of teams that wouldn’t have even thought about being in playoff position under the old format. Toronto has a good young core of players, but they are a few years away from being strong contenders. That being said, they have an over .500 record and they a greater than 60% chance qualifying for the postseason. Another AL Central foe, the Tigers, sit behind the Blue Jays in the American League standings. Minnesota has had its fair share of trouble with the Tigers this season and now the Motor City Kitties head to Minneapolis for five games this weekend. Detroit is the final AL team with a record above .500 so the Twins would have to fall behind the Tigers to be out of playoff contention. Playoff Bound? At season’s start, Minnesota had the easiest strength of schedule compared to team’s records from last year. Obviously, the AL Central has been much more competitive than originally thought. Cleveland has the easiest strength of schedule (.479 winning %) among the contended AL Central teams. Chicago (.496) and Minnesota (.499) have nearly identical strength of schedules the rest of the way. The Tigers (.508) have the third hardest remaining schedule in the league. If the playoffs started today, the Twins would play a three-game series in Oakland to decided who makes it out of the first round. For a healthy Twins team, that would be a series the team could win. The A’s have also been off the field all week after someone in their organization tested positive for the coronavirus so they are going to be playing catch-up to get all 60-games played before season’s end. Houston trails Oakland by a handful of games in the AL West race so there is a possibility the Twins could end up heading to Texas. There’s also a chance the AL Central winner (Chicago or Cleveland) ends up with the number two overall seed and that could result in an intriguing match-up for the Twins. Luckily, the Yankees are in second place in the AL East, so a match-up with the Bronx Bombers is unlikely at this point. Realistically, everything is going to come down to a short three-game series at the start of the playoffs. The Twins haven’t won a single playoff game since 2004 and they haven’t won a playoff series since defeating Oakland back in 2002. It’s a weird season and the playoff race is only going to make it weirder. What are your thoughts on the Twins playoff chances? 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
  7. We’ve finally made it and baseball is back in just a matter of days. The Minnesota Twins will kick off this 60-game sprint in Chicago, and they’ll look to distance themselves from a team looking to prove they’re ready. I put out a 162-game projection back in February, but with so many logistical changes and update is necessary. I don’t foresee any changes in the positioning among the teams from where I had them at the beginning of the year, but we’re obviously only going to play roughly one-third of the games now. There’s significantly more volatility involved, and it will play against Minnesota more than any other club. That said, here’s how the division shakes out this season, and in parenthesis what the PECOTA projections are for each team in this scenario: Minnesota Twins 36-24 (35-25) There’s no argument to be made that Minnesota isn’t the best team in this division. They have arguably the best lineup in baseball and aren’t far behind with their bullpen. The rotation is cemented in depth and there’s plenty of candidates to be a top-tier arm as well. Josh Donaldson is a massive addition and having Rich Hill from the jump should be a nice boost. The Twins have stiffer competition in the White Sox this year, but it’s hard not to see the Indians having taken a step backwards. Cleveland Indians 32-28 (32-28) While it won’t be long before Chicago overtakes Cleveland, I’m not sure it happens in 2020. Cleveland still has an awesome rotation at the top with Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. Clevinger is already a health risk though, and Carlos Carrasco’s return is a question mark. Save for Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, there’s also concerns about star power in the lineup. Should this club stumble out of the gate, maybe Lindor gets moved at the deadline. Chicago White Sox 31-29 (31-29) I’m all in on Luis Robert, he’s going to be a stud. What his career ends up being remains to be seen, and while I think he could break out right away, there’s still plenty more that needs to go right for the White Sox. Lucas Giolito faded at times in 2019, and neither Dallas Keuchel nor Gio Gonzalez are impact pitchers anymore. Yasmani Grandal is a huge addition, but someone had to supplement the flash in the pan that was James McCann a year ago. The Southsiders will be knocking at the door soon, and the shortened season helps their chances, but give it one more year. Kansas City Royals 24-36 (25-35) Down here you’re really competing for the best of the worst, and I’m not certain what way these final two shake out. It’s my belief that the Royals slide will be less drastic than the volatility of the Tigers prospects. Kansas City isn’t good, and they aren’t exciting either. There are some pieces here though that can squeak out enough to stay out of the bottom spot in the division. Detroit Tigers 22-38 (26-34) I’m really excited to see what Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo, and Riley Greene can do. Unfortunately, none of those guys will be on the Opening Day roster, and while watching Miguel Cabrera chase down records is fun, there’s nothing else of note here. I don’t think Ron Gardenhire is the right guy to push a prospect-laden team forwards as that’s where he ended his tenure with the Twins, so he may see his way out around the time new faces make their debuts. In case you missed it, here’s how I have the yearly awards and Postseason shaking out as well: Award Winners and World Series Victors For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  8. With this being the final installment in the Women in Baseball series I wanted to make sure we could wrap it with a nice bow. Moving from a beat writer to a broadcaster and then an agent, Emily Waldon represents something reflective of a perfect combination. One of the biggest names in the industry, she’s more than paving a path.Similar to Britt Ghiroli before her, Waldon contributes to The Athletic. While Ghiroli works the Nationals beat, Waldon is called upon for prospect and Tigers related content. She’s a prospect guru, knowing the entire farm as well as the national landscape, and she’s become a voice for the under-represented minor leaguers across the sport. Emily has long been putting her stamp on the game of baseball and has put out quality coverage for the last handful of years. It was on March 15, 2019 that things exploded however, and all behind the headline reading, “I can’t afford to play this game.” Her status has since exploded, and she’s only continued to raise the bar. Paving a Path Part 1: Britt GhiroliPaving a Path Part 2: Melanie NewmanPaving a Path Part 3: Rachel LubaExtremely busy, I was grateful for the opportunity to grab a quick conversation with her: Twins Daily: A Michigan girl turns professional Detroit writer. Was that always the goal? Was it always baseball? Was the hope always the Tigers. What does your path into the sport look like? Emily Waldon: My path would be considered highly unorthodox in comparison to the way most people get into journalism or player evaluation. I didn’t have the internships or the college degree, and it wasn’t until I realized what I was really passionate about that I wondered if I could make my writing into anything. I had always been a writer because I was extremely shy as a kid. It was an outlet for me to express what I was thinking and feeling. My step into baseball was a fairly simple one. I had grown up in a baseball family, and it was a game I knew well. The thought of being able to spend more time around it made it a pretty simple decision. TD: There's very few national writers that know a system as well as you do. While covering prospects is something you broke in doing, and scouting is part of your background, the Major League club is equally as much in the wheelhouse. Was it a conscious decision to be so knowledgeable across an entire organization? EW: It’s funny, I never had any aspirations to cover Minor League Baseball or prospects. My first year was 2015 and that was not a year where the Tigers farm system was anything remotely close to being worth discussing. It ranked among the bottom in the whole league, and there weren’t any major names to think of. When I started covering Single-A West Michigan people wondered who I was and why I was doing it, and on top of it I was a woman in this odd role. It was somewhat of divine timing as I jumped into prospect coverage a touch before a lot of people did. Not only was I in a niche part of the industry, but here comes this girl that knew baseball but was learning the ins and outs of journalism on the fly. I realized while covering the Midwest League, and being a workaholic when it comes to passions, I need to cover the Tigers from top to bottom. That led to my networking skills pushing me all over the system. I got to know the staff, scouts, players, and families. I was always around in some capacity and being exposed into the minor league scene it eventually transitioned into me doing national coverage. TD: Seeing you take on projects outside of the Tigers organization, it's clear your creativity is only limited by the subject matter. How much time do you put into preparing for a national story? What highlights your creative process? EW: I think this really comes down to utilizing my contacts and network. My goal when I travel is to always try and make some sort of new connection. I want to get my name out there and have people know what I’m about. My reputation and integrity are the driving forces behind what I do. I want people to know above all else, I will follow through. I don’t want people to see me as a girl in baseball. I want people to know me for my work, and nothing more. Say for example I want to write up a story about Royce Lewis, I can utilize my connections to find out who I need to know. Is that coaches, scouts, front office people, whoever it is I want to get the fullest perspective so I can bring the player to the most attainable viewpoint for fans reading my work. TD: It's not unexpected that you'd have ties with so many minor leaguers given your prospect background. Was the goal always to act as an advocate? When did you see your platform could be useful for more, and why did you decide that providing a voice was necessary? EW: I think it really became a thing in 2017, my third year, as I had been deeply immersed in that lifestyle (MiLB) and thought, “there is so