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  1. The Rangers entertain the Twins in Texas in the middle game of a three game set. Buxton is back! La Tortuga is gone (for now), but not forgotten. Dobnak gets one last chance to show he can be in the rotation. Play ball. Pitchers: PLAYER W-L ERA WHIP IP H K BB HR R. Dobnak 1-6 8.38 1.73 38.2 56 24 11 10 K. Allard 2-2 2.91 1.12 34.0 29 37 9 4 Twins: J. Polanco 2B 0-0 0 0 0 .254 TODAY'S AT BATSFull Player Profile No at bats in this game B. Buxton CF 0-0 0 0 0 .370 N. Cruz DH 0-0 0 0 0 .300 T. Larnach LF 0-0 0 0 0 .259 R. Jeffers C 0-0 0 0 0 .221 M. Sano 1B 0-0 0 0 0 .179 M. Kepler RF 0-0 0 0 0 .204 A. Simmons SS 0-0 0 0 0 .241 L. Arraez 3B 0-0 0 0 0 .273 Rangers: HITTERS H-AB R RBI BB AVG I. Kiner-Falefa SS 0-0 0 0 0 .288 N. Lowe 1B 0-0 0 0 0 .242 A. Garcia CF 0-0 0 0 0 .273 J. Gallo RF 0-0 0 0 0 .218 N. Solak 2B 0-0 0 0 0 .233 W. Calhoun DH 0-0 0 0 0 .249 E. White LF 0-0 0 0 0 .169 J. Heim C 0-0 0 0 0 .195 C. Culberson 3B 0-0 0 0 0 .218
  2. Twins fans were rightfully excited about acquring slick fielding SS Andrelton Simmons last night. If you want to spend a fun 10 mintues, check out his defensive highlight reel . There's no doubt that grabbing the best defensive SS since Ozzie Smith will upgrade the Twins roster. Combine Simmons with already strong defenders in Buxton, Donaldson, Jeffers, and Kepler, you can see how quickly the mind would shift to "well, what does this mean for their pitching?". In my opinion, this means two things: 1) It upgrades the Twins existing staff (and should be helpful to one guy in particular) 2) It might tell us a bit about who the Twins could target next for a SP, given their newly upgraded defense Simmons Impact on Existing Twins Pitchers: Looking purely at GB% (calculated by the number of ground balls induced/number of balls put in play), we know that based on an improved defense, the more balls hit on the ground, the higher chance they have to be converted into outs than they did 24 hours ago (pre-Simmons signing). It's even more fun to look at how much better the Twins defense is than in 2017 when Falvey and Levine took over. JD Cameron takes a look into that here. From Fangraphs, a "ground ball pitcher" is any pitcher who has a GB% over 50%. League wide in 2019 - 2020, the average GB% was 42.8%. Here is how the Twins current staff stacks up by GB% using combined stats from the 2019 and 2020 seasons. For the most part, the majority of the staff has a below average GB% (would love to see what this chart looked like for the 2004 pitch-to-contact Twins). Two names stand out here. 1. Randy Dobnak - GB% of 58.8%*** 2. Taylor Rogers - GB% of 48.2% ***Since he came into the league, Randy Dobnak ranks 7th out of 284 pitchers in GB%. Which SP could the Twins acquire that would benefit most from the Twins defense? Given that any ball hit on the left side of the infield should be vaccumed up quicker than a Dyson, maybe this shifts how the front office approaches filling out the rotation. Ground ball pitchers stand to gain a lot if their infield can consistently convert more ground balls into outs. It's the little things in baseball that make the major differences. From 2019 - 2020, there were 284 pitchers that threw at least 75 IP. Below are the ranks and GB% for the remaining free agents. For this exercise, I only focused on FA that had a GB% at 44% or higher. You can see the entire list from Fangraphs here. Brett Anderson - 55.2% (17th) Jake Arrieta - 51.4% (30th) Adam Wainwright - 47.4% (71st) Cole Hamels - 47.0% (79th) Aaron Sanchez - 46.9% (81st) Homer Bailey - 44% (128th) Below are the ranks for potential trade candidates that have popped up in rumors. Again, I only focused on players with a GB% of 44% or higher. Luis Castillo - 56.1% (13th) Sonny Gray - 50.9% (35th) German Marquez - 49.5% (52nd) Jon Gray - 46.9% (81st) BONUS. Here are a couple bullpen free agents that could benefit from a good defensive infield: Jeremy Jeffress - 50.0% Alex Colome - 47.7% So there you have it. I will be interested to see how the Twins defense positively impacts the pitching staff all year long. Specifically, I am excited to see what this means for Randy Dobnak. For now, I am most interested to see what the Simmons acquisition means in how the Twins front office addresses the rest of their pitching needs. Do any names on this list jump out to you as being good targets for the Twins? Maybe now even moreso with a Simmons addition?
