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  1. With Nelson Cruz reaching free agency, the Twins need to add a impact bat this offseason in order to seriously contend in 2021. The most talked about, and most likely outcome to that problem is that the Twins bring back Nelson Cruz on a one or two year deal with the hopes that Nellie continues to age like a fine wine, rather than most 40 year old baseball players. However, it is a rather big concern that he does fall off the metaphorical cliff in 2021, and almost a certainty that by 2022 he will only be a shell of his former self at the plate. It is the height of this competitive window for the Minnesota Twins, and the risk of depending on a 40 year old to hold back major signs of regression, is just too much. Last year saw Cruz's exit velocity drip from 93.7 in 2019 to 91.6. Not only was the average exit velocity lower, but so was the much more telling, max exit velocity. In both 2018 and 2019 Cruz's max exit velocity was 117.0. In 2020, that fell to 114.4. Cruz also benefited from extraordinarily high BABIP during his time in Minnesota (.351 and .360). Nelson Cruz has a career average BABIP of .309 which is already above average (BABIP on average is .300, and only deviates by luck for hitters). This suggests that Cruz was extremely lucky at the plate in Minnesota, and his rate stats have ought to fall. Nelson Cruz seems primed for a nosedive if not this year, then next year for sure. So what's the alternative? $18 Million a year for 4 years for one Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna is coming off a blazing hot 179 WRC+ for the NL runner-up Atlanta Braves. Ozuna is 10 years younger than Cruz, and thus could be seen being a potent bat in the Twins line-up for the next 4 years. $18 million, is a lot, but it's only a couple million more than Cruz is rumored to get. Could locking down the DH for the next 4 years create a potential log jam of poor fielding, slugging hitters? Sure, but when is too much hitting depth ever a bad thing? Never. Ozuna had a breakout in 2020, and there is no reason to expect him to uphold a 179 WRC+, so let's take a look at other players that have had a breakout season and their regression the following year. Take Max Kepler's 2019 breakout, 121 WRC+ and 123 OPS+. If we use the ever so simple Marcel projection system, which weights the player's 3 most recent seasons and weights them as such: 1*3rd most recent season + 2*2nd most recent season + 3*most recent season. Take that, divide by 6 and you have the projected number (This system is the MOST basic projection system and named "marcel the monkey" because it's so easy a monkey could do it, but as we will see it works). Max Kepler 2017: 95 OPS+ 94 WRC+ Max Kepler 2018: 97 OPS+ 98 WRC+ Max Kepler 2019: 123 OPS+ 121 WRC+ (breakout) Marcel the Monkey's back of the napkin math projection for 2020: 109.66 OPS+ 108.83 WRC+ Max Kepler's actual 2020: 108 OPS+ 107 WRC+ Marcel almost got it dead on, sure this is only one case so let's look at Cuddyer's 2006 too. Michael Cuddyer 2004: 102 WRC+ Michael Cuddyer 2005: 98 WRC+ Michael Cuddyer 2006: 123 WRC+ (breakout) Marcel's Cuddyer prediction for 2007: 111.16 WRC+ Michael Cuddyer's 2007: 111 WRC+ Again, Marcel is dead on. So, let's let Marcel predict Marcell's 2021. Marcell Ozuna 2018: 107 WRC+ Marcell Ozuna 2019: 109 WRC+ Marcell Ozuna 2020: 179 WRC+ Marcel's Marcell Ozuna 2021: 143.66 WRC+ Marcel says that Marcell will have an outstanding 2021 and be in the top 10 hitters in baseball. Other, more sophisticated projections suggest Ozuna will regress a bit further than Marcel says, perhaps to 125 WRC+. However that is still an elite hitter that should be a monster for years to come wherever he lands, hopefully in Minnesota.