much here that’s not being talked about.” I know there had been people before me writing about certain topics, but the national attention hadn’t been there yet. When the “I can’t afford to play this game” piece dropped in 2019 I was flying to Arizona for Spring Training and remember being terrified. I thought, “what did I just do? Is the league going to blacklist me?” Then I realized that I brought facts to the surface, and the hope was fans would understand everything these players endure and how hard they work to get to the majors off the field as well. TD: Women are far less represented in baseball than men. How do you go about not letting that impact the work you do, and does it fuel an additional emphasis to pave a path for others? EW: I think any time, in any industry, that you’re in a minority there’s an opportunity for you to make an impact. It’s up to you whether that impact is positive or negative. I think there’s been opportunity to reflect on how many women were just like me in that they really love baseball, but the industry skews towards it being abnormal. The idea that women don’t really do this, why would I do it? That creates plenty of second guessing, especially for those looking to break into the game. When I share my experiences with other young women I say, “nobody gets to derail you but you, you’re the only person that gets to call the shots about your pursuits.” I’m so thankful to have been raised by parents that never told me I couldn’t do something because I am a woman, but instead instilled that integrity and application in my work would allow me to do whatever I wanted. It’s been cool to see other young ladies make pursuits of their own and share their stories with me. My hope is other girls will have the courage to do the same. TD: What about The Athletic helps to set your work apart? It has quickly grown into a sports juggernaut, and some of the most powerful female voices in sports call it home. What about the outlet aligned with where you wanted to be professionally? EW: My favorite thing about The Athletic is they cultivate creativity when it comes to sports writing and they don’t require you to do cookie-cutter type work. Being somewhat of an outlier with my unique background, The Athletic gave me a voice to be not only a woman in baseball, but also one that covers prospects and does player evaluation. It’s such an empowering feeling, and it allows me to pitch ideas and come up with creative ways to approach stories. Having an editor in Emma Span, who is a legend in her own right, she is someone that has always spoken life into my career. Those are the types of voices I hope I can become one of for the next generation. Having someone like Emma in my corner has really inspired me to keep going. TD: While baseball was shelved and we struggled with the relationship provided to us by the sport, what did you do to keep busy? Any go to hobbies away from the game that provided a good reset? EW: It definitely was a challenge, and I think everyone has been challenged with finding their own outlets throughout 2020. For me personally, fitness was the biggest thing. I got back into running every day and fine tuning some of my eating habits. Getting back into that workout routine helped to keep my head clear just because there’s so many thoughts about what’s going to happen next. Focusing on mental health is such an important factor. I know firsthand what that battle with anxiety can feel like, and my hope is that while I’m trying to inspire others through baseball, if you struggle with anxiety or depression I want to listen and encourage there as well. Knowing that you’re never alone is a big thing, other people can always relate. Follow Emily and check out her work here. Thank you for reading through this Women in Baseball series, hope you enjoyed it! 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
  9. Similar to Britt Ghiroli before her, Waldon contributes to The Athletic. While Ghiroli works the Nationals beat, Waldon is called upon for prospect and Tigers related content. She’s a prospect guru, knowing the entire farm as well as the national landscape, and she’s become a voice for the under-represented minor leaguers across the sport. Emily has long been putting her stamp on the game of baseball and has put out quality coverage for the last handful of years. It was on March 15, 2019 that things exploded however, and all behind the headline reading, “I can’t afford to play this game.” Her status has since exploded, and she’s only continued to raise the bar. Paving a Path Part 1: Britt Ghiroli Paving a Path Part 2: Melanie Newman Paving a Path Part 3: Rachel Luba Extremely busy, I was grateful for the opportunity to grab a quick conversation with her: Twins Daily: A Michigan girl turns professional Detroit writer. Was that always the goal? Was it always baseball? Was the hope always the Tigers. What does your path into the sport look like? Emily Waldon: My path would be considered highly unorthodox in comparison to the way most people get into journalism or player evaluation. I didn’t have the internships or the college degree, and it wasn’t until I realized what I was really passionate about that I wondered if I could make my writing into anything. I had always been a writer because I was extremely shy as a kid. It was an outlet for me to express what I was thinking and feeling. My step into baseball was a fairly simple one. I had grown up in a baseball family, and it was a game I knew well. The thought of being able to spend more time around it made it a pretty simple decision. TD: There's very few national writers that know a system as well as you do. While covering prospects is something you broke in doing, and scouting is part of your background, the Major League club is equally as much in the wheelhouse. Was it a conscious decision to be so knowledgeable across an entire organization? EW: It’s funny, I never had any aspirations to cover Minor League Baseball or prospects. My first year was 2015 and that was not a year where the Tigers farm system was anything remotely close to being worth discussing. It ranked among the bottom in the whole league, and there weren’t any major names to think of. When I started covering Single-A West Michigan people wondered who I was and why I was doing it, and on top of it I was a woman in this odd role. It was somewhat of divine timing as I jumped into prospect coverage a touch before a lot of people did. Not only was I in a niche part of the industry, but here comes this girl that knew baseball but was learning the ins and outs of journalism on the fly. I realized while covering the Midwest League, and being a workaholic when it comes to passions, I need to cover the Tigers from top to bottom. That led to my networking skills pushing me all over the system. I got to know the staff, scouts, players, and families. I was always around in some capacity and being exposed into the minor league scene it eventually transitioned into me doing national coverage. TD: Seeing you take on projects outside of the Tigers organization, it's clear your creativity is only limited by the subject matter. How much time do you put into preparing for a national story? What highlights your creative process? EW: I think this really comes down to utilizing my contacts and network. My goal when I travel is to always try and make some sort of new connection. I want to get my name out there and have people know what I’m about. My reputation and integrity are the driving forces behind what I do. I want people to know above all else, I will follow through. I don’t want people to see me as a girl in baseball. I want people to know me for my work, and nothing more. Say for example I want to write up a story about Royce Lewis, I can utilize my connections to find out who I need to know. Is that coaches, scouts, front office people, whoever it is I want to get the fullest perspective so I can bring the player to the most attainable viewpoint for fans reading my work. TD: It's not unexpected that you'd have ties with so many minor leaguers given your prospect background. Was the goal always to act as an advocate? When did you see your platform could be useful for more, and why did you decide that providing a voice was necessary? EW: I think it really became a thing in 2017, my third year, as I had been deeply immersed in that lifestyle (MiLB) and thought, “there is so much here that’s not being talked about.” I know there had been people before me writing about certain topics, but the national attention hadn’t been there yet. When the “I can’t afford to play this game” piece dropped in 2019 I was flying to Arizona for Spring Training and remember being terrified. I thought, “what did I just do? Is the league going to blacklist me?” Then I realized that I brought facts to the surface, and the hope was fans would understand everything these players endure and how hard they work to get to the majors off the field as well. TD: Women are far less represented in baseball than men. How do you go about not letting that impact the work you do, and does it fuel an additional emphasis to pave a path for others? EW: I think any time, in any industry, that you’re in a minority there’s an opportunity for you to make an impact. It’s up to you whether that impact is positive or negative. I think there’s been opportunity to reflect on how many women were just like me in that they really love baseball, but the industry skews towards it being abnormal. The idea that women don’t really do this, why would I do it? That creates plenty of second guessing, especially for those looking to break into the game. When I share my experiences with other young women I say, “nobody gets to derail you but you, you’re the only person that gets to call the shots about your pursuits.” I’m so thankful to have been raised by parents that never told me I couldn’t do something because I am a woman, but instead instilled that integrity and application in my work would allow me to do whatever I wanted. It’s been cool to see other young ladies make pursuits of their own and share their stories with me. My hope is other girls will have the courage to do the same. TD: What about The Athletic helps to set your work apart? It has quickly grown into a sports juggernaut, and some of the most powerful female voices in sports call it home. What about the outlet aligned with where you wanted to be professionally? EW: My favorite thing about The Athletic is they cultivate creativity when it comes to sports writing and they don’t require you to do cookie-cutter type work. Being somewhat of an outlier with my unique background, The Athletic gave me a voice to be not only a woman in baseball, but also one that covers prospects and does player evaluation. It’s such an empowering feeling, and it allows me to pitch ideas and come up with creative ways to approach stories. Having an editor in Emma Span, who is a legend in her own right, she is someone that has always spoken life into my career. Those are the types of voices I hope I can become one of for the next generation. Having someone like Emma in my corner has really inspired me to keep going. TD: While baseball was shelved and we struggled with the relationship provided to us by the sport, what did you do to keep busy? Any go to hobbies away from the game that provided a good reset? EW: It definitely was a challenge, and I think everyone has been challenged with finding their own outlets throughout 2020. For me personally, fitness was the biggest thing. I got back into running every day and fine tuning some of my eating habits. Getting back into that workout routine helped to keep my head clear just because there’s so many thoughts about what’s going to happen next. Focusing on mental health is such an important factor. I know firsthand what that battle with anxiety can feel like, and my hope is that while I’m trying to inspire others through baseball, if you struggle with anxiety or depression I want to listen and encourage there as well. Knowing that you’re never alone is a big thing, other people can always relate. Follow Emily and check out her work here. Thank you for reading through this Women in Baseball series, hope you enjoyed it! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. Going into the 2019 season just about every outlet had the Minnesota Twins as a clear second place finisher in the AL Central. They were an up and coming story, but not yet ready to break through. I found myself disagreeing with that and suggested they’d win the division. In 2020, it happens again.Rewind to this time last year and just about every projection system had a good but not great view of Minnesota under first-year manager Rocco Baldelli. PECOTA tabbed the Twins for a .500 record, while the Sporting News’s panel had them registering 83 wins. In 2020 PECOTA calls the Bomba Squad odds-on favorites to win the division tallying 93 victories. The result looks correct, but I’ll take aim at the final records and results within the shifting Central. 1. Minnesota Twins 98-64 (93-69*) Last year I characterized the Twins position by saying “no team has done more in the division to take strides forward.” That may not hold true in comparison to the Chicago White Sox for 2020, but Minnesota was a substantially better squad to begin with. They don’t need to win 101 games this time around, but they won’t be any less dominant. Josh Donaldson makes the lineup look like the best in the game, and Kenta Maeda provides stability to a deep rotation. They’ll add down the stretch if need be, and there’s bottom feeders to still pick on. Expecting a slight slide from Cleveland, wins won’t be hard to come by. 2. Cleveland Indians 85-77 (86-76*) It looked like Cleveland would take a step back last year, but it wasn’t quite as substantiated as I may have expected. Gone are both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. The outfield has more questions than answers, and Francisco Lindor could conceivably be on his way out at any time. As has always been the case, the rotation will remain a threat, and you can bet they’ll develop another arm or two that will make an impact. The Indians should be competitive, but I don’t think the second Wild Card is coming from this division, and the dive off the deep end could be immediate here. 3. Chicago White Sox 84-78 (83-79*) Easily viewed as the darlings of the offseason, the White Sox did a ton to add talent on the 26-man roster. With internal pieces beginning to mature, it made sense to supplement. Yasmani Grandal is a massive get for them, but that’s really where the talent additions cease to outweigh the names. Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Keuchel are known commodities, but neither fit real well as ground ball pitchers in front of a poor defense. Nomar Mazara isn’t a good defender, and his corner partner Eloy was rough during his rookie year. Luis Robert could certainly be the real deal out of the gate, but the Southsiders seems to be looking for a lot from Nick Madrigal. Lucas Giolito put together a nice half-season, and Michael Kopech will factor in, but it’s actually Reynaldo Lopez I may be most intrigued by. This is a squad worth watching, and they’ll make some noise, but this is much more the 2017 Twins than it is the 2019 version. 4. Kansas City Royals 61-101 (68-94*) Things get ugly in a hurry here at the bottom of the AL Central. Kansas City won just 59 games a year ago, and they did very little in terms of adding talent. Whit Merrifield is a star, and Jorge Soler broke out, but the roster is really void of much else. Maikel Franco is a dart throw at third, and retaining 36-year-old Alex Gordon is more nostalgia than anything else. Maybe Salvador Perez returns from a missed 2019 and is a threat, but then again he’s never been much of a bat anyways. The Royals could easily bring up the rear in the division, but I’ll give them the benefit of doubt that they keep some of the gap established between them and Detroit a year ago. 5. Detroit Tigers 55-107 (69-93*) Across baseball in 2019, only the AL Central had two teams lose 100 or more games. That seems near certain to repeat itself in my estimation. Detroit added some veteran talent in Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron to bolster the infield. Miguel Cabrera looks cooked though, and Cameron Maybin probably represents their best free agent acquisition. Matt Boyd looked the part of a staff ace for part of the year, and if he can get back to that at the beginning of 2020, they’d be silly not to move him by the deadline. I like Spencer Turnbull a decent amount, but Casey Mize should show up for this group in the next handful of months. With Mize being potentially joined by Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, and Alex Faedo this year, fans will have plenty of their future to watch. It probably won’t pan out much better immediately, but they have hope. *Designates 2020 PECOTA projection as of February 17, 2020 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
  11. Rewind to this time last year and just about every projection system had a good but not great view of Minnesota under first-year manager Rocco Baldelli. PECOTA tabbed the Twins for a .500 record, while the Sporting News’s panel had them registering 83 wins. In 2020 PECOTA calls the Bomba Squad odds-on favorites to win the division tallying 93 victories. The result looks correct, but I’ll take aim at the final records and results within the shifting Central. 1. Minnesota Twins 98-64 (93-69*) Last year I characterized the Twins position by saying “no team has done more in the division to take strides forward.” That may not hold true in comparison to the Chicago White Sox for 2020, but Minnesota was a substantially better squad to begin with. They don’t need to win 101 games this time around, but they won’t be any less dominant. Josh Donaldson makes the lineup look like the best in the game, and Kenta Maeda provides stability to a deep rotation. They’ll add down the stretch if need be, and there’s bottom feeders to still pick on. Expecting a slight slide from Cleveland, wins won’t be hard to come by. 2. Cleveland Indians 85-77 (86-76*) It looked like Cleveland would take a step back last year, but it wasn’t quite as substantiated as I may have expected. Gone are both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. The outfield has more questions than answers, and Francisco Lindor could conceivably be on his way out at any time. As has always been the case, the rotation will remain a threat, and you can bet they’ll develop another arm or two that will make an impact. The Indians should be competitive, but I don’t think the second Wild Card is coming from this division, and the dive off the deep end could be immediate here. 3. Chicago White Sox 84-78 (83-79*) Easily viewed as the darlings of the offseason, the White Sox did a ton to add talent on the 26-man roster. With internal pieces beginning to mature, it made sense to supplement. Yasmani Grandal is a massive get for them, but that’s really where the talent additions cease to outweigh the names. Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Keuchel are known commodities, but neither fit real well as ground ball pitchers in front of a poor defense. Nomar Mazara isn’t a good defender, and his corner partner Eloy was rough during his rookie year. Luis Robert could certainly be the real deal out of the gate, but the Southsiders seems to be looking for a lot from Nick Madrigal. Lucas Giolito put together a nice half-season, and Michael Kopech will factor in, but it’s actually Reynaldo Lopez I may be most intrigued by. This is a squad worth watching, and they’ll make some noise, but this is much more the 2017 Twins than it is the 2019 version. 4. Kansas City Royals 61-101 (68-94*) Things get ugly in a hurry here at the bottom of the AL Central. Kansas City won just 59 games a year ago, and they did very little in terms of adding talent. Whit Merrifield is a star, and Jorge Soler broke out, but the roster is really void of much else. Maikel Franco is a dart throw at third, and retaining 36-year-old Alex Gordon is more nostalgia than anything else. Maybe Salvador Perez returns from a missed 2019 and is a threat, but then again he’s never been much of a bat anyways. The Royals could easily bring up the rear in the division, but I’ll give them the benefit of doubt that they keep some of the gap established between them and Detroit a year ago. 5. Detroit Tigers 55-107 (69-93*) Across baseball in 2019, only the AL Central had two teams lose 100 or more games. That seems near certain to repeat itself in my estimation. Detroit added some veteran talent in Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron to bolster the infield. Miguel Cabrera looks cooked though, and Cameron Maybin probably represents their best free agent acquisition. Matt Boyd looked the part of a staff ace for part of the year, and if he can get back to that at the beginning of 2020, they’d be silly not to move him by the deadline. I like Spencer Turnbull a decent amount, but Casey Mize should show up for this group in the next handful of months. With Mize being potentially joined by Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, and Alex Faedo this year, fans will have plenty of their future to watch. It probably won’t pan out much better immediately, but they have hope. *Designates 2020 PECOTA projection as of February 17, 2020 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. 