  3. Catch-Up What if I told you being tied for the best start in club history was not the leading headline for the Twins yesterday. What if I also told you Eddie "Destroyer of Junkballs," Rosario wasn't the leading story either after two awesome RBI singles. The leading story centers around arguably the most peculiar delay in baseball history, a drone hovering over Target Field. Despite this, the Twins pushed forward to route the Pirates 7-3 thanks to a good bounceback game from Berrios, timely hitting again, and Jake Cave see below. Where to Listen WCCO 830, TIBN Where to Watch Fox Sports North Starting Pitchers Minnesota: Randy Dobnak*, 1-1, 1.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 1.11 WHIP in two starts this season.Pittsburgh: Trevor Williams, 0-2. 5.40 ERA, 8.1 IP, 1.56 WHIP in two starts this season.*=Randy Dobnak: A word of caution| Per Twins Daily writer Andrew Thares, some caution should be exercised on the hot start by Dobnak because the batted balls against him through two starts have been hot as well. Again per Andrew Thares notebook entry for today, A quick glance at Dobnak’s Statcast numbers, and they tell a slightly different story. Opposing hitters have been making loud contact off Dobnak, to the tune of a 93.1 MPH average exit velocity, so far this year. For comparison, that is nearly as high as Nelson Cruz’s 93.7 MPH average exit velocity in 2019, which ranked second in all of baseball. Dobnak has also struggled a bit with walks to start the year. So far, Dobnak has already walked four batters, which is just one less than he walked in his 28 and 1/3 regular season innings in 2019. Avoiding walks and hard contact will be the thing to watch from Dobnak in his start tonight. Minnesota Batting Order* Pittsburgh Batting Order Storylines In my 23 years on this earth I don't believe I have seen a better bullpen for the Twins than the current one being touted out by Minnesota. We know the light's out nature of Taylor Rodgers and the surge of emotion Trevor May and Sergio Romo can bring but I am invested in every arm. From Cody Stashak's K to BB ratio, to Tyler Duffey ridiculous K%, it feels good to know that not only our bats can awaken at any time, but our bullpen can hold down the fort as well. My key guys to look at tonight are two players who are on opposite sides of the spectrum in regards to production right now, those players are Luis Arraez and Marwin Gonzalez. Marwin firstly has had some very competitive at-bats and currently has an OBP of .400 and with Donaldson out on IL, it really goes to show how deep this team is that with a huge free-agent piece banged up, you'd hardly notice it looking at the box scores. Now with Arraez I'll always remember that at-bat last season when he came in for Schoop inheriting an 0-2 count and then we all know the rest. Although we are seeing moments like that in flashes, Arraez is struggling right now as he is 0-16 in his last at-bats. Look for Marwin to continue to take advantage of his playing time tonight and look for Arraez to have a strong bounceback game against a struggling RHP.