  2. Bear with me now - I am about to go off the baseball rails here. I read all the speculation, all the projections of player salaries and all the moaning from our team and fans and the rest of the teams and their fans so I am going to say something no one wants to hear. We do not need an Ace, we do not need a superstar! There it has been said. The follow up to that is - and I want us to win the series! Okay, now for my reasons. Lets start with the easiest - the Ace. The Ace in the 1800s pitched much more than any current pitcher. Old Hoss Radbourne won more games - 59 than any pitcher starts in a season. He was the triple crown of pitching leader - 1.38 earned run average, 59 wins and 441 strikeouts. I know we are all about strikeouts now - look at that total. And he pitched 12 years! Okay that was an Ace that made a real difference. Then we got to the 30 win era where this was the standard that really set out the ACE - Denny McClain in 1968 was the last to win 30. There were 21 thirty game win seasons with most in the early 1900s. And they still had arms on their bodies the next year. These thirteen pitchers were also Aces of course Denny took to Aces in the gambling dens and ruined his career. Then came the twenty game winners - with Warren Spahn winning 20 - 13 different years during his career - despite losing years to serving in the war. His last 20 game year came in my high school graduation year - 1963. He and the other 20 game regulars were Aces. On this list of twenty game winners is Nolan Ryan - yes he also lost a lot, but he was the real leader into the strikeout era and he also was a complete game pitcher. Then we went to five man rotations and now to openers (the shame) and the argument that wins don't matter. The above pitchers also completed games - Cy Young completed 749 games - yes he won and lost games. And he earned his wins just like the other Aces above. Now, the Ace not only pitches one of five games, but only 6 - 7 innings in most outings. I see Kershaw get $35m a year and think - why? He cannot even move them forward in the off season and his speed is diminishing. Sign two number twos and three number threes and we will be better off than signing a one, running out of money and ending up with most games being toss ups or worse. Of course you can also make that a different combinations of 2s,3s,and 4s, but don't break the bank on the ACE. Then there is the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado madness. Who in the world is worth the kind of money they are talking about. Living in MN I have heard for years about how the Mauer contract impacted the team ability to sign other players (I know it was an excuse, a joke, not real), but 300 - 400m is not a joke. Look at Mike Trout - the greatest player of our current era. By himself he cannot lead them to a championship season. Nor has Machado or Harper shown that they can either. Each player is up to bat 3 - 5 times a game - that is all and if no one is on base they cannot drive them in. If they swing for the fences and have a crap average like Harper or Sano or Morrison did last year you get 30 HRs - which if they are spread out give you 30 games of production and 132 of small or no production. In the field only the catcher and first baseman are involved in the majority of fielding plays, so even in the field there is limited production most of the time. Since WAR is such a popular figure think about the numbers the best players puts up. No one is worth 80 or 90 WAR, the great ones are 10 and there are few is any each season. This individual game is still a team game and if the team does not pitch, field, hit, the team does not win and wins are what we want. Look at the Angels other player - HOF to be - Pujols. Tell me his worth to the team, tell me how that contract impacts the team. No - sign a lot of good players, good fielders, good on base average, good production people, steal some bases, be fast and be involved. It is the team with production 1 - 9, rotation 1 - 5, even slightly above average at all positions that wins. Not the team with the biggest star.
  3. Last year at DH for the Twins looked like this: Player PA R OBP SLG wOBA Robbie Grossman 257 39 .336 .398 .320 Kennys Vargas 129 17 .310 .425 .313 Miguel Sano 100 7 .300 .267 .254 Eduardo Escobar 74 7 .297 .424 .308 Joe Mauer 57 8 .386 .347 .331 Mitch Garver 12 1 .417 .500 .391 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Total 629 79 .326 .384 .309 Last year at the plate for Lucas Duda: Player PA R OBP SLG wOBA Lucas Duda 491 50 .322 .496 .341 The 31 year old played 792 innings last season at 1B for the Mets and Rays. Defensive metrics show he's similar to a Chris Davis or Matt Carpenter, but that is not what the Twins need since Joe Mauer is one of the top defensive 1B in the MLB. Here is my pitch for why the Twins should sign Duda: 1. Power (since 2015) Player SLG ISO XBH/100 HARD% Lucas Duda .479 .248 12.6 39.2% Eric Hosmer .463 .169 9.02 32.2% Chris Davis .486 .252 11.2 41.0% Duda has great power numbers comparable to some of the better 1B power bats over the past few seasons, being in the AL where he can DH will definitely boost his numbers since he can take more at-bats. 2. Age At 31, Duda is no spring chicken, but 1B has been on of the most forgiving positions as players age. Other 31 year-old 