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  1. There’s no secret that the Minnesota Twins chief focus this offseason will be finding pitching help. With the rotation currently consisting of only Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, there’s a need for at least three arms. Should the front office target a veteran ace even if there are big question marks? Yesterday was the deadline for teams to decide whether they’d hand out a qualifying offer to impending free agents. The player then chooses to accept a one-year deal worth $18.4 million or enter free agency with draft pick compensation being awarded to their former team should they leave. A handful of players were tagged with qualifying offers, but two stand out to me. Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. Two aces. Two veterans. Two entirely different situations. Of these two, only Verlander was given a qualifying offer. Kershaw is a part of this story because he DID NOT receive a qualifying offer. Verlander, the former Astros ace, will be 39-years-old in 2022 and has not pitched since one game in 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Kershaw will be 34-years-old next season but bowed out in October with an elbow issue that cost him three months during the 2021 season. In assessing what the Twins involvement should be regarding either player, I think it’s first worth looking at how their respective teams view the former aces. Verlander being slapped with a qualifying offer suggests the Astros believe he’s near-ready to go and has been on a good path when it comes to his recovery. If they thought he wouldn’t be a significant contributor in 2022, it’s hard to imagine they’d swallow nearly $20 million on an arm that won’t be available. Maybe they don’t want him for multiple years as he’s aging, but they’ll gladly take him back to bolster a rotation that was beyond depleted in the postseason. On the flip side, Los Angeles decided to walk away from Kershaw at this point. He’s spent all 14 years of his Major League career there, but the Dodgers didn’t feel an $18.4 million gamble was worthwhile given his injury situation. Kershaw already had to miss significant time for Dave Roberts’ club during the year. Going under the knife would seem like a genuine possibility if the problem doesn’t resolve itself through rest this offseason. In that scenario, Los Angeles would need at least a two-year deal to recoup any on-field production. With Dustin May returning from Tommy John surgery and Trevor Bauer potentially being reinstated after opting into his 2022 contract, there are already enough internal hurdles for them to deal with. So, where does that leave the Twins in regards to either arm? This offseason should be fascinating when it comes to reading the tea leaves from the front office. Minnesota’s brass has said they intend to compete, and the lineup is mainly in place to do just that. If a bunch of one-year pacts are handed out, though, it would seem to be more of a toe-dip into the water, allowing further assessment of what is there. That route seems to favor Verlander. At 39, Verlander is nearing the end of his Major League run. He’s likely seeking a two-year deal but could have a tough time finding that coming off an injury. I’m not sure that Minnesota should be parting with a draft pick on a one-year agreement. While Verlander does have divisional familiarity, he represents a whole lot of expensive risk for a team that should be looking to squeeze more upside out of any potential deals. Kershaw is interesting given his age, but the mileage on his arm causes reason for pause. Despite being five years younger than Verlander, he’s thrown just 500 fewer innings. Having already endured plenty of back problems, Kershaw undergoing an arm procedure would be less than ideal. However, not being saddled to a qualifying offer, Minnesota may find themselves in a similar situation as to where they are with superstar centerfielder Byron Buxton. The only reason Kershaw may have a diminished price tag is due to health concerns. If the Twins want to embark on a longer-term deal knowing they may not have his services out of the gate, that could be an excellent asset a year from now. This winter's pitching landscape is fascinating, as there are more than a handful of big names on the free-agent market and plenty available by way of trades. If I’m Derek Falvey looking at these two former aces, though, it’s Kershaw’s medicals I’m most intrigued by. If he can be had at a reasonable amount for three years, that’s a risk Minnesota might be willing to make. Unfortunately, it doesn’t immediately supplement the rotation, but if the goal is sustained competitiveness, that could work in their favor. Twins fans have clamored for a true ace over the years, and now here’s two the organization can consider. Are you out on both, or is their one that provides a level of intrigue even with the surrounding question marks? What would you do? 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
  2. Yesterday was the deadline for teams to decide whether they’d hand out a qualifying offer to impending free agents. The player then chooses to accept a one-year deal worth $18.4 million or enter free agency with draft pick compensation being awarded to their former team should they leave. A handful of players were tagged with qualifying offers, but two stand out to me. Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. Two aces. Two veterans. Two entirely different situations. Of these two, only Verlander was given a qualifying offer. Kershaw is a part of this story because he DID NOT receive a qualifying offer. Verlander, the former Astros ace, will be 39-years-old in 2022 and has not pitched since one game in 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Kershaw will be 34-years-old next season but bowed out in October with an elbow issue that cost him three months during the 2021 season. In assessing what the Twins involvement should be regarding either player, I think it’s first worth looking at how their respective teams view the former aces. Verlander being slapped with a qualifying offer suggests the Astros believe he’s near-ready to go and has been on a good path when it comes to his recovery. If they thought he wouldn’t be a significant contributor in 2022, it’s hard to imagine they’d swallow nearly $20 million on an arm that won’t be available. Maybe they don’t want him for multiple years as he’s aging, but they’ll gladly take him back to bolster a rotation that was beyond depleted in the postseason. On the flip side, Los Angeles decided to walk away from Kershaw at this point. He’s spent all 14 years of his Major League career there, but the Dodgers didn’t feel an $18.4 million gamble was worthwhile given his injury situation. Kershaw already had to miss significant time for Dave Roberts’ club during the year. Going under the knife would seem like a genuine possibility if the problem doesn’t resolve itself through rest this offseason. In that scenario, Los Angeles would need at least a two-year deal to recoup any on-field production. With Dustin May returning from Tommy John surgery and Trevor Bauer potentially being reinstated after opting into his 2022 contract, there are already enough internal hurdles for them to deal with. So, where does that leave the Twins in regards to either arm? This offseason should be fascinating when it comes to reading the tea leaves from the front office. Minnesota’s brass has said they intend to compete, and the lineup is mainly in place to do just that. If a bunch of one-year pacts are handed out, though, it would seem to be more of a toe-dip into the water, allowing further assessment of what is there. That route seems to favor Verlander. At 39, Verlander is nearing the end of his Major League run. He’s likely seeking a two-year deal but could have a tough time finding that coming off an injury. I’m not sure that Minnesota should be parting with a draft pick on a one-year agreement. While Verlander does have divisional familiarity, he represents a whole lot of expensive risk for a team that should be looking to squeeze more upside out of any potential deals. Kershaw is interesting given his age, but the mileage on his arm causes reason for pause. Despite being five years younger than Verlander, he’s thrown just 500 fewer innings. Having already endured plenty of back problems, Kershaw undergoing an arm procedure would be less than ideal. However, not being saddled to a qualifying offer, Minnesota may find themselves in a similar situation as to where they are with superstar centerfielder Byron Buxton. The only reason Kershaw may have a diminished price tag is due to health concerns. If the Twins want to embark on a longer-term deal knowing they may not have his services out of the gate, that could be an excellent asset a year from now. This winter's pitching landscape is fascinating, as there are more than a handful of big names on the free-agent market and plenty available by way of trades. If I’m Derek Falvey looking at these two former aces, though, it’s Kershaw’s medicals I’m most intrigued by. If he can be had at a reasonable amount for three years, that’s a risk Minnesota might be willing to make. Unfortunately, it doesn’t immediately supplement the rotation, but if the goal is sustained competitiveness, that could work in their favor. Twins fans have clamored for a true ace over the years, and now here’s two the organization can consider. Are you out on both, or is their one that provides a level of intrigue even with the surrounding question marks? What would you do? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. By Sunday afternoon, teams had to decide whether or not to submit qualifying offers to eligible free agents. Minnesota has its eyes on multiple free agent players, so how does the qualifying offer impact their spending options? According to MLB.com, here is a reminder of the qualifying offer process. “When an eligible player reaches free agency, his former team has the option to extend a one-year offer worth the average salary of the highest-paid 125 players in baseball, which this year is $18.4 million. Players have 10 days to accept or decline; if they accept, they return for 2022 for that $18.4 million; if they decline, they head off into the market as a free agent, with his former team receiving compensation in the form of a Draft pick if they sign elsewhere." Last winter, Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman were the only two players to accept the qualifying offer. Both Gausman and Stroman will enter free agency in a much better position than last winter. However, in the previous nine offseasons, only 10 out of 96 players have accepted the deal. For the Twins, their penalty for signing a player is in a group that faces the smallest draft pick penalty. Minnesota is one of 13 teams that receive revenue sharing, so that means they would forfeit their third-highest pick in next year’s draft if they sign a player that received a qualifying offer. If Minnesota signed two qualified free agents, they would forfeit their next highest available draft pick. Some players the Twins might be interested in are not eligible for a qualifying offer because they were traded last season or have previously received a qualifying offer. SS Javier Baez and DH Nelson Cruz were both traded last year, so they are ineligible. Starting pitchers Marcus Stroman, Kevin Gausman, Zack Greinke, and Alex Cobb previously received a qualifying offer. With no qualifying offer attached to these players, more teams will likely be interested in their services since draft pick compensation is not tied to their signing. Many of this year’s top free agents had their teams submit a qualifying offer, including names at positions of need for the Twins. Shortstops Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien, and Corey Seager all received an offer and are expected to decline. Starting pitchers in that same category include Robbie Ray, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Justin Verlander. Ray will decline the offer as he is headed for a big payday, while Verlander and Rodriguez may consider accepting. Last week, I wrote about how the Twins might be interested in gambling on signing two pitchers coming off of injuries. Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Rodón are both entering this winter in different positions. Syndergaard is just making his way back from Tommy John surgery, which might mean he is interested in a one-year deal to prove he is healthy. Rodón is coming off a career year, but shoulder injuries limited him in the second half. It seems likely for Syndergaard to accept a qualifying offer while Rodón was not issued a qualifying offer. It also sounds like the White Sox are ready to move on from Rodón. Besides Rodon, two other starting pitchers might be surprised that they didn’t receive qualifying offers. Colorado’s Jon Gray and San Francisco’s Anthony DeSclafani are in the second free agent tier that the Twins front office will likely focus on to fill out the rotation. It sounds like Gray was open to accepting a qualifying offer, and that may have persuaded the Rockies from issuing it. DeSclafani is coming off a tremendous season, but some of his StatCast numbers show that he may regress. Many of the qualifying offers mentioned above were likely expected, so nothing should be surprising for Minnesota’s front office. Now the teams will wait to see what players accept or decline the offers. From there, teams can start making their offseason spending plan. Will MLB’s qualifying offer system impact the Twins this winter? Will MLB change their qualifying offer rules? 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 View full article
  4. According to MLB.com, here is a reminder of the qualifying offer process. “When an eligible player reaches free agency, his former team has the option to extend a one-year offer worth the average salary of the highest-paid 125 players in baseball, which this year is $18.4 million. Players have 10 days to accept or decline; if they accept, they return for 2022 for that $18.4 million; if they decline, they head off into the market as a free agent, with his former team receiving compensation in the form of a Draft pick if they sign elsewhere." Last winter, Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman were the only two players to accept the qualifying offer. Both Gausman and Stroman will enter free agency in a much better position than last winter. However, in the previous nine offseasons, only 10 out of 96 players have accepted the deal. For the Twins, their penalty for signing a player is in a group that faces the smallest draft pick penalty. Minnesota is one of 13 teams that receive revenue sharing, so that means they would forfeit their third-highest pick in next year’s draft if they sign a player that received a qualifying offer. If Minnesota signed two qualified free agents, they would forfeit their next highest available draft pick. Some players the Twins might be interested in are not eligible for a qualifying offer because they were traded last season or have previously received a qualifying offer. SS Javier Baez and DH Nelson Cruz were both traded last year, so they are ineligible. Starting pitchers Marcus Stroman, Kevin Gausman, Zack Greinke, and Alex Cobb previously received a qualifying offer. With no qualifying offer attached to these players, more teams will likely be interested in their services since draft pick compensation is not tied to their signing. Many of this year’s top free agents had their teams submit a qualifying offer, including names at positions of need for the Twins. Shortstops Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien, and Corey Seager all received an offer and are expected to decline. Starting pitchers in that same category include Robbie Ray, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Justin Verlander. Ray will decline the offer as he is headed for a big payday, while Verlander and Rodriguez may consider accepting. Last week, I wrote about how the Twins might be interested in gambling on signing two pitchers coming off of injuries. Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Rodón are both entering this winter in different positions. Syndergaard is just making his way back from Tommy John surgery, which might mean he is interested in a one-year deal to prove he is healthy. Rodón is coming off a career year, but shoulder injuries limited him in the second half. It seems likely for Syndergaard to accept a qualifying offer while Rodón was not issued a qualifying offer. It also sounds like the White Sox are ready to move on from Rodón. Besides Rodon, two other starting pitchers might be surprised that they didn’t receive qualifying offers. Colorado’s Jon Gray and San Francisco’s Anthony DeSclafani are in the second free agent tier that the Twins front office will likely focus on to fill out the rotation. It sounds like Gray was open to accepting a qualifying offer, and that may have persuaded the Rockies from issuing it. DeSclafani is coming off a tremendous season, but some of his StatCast numbers show that he may regress. Many of the qualifying offers mentioned above were likely expected, so nothing should be surprising for Minnesota’s front office. Now the teams will wait to see what players accept or decline the offers. From there, teams can start making their offseason spending plan. Will MLB’s qualifying offer system impact the Twins this winter? Will MLB change their qualifying offer rules? 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