  4. Okay, time to take a look at Lewis Thorpe. This is, afterall, the reason we all woke up this morning, right? Thankfully for all involved, we can skip the lengthy preamble and just get into the analysis. Like Dobnak, whom I covered in this space last week, Thorpe made his MLB debut for the Twins last season (though he started the year off in AAA, whereas Dobnak basically covered every level in the organization in 2019). Let’s take a look at Thorpe’s results from his MLB stint: • 27.2 IP (essentially the same sample as Dobnak) • 10.08 K/9 (yes, please) • 3.25 BB/9 (that’ll play) • 6.18 ERA (yikes) • 3.47 FIP (okay, let’s take a look at the BABIP, HR rates, and other batted ball tendencies) • 4.14 xFIP (so he had a lower than league average HR/FB rate, but honestly ½ of a run isn’t much in this small of a sample, it’s a difference of 1.5 ER allowed in 27 IP) I see a number of things I want to look at here, and we will see where this takes us: • Swinging Strike Rate: 11.8% • Zone Percentage: 44.3% • BABIP: .438 • HR/9: 0.98 • HR/FB: 10.3% • Line Drive Rate: 31.3% Let’s start with his plate discipline numbers to see whether we think these strikeout and walk rates, which are the stuff aces are made of (a quick a dirty thing to do to identify elite skills is to subtract the BB/9 from the K/9; anything over 6 is great). Let’s start off with the walks and underlying control skills. Thorpe was in the strike zone with 44.3% of his pitches in his limited MLB innings. Among qualified starters, he would have ranked 17th, just behind Yu Darvish and just ahead of Lance Lynn. As I mentioned last week, there were 61 qualified starters, so the top 20 is the top 1/3rd. It’s also worth mentioning that his BB/9 in nearly 100 AAA innings was 2.34 in 2019 and in AA and AAA in 2018, he compiled 130 innings with a 2.5 BB/9. I think it’s safe to say Thorpe has great control and can likely be relied upon to avoid free passes. On to strikeouts. Thorpe has consistently delivered a K/9 in the double digits throughout his time in AA, AAA, and MLB in 2017 (10.50), 2018 (10.92 in AA; 10.80 in AAA) and 2019 (11.12 in AAA, 10.08 in MLB). I’m happy to report that his swinging strike rate during his MLB stint backs this up. His 11.8 swinging strike rate would have been 22nd among qualifying starters (again, right around the top 1/3). As I noted with Dobnak, it is not particularly common for the same pitcher to post strong control numbers and miss a lot of bats. Here is the list of pitchers who had a zone percentage of at least 44.3% and a swinging strike rate of at least 11.8% (if you read the Dobnak post last week, this will look familiar). • Gerrit Cole – 16.8%/45.2% • Max Scherzer – 16.4%/45.6% • Justin Verlander – 16.1%/45.2% • Lucas Giolito – 15%/47.2% • Yu Darvish – 13.4%/44.5% • Charlie Morton – 12.9%/45.1% • German Marquez – 12.7%/46.6% • Walker Buehler – 12.1%/46.5% • Joe Musgrove – 12%/45.5% Still good company, just as it was for Dobnak last week (and I’m on board with prying Musgrove away from Pittsburgh). Okay, so he’s in the zone and missing bats. Those skills have consistently translated to strikeouts and walks (for pitchers in general, and for Thorpe since he was promoted to AA in 2017). So if he’s so great why did he post an ERA of more than 6 runs per nine innings? I know a lot of people won’t like to hear this, but he was unlucky. Pitchers cannot control everything that happens, and particularly in small samples some bad luck can really torch your ratios. For starters, he allowed a .438 BABIP. The highest BABIP among qualified starters was .347 – one hundred points lower! That’s a fluke. Thorpe also only stranded 66% of his baserunners. Only three qualified starters had lower strand rates, and none of then posted a K/9 over 8.5 (Musgrove had the lowest strand rate in the major leagues; more evidence that he'd be a great add). He was helped a bit by having a relatively low HR/FB, particularly given the fact that he allowed a lot of hard contact (39.8%), and the BABIP was fueled by a 31.3% line drive rate. It’s likely intuitive to anyone who has read this far, but line drives are by far the most likely type of batted ball to result in a base hit. Again, though, so much of all of this is dependent on such a small sample that it’s hard to know if that’s really who he is. If those line drives turned into fly balls he’d likely see his BABIP come down, but he’d also likely allow more home runs. It’s also feasible that a pitcher who misses bats like he does can figure out how to induce weaker contact, especially if he relies more heavily on his slider. A commenter noted on the Dobnak post that Dobnak had faced some weaker offenses. That’s also true of Thorpe, who faced AL central foes for the majority of his appearances. Something to keep in mind. Honestly, he’s a lot like Dobnak. The biggest difference between the two (aside from pedigree) is that Dobnak had good fortune with batted balls and Thorpe had bad fortune. All-in-all, I’d say Thorpe gives us plenty of reason to be excited about the possibilities for the back end of the rotation in 2020. The Twins don’t need all of the potential starters on the 40-man to be great, and they appear to have put together a system full of high variance, high upside arms. Not a bad place to be.