1B numbers: Player Year ISO OBP SLG wOBA Mike Napoli 2013 .223 .360 .482 .367 Jim Thome 2002 .373 .445 .677 .461 Edwin Encarnacion 2014 .279 .354 .547 .389 Justin Morneau 2012 .149 .333 .440 .330 3. Cost As far as contracts go, the high end Duda would go for is 1-2 years, $10M per season. A lot depends on how the free agent market changes during the off season. If the Twins can sign a defensive catcher in Castro for $8M per, they should be able to spend around the same amount for a power bat, if not more. 4. Ballpark How exciting would it be to see Duda driving balls out over the RF porch onto the concourse? As a lefty, Duda's swing would work perfect at Target Field. He hits 30.3% to CF and 46.2% to RF. 42.1% of his batted balls are hit hard, while less than 20% are hit soft. This combination of hard hit balls being hit to to the right side of the field is a lethal combination at Target Field. Click here for an image of every 2017 Lucas Duda home run with the Target Field dimensions overlaid. Conclusion: The Twins could use Duda as a DH and reliable 1B replacement for Mauer. He would thrive in Target Field and would produce extra pop in the middle of the Twins lineup. I'm a huge Eduardo Escobar fan, and I would love to see him be a key piece for the Twins as well. I believe signing Duda would allow for Escobar to be a full-time utility man at 3B/SS/2B/ My projections: PA R OBP SLG 450 47 .345 .485 500 51 .343 .488 550 64 .340 .490 600 75 .337 .492 650 76 .335 .486 700 81 .333 .482 My 2018 lineup: 1. Dozier 2B 2. Mauer 1B 3. Sano 3B 4. Rosario LF 5. Duda DH 6. Polanco SS 7. Buxton CF 8. Kepler RF 9. Castro C Thanks for reading and please leave a comment if you agree/disagree with anything.
  4. Baseball fans around the country are ready for another exciting MLB free agency free-for-all. Especially excited are Twins fans. Coming off a Wild Card season, the Twins and their new management look to become a power in the AL. Lets first look at what the Twins already have: Solid starting outfield Infield depth/flexability Strong offensive prospects And what we need to be successful: Stronger rotation Reliable bullpen One more solid bat in the middle of the lineup For the last bullet point in the "needs" list, some of our own guys have shown the ability to be that guy. Byron Buxton was very impressive in the second half of the season, but I think his defense makes him a valuable piece anyways. The player I was impressed with was Jorge Polanco. Polanco's offensive numbers through June were .242/.290/.346. Not impressive at all, but from July 1st till the end of the season he produced a much better stat line at .268/.333/.467. That is a huge jump not only in average and on-base but his slugging percentage jumped up 121 points! Hopefully he can continue his second half success at the plate and be a threat in the middle of the lineup. Another reason why Polanco can be valuable is because finding a solid shortstop is tough. An everyday shortstop who is dangerous at the plate is a scarce commodity. For a comparison, here are the number of players with at least 500 PA and wOBA greater or equal to 0.330 by position: 1B ----> 15 2B ----> 9 SS ----> 6 3B ----> 10 OF ----> 24 So having players like Polanco and Escobar that can play SS and do damage at the plate are valuable if they continue to produce. Now onto the wishlist. Here are my top 5 pitchers that I want the Twins to sign: 1. Yu Darvish RHP The obvious #1 here is Darvish. He's one of the best Pitchers in the MLB and at age 30, still has a nice chunk of career left. At around 6 years/$150M, Darvish will cost a lot to get, but he would be the best pitcher the Twins have had since Johan Santana. 2018 predictions: 75 Runs / 200 IP 2. Lance Lynn RHP At $56M over 4 years, Lance Lynn is a solid starting pitcher with lots of experience with over 970 major league innings pitched in his career. Lynn missed the 2016 season to have Tommy John surgery but didn't miss a beat last season. Lynn has a full repertoire of pitches and mixes them well. He has never been a huge strikeout guy but with his movement and control, he gets a lot of weak contact. In 2017, Lynn ranked 14th in the league with 21.1% of his batted balls hit softly. (Darvish - 20.5% Arrieta - 20.0% Scherzer 19.5%). 2018 predictions: 78 Runs / 200 IP 3. Alex Cobb RHP Alex Cobb is my number two pitcher at around 4 years/$48M, Cobb is a steal. He's got the stuff to be a 1 or 2 in the rotation. He has a fastball and slider both in the low to mid 90s, and a curveball in the low 80s. Something interesting about Cobb is his windup delivery, which can only really be described as herky jerky, but it can mess with hitter's rhythm. 2018 predictions: 69 Runs / 170 IP 4. Yusmerio Petit RHP Last season, Petit threw over 85 innings in relief with a WHIP of 0.96. Petit would be a great addition to the bullpen as a guy who can come in and eat up a couple innings per game. Holding onto a lead in the 6th - 8th innings is obviously important, which is what Petit can help the Twins pitching staff do. 2018 predictions: 22 Runs / 70 IP 5. Brandon Morrow RHP Morrow came into last season with just 43.2 innings pitched after a stint in AAA. Morrow has an exploding fastball that can reach 100mph. What I like most about Morrow is not only his incredible velocity, but his ability to hide the ball from hitters till the last second. Its hard enough for a hitter to pick up a 98mph fastball, and its that much tougher when they don't know where its coming from. Morrow is a strikeout machine and can really help the Twins in the later innings of ball games. Morrow would be higher on this list had it not been for his asking price of around $24M over 3 years. 