158 games into the 2019 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins found themselves in a position to clinch the AL Central Division for the first time since 2010. They’ll need a Cleveland Indians loss tonight before popping the champagne, but serve was held with Randy Dobnak twirling a gem prior to winding up a married man. A lead was secured late, and Rocco Baldelli was given the most important win of the season on his birthday.Box Score Dobnak: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Home Runs: Luis Arraez (4), Rosario (32) Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-4, R, 3B), Cruz (2-4, R, RBI), Arraez (2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB) WPA of +0.1: Arraez .289, Dobnak .180, Duffey .109 WPA of -0.1: Garver -.113 Early on in this one the story was infield defense. Minnesota has slipped behind their early season defensive efforts for months now. After playing at a career-best clip to start the year, Jorge Polanco has looked like the guy who won’t be a long-term answer at short. His error allowed the cement-footed Miguel Cabrera to score all the way from first base (it looked as if he was running in slow motion) to give Detroit a lead. Dobnak saw Miguel Sano boot a grounder later in the action that ended up proving harmless. Early in the season Eddie Rosario introduced us to the term “bombas” and it was off the bat of the diminutive Luis Arraez that the lead was captured. A 402 foot no- doubter put Minnesota in the lead. It was his fourth of the year and longest career blast to date. Dobnak bowed out with a lead and Tyler Duffey locked down his 23rd straight inning of scoreless relief work. Insurance runs didn’t take long as Minnesota was ready to put up another crooked number in the eighth inning. Polanco grabbed his seventh triple of the season with some solid baserunning after the first out. Nelson Cruz then drove him home through a pulled-in infield. Mr. Bombas himself, Rosario, then went jack job on a laser to right field for his 32nd dinger of the season. Up 5-1 needing just six outs, this one was all but decided. Don’t worry, Rosie wasn’t done with the fun after his homer either. Sliding to make a play in the field for Trevor May, there was some added flair on the out as well. There’s no denying a hot Rosario is a great development going into the postseason, and there’s also no denying this man is feeling himself right now. Cleveland currently trails the Chicago White Sox by a 4-1 tally in the third inning. A loss would allow the Twins to pop the bubbly for the first time since 2010. This team is two wins shy of 100, and the century mark is something they haven’t accomplished since 1965. Tomorrow will likely be a hangover-induced lineup, but the Royals should expect to get the business this weekend in Kansas City. A date with the New York Yankees looks imminent in the American League Division Series and this club is looking to erase demons Twins Territorians are haunted by. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days Next Three Games Thu @ DET, 12:10 PM CT (TBD vs Zimmermann) Fri @ KC, 7:15 PM CT (TBD vs Skoglund) Sat @ KC, 6:15 PM CT (TBD vs Sparkman) Last Game Twins Game Recap (9/24): Odorizzi's Gem Cuts the Twins Magic Number to 2 Click here to view the article
  13. Box Score Dobnak: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Home Runs: Luis Arraez (4), Rosario (32) Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-4, R, 3B), Cruz (2-4, R, RBI), Arraez (2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB) WPA of +0.1: Arraez .289, Dobnak .180, Duffey .109 WPA of -0.1: Garver -.113 Early on in this one the story was infield defense. Minnesota has slipped behind their early season defensive efforts for months now. After playing at a career-best clip to start the year, Jorge Polanco has looked like the guy who won’t be a long-term answer at short. His error allowed the cement-footed Miguel Cabrera to score all the way from first base (it looked as if he was running in slow motion) to give Detroit a lead. Dobnak saw Miguel Sano boot a grounder later in the action that ended up proving harmless. Early in the season Eddie Rosario introduced us to the term “bombas” and it was off the bat of the diminutive Luis Arraez that the lead was captured. A 402 foot no- doubter put Minnesota in the lead. It was his fourth of the year and longest career blast to date. Dobnak bowed out with a lead and Tyler Duffey locked down his 23rd straight inning of scoreless relief work. Insurance runs didn’t take long as Minnesota was ready to put up another crooked number in the eighth inning. Polanco grabbed his seventh triple of the season with some solid baserunning after the first out. Nelson Cruz then drove him home through a pulled-in infield. Mr. Bombas himself, Rosario, then went jack job on a laser to right field for his 32nd dinger of the season. Up 5-1 needing just six outs, this one was all but decided. Don’t worry, Rosie wasn’t done with the fun after his homer either. Sliding to make a play in the field for Trevor May, there was some added flair on the out as well. There’s no denying a hot Rosario is a great development going into the postseason, and there’s also no denying this man is feeling himself right now. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1177024908469125121 Cleveland currently trails the Chicago White Sox by a 4-1 tally in the third inning. A loss would allow the Twins to pop the bubbly for the first time since 2010. This team is two wins shy of 100, and the century mark is something they haven’t accomplished since 1965. Tomorrow will likely be a hangover-induced lineup, but the Royals should expect to get the business this weekend in Kansas City. A date with the New York Yankees looks imminent in the American League Division Series and this club is looking to erase demons Twins Territorians are haunted by. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days Next Three Games Thu @ DET, 12:10 PM CT (TBD vs Zimmermann) Fri @ KC, 7:15 PM CT (TBD vs Skoglund) Sat @ KC, 6:15 PM CT (TBD vs Sparkman) Last Game Twins Game Recap (9/24): Odorizzi's Gem Cuts the Twins Magic Number to 2
  14. With the Cleveland Indians on a mission down the stretch, the Minnesota Twins have needed to do their own dirty work to try to clinch their first division title since 2010. Luckily, the Twins have taken care of business, so far, against the bottom-feeders of the American League Central, and with tonight's 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers, their magic number is suddenly down to two, with five games to play.Box Score Odorizzi: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 64.5% strikes (60 of 93 pitches) Home Runs: None Multi-Hit Games: Cave (2 for 4), Wade (2 for 3, 2B) WPA of +0.1: Wade .207, Odorizzi .180, Rosario .160, Astudillo .108 WPA of -0.1: Sano -.179, Polanco -.157 Jake Odorizzi did an excellent job keeping the Twins in the ballgame, as the bats struggled to come through in the early innings. After a Detroit double and single led to a run in the first inning, Odorizzi allowed just one more baserunner, on a walk, while striking out six more hitters. He did come back out to pitch in the bottom of the seventh, but was pulled during his warmups when Rocco Baldelli noticed something was off. The report was Odorizzi was lifted with hamstring tightness, so hopefully this shouldn’t be much of an issue for him as we move into postseason play. It took a while, but the Twins bats finally woke up in the seventh inning against Spencer Turnbull. Jake Cave led off the inning with a sharply pulled single into right field. LaMonte Wade Jr. followed that up with an excellent at-bat that resulted in a double down the third base line, and suddenly the Twins were in business with runners on second and third, with nobody out. This prompted Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire to go get Turnbull, and bring in David McKay to face Willians Astudillo. This proved favorable for the Twins, as Astudillo came through with a base hit up the middle to give the Twins their first runs of the game. After a Jason Castro hit-by-pitch and a Nelson Cruz intentional walk, Eddie Rosario came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, and he came through with a ringing double that made its way to the wall in left, scoring Astudillo and Castro, giving the Twins a 4-1 lead. Following Jake Odorizzi's six innings, Kyle Gibson came into the game to try to protect the Twins three-run lead. Gibson gave up a couple of singles in the inning, but struck out the other three batters he faced, popping as high as 96 MPH on the radar gun. He came back out in the eighth, and after the Tigers cut the lead down to two, thanks to a couple of doubles, things suddenly looked very interesting. However, after a visit to the mound, Gibson settled in to get the final two outs of the inning. Taylor Rogers came on in the bottom of the ninth and pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning, picking up his 29th save of the season. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Wed at DET, 5:40 pm CT (TBD-Norris) Thu at DET, 12:10 pm CT (TBD-Zimmermann) Fri at KC, 7:15 pm CT (TBD-TBD) Last Game Twins Game Recap (9/22): Twins Offense Erupts for Twelve Runs Over Royals Click here to view the article
  15. Box Score Odorizzi: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 64.5% strikes (60 of 93 pitches) Home Runs: None Multi-Hit Games: Cave (2 for 4), Wade (2 for 3, 2B) WPA of +0.1: Wade .207, Odorizzi .180, Rosario .160, Astudillo .108 WPA of -0.1: Sano -.179, Polanco -.157 Jake Odorizzi did an excellent job keeping the Twins in the ballgame, as the bats struggled to come through in the early innings. After a Detroit double and single led to a run in the first inning, Odorizzi allowed just one more baserunner, on a walk, while striking out six more hitters. He did come back out to pitch in the bottom of the seventh, but was pulled during his warmups when Rocco Baldelli noticed something was off. The report was Odorizzi was lifted with hamstring tightness, so hopefully this shouldn’t be much of an issue for him as we move into postseason play. It took a while, but the Twins bats finally woke up in the seventh inning against Spencer Turnbull. Jake Cave led off the inning with a sharply pulled single into right field. LaMonte Wade Jr. followed that up with an excellent at-bat that resulted in a double down the third base line, and suddenly the Twins were in business with runners on second and third, with nobody out. This prompted Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire to go get Turnbull, and bring in David McKay to face Willians Astudillo. This proved favorable for the Twins, as Astudillo came through with a base hit up the middle to give the Twins their first runs of the game. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1176656690734862336 After a Jason Castro hit-by-pitch and a Nelson Cruz intentional walk, Eddie Rosario came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, and he came through with a ringing double that made its way to the wall in left, scoring Astudillo and Castro, giving the Twins a 4-1 lead. Following Jake Odorizzi's six innings, Kyle Gibson came into the game to try to protect the Twins three-run lead. Gibson gave up a couple of singles in the inning, but struck out the other three batters he faced, popping as high as 96 MPH on the radar gun. He came back out in the eighth, and after the Tigers cut the lead down to two, thanks to a couple of doubles, things suddenly looked very interesting. However, after a visit to the mound, Gibson settled in to get the final two outs of the inning. Taylor Rogers came on in the bottom of the ninth and pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning, picking up his 29th save of the season. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Wed at DET, 5:40 pm CT (TBD-Norris) Thu at DET, 12:10 pm CT (TBD-Zimmermann) Fri at KC, 7:15 pm CT (TBD-TBD) Last Game Twins Game Recap (9/22): Twins Offense Erupts for Twelve Runs Over Royals