  5. I’m going to dive into blogging here and see where it goes. Sometimes, as a writer, the hardest thing is to come up with an idea that’s worth writing about and that people will actually be interested to read. I expect that to be my struggle, but I’ve got what I think will be an interesting series to kick things off, and maybe that will be the extent of my contributions. Time will tell. In any case, nobody wants to read about me. You want to see what information you can glean about our Twins. Given the rampant discussions on Twitter and on various blogs regarding the state of the Twins’ pitching staff, I thought it would be interesting to do a series on the numbers underlying the starters currently projected to be in the mix for the Twins. While I’m sure others will make starts this season, here are the guys I’m hoping to work my way through for this series: Jose Berrios Jake Odorizzi Michael Pineda Rich Hill Homer Bailey Devin Smeltzer Lewis Thorpe Randy Dobnak By way of framing the series, I think there are pretty clearly three different groups. The known (but in some cases misunderstood) quantities, the new veterans, and the prospects. When the season starts, we know Pineda and Hill will not be in the rotation, and we know Berrios, Odorizzi, and Bailey will be (barring injury, of course). That being the case, I decided to start off by diving into the three prospects (a term I’m using loosely, given the MLB experience they got last year), starting with Dobnak. A common question we hear, read, and think to ourselves as we are trying to fall asleep: “Can Randy Dobnak be a key piece of a successful playoff run?” I can cut to the chase and just say the answer is yes, but if you want to know why, go ahead and keep reading the words. Let’s start by looking at Dobnak’s surface-level stats: 28.1 IP – lots and lots of caveats about the small sample 7.31 K/9 – not inspiring, but we will need to take a look at his swinging strike rates 1.59 BB/9 – elite, but let’s see how often he’s really in the strike zone 1.59 ERA – wow, but a lot of this depends on the above 2.90 FIP – also wow 3.77 xFIP – still wow, but we will need to look into his batted ball tendencies because 0.32 HR/9 is the reason for the jump from his FIP to his xFIP. Okay, so we have a few things to dive into: Swinging Strike Rates, which are generally highly correlated to K/9 Zone Percentage, which is highly correlated to BB/9 Batted Ball Tendencies, which are going to be a bit more difficult to use to extrapolate, given the small sample. Getting hitters to swing and miss, and throwing strikes are generally skills the pitcher possesses (or does not), while the results – K/9, BB/9, HR/9, etc. Fluctuate due to randomness, umpire tendencies, opponents’ skill, etc. (esp in small samples). Here’s what we see for Dobnak on those plate discipline skills: 43.8% of his pitches were in the strike zone 12.9% of his pitches resulted in a swinging strike Putting those numbers into context, 61 pitchers qualified for the ERA title last season, so the median pitcher would be the one whose result was 31st among qualified starters. For swinging strike, it turns out that is a couple of familiar names: Jose Berrios and Homer Bailey at 10.8 percent. Looking at zone percentage, there is a three way tie among Jeff Smardzija, Mike Soroka, and Bailey again at 42.6 percent (a bit of a preview of the Bailey post. Hmm). By now you’ve surely noticed that Dobnak’s numbers were markedly above the median. In fact, his zone percentage of 43.8% would have tied him with Zach Eflin for 20th among all qualified starting pitchers, just a tick below Noah Syndergaard at 43.9 percent. His swinging strike rate of 12.9% puts him in a three way tie with Charlie Morton and Clayton Kershaw, who were tied for 14th among qualified starters. Obviously good company. It gets better. If you look at qualified starters who posted at least a 