2018 predictions: 11 Runs / 60 IP Obviously the Twins need pitching, but here is a quick rundown of free agent fielders that I wouldn't mind seeing the Twins sign: 1. Logan Morrison 1B/DH 2017 Stats: .246/.353/.516 wOBA = 0.363 2. Jay Bruce RF/DH 2017 Stats: .254/.324/.508 wOBA = 0.350 3. Yonder Alonso 1B/DH 2017 Stats: .266/.365/.501 wOBA = 0.366 4. Welington Castillo C 2017 Stats: .282/.323/..490 wOBA = 0.344 5. Lucas Duda 1B/DH 2017 Stats: .217/.322/.496 wOBA = 0.341 Basically I want another Jim Thome circa 2010, or Welington Castillo to split time with Jason Castro for more offensive production behind the plate. If the Twins make some moves this off season and buy during the trade deadline, this is a team that could make a run in the postseason.
  5. 19 year old Cuban OF Luis Robert was cleared by the MLB and is now an IFA... If he signs before July 2nd, he will not be subject to the new CBA rules, meaning he's going to get PAID... 6'3" 205 lbs. and considered one of the very best prospects in the world, behind Shohei Otani. Here's a video that Baseball America posted showcasing Robert's swing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew54lxdJw9U How much do you think he's going to get from the Yankees? I don't think the small market teams have a chance at this guy....
  6. Yahoo Sport's Jeff Passan reports that the two sides have agreed upon a three-year, $24.5 million contract. As Nick Nelson detailed in the Offseason Handbook, Castro hasn't shown much with his bat over the last three seasons, posting a combined .215/.291/.369 line over that time. It would seem in the Twins' best interested to use him in a platoon role with the right-handed swinging John Ryan Murphy. Over the last two seasons Castro hit a passable .225/.315/.417 against right-handed pitching. In that sense, the $8.2 million per year is a hefty fee for a platoon candidate but as the left-handed hitting one, Castro would play the lion's share of the games. Castro's biggest upside has been his defense. Specifically his ability to steal strikes from outside of the zone, particularly against right-handed hitters. This could be an immediate impact for pitchers. Consider Kyle Gibson. Gibson does not possess swing-and-miss stuff but has plenty of movement and stays around the zone. With his sinker and slider combo, Gibson could be one big benefactor to Castro's outer-half framing skills. Castro's receiving skill set goes beyond gaining a strike call from off the plate. It is ensuring that pitches that cut through the zone are also acknowledged as such. Consider this: over the last three season with Kurt Suzuki as the primary catcher, the Twins have had 81.3% of pitches that were in the strike zone and the batter watched it go by, called a strike -- the lowest in baseball. The Twins pitching staff, who did not need to be further behind the eight ball, was victimized to some degree by their catchers' performance. We cannot rule out some influence on inconsistent location or umpire biases, to be sure. However by comparison the Astros pitching staff, backstopped by Castro, had baseball's second best rate at 85.3%. While it may seem like a small percentage, that can make a significant difference in any given at bat. "Framing" might be the word that makes people cringe, as if the act is dishonest and swindling a human who is paid to make accurate calls. The reality is framing is receiving the ball in the right way. It is positioning your body to give the umpire a good look at a pitch. It is making a pitch that is one ball length off the plate look more like it clipped a part of the zone. What exactly does Castro's framing skills look like? Here he is stealing a called third strike, coaxing a pitch that passed by the zone back into it. http://i.imgur.com/Elr7puf.gif The previous front office regime did not put much, if any, emphasis on the value of catcher framing. The recent signings of Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Doumit did little to assist the pitching staff. Castro, on the other hand, has gone from a mediocre receiver to one of the game's highest valued, saving 32.2 framing runs above average (7th out of 103 qualified catchers) for the Astros over the last three seasons compared to Suzuki's -32.0 framing runs (100 out of 103 catchers). In theory, that is a six-game swing or could have been a two-game improvement in each season had the Twins employed Castro over Suzuki. When you break the numbers down further, we find that Castro is extremely adept at getting strikes called in hitter's counts. According to ESPN/Tru Media's framing stats, Castro was second in baseball among all catchers with a 15.3 framing runs above average mark when the hitter's were ahead. That means Castro was able to help get his pitcher from dangerous territory into more manageable areas. The move is not sexy from an offseason standpoint, however, this signing could give the Twins' pitching staff a much needed shot in the arm.