  16. Brief Overview: The Tigers have managed to win just 46 games despite playing 155 thus far. A winning percentage below 30% in baseball is laughable at best, and this team is worse than both assumed bottom-feeders in Baltimore and Miami. Ron Gardenhire has had little to work with, and has gotten less from them. He’ll be back in 2020, along with Miguel Cabrera’s anchor of a contract, but this team is hapless in their current construction. What They Do Well: It’s not a surprise that a team this bad would have little going for it. We’ve harped on their deficiencies in this space all season long so continuing to beat that dead horse does little for me. They are in the bottom third across all facets of the game, and while the farm system has some big names, no significant contributors (sorry Jake Rogers) are currently up with the big club. To really fish for something they’ve done well in 2019, there’s probably no better place to look than their record against the Cleveland Indians. Detroit managed to go 1-18 with a -78 run differential against Terry Francona’s club. Obviously that’s not good at all, but you almost have to be trying to stink up the place that badly against a common opponent. With little place else to turn, the Tigers were great at losing to the Indians this year. What They Do Not Do Well: As the flip side of the section above this is also a bloodbath for the home club. In fielding they are 26th and dead last in batting, I suppose they can be proud of their 20th ranking in terms of pitching. Minnesota needs a few homers to catch the Yankees for the MLB single season record, and Detroit should provide them in spades. During a three-game series earlier this month the Tigers coughed up 10 longballs to the Bombers. Spencer Turnbull has been an arm of intrigue in 2019 for Detroit, but he’s 3-15 with a 4.66 ERA. Wednesday’s starter Daniel Norris was a once-heralded arm but has taken his lumps as well, going 3-13 with a 4.58 ERA. Sweeps are never an easy ask, regardless of the competition, but Detroit will do its best to provide the Twins ample opportunity. Individuals of Note: Former Twins farmhand Niko Goodrum has actually provided the greatest fWAR for Detroit this season, but his year is over due to a groin strain. Victor Reyes is one of the lone productive bats in the lineup at this point. He’s been worth 1.6 fWAR in just over 60 games this season. Although he is batting .304 on the year, his .772 OPS leaves a bit to be desired. The staff ace Matthew Boyd won’t be seen having just taken a turn, but the aforementioned Turnbull will throw. He’s responsible for the second highest fWAR on the pitching staff and has a FIP that suggests a bit better numbers than what he’s accounted for. Of the trio that Minnesota will square off against it’s Turnbull who keeps the ball in the park the best. Recent History: These two clubs have not seen each other since the end of August. A four-game series in Detroit was won by the Twins dropping only game two. On the year Minnesota is 11-5 against Detroit. Recent Trajectories: The Twins are 7-3 over their last 10 games while the Tigers are an opposite 3-7. Minnesota hasn’t lost a series to a sub-.500 team since dropping two of three to the White Sox on August 21st. Detroit last won a series on July 31st taking two of three against the Angels. Pitching Matchups: Tuesday: Odorizzi vs Turnbull Wednesday: TBD vs Norris Thursday: TBD vs Zimmermann Ending Thoughts: Detroit is terrible and the Twins have an eye on the postseason. I’d like to see Mitch Garver be available this week even though he didn’t initially make the trip to the Motor City. Max Kepler playing in a regular capacity would be good for his playoff outlook as well. Minnesota is three positive outcomes from an AL Central division title, and 100 wins is in reach as well. A sweep here would go a long way to positioning them well for both opportunities.
  17. Brief Overview: Last week I wrote that Detroit was a poor team and they were so offended by that statement that they decided to take the first game of that series and then subsequently lose every other game heading into this series. A perfect 0-5 sums up their season quite well as they have already been eliminated from playoff contention, have hit 92 losses, have had their awfulness quantified in a historical context, and their manager, Ron Gardenhire, has already said that he understands if the Tigers choose not to retain him next year. Again, it’s August and the Tigers’ grave has already been dug and the funeral procession has apparently already come and gone, this is now just the after-party. What They Do Well: No other business can say that they have single-handedly kept the flight from Toledo to Detroit alive and flourishing quite like Detroit can. A mean-spirited joke yes, but the Tigers have had 52 different players play for them at this year and all I can think about is the executives at Delta swimming in money. Although that was probably going to happen regardless of Detroit’s 40-man situation. Beyond my snark, Detroit still has an average starting rotation by fWAR as they rank 15th in baseball in that stat. Again, it’s mainly Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, and Daniel Norris carrying them in that stat, but for a team with this record, even mediocrity can feel like a miracle. Beyond them, it's a drop-off into the abyss (sans Jordan Zimmermann's actually decent peripherals) but the Tigers should have a fighting chance to win a game with any of those guys pitching. What They Do Not Do Well: This could literally end up being a masters thesis if I were so inclined but I’ll try to cut to the chase here. The Tigers were able to BABIP themselves into a decent offensive showing against the Twins last weekend, but the mirage did not last long and the numbers for the year as a whole remain ugly. A league-low 77 wRC+ paired with a bottom three ISO of .149 reflects an offense without many threats. The ISO especially is indicative of the kind of offense the Tigers possess as in a day and age of power, the Tigers’ need for extra-base potential is greater than the Indians’ thirst for actually having people come to their games. Can I quantify that? Yes, actually. The Tigers’ leader in ISO (Ronny Rodriguez) holds a mark of .222 while the Twins as a team hold a mark of .230. Can they at least pitch? Well, not really. The Tigers have the third highest team ERA in baseball and it hasn’t gotten better recently. In the month of August, the Tigers’ pitching staff has a lower fWAR total than Trevor Hildenberger has earned in 2019 (.3 to .4). Hildenberger has thrown 14 innings in the majors this year, you do not really need me to tell you that that isn’t ideal, but finding fun ways to slant stats is half of the point of these articles so allow me to continue. Individuals Of Note: Unfortunately, I mentioned Niko Goodrum here last week because he was having a solid year, but he then suffered an injury and will most likely not return this year, sorry for that one, Niko. After Niko, the next best position player by fWAR is Victor Reyes whom the Tigers picked up in the Rule 5 draft last year and somewhat stashed in their savings account in order to get full team control over him. Reyes has responded by BABIP-ing his way to .4 fWAR season over 41 games. Most of his value has been earned through his great defensive metrics as his 85 wRC+ is incredibly whelming, and that’s even with a massive .359 BABIP. Beyond that, this is a vast wasteland of lost hope as no other position player really deserves notoriety in this sprawling array of sadness. The Tigers’ position player fWAR leaders list would be the perfect place to hide secret government codes or laundered money. Maybe “Mikie Mahtook” is actually code for one of those things, maybe I’ll get back to that later. Let’s talk about Daniel Norris, because why not. Norris was part of the return when the Tigers dealt David Price to the Blue Jays, which is a very old-fashioned statement, but a true one nonetheless. Norris struggles with staying healthy and has gone through the general wringer that most young starters are subject to as they adjust to major league hitters. This year has been a step in the right direction for him as he has already set a new high for MLB innings in a year with 126 1/3 and he may hit the 2.0 fWAR mark if the last month of the season goes well for him. He’s no longer a young gun at 26 but there is still a good chance that he turns into a quality big league pitcher. Recent History: The Twins and Tigers have played a handful of times this year and the Twins are 8-4. The most recent series was won by the Twins as they took two games and the Twins also took two games the last time they were in Comerica (which was in early June). Recent Trajectories: The Twins are 11-4 over their last five series while the Tigers are 4-10 over their last five series. Pitching Matchups: Friday: Gibson vs Jackson Saturday: Pérez vs Boyd Sunday: Pineda vs Turnbull Monday: Odorizzi vs Zimmermann Ending Thoughts: This is one of those weird series where they play four straight games against each other but it’s technically a three game series with the fourth game being a makeup game from an earlier rain out. Anyway, the Twins are coming into the series hot while the Tigers are literally the farthest from hot as a team can be. Taking three games will be the absolute minimum expected from the Twins and taking four should not be out of reach at all. Granted, I am now on a three-series losing streak, but I will call that the Twins will take three games exactly, so who knows what actually will end up happening here.