12.9% swinging strike rate combined with a 43.9% zone percentage – that rare combination of being in the zone and missing bats – here is the list you get for 2019: Gerrit Cole – 16.8%/45.2% Max Scherzer – 16.4%/45.6% Justin Verlander – 16.1%/45.2% Lucas Giolito – 15%/47.2% Yu Darvish – 13.4%/44.5% Charlie Morton – 12.9%/45.1% Just missed: Clayton Kershaw German Marquez Lance Lynn Noah Syndergaard Trevor Bauer Walker Buehler Does this mean Dobnak is in the company of these elite aces? Of course not. What it does suggest, though, is that his success was not a fluke. He displayed an elite combination of skills in missing bats (which generates strikeouts) and living in the strike zone (which prevents walks). This suggests that he has considerable upside. He also threw essentially a major league innings load last year – compiling more than 160 innings across 4 levels from High A to the majors. This suggests he’s capable of providing the Twins with volume as well as quality, something that is not always the case for prospect pitchers. There are reasons to be worried, though. The difference between Dobnak’s FIP and his xFIP was driven by an unsustainably low 5.3% HR/FB rate. The lowest HR/FB rate among qualified starters was 9.3%, and given Dobnak’s 42.5% hard hit rate, it’s safe to assume more of those fly balls will reach the seats going forward. That said, if he regresses to the mean in HR/9 and posts 150 innings with a sub-4.00 ERA, that’s obviously a serviceable starting pitcher. And, given that FIP and xFIP were driven by his 7.31 K/9, if those swinging strikes turn that into a 9.00+ K/9, he has considerable upside to deliver a lower ERA.
  6. 1987. That Twins team was the fourth best out of four teams. They had no business beating Detroit. They had no business beating St. Louis. The third starter was Les Straker. Al Michaels made fun of the Metrodome the entirety of the World Series. Whitey Herzog’s haircut was dumb as hell. Tom Kelly was 17. They won anyway. This can’t keep happening. If ever a team was due to beat another team, it’s the Minnesota Twins versus the New York Yankees. The math is just ridiculous at this point. You are more likely to get hit by spooky lightning while winning the Powerball than to have New York’s record vs. the Twins the last 20 years (don’t look this up). This dominance is unsustainable. We’re good people who deserve nice things. We volunteer in the community. We maintain healthy relationships with our family. We donate to charity. We stay off our phones in restaurants and have meaningful conversations with the rest of the table. The ROI on common decency should frankly be better than what Twins fans have gotten. “You do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because of some potential reward,” some might say. Some might blow it out their ass, no disrespect. The Yankees pitching is different now. Remember when the Yankees had Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte and they shut out the Twins every game from 1999-2018? Even though they were retired for many of those years, and they just kept doing it anyway? I’ve checked New York’s playoff roster. Neither Mussina nor Pettitte is on it. This is the most positive development for the Twins since they got $50,000 and Johan Santana from the Marlins for Jared Camp. This is not a joke and I am not kidding. DOBNAK. He’s probably going to start Game 2 or 3. He and Devin Smeltzer are the best stories in a season of great stories for the Minnesota Twins. The national media loves guys like this, and they thirst to tell these kinds of tales. I’m not saying Fox or ESPN will lean on MLB to give the Twins a break. I’m also not saying that’s the reason Phil Cuzzi is not a part of this series’ playoff crew. I’m just a man who notices things is all. Nothing more than that. DOBNAK. That weight off your shoulders? That lightness in your step? That’s optimism. Embrace it.