  7. The Minnesota Twins new front office did not waste much time addressing issues this offseason, first cutting ties with veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe, now Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal says the team has a deal in place with free agent catcher Jason Castro.Yahoo Sport's Jeff Passan reports that the two sides have agreed upon a three-year, $24.5 million contract. As Nick Nelson detailed in the Offseason Handbook, Castro hasn't shown much with his bat over the last three seasons, posting a combined .215/.291/.369 line over that time. It would seem in the Twins' best interested to use him in a platoon role with the right-handed swinging John Ryan Murphy. Over the last two seasons Castro hit a passable .225/.315/.417 against right-handed pitching. In that sense, the $8.2 million per year is a hefty fee for a platoon candidate but as the left-handed hitting one, Castro would play the lion's share of the games. Castro's biggest upside has been his defense. Specifically his ability to steal strikes from outside of the zone, particularly against right-handed hitters. Download attachment: output_7BIM7U.gif This could be an immediate impact for pitchers. Consider Kyle Gibson. Gibson does not possess swing-and-miss stuff but has plenty of movement and stays around the zone. With his sinker and slider combo, Gibson could be one big benefactor to Castro's outer-half framing skills. Castro's receiving skill set goes beyond gaining a strike call from off the plate. It is ensuring that pitches that cut through the zone are also acknowledged as such. Consider this: over the last three season with Kurt Suzuki as the primary catcher, the Twins have had 81.3% of pitches that were in the strike zone and the batter watched it go by, called a strike -- the lowest in baseball. The Twins pitching staff, who did not need to be further behind the eight ball, was victimized to some degree by their catchers' performance. We cannot rule out some influence on inconsistent location or umpire biases, to be sure. However by comparison the Astros pitching staff, backstopped by Castro, had baseball's second best rate at 85.3%. While it may seem like a small percentage, that can make a significant difference in any given at bat. "Framing" might be the word that makes people cringe, as if the act is dishonest and swindling a human who is paid to make accurate calls. The reality is framing is receiving the ball in the right way. It is positioning your body to give the umpire a good look at a pitch. It is making a pitch that is one ball length off the plate look more like it clipped a part of the zone. What exactly does Castro's framing skills look like? Here he is stealing a called third strike, coaxing a pitch that passed by the zone back into it. http://i.imgur.com/Elr7puf.gif The previous front office regime did not put much, if any, emphasis on the value of catcher framing. The recent signings of Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Doumit did little to assist the pitching staff. Castro, on the other hand, has gone from a mediocre receiver to one of the game's highest valued, saving 32.2 framing runs above average (7th out of 103 qualified catchers) for the Astros over the last three seasons compared to Suzuki's -32.0 framing runs (100 out of 103 catchers). In theory, that is a six-game swing or could have been a two-game improvement in each season had the Twins employed Castro over Suzuki. When you break the numbers down further, we find that Castro is extremely adept at getting strikes called in hitter's counts. According to ESPN/Tru Media's framing stats, Castro was second in baseball among all catchers with a 15.3 framing runs above average mark when the hitter's were ahead. That means Castro was able to help get his pitcher from dangerous territory into more manageable areas. The move is not sexy from an offseason standpoint, however, this signing could give the Twins' pitching staff a much needed shot in the arm. Click here to view the article
  8. The Giants have their third baseman, I guess. They acquired Casey McGehee from the Marlins. Many of us had speculated that the Giants would be interested in trading for Trevor Plouffe to take the Panda's spot for the Gigantes. McGehee appears to be comparable, but less valuable than Plouffe in just about every category. He is 32, four years older than Plouffe. His defense grades as below average, Plouffe has progressed to positive territory. His career OPS+ is 96, coming off a 99 in 2014. Plouffe is coming off a 110 OPS+ season and is a lifetime 99. Finally, Plouffe will be under team control for three more years while McGehee is a free agent after the 2015 season. The Giants yielded two pitching prospects for McGehee, what could the Twins expect for Plouffe?