  18. As we continue through the “cupcake” part of the schedule, it’s good to re-evaluate the status of the team after each series as it feels like their play recently has had the same peaks and valleys of a heartbeat monitor. They gave the Rangers the business before losing another home series, this time to a weak White Sox team. But I maintain that their play in both series was awfully similar and lady luck in game 1 of the White Sox series is the only thing standing between a series win and the series loss they suffered. Nonetheless, they move on to facing the Tigers at home and I have my choice of a number of Motown artists, Jack White, and Eminem, a solid list you have there, Detroit.Brief Overview: Let’s not mince words here, Detroit is a poor team who has somehow even played below the level of the lowly Orioles this year. Their talent is few and far between and even harder to spot after Nick Castellanos and Shane Greene were dealt at the deadline. They currently have no qualified hitters with a wRC+ over 100 and just a small handful of pitchers who would be considered useful on any good team. I’m being harsh here but it really is hard to compliment a team that is 38-87 on the year and has already been eliminated from AL Central contention. What They Do Well: Oh lord, well, I’ll really be stretching what it means to “do well” in something, and liberties will have to be taken given the context of their baseball-reference page. The Tigers do actually have some solid starting pitching as they rank 13th in baseball by fWAR for starters. Most of this is carried by the efforts of Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, and Daniel Norris who have all been able to soak innings with peripherals that range from “good” to “passable” which is truly something to note for a team in this situation. Usually I have more here but honest to God I cannot find anything worth writing about. What They Do Not Do Well: OOOH BABY, how much time do I have? Well, let’s start with the offense that’s about as offensive as Mister Rogers. They have the worst team wRC+ in baseball with a 76 mark which is just one point ahead of Nick Punto’s Twins wRC+. It gets even worse when looking at just the last seven days in which they’ve held a mark of 50 and have struck out an incredible 36.6% of the time. I mentioned before that they currently have no qualified hitters with a mark that is at or above average (100) and the only player above that line is Travis Demeritte and his 109 mark in just 77 plate appearances. “Does it get worse?” My sweet summer child, it always can. Their bullpen FIP is the third highest in baseball at 5.11. You want a comparison for that? Addison Reed had a FIP of 5.11 with the Twins... that’s the most horrific statement I’ve probably ever written. After trading Greene, they’re left with just a single reliever with a FIP under 4.00 who has thrown more than 10 innings. You want to guess who it is? Surprisingly, it isn’t Joe Jiménez but actually the wonderfully named Buck Farmer. But after him, there's a bunch of sketch and not a lot of experience. Individuals Of Note: Matt Boyd has been a good starting pitcher this year with peripherals that suggests an even better pitcher is deep down within him, but the home run problem that has nagged him for months now remains one of the biggest reasons why there is such a difference between his ERA and xFIP. Only 5 qualified starters in the AL have a higher HR/FB % than Boyd’s 17.6% mark. A guy with a homer problem going up against the 2019 Twins? What could go wrong. Although, Boyd was placed on the paternity list recently so his status for this series is up in the air. One of the other starters I mentioned was Spencer Turnbull who can pitch as well as someone named “Spencer Turnbull” should be able to. His FIP of 4.18 is solid but his real talent is the Rick Anderson special-the ground ball, and his GB% of 48.8% would be the seventh highest among qualified AL starters if he were qualified. Ex-Twins’ farmhand (and major leaguer for all of like 5 minutes), Niko Goodrum, is having the only real noteworthy season from a Tigers’ position player as he’s the only one still with the team who is above .3 fWAR (he’s at 1.9) and he also looks to be the only position player on the Tigers to eclipse the 2.0 mark set for “average” major leaguers. Goodrum is currently BABIP-ing his way to a solid year as a multi-positional-weapon as he has logged innings at every position except for catcher and as this article is being written he sits with a respectable wRC+ of 94. As snarkily mentioned before, his BABIP on the year is an above average .341 so he may be due for some regression but even if he is, he remains one of the few bright spots on the Tigers. Recent History: The Twins and Tigers have played a few times this year and the Twins are 6-3 against them but the last series against them came all the way back in the second week of June which might as well be an eternity ago. Recent Trajectories: The Twins are 8-8 over their last 5 series while the Tigers are 6-11 over their last 5 series. Pitching Match-ups: Friday: Berríos vs VerHagen Saturday: Gibson vs Jackson (holy crap it’s Edwin Jackson) Sunday: Pérez vs Boyd (The Tigers rotation is in limbo so this may change) Ending Thoughts: The Tigers are bad, like, really bad. Potentially some weird “baseball-like” thing will occur like it did the other day when they were able to beat Justin Verlander and the Astros at Houston, but there should really be no reason or excuse that the Twins can’t take the series or sweep. In my eyes, a series win is the very least they can do and a sweep should be expected given the difference between the two teams, but I would still lead with some caution given how tricky baseball can be sometimes. Anyway, I will call a sweep despite the fact that I am now on a two-series wrong streak. Hopefully I’ll get back on track. Click here to view the article
  19. Brief Overview: Let’s not mince words here, Detroit is a poor team who has somehow even played below the level of the lowly Orioles this year. Their talent is few and far between and even harder to spot after Nick Castellanos and Shane Greene were dealt at the deadline. They currently have no qualified hitters with a wRC+ over 100 and just a small handful of pitchers who would be considered useful on any good team. I’m being harsh here but it really is hard to compliment a team that is 38-87 on the year and has already been eliminated from AL Central contention. What They Do Well: Oh lord, well, I’ll really be stretching what it means to “do well” in something, and liberties will have to be taken given the context of their baseball-reference page. The Tigers do actually have some solid starting pitching as they rank 13th in baseball by fWAR for starters. Most of this is carried by the efforts of Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, and Daniel Norris who have all been able to soak innings with peripherals that range from “good” to “passable” which is truly something to note for a team in this situation. Usually I have more here but honest to God I cannot find anything worth writing about. What They Do Not Do Well: OOOH BABY, how much time do I have? Well, let’s start with the offense that’s about as offensive as Mister Rogers. They have the worst team wRC+ in baseball with a 76 mark which is just one point ahead of Nick Punto’s Twins wRC+. It gets even worse when looking at just the last seven days in which they’ve held a mark of 50 and have struck out an incredible 36.6% of the time. I mentioned before that they currently have no qualified hitters with a mark that is at or above average (100) and the only player above that line is Travis Demeritte and his 109 mark in just 77 plate appearances. “Does it get worse?” My sweet summer child, it always can. Their bullpen FIP is the third highest in baseball at 5.11. You want a comparison for that? Addison Reed had a FIP of 5.11 with the Twins... that’s the most horrific statement I’ve probably ever written. After trading Greene, they’re left with just a single reliever with a FIP under 4.00 who has thrown more than 10 innings. You want to guess who it is? Surprisingly, it isn’t Joe Jiménez but actually the wonderfully named Buck Farmer. But after him, there's a bunch of sketch and not a lot of experience. Individuals Of Note: Matt Boyd has been a good starting pitcher this year with peripherals that suggests an even better pitcher is deep down within him, but the home run problem that has nagged him for months now remains one of the biggest reasons why there is such a difference between his ERA and xFIP. Only 5 qualified starters in the AL have a higher HR/FB % than Boyd’s 17.6% mark. A guy with a homer problem going up against the 2019 Twins? What could go wrong. Although, Boyd was placed on the paternity list recently so his status for this series is up in the air. One of the other starters I mentioned was Spencer Turnbull who can pitch as well as someone named “Spencer Turnbull” should be able to. His FIP of 4.18 is solid but his real talent is the Rick Anderson special-the ground ball, and his GB% of 48.8% would be the seventh highest among qualified AL starters if he were qualified. Ex-Twins’ farmhand (and major leaguer for all of like 5 minutes), Niko Goodrum, is having the only real noteworthy season from a Tigers’ position player as he’s the only one still with the team who is above .3 fWAR (he’s at 1.9) and he also looks to be the only position player on the Tigers to eclipse the 2.0 mark set for “average” major leaguers. Goodrum is currently BABIP-ing his way to a solid year as a multi-positional-weapon as he has logged innings at every position except for catcher and as this article is being written he sits with a respectable wRC+ of 94. As snarkily mentioned before, his BABIP on the year is an above average .341 so he may be due for some regression but even if he is, he remains one of the few bright spots on the Tigers. Recent History: The Twins and Tigers have played a few times this year and the Twins are 6-3 against them but the last series against them came all the way back in the second week of June which might as well be an eternity ago. Recent Trajectories: The Twins are 8-8 over their last 5 series while the Tigers are 6-11 over their last 5 series. Pitching Match-ups: Friday: Berríos vs VerHagen Saturday: Gibson vs Jackson (holy crap it’s Edwin Jackson) Sunday: Pérez vs Boyd (The Tigers rotation is in limbo so this may change) Ending Thoughts: The Tigers are bad, like, really bad. Potentially some weird “baseball-like” thing will occur like it did the other day when they were able to beat Justin Verlander and the Astros at Houston, but there should really be no reason or excuse that the Twins can’t take the series or sweep. In my eyes, a series win is the very least they can do and a sweep should be expected given the difference between the two teams, but I would still lead with some caution given how tricky baseball can be sometimes. Anyway, I will call a sweep despite the fact that I am now on a two-series wrong streak. Hopefully I’ll get back on track.