  7. The last couple decades of this matchup have been hard to watch if you’re a Minnesota fan. Even though the Twins won 101 games this season, they enter this series decided underdogs once again. You need a reason to buy in to this year being different. Here are five of them. 1987. That Twins team was the fourth best out of four teams. They had no business beating Detroit. They had no business beating St. Louis. The third starter was Les Straker. Al Michaels made fun of the Metrodome the entirety of the World Series. Whitey Herzog’s haircut was dumb as hell. Tom Kelly was 17. They won anyway.This can’t keep happening. If ever a team was due to beat another team, it’s the Minnesota Twins versus the New York Yankees. The math is just ridiculous at this point. You are more likely to get hit by spooky lightning while winning the Powerball than to have New York’s record vs. the Twins the last 20 years (don’t look this up). This dominance is unsustainable.We’re good people who deserve nice things. We volunteer in the community. We maintain healthy relationships with our family. We donate to charity. We stay off our phones in restaurants and have meaningful conversations with the rest of the table. The ROI on common decency should frankly be better than what Twins fans have gotten. “You do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because of some potential reward,” some might say. Some might blow it out their ass, no disrespect.The Yankees pitching is different now. Remember when the Yankees had Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte and they shut out the Twins every game from 1999-2018? Even though they were retired for many of those years, and they just kept doing it anyway? I’ve checked New York’s playoff roster. Neither Mussina nor Pettitte is on it. This is the most positive development for the Twins since they got $50,000 and Johan Santana from the Marlins for Jared Camp. This is not a joke and I am not kidding.DOBNAK. He’s probably going to start Game 2 or 3. He and Devin Smeltzer are the best stories in a season of great stories for the Minnesota Twins. The national media loves guys like this, and they thirst to tell these kinds of tales. I’m not saying Fox or ESPN will lean on MLB to give the Twins a break. I’m also not saying that’s the reason Phil Cuzzi is not a part of this series’ playoff crew. I’m just a man who notices things is all. Nothing more than that. DOBNAK.That weight off your shoulders? That lightness in your step? That’s optimism. Embrace it. Click here to view the article
  8. The Twins visit Detroit in the second game of a three game season with only five games to play. Their magic number is two. Any combination of two Twins wins or Cleveland losses wins the Central for Minnesota, their first division championship since 2010. Detroit is wrapping up a terrible season, they are 46-110 and they have talent commensurate with their record. They have hit pretty well against the Twins, but lack power. The Tigers will face Twins folk hero Randy Dobnak today. Dobnak has climbed from independent minor league to the major leagues and has pitched very effectively, first as an opener and in his last two starts as a legitimate starter. Dobnak started 2019 in Class A Fort Myers and now stands a legitimate chance of starting a postseason game for the Central champions, if the Twins get there. Health. IMHO, is the key element of the Twins hopes in postseason. If they are to compete against either the Astros or Yankees, they must put forward the best possible 25-man roster and currently about a half dozen players are not as full strength. Today's starting lineup features the return of Mitch Garver and another start for CJ Cron. Marwin Gonzalez and Max Kepler are out, as is Ehire Adrianza. The Twins have a rested bullpen, which will be leaned on heavily, most likely. Regarding the aforementioned magic number, Cleveland plays Chicago again and the White Sox are putting out a less-than-stellar starter. I am not counting on the Sox helping the Twins clinch the division. Minnesota 97-60 Garver c Polanco ss Cruz dh Rosario rf Sanó 3b Arraez lf Cron 1b LaMarre cf Schoop 2b Dobnak p Detroit 46-110 Reyes rf Castro, H. cf Cabrera dh Candelario 1b Stewart lf Lugo 3b Mercer 2b Greiner c Castro, W. ss Norris p
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