  9. Like rock music’s Santana, Ervin’s delivery is now Smooth In 2012, Santana was a mess. His velocity was down, his command had escaped him and opponents were dropping dingers all over place (he allowed an MLB-high 39 home runs). While with the Angels, manager Mike Scioscia questioned whether Santana could maintain a consistent release point and often found his mechanics erratic. Whether his mechanics played a role, the right-handed witnessed a decline in his fastball’s velocity and the ability to regularly throw it for a strike. That year 23 of his league-leading 39 home runs came on his fastball. Tired of paying for more baseballs, Los Angeles decided not to pick up his option for 2013 and traded him to Kansas City. Somewhere between California and Missouri, Santana smoothed out rough spots in his delivery that had plagued him with the Angels. Most noticeably, in 2012 Santana had the habit of tilting his upper body towards the first base side while in the full windup before driving towards home. The result of this was a front side that would fly open (his glove side drifting towards the first base line prematurely) and creating issues for his command. http://i.imgur.com/DW5rEpk.gif At some point with the Royals, this was corrected and his upper body weight stayed above his back leg and tilted slightly towards the third base side while gathering. When driving towards the plate he remains on line and his glove side does not flip as quickly. http://i.imgur.com/aouOjZd.gif In these two examples both catchers are indicating they want a slider thrown down and on Santana’s glove side. Because of the mechanics in 2012, his arm drags and is not able to finish the slider properly. The slider stays up and in. (Although he misses his spot, Seattle’s Jesus Montero is flummoxed anyway as everyone knows his bats are afraid of balls that curve.) In the 2014 example, because of his fluid and smooth delivery Santana is able to place his slider in a much better spot. According to ESPN/TruMedia, Santana has shown a much better tendency of burying the slider and keeping it out of the middle of the strike zone: http://i.imgur.com/dM5yuzX.gif In addition to the slider, Santana’s fastball also lost some velocity in 2012. While not even one mile per hour on average, it still was a noticeable drop. Like the slider, he was unable to locate the fastball in the zone. Santana’s most significant improvement came at the apex of his delivery. He still lifts his hands over his head but rather than keeping his glove high and his arms away from his body, he now lowers his glove and keeps everything in tight. This may seem minor but it helps with his tempo. Whereas the Braves’ version is smooth, the Angels delivery feels like his lower and upper halves are playing catch-up throughout his delivery. In all, smoothing out his delivery has led to better execution and better command of his pitches. If Santana is able to maintain these consistent mechanics, there should be little concern for a repeat of his 2012 campaign. Adapt or die While his season in Kansas City could arguably be considered his best, it is hard not to envy the amount of defense he had behind him in Royals uniforms. Because of the coverage, Santana turned in one of the lowest opponent bartting average of his career. In Atlanta, he did not have the same luxury. Getting to face a pitcher in the batting order a few times each game certainly boosted the strikeout numbers but Santana made another adjustment to keep hitters off-balance. As Fangraphs.com’s Jeff Sullivan pointed out in April, Santana was suddenly unleashing a changeup that he had rarely used in previous seasons. After throwing it just 5.5% of the time from 2009 to 2013, with the Braves Santana upped that to 14%. The wrinkle gave opponents one more pitch to think about and wound up inducing a swing-and-miss nearly 30% of the time. Deployed mainly on lefties, the seldom seen pitch was making appearances in hitters’ counts and frequently thrown to set up a slider for the kill. In fact, according to ESPN’s data, Santana struck out 24 batters on sliders set up by changeups. In the previous four seasons, he had managed to ring up 12 batters combined using that method. Revisiting the GIF above, Santana’s strikeout of Washington’s Adam LaRoche came on a slider after he threw a changeup that stayed away for strike two. If you watch LaRoche’s reactions, he is clearly sold on another changeup only to make a foolish effort to make contact when the ball begins to bite. http://i.imgur.com/aouOjZd.gif Santana’s changeup seems to be an ever-evolving pitch for him. In Los Angeles, he displayed a split-change, something he picked up