  20. It has been a week since the Minnesota Twins' last off day, and in that time they've played six games, all on the road and all against divisional opponents. The Good: The good news is that the Twins still don't have a losing segment on their schedule. This means that they have yet to have a losing road trip or home stand. The team ended the week with a slug fest against the Detroit Tigers, but early in the week it was Jose Berrios' start that snapped a 2-game losing "streak." Berrios looked like everything an ace should be, righting the team's ship following two poor performances, the first game being Devin Smeltzer looking good except for four mistake pitches that were belted for home runs and the second a game where the Twins pitching and defense squandered an offense that put up 7 runs. Of course Berrios wouldn't have been able to win the game if it wasn't for Max "Power" Kepler breaking his 0-21 at-bat streak with 3 home runs. The Twins bats are still another good, with the team hitting 16 more home runs to bring their season total to 125. The Bad: I'm going to have to say that the bad of this week was probably a few pitchers just losing it when they needed it. The week started with Smeltzer's mistakes leading to 5 runs, which was the first loss. Game two featured 7 Twins' runs, but also featured Blake Parker giving up 3 runs in one inning and the team losing by 2. Skipping to the Twins 9-3 loss on Saturday in Detroit, starter Kyle Gibson gave up 5 runs while reliever Matt Magill gave up 4 in one inning. So, the Twins definitely need to find some more consistency especially out of the bullpen. It is worth noting that Smeltzer has been sent back down to triple-A with the return of Michael Pineda. The Ugly: The Twins not landing Craig Kimbrel. This is less about the team and more about the fans around the team. Reports are that the Twins made a very competitive offer, but Kimbrel decided to sign with the Chicago Cubs, reportedly because he wanted at least a three year deal. The reception by fans has not been happy. Kimbrel undoubtedly has elite stuff, and could be key to a Cubs playoff run, which would only make Twins fans more angry. Of course I alluded to it before, but the casual fan saw Kimbrel as the move to solidify the bullpen and give consistency to a group that can really rely on one maybe two pitchers in high leverage situations. However, I don't know that the Kimbrel move would have done that. Kimbrel has yet to face any big league hitters this year, and likely won't see the field for another few weeks. Nobody knows where his stuff will be after not having pitched since last October, it might take a month to figure out, or he might not be very good for the whole rest of this year. The final gripe that I've seen with this deal, or lack thereof, is that this is "typical Pohlad penny-pinching." However, Kimbrel's issue wasn't with money but with years, so the Twins may have been ready to put up the money, but didn't want to lock themselves in and be prevented from making moves in the future. In any case, this was a miss on a free agent that is sure to cause a rift between a lot of fans and the team, especially if the bullpen does not perform up to snuff for what should be a good playoff team.
  21. We are now at the point in the Major League Baseball calendar where exhibition games have commenced, teams are looking at how to fill out their 25-man roster, and the regular season is on the horizon. Although a few marquee free agents remain, I’m at a point where I feel good about how what could potentially be baseball’s worst division, is going to play out. The incumbent division winning Cleveland Indians are ready to defend their throne and it’ll be on a challenger to emerge. Including current PECOTA projections (as of February 26, 2019) next to predicted records, here’s how this writer has the standings for the American League Central playing out: 1. Minnesota Twins 92-70 (83-79) No team has done more in the division to take strides forward than the Twins for 2019. While that’s great in a vacuum, no team was also able to make bigger moves than Minnesota as well. I’ve dug deeper into why I think this is realistic in a secondary piece here, but the front office must be hoping what they’ve done is enough. Despite what’s being billed as a “wait and see” type approach, I’m all in on the Falvey and Levine being vindicated in their decision making. 2. Cleveland Indians 89-73 (96-66) Quite opposite of the Twins, arguably no team within the division has gotten worse than the Indians. Cleveland loses Michael Brantley as well as Carlos Santana. They’ve replaced the latter with Edwin Encarnacion, but there’s no outfield to speak of, and significant reliance on repeat performances. Trevor Bauer, Jose Ramirez, and Francisco Lindor all posted career year’s in 2018, all while Cleveland mustered just 91 wins. Lindor will miss the beginning of the season, and despite the rotation still being among the best in baseball, it’s hard not wondering what else to fall in love with surrounding this team. 3. Chicago White Sox 73-89 (70-92) One of the trendiest teams in baseball right now, the White Sox are being lauded for their stellar farm system. There’s no denying that Eloy Jimenez is a stud, and he’s backed by names like Kopech, Cease, and Robert. The first starter on that list is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery though, and there’s always an incredible amount of volatility when it comes to top prospects (ask Twins fans about that.) Manny Machado would’ve moved the needle for this franchise, but instead of going all in, Kenny Williams signed friends and family hoping that would be enough. Chicago will get there, and an 11-game jump in the win column from 2018 is no small task, but that’s about where the fun ends. 4. Kansas City Royals 69-93 (72-90) Welcome to the dreaded middle ground. It was great for the Royals that they popped up and won a World Series, as the fanbase could be looking at mediocrity or worse for quite some time. The big-league club is void of any real star potential, and the farm system is among the worst in baseball. Kansas City can’t spend big with it making any sort of a difference, but they’ve also yet to hit on any prospects that put them in a better light going forward. If you’re a Royals fan, the highlight of the season is June 3rd when Dayton Moore will have the second overall pick in the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft. 5. Detroit Tigers 62-100 (67-95) If Kansas City is considered the dreaded middle ground, then Detroit is trending in a much better direction. The Tigers have a strong farm system headlined by pitching stalwarts, and they also hold the 5th overall pick this summer. There’s still plenty of questions surrounding both Michael Fulmer and Matthew Boyd, and Detroit is hoping to see Nicholas Castellanos take yet another step forward, but there’s some building blocks here. Miguel Cabrera is on his way to Cooperstown, but Niko Goodrum has provided some immediate intrigue in the infield. This team won’t be good in 2019, but they could certainly flip the script in the coming years. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  22. With free agency being a bit slower moving (to put it nicely) this offseason, this piece comes out a few weeks later than in previous years. At this point, there's still a handful of quality major league talent unemployed. For the most part, I think the AL Central is looking towards the year ahead as opposed to who else can join them in competing during 2018. Projection systems have started to run win totals for the upcoming season, and major sportsbook Bovada has also posted over/under win totals for each team. Rather than hold out for the last of the remaining free agents to leave IMG Academy in Bradenton, it's time to throw numbers out for the Twins and their competition. Here's how I see the AL Central in 2018: 1. Cleveland Indians (98-64) The team at the top of the division seems to have taken a slight step backwards over the offseason. Carlos Santana left for the Phillies, and key pen arm Bryan Shaw is no longer in the mix. Yonder Alonso will have to recapture his Oakland magic if he's going to remove the memory of Santana, and it'll be lightning in a bottle if Melvin Upton or one of the MiLB deals pans out well. That said, the Indians are still the team to be in the division, and it's largely on the backs of a strong pitching staff. Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco remain lights out at the top, with a strong duo of Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer behind them. The bottom half of the Central getting weaker should help add some additional wins to offset some of the talent losses. 2. Minnesota Twins (87-75) If you asked me to take a bet on what was more likely, the Twins win 90 games or lose 81, I'd take the former. After making a Postseason appearance a season ago, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine accomplished what they set out to do this winter. Although the club didn't land the big fish in Yu Darvish, Jake Odorizzi is a top three starter for them, and helps to supplement the roation. The relief corps was strengthened with the addition of Addison Reed, and both Zach Duke and Fernando Rodney should play a big role for this club. With so many players still looking for jobs, it's fair to wonder if Minnesota doesn't aim a bit higher than Kennys Vargas or Robbie Grossman for the DH role. I'd expect Miguel Sano to miss a handful of games due to suspension, but still think he'll have a shot at surpassing the 114 contests he got into a season ago. Another year of growth for the youth, plus some key veteran additions, make the Twins the most improved team in the AL. Their record is a reflection of battling back against regression, as well as a division that should have plenty more wins to be had from the doldrums. 