  5. Over a 7-year career ending in 1979, Twins DH Craig Kusick came to the plate 1461 times, compiling an unremarkable slash line of .235/.342/.392. Kusick may have had a briefer stay in the bigs, however, if it was not for his uncanny ability to hit Frank Tanana of the California Angels who was the most intimidating strikeout pitcher in the American League not named Nolan Ryan or Vida Blue. Kusick ended up facing Tanana more than any other pitcher over his career – 59 times - which was about 4% of all his plate appearances. In those at-bats, Kusick went 16 for 42 (.381) drawing a Bonds-like 16 walks for a .542 on-base percentage. He also took Tanana deep 4 times in those 42 at-bats and drove in 11 runs. Three of those home runs came in consecutive games against Tanana in 1976, after which Tanana walked Kusick 7 times in the next 5 times they met – twice intentionally. While Kusick was certainly not a Twins great, his inextricable linking to Tanana suggests an interesting related topic. Thanks to the Batter-vs-Pitcher data on Baseball Reference we can now ask and answer who were the opposing players Twins greats faced the most and who owned whom? * * * * * * * * * For the first "Who Owned Whom?" we look at a recent Twins great, Joe Mauer. Over his 15-year career, Mauer played in 1858 games and had 7960 plate appearances. He batted .306, had an on-base average of .388, slugged .439 with 143 home runs, scored 1018 runs and drove in 939. His most frequent opposing pitcher over his career was none other than Detroit’s Justin Verlander who faced off against Joe in 97 plate appearances. Verlander, who has a career .228 batting average-against and OPS-against of .652, was definitely "owned" by Mauer as Joe finished with a slash line of .317/.423/.537 on 26 for 82 hitting with 15 walks. The 26 hits are the most by Mauer against any pitcher and the first one came in his first at-bat against Verlander in the second game of a Saturday double header versus Detroit on July 23rd, 2005 as Joe hit an 0-2 pitch deep to left field in Detroit for an RBI double. The other pitchers Joe faced frequently were Rick Porcello –who fared better than his Tigers teammate - (75 plate appearances, .243/.293/.329) and the unfortunate John Danks of the White Sox. (71 plate appearances, .381/.451/.476) Coincidentally (or not), Danks is the only pitcher to have beaned Mauer more than once. CC Sabathia is the pitcher that struck Joe out the most -17 Ks in 52 plate appearances - and, along with another lefty, Mark Buehrle, most “owned” Joe. Joe only managed .196/.269/.239 against Sabathia and .197/209/.303 against Buehrle. Sabathia was also the first pitcher Mauer faced in the big leagues in his debut versus Cleveland in the Season Opener at the Metrodome on April 5th, 2004. Mauer, batting 8th, walked on 4 pitches against Sabathia in the 3rd and struck out swinging on a full count in the 5th. Sabathia pitched through the 7th and left with a 4-0 lead. The Twins rallied to tie the game, 4-4, in the 8th inning and Mauer's first big league hit would come on a single to center off Rafael Betancourt leading off the 9th. The game went to extra innings and Mauer got his second hit on a one-out, one-on single to right in the 11th off Chad Durbin, moving Nick Punto (running for Matt LeCroy who had walked) to third. After a Christian Guzman strikeout, Shannon Stewart lifted a Durbin fly ball deep to LF for a game-winning 3-run homer, bringing in Mauer and Punto and blowing 49,584 Metrodome fans from the exits hoarse and happy. What a memorable game to start a career! Watch for another installment of "Who Owned Whom" coming soon.
  6. Part 1: The Puckett Clause Part 2: The Koufax Argument Part 3: The Missing Cy Young The Cy Young Award is baseball’s highest pitching honor. Some pitchers are in the conversation for the award on a regular basis. For current baseball fans, names like Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are regulars on the year-end balloting. In his prime, Johan Santana was in this elite group. When the 2018 Hall of Fame Ballot was released, one of the first items I noted was Santana’s high ranking on Baseball Reference’s Cy Young Award Share scale. His 2.72 shares rank him 13th all-time. This sandwiches him between Sandy Koufax and Justin Verlander. The only players in front of him who aren’t in the Hall of Fame are Roger Clemens (7.66 shares), Clayton Kershaw (4.56), Roy Halladay (3.50), and Max Scherzer (3.14). There’s a chance that all of those men eventually have a plaque in Cooperstown. Santana’s biggest resume flaw might be the Cy Young that was taken away from him. During the 2004 season, he posted a 20-6 record with a 2.61 ERA, 265 strikeouts and an 8.6 WAR on the way to his first Cy Young Award. He was nearly as good during second Cy Young season (2006) when he went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA, 245 strikeouts and a 7.5 WAR. The season between his two Cy Youngs is the trophy that was stolen from him. Bartolo Colon was named the 2005 Cy Young Award winner. He went 21-8 that year with a 3.48 ERA, 157 strikeouts and a 4.0 WAR. Santana couldn’t match Colon’s win-loss record but he bested him in every other category. He finished that season with a 16-7 record including a 2.87 ERA, 238 strikeouts and a 7.2 WAR. Winning a third Cy Young is an elite resume item. There are ten three-time Cy Young winners and all of them are likely to eventually end up in the Hall. The list includes Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Clayton Kershaw, Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Max Scherzer and Sandy Koufax. Had the voters picked the correct winner in 2005, Santana would have joined this elite group and even furthered his Hall of Fame resume. Ryan Romano at Beyond the Box Score wrote a piece in 2015 called “Cliff Lee and Johan Santana belong in the Hall of Fame.” He examined the peak value of these two players by looking at their WAR per 200 innings pitched and seasons of 5+ WAR. Santana ranks 10th all-time ahead of players like Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Bert Blyleven. This is just another measurement that puts Santana into elite company. Is Santana likely to be a first ballot Hall of Famer? The answer is no but there are very compelling arguments as to why he should eventually be enshrined. If the voters applied the Kirby Puckett Clause, Santana’s case gains some steam. After comparing Santana to Sandy Koufax, it’s easy to see how their peaks were similar. Lastly, his missing Cy Young would have lofted him into the elite group of sure-fire Hall of Fame pitchers. He was a master on the mound. A once in a generation pitcher. A pitcher who deserves his place in Cooperstown. Case closed.