from split-fingered fastball specialist Dan Haren. Meanwhile, this past year Santana showed Fangraphs.com’s Eno Sarris his latest changeup grip which looks like a palmball thrown at the fingertips (man, does Santana have some long digits): But Santana seems to employ multiple grips on his change. There’s also a slight split version and a circle-change looking grip. The trick for Santana has been keeping his arm action similar to the fastball while shaving off some velocity. This past year he threwn it at 84 mph on average, giving him a solid six-to-eight miles an hour of difference between it and his fastball. Lefties overall finished decently against Santana. When all was said and done, they batted .291 but because of the new mix, Santana was able to strike them out in a greater volume and limit the number of home runs hit. The takeaway Over the course of his career, Santana’s hit some high notes. He has also been banged around. While his slider is a legitimate pitch, he still allows a hefty number of balls in play, most of which are in the form of fly balls. Target Field's pitcher-friendly environment should limit the home runs but the questionable outfield defense may allow more extra base hits. Based on the changes in his mechanics and his willingness to modify his pitch selection, Santana appears to be headed for a good year in the short-term. The real question is f he can remain healthy and productive in the latter half of his four-year contract. For now, Santana is a definite upgrade to the Twins rotation.
  10. The Minnesota Twins appear to be on the verge of announcing the signing of 32-year-old Ervin Santana. Once he passes his physical, he will be a Twin for the next four years, for better or worse. If you are looking his recent track record, you may find similarities in his numbers to those of Twins' pitcher Ricky Nolasco in that same time span. Behind the pile of numbers is a slightly different story for Santana. After the dreadful 2012, over the past two seasons he has been an above average pitcher. Here is why this is a good trend.Like rock music’s Santana, Ervin’s delivery is now Smooth In 2012, Santana was a mess. His velocity was down, his command had escaped him and opponents were dropping dingers all over place (he allowed an MLB-high 39 home runs). While with the Angels, manager Mike Scioscia questioned whether Santana could maintain a consistent release point and often found his mechanics erratic. Whether his mechanics played a role, the right-handed witnessed a decline in his fastball’s velocity and the ability to regularly throw it for a strike. That year 23 of his league-leading 39 home runs came on his fastball. Tired of paying for more baseballs, Los Angeles decided not to pick up his option for 2013 and traded him to Kansas City. Somewhere between California and Missouri, Santana smoothed out rough spots in his delivery that had plagued him with the Angels. Most noticeably, in 2012 Santana had the habit of tilting his upper body towards the first base side while in the full windup before driving towards home. The result of this was a front side that would fly open (his glove side drifting towards the first base line prematurely) and creating issues for his command. http://i.imgur.com/DW5rEpk.gif At some point with the Royals, this was corrected and his upper body weight stayed above his back leg and tilted slightly towards the third base side while gathering. When driving towards the plate he remains on line and his glove side does not flip as quickly. http://i.imgur.com/aouOjZd.gif In these two examples both catchers are indicating they want a slider thrown down and on Santana’s glove side. Because of the mechanics in 2012, his arm drags and is not able to finish the slider properly. The slider stays up and in. (Although he misses his spot, Seattle’s Jesus Montero is flummoxed anyway as everyone knows his bats are afraid of balls that curve.) In the 2014 example, because of his fluid and smooth delivery Santana is able to place his slider in a much better spot. According to ESPN/TruMedia, Santana has shown a much better tendency of burying the slider and keeping it out of the middle of the strike zone: http://i.imgur.com/dM5yuzX.gif In addition to the slider, Santana’s fastball also lost some velocity in 2012. While not even one mile per hour on average, it still was a noticeable drop. Like the slider, he was unable to locate the fastball in the zone. Santana’s most significant improvement came at the apex of his delivery. He still lifts his hands over his head but rather than keeping his glove high and his arms away from his body, he now lowers his glove and keeps everything in