3. Kansas City Royals (72-90) If there's a team that lost more than the Indians over the offseason, it's definitely the Royals. Unfortunately for Kansas City, they don't have near the ability left to overcome it. Exits from Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain will be felt mightily, and even if Mike Moustakas is brought back, the core just isn't there any longer. Jason Vargas played a key role in the first half for the Royals, and he's now in New York. Combine the exits with a lack of internal talent ready to step up and you've got somewhat of a doomsday scenario. Right now, the Royals are treading water but don't have much of a direction. The farm doesn't have anything in terms of top prospects, and there's a lot of fliers at the top that can play fill in roles. Without much in terms of capital to deal for future talent either, it could be a bit before the Royals find themselves relevant again. 4. Chicago White Sox (69-93) Arguably the most talent deprive 25 man roster in the division, the White Sox are in a full rebuild situation, but at least they know it. Having moved on from players in return for a good group of prospects, there's a plan in place here even if it takes a few more years to come to fruition. Over the winter, Chicago handed out a few low-risk veteran deals that should also be able to net them some pieces throughout the upcoming season. Yoan Moncada should be a staple at the big league level this season, but guys like Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech aren't there yet. Lucas Giolito needs to be a big arm for the South Siders, and players like Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, and Dylan Cease have to develop in the year ahead as well. Most of the names Chicago will build its future around won't show up in 2018, but fans should be checking the box scores on the farm frequently. 5. Detroit Tigers (66-96) The bottom three teams in the division provide nice comparisons to each other. If the Royals are treading water without a plan, and the White Sox are stripping it down to rebuild, the Tigers are old and stuck in some level of purgatory. Miguel Cabrera still has six-years and $184 million left on his deal, and I'd suspect no one would take on Cabrera's contract at this point. Michael Fulmer is a nice young piece, but he probably isn't going to be around by the time Detroit finds itself relevant again. For new skipper Ron Gardenhire, the club is going to have to find a direction sooner rather than later. The club should hang around in the early going, but fading down the stretch and holding somewhat of a fire sale seems like a good bet. Gardenhire was let go around the time Minnesota could see the rebuild bear fruit, so he'll be navigating some similar waters in Motown with 90 loss seasons checking off the past four years of his resume. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  23. Twitter was ablaze with the news that the Minnesota Twins had signed former Marlins and Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez to a one-year deal. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was the first to report a done deal, and also reported that it was a big-league deal worth $2.5 million over one year with the possibility of doubling that total via starts-based incentives. MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger passes on that the deal is not guaranteed, though it does mean Sanchez will get a 40-man spot — one step up from a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. Sanchez came over to the Tigers in the second-biggest deal between them and the Marlins — the other involved Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller — and after pitching well down the stretch in 2012 earned an $80 million deal over five years. The righty, who turns 34 later this month, turned in two strong seasons to start the contract. He finished fourth in AL Cy Young balloting in 2013 with a 2.57 ERA in 182 innings in 2013, and the next year posted a 3.43 ERA in 126 innings as he was limited to just 22 appearances (21 starts) and 126 innings. The last three years have been much more unsightly, and may serve more as a cautionary tale than anything. It’d have been hard to find a Twins fan not in favor of signing Sanchez five years ago when he got the big deal from the Tigers. And right now, it’s hard to dodge a burning torch or a pitchfork among Twins fans wondering why this is the move instead of something more substantive. But maybe signing Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb to a four- or five-year deal isn’t the answer. And maybe Sanchez’s deal with the Tigers shows why. But the Twins’ deal with Sanchez doesn’t really feel like the proper counterbalance to that argument, you know? Over the last three years, Sanchez has made 88 appearances (68 starts), and posted a 5.67 ERA. FIP is a bit more generous (5.01), but it hasn’t looked good. That’s over 400 innings, too — it’s not like we’re being hypnotized by a small sample size or even one really bad year ruining the other two. He’s gotten progressively worse by ERA: 4.99, 5.87 and 6.41. Looking for hope in Sanchez’s numbers begin and ends with his strikeout and walk rates, as he’s still fanned 8.2 batters per nine over this tough stretch — above his career rate of 8.0 — while walking just 2.8. But he’s allowed a WHIP of 1.43 — perilously high, and spells out his contact issues — and he’s allowed an MLB-worst 1.8 home runs per nine over that time frame. Please click through to Zone Coverage to read the full story here.
  24. Please click HERE to read this article in full on Zone Coverage! It’s sunny and cool with a tinge of October in the air as the Minnesota Twins prepare for the season-ending series against the Detroit Tigers. It’s Fan Appreciation Weekend, and to get that underway, the Twins will send righty Kyle Gibson (5.02 ERA, 4.86 FIP in 154.1 innings) to the mound, where he’ll be opposed by lefty Matt Boyd (5.12 ERA, 4.36 FIP in 130 innings). More on that in a bit. The biggest news buzzing around Target Field came about an hour before the clubhouse opened, as the Twins activated third baseman Miguel Sano from the disabled list. Sano isn’t in the lineup Friday, but could get in there to hit late or perhaps make a start or two over the weekend at DH. Ultimately, it’s all up in the air leading up to Tuesday, though Molitor said that Sano could even be on the postseason roster but not start that game. “I worked hard,” Sano said. “I worked hard, coming here every day early in the morning to do what I needed to do in terms of rehabbing in order to do to be at this point.” Sano said he’s been doing his normal rehab lately, and that includes some pool work and some work with a bone stimulator. “I’m super excited,” Sano said. “The team is going to the playoffs. We’re playing one game and we have to play 100 percent and have all the tools necessary to win the game. I’m excited.” “There’s really no downside (in activating Sano),” manager Paul Molitor said. “There’s really nowhere for him to go to try play or rehab. He had a couple good days yesterday and today. I think he’s finally at a point where some of the apprehension about risk of playing has subsided. He hit quite a bit today. He ran a bit today.” Molitor followed that with a cold splash of water, however. “The reality is, it’s encouraging to some degree, but we have to keep perspective,” Molitor said. “I mean, it was what, Aug. 19 (he last played)? That’s a long time not to face major-league pitching.” “There’s a possibility I’ll try to get him an at-bat tonight somewhere in the game. We’ll see how he responds to all the work he did today and how he feels tomorrow, and whether we’ll be able to get a chance to use him as a DH over the next couple days. But it’s just kind of wait and see.” Sano’s on-field work, with the bat at least, was impressive though, Molitor did note. “It’ll be fun to see him out on the field taking some swings,” Molitor said. “His batting practice looked really good today, considering he hasn’t hit a ton — over the past couple of weeks in particular. We’ll just have to measure it day-by-day through the weekend. Unfortunately, we’ve been compressed into a small time window to have to make a decision about moving forward after this weekend.” Molitor also wouldn’t rule out a simulated game for Sano to replicate some live swings against pitching to help get him up to speed.
  25. The Minnesota Twins started the series with the New York Yankees being 1.5 games back from Cleveland for first place in the American League Central. By the end of the series, Minnesota was only .5 games back. Cleveland lost the series to the San Fransisco Giants in San Fransisco while the Twins won the series in Minnesota over New York. Miguel Sano guided the Twins in the final game of the three game set hitting a three-run home run that was in the middle of a six run inning leading to a Twins victory 6-1. Cleveland will play Toronto in a three game series at Progressive Field over the weekend as the Twins are at home vs Detroit. Minnesota stays at home in a three game weekend series against the Detroit Tigers. This series comes at a good time for the Twins because Detroit just traded their slugger, J.D. Martinez, to the Arizona Diamondbacks for prospects. In Game 1 of the three game set, Anibal Sanchez will take the hill for the Tigers as All-Star Ervin Santana will pitch for Minnesota. For the second game, Detroit's Jordan Zimmermann will face Kyle Gibson before Matthew Boyd and Adalberto Mejia square off in the finale of the series on Sunday. The Twins have a couple hot hitters at the moment including second basemen Brian Dozier and All-Star Miguel Sano. Since the All-Star break, Dozier is 9-23, has 6 RBI, 2 HR, and has scored five times. Miguel Sano is 5-22, 4 RBI, 2 HR, and has scored five times since the break. Minnesota will look to gain ground on Cleveland and get into first place in the American League Central during the weekend.
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