  7. Welcome to the first week of September and the last month before playoff baseball starts. Minnesota is almost a lock to make the playoffs at this point with FanGraphs putting their playoff odds at 99.9% and their odds of winning the division at 97.5%. With separation starting in the AL Central, fans can start looking toward the playoffs and the path that could lie ahead. Minnesota doesn’t get to pick their playoff opponents, but what would be the ideal path through the American League playoffs?Avoid the Wild Card Game One of the most important steps in having a sustained playoff run is avoiding playing in a coin flip game like each league’s wild-card game. Minnesota fans are well aware of the dangers of this game after seeing the Twins fall to the Yankees back in 2017. New York went on to the ALCS that year and there are some concerns with surviving this style of game. In that 2017 AL wild card game, Minnesota started Ervin Santana and then was forced to turn to Jose Berrios as a reliever. If the club had survived, they would have been put in an interesting spot for picking a starter of in Game 1 of the ALDS. Pitching staffs can be taxed in this type of game and there is too much randomness in a win-or-go-home atmosphere. The Twins need to make sure they take care of business and win the AL Central. Houston Poses a Problem If Minnesota is able win the AL Central, the club will qualify for the ALDS for the first time since 2010. Entering play on Wednesday, New York and Houston are separated by less than a game. Minnesota sits four games back so it seems unlikely they could catch either of the front-runners for the league’s top record. This means a first-round series on the road versus one of the league’s top teams. There are a couple ways to think about a Houston match-up. Teams are going to have to go through Houston at some point in the playoffs and it might be better seeing their strong starters in a shorter series. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke would get fewer starts over five games than in seven games. This could allow the Twins to steal a game or two and end up with a series victory. New York would be the better match-up, but it would be better to face Houston in a shorter series. If a team must take out Houston, do it in the ALDS. Big Apple Battle Minnesota fans might have a phobia of facing off against the Yankees because of past playoff experience. When the Yankees came to Minneapolis earlier this year, it resulted in an epic back-and-forth series. New York’s pitching staff has flaws, but their offense is certainly on a par with Minnesota’s record-breaking line-up. It seems most likely for Houston or New York to take care of any of the wild card teams, but anything can happen in a five-game series. Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Oakland are all in the running for the two AL wild card spots. Any of these three teams would be a better match-up than facing Houston or New York in a seven-game series, but it would take a team coming in hot to take down one of the league’s top foes. If Minnesota takes care of Houston in the ALDS, it would be fitting for the club to face-off against the Yankees for the right to represent the AL in the World Series. It would be similar to the Red Sox exorcising their demons against the Yankees on the way to their 2004 title. If Minnesota must beat New York at some point, so why not do it on the biggest possible stage? What do you feel is the ideal path for the Twins to make it through the gauntlet of the AL playoffs? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  8. Avoid the Wild Card Game One of the most important steps in having a sustained playoff run is avoiding playing in a coin flip game like each league’s wild-card game. Minnesota fans are well aware of the dangers of this game after seeing the Twins fall to the Yankees back in 2017. New York went on to the ALCS that year and there are some concerns with surviving this style of game. In that 2017 AL wild card game, Minnesota started Ervin Santana and then was forced to turn to Jose Berrios as a reliever. If the club had survived, they would have been put in an interesting spot for picking a starter of in Game 1 of the ALDS. Pitching staffs can be taxed in this type of game and there is too much randomness in a win-or-go-home atmosphere. The Twins need to make sure they take care of business and win the AL Central. Houston Poses a Problem If Minnesota is able win the AL Central, the club will qualify for the ALDS for the first time since 2010. Entering play on Wednesday, New York and Houston are separated by less than a game. Minnesota sits four games back so it seems unlikely they could catch either of the front-runners for the league’s top record. This means a first-round series on the road versus one of the league’s top teams. There are a couple ways to think about a Houston match-up. Teams are going to have to go through Houston at some point in the playoffs and it might be better seeing their strong starters in a shorter series. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke would get fewer starts over five games than in seven games. This could allow the Twins to steal a game or two and end up with a series victory. New York would be the better match-up, but it would be better to face Houston in a shorter series. If a team must take out Houston, do it in the ALDS. Big Apple Battle Minnesota fans might have a phobia of facing off against the Yankees because of past playoff experience. When the Yankees came to Minneapolis earlier this year, it resulted in an epic back-and-forth series. New York’s pitching staff has flaws, but their offense is certainly on a par with Minnesota’s record-breaking line-up. It seems most likely for Houston or New York to take care of any of the wild card teams, but anything can happen in a five-game series. Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Oakland are all in the running for the two AL wild card spots. Any of these three teams would be a better match-up than facing Houston or New York in a seven-game series, but it would take a team coming in hot to take down one of the league’s top foes. If Minnesota takes care of Houston in the ALDS, it would be fitting for the club to face-off against the Yankees for the right to represent the AL in the World Series. It would be similar to the Red Sox exorcising their demons against the Yankees on the way to their 2004 title. If Minnesota must beat New York at some point, so why not do it on the biggest possible stage? What do you feel is the ideal path for the Twins to make it through the gauntlet of the AL playoffs? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  9. Because Major League Baseball can’t seem to get out of its own way, a big storyline of this season that also became a focus during the All-Star break is the current state of the actual baseball. Justin Verlander went so far as to say “Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke.” There’s been some really amazing reporting and scientific studies done on the ball itself that have shown its current composition is different, and the end result is a ball that travels farther than ever before. The ball creates less drag, has thicker laces and is actually more round (I’ll include links to the excellent work others have done on these subjects at the bottom of this article). The end result is home runs and in particular home run-to-fly ball ratio is up. I’m not going to deny either of those things. If we just take a look at run scoring and offense in general, however, things don’t actually look all that out of whack when compared to the past 25 years of baseball. Below is a graph that shows the average number of runs per game over the past 25 years. Things have definitely been on an upward trend the past few seasons, but as you can see, pitchers enjoyed quite a comfortable stretch from about 2007-14. A similar look into slugging percentage shows the same type of trend. Taking a look at things from this perspective, I don’t feel it’s fair to say something like the game is turning into a joke. Verlander himself is managing to pitch to a 2.98 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and has limited opponents to a .168/.221/.386 batting line (.607 OPS). This is despite giving up a league-high 26 home runs. It’s also fair to point out that his home ballpark is an excellent home run hitter’s environment. If you want to say the past 25 years is a poor choice in sample, I guess then you’re going to have a bit of a different perspective. A lot of this conversation comes down to what you think is supposed to be “normal” for Major League Baseball. If you want to really be a traditionalist, the amount of scoring back in the late-1800s was actually much higher than it is right now. Even shifting the focus a little bit closer, the 1920s and 1930s had many seasons in which more runs were scored than they are today. On the other hand, in the 10-year span from 1963-1972 runs were greatly suppressed. Things are constantly changing. Along with the baseball, we’re seeing bigger, faster and stronger players than ever. Advances in technology even over the past five years have dramatically changed the way players train and design their pitches or swings for maximum effectiveness. Many hitters have put an emphasis on getting the ball in the air, pitchers have searched for ways to combat that approach. The cat and mouse game continues. Below is a video in which I provide some more information on this topic and share some more of my opinions. Let me know what you think. Should there be a giant asterisk next to this season's stats? Additional Links Jeff Passan’s original reporting on Justin Verlander’s thoughts. ESPN’s report on Rob Manfred’s response. Astrophysicist Dr. Meredith Wills’ examination of the ball. Jayson Stark’s investigation into possible factors that could have resulted in the homer surge. Rob Arther’s piece on the drag/aerodynamics of the 2019 ball. Bob Nightangale’s reporting on what pitchers are saying about the 2019 ball. Juiced ball and home run discussions from the Twins Daily forums.