tight. This may seem minor but it helps with his tempo. Whereas the Braves’ version is smooth, the Angels delivery feels like his lower and upper halves are playing catch-up throughout his delivery. Download attachment: Santana_2012_Balance Point.jpg Download attachment: Santana_2014_Balance Point.jpg In all, smoothing out his delivery has led to better execution and better command of his pitches. If Santana is able to maintain these consistent mechanics, there should be little concern for a repeat of his 2012 campaign. Adapt or die While his season in Kansas City could arguably be considered his best, it is hard not to envy the amount of defense he had behind him in Royals uniforms. Because of the coverage, Santana turned in one of the lowest opponent bartting average of his career. In Atlanta, he did not have the same luxury. Getting to face a pitcher in the batting order a few times each game certainly boosted the strikeout numbers but Santana made another adjustment to keep hitters off-balance. As Fangraphs.com’s Jeff Sullivan pointed out in April, Santana was suddenly unleashing a changeup that he had rarely used in previous seasons. After throwing it just 5.5% of the time from 2009 to 2013, with the Braves Santana upped that to 14%. The wrinkle gave opponents one more pitch to think about and wound up inducing a swing-and-miss nearly 30% of the time. Deployed mainly on lefties, the seldom seen pitch was making appearances in hitters’ counts and frequently thrown to set up a slider for the kill. In fact, according to ESPN’s data, Santana struck out 24 batters on sliders set up by changeups. In the previous four seasons, he had managed to ring up 12 batters combined using that method. Revisiting the GIF above, Santana’s strikeout of Washington’s Adam LaRoche came on a slider after he threw a changeup that stayed away for strike two. If you watch LaRoche’s reactions, he is clearly sold on another changeup only to make a foolish effort to make contact when the ball begins to bite. http://i.imgur.com/aouOjZd.gif Santana’s changeup seems to be an ever-evolving pitch for him. In Los Angeles, he displayed a split-change, something he picked up from split-fingered fastball specialist Dan Haren. Meanwhile, this past year Santana showed Fangraphs.com’s Eno Sarris his latest changeup grip which looks like a palmball thrown at the fingertips (man, does Santana have some long digits): But Santana seems to employ multiple grips on his change. There’s also a slight split version and a circle-change looking grip. The trick for Santana has been keeping his arm action similar to the fastball while shaving off some velocity. This past year he threwn it at 84 mph on average, giving him a solid six-to-eight miles an hour of difference between it and his fastball. Lefties overall finished decently against Santana. When all was said and done, they batted .291 but because of the new mix, Santana was able to strike them out in a greater volume and limit the number of home runs hit. The takeaway Over the course of his career, Santana’s hit some high notes. He has also been banged around. While his slider is a legitimate pitch, he still allows a hefty number of balls in play, most of which are in the form of fly balls. Target Field's pitcher-friendly environment should limit the home runs but the questionable outfield defense may allow more extra base hits. Based on the changes in his mechanics and his willingness to modify his pitch selection, Santana appears to be headed for a good year in the short-term. The real question is f he can remain healthy and productive in the latter half of his four-year contract. For now, Santana is a definite upgrade to the Twins rotation. Click here to view the article
  11. Mass reports of Matt Garza signing a 4/52 deal are suddenly stated to be wrong (or not right yet). Brewers have stated that deal has yet to be reached, while Ken Rosenthal says otherwise. If Garza is still technically available, would the Twin's front office have the balls to swoop in, offer 4/55 or 4/60 and steal away Garza from under everybody's noses? Is this even a possibility? How amazing would it be to come out of this offseason with Garza, Nolasco, and Hughes! But again, I may just be grasping at straws here. Not even sure if possible.
  12. Ok, Nolasco and Hughes have been inked, now what? I feel that they need at least one more guy somewhere, because I don't see this current team winning more than 65 maybe 70 games. So, who realistically could/should the Twins sign or trade for. Should they work on getting a DH, mentor catcher for Pinto, SS, Starter, reliever, or what?
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