  10. This is an excerpt from a story which originates at Zone Coverage here. Click through to read in its entirety. 3.34 ERA 3.18 FIP 9.1 K/9 These are the numbers of a pitcher who came to Target Field on Monday night and completely shut down one of the most powerful lineups in the American League. And believe it or not, they aren't those of Houston Astros fireballer Justin Verlander -- they're from his mound counterpart that evening, Jake Odorizzi. After a year that didn't go the way he had hoped when he came over in a spring training trade from Tampa, Odorizzi spent the offseason training at the Florida Baseball Ranch, an elite training facility in Plant City -- about 115 miles north of Hammond Stadium near Lakeland, where the Detroit Tigers prepare for the season. The results have been strong, including most recently and most notably against the Astros, whom Odorizzi held to just four hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts, one walk and no runs in a 1-0 win. In Odorizzi's six starts this year, he's allowed three or fewer earned runs five times, with a weather-aided bombing in Philadelphia being the sole setback. A big issue for Odorizzi to this point in his career -- at least entering the 2019 season -- was his penalty for going through the order a third time. For the uninitiated, most pitchers get progressively worse the more times batters see them in a game, and the third time through a lineup carries a penalty for almost every non-elite pitcher in the game. Some pitchers are an exception in the positive sense; others are an exception in the other direction.
  11. On this week's Supershow, Dan and Panda break down some of the pitching woes plaguing the Twins through the month of April, and dial back season expectations of what this season may look like. Since pitching is the hot topic this week, they also talk about Matt Harvey's struggles, along with the young arms in the Mets' rotation and the renaissance of Justin Verlander and the Astros' pitchers. https://www.spreaker.com/user/the4dpodcastnetwork/t-l-5-7-18
  12. 2015 was an incredible season for catcher John Hicks. It was filled with ups and downs. He had a strong spring training, but he got off to a slow start. He turned it around, and he earned his first big league promotion.He got his first hits, and he saw how the game can humble a player quickly too. Following the season, he went through being designated for assignment but then being claimed by another organization. He now finds himself with the Minnesota Twins. Let’s start at those two ultimate moments for any baseball player. For those of us who will never experience it (which is most of us), can you imagine the moment when you first get told that you’re heading to the big leagues? Secondly, can you imagine getting your first major league hit? John Hicks was not expecting the moment when it came. His season started out slow, especially with the bat. “The first few months of the season were not as planned, offensively. I felt good behind the plate all year, and when I got to Tacoma and got in the box, things just didn’t click. Things didn’t come up with me from spring training, I guess.” However, in July, Hicks hit .345/.393/.436 (.830). He slowed some in August, however, Mike Zunino was really struggling in the big leagues, and the Mariners decided to send him down to AAA. In Tacoma on August 27th, Hicks was behind the plate. “We’re in the middle of the game. I’m catching. It’s about the 6th or 7th inning. (Former big leaguer) Pat Listach was our manager in AAA. A couple of innings before, he and I were talking about a hitter on the other team. The next inning, that hitter came up. We ended up striking him out, attacking him like we had talked about. So I ran into the dugout and he asked me about it. I told him. He said, ‘Awesome! Alright, well, you’re done. You’re out of the game.’” Hicks had no idea what to think about that. He did what he was supposed to do, and it was successful, so why was he taken out of the game? What was he to do? He went and sat on the bench. “People were coming up to me and saying, ‘Are you going up? Are you going up?’ And I’m like, ‘I have no idea. He just told me I was out of the game.’” Soon after, Hicks walked back over to his manager. He asked if he should head out to the bullpen to help warm up pitchers. Or do something to stop thinking so much. That’s when he got the news from Pat Listach, ““Nah, nah. I’m waiting for confirmation, but you’re going to the big leagues.” The emotion hit him right then and there in the dugout. “It kind of hit me. It was a rush of emotions, and I couldn’t stop smiling. Then he told me to go in and pack. I went in and called my parents. There’s a three-hour time difference from Tacoma to back home (Virginia), so it was like 1 o’clock at home. I think my parents were fine with me waking them up.” My guess is that they were just fine with that phone call as well. But there was a lot of packing to be done, and quickly. “I flew out to Chicago the next day. They flew out my mom and dad, my two brothers and their wives, and then a good family friend, and they all came out and watched.” A couple of days later, August 30th (one day before his 26th birthday), Hicks made his major league debut in Chicago. The opposing pitcher was Jose Quintana. He didn’t take too long to get that first big league hit out of the way. “It was exciting. I went up, and everybody asked me, ‘Are you going to be really aggressive? Are you going to swing at the first pitch?’ I didn’t really know. I said I’m just going to go up, and if it’s a good pitch that I like, I’ll swing. I got up there and took the first pitch. Then he threw me a cutter that ran in, and I stayed inside of it, and I hit kind of a soft liner over second base, in front of the right fielder. I got to first base, and the first base coach leans over my shoulder and said, ‘Hey, there’ll never be a better BB player than you are right now, hitting 1.000, one hit, one at bat.’ I’m like, ‘All lright.’ It obviously went down a little from there, but it was fun.” It was a struggle from there. He ended the season going 2-32 for the Mariners. His other hit was a double and came off of the Angels’ Jered Weaver. Following the season, Hicks was designated for assignment by the Mariners. They called him to let him know that they had about a week to try to trade him or put him on waivers. “It was a long six or seven days, waiting to hear something. Got the call from the Mariners first. He said ‘I’ve got good news and bad news.’ He said you’re no longer a Mariner, but the Twins picked you up.’ Alright! I was really excited to hear that. Got a call from the Twins, talked a little bit with them.” --------------------------------- Before we look forward, let’s look further back. John Hicks grew up in Richmond, Virginia. He attended Goochland High School where he teamed with Ben Verlander, now a minor leaguer in the Tigers organization. “He’s a couple of years younger than I am. He and I actually work out together in the offseason.” But was there any AL Central trash talking? “We spend a lot of time together working out and hitting. He was very excited for me when I got picked up by the Twins. My oldest brother and Justin (Verlander) went to high school together and they’re still really good friends. Justin and my brother went back and forth, and Justin had a few things to say about when I face him, but we’ll see.” Although he was drafted in the 31st round out of high school by the Angels in 2008, he went to the University of Virginia. He played over 60 games all three years. He hit eight home runs each season. He hit a combined 54 doubles. Following his junior season, he was the fourth round pick of the Seattle Mariners. ----------------------------------------------------- He has primarily been a catcher his whole life. “I pretty much only caught in high school. I started catching when I was 11. I had an older brother. He’s two years older and he was a pitcher, so it just kind of worked out that he needed a catcher. My first two years of college, I didn’t catch every game. When I didn’t catch, I played first base and DH.” Clearly the Twins wanted to improve their defense at the catcher position in the offseason. They let Eric Fryer leave as a free agent, traded Chris Herrmann, and DFA'd Josmil Pinto. They acquired John Ryan Murphy from the Yankees as well. Hicks has always taken a lot of pride in his defense behind the plate. “That’s always been something I took pride in, defense. If I can go out and work with that pitcher, and we can use that scouting report that we get before the game, and use that well, and we post zeroes, we’re going to win games. Whether I go 4-4 or 0-4, if we go out and win, that’s what it’s all about.” He will need to learn the pitchers, as well as gain their confidence. That doesn’t happen overnight. “That takes time. Spring training is very important. Taking the time to get to know him and know how they like to attack hitter. They need to have confidence in you that if they have a runner on third base and a hitter that’s going to chase up there that they can throw that curve ball or split or slider in the dirt and you’re going to block it for them. It should never be a doubt in their mind that you will. For me, that’s huge. If they trust me that I’m going to get it done, then we’ll get somewhere.” Hicks likely starts the season as the Twins third catcher. In other words, he is likely to start the season in Rochester. Should there be an injury to Kurt Suzuki or John Ryan Murphy, Hicks would get the call. That is an important role on a team because catcher is certainly a position where injuries can happen. They can send him up and down without needing to clear waivers, which they needed to do with Eric Fryer as he was out of options. Hicks has two option years remaining. Hicks enjoyed the Twins Fest experience for several reasons. “It’s been good. Like I said, we’re getting to know the pitchers, and the position players too. Putting the faces to the name. Getting to know them a little bit better so when we get to spring training, we can just jump into it. I think it’s huge. And, it’s fun to get out here and see the ballpark and all that.” He will be starting his trek from Virginia to Ft. Myers on the 14th. He’ll make stops in North Carolina and northern Florida before getting there in plenty of time to report. “I’m excited to be here. I think it’s a good situation to be in. I’m excited to get out in spring training and get it going.”
  13. On November 11, the Minnesota Twins traded Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees in exchange for catcher John Ryan Murphy. Exactly three weeks later, December 2, the Twins claimed catcher John Hicks from the Seattle Mariners. The Twins needed to strengthen their catching depth in the offseason, and I guess they also wanted to keep at least one Hicks on their 40-man roster. Twins Daily was able to catch up with John Hicks at Twins Fest.2015 was an incredible season for catcher John Hicks. It was filled with ups and downs. He had a strong spring training, but he got off to a slow start. He turned it around, and he earned his first big league promotion.He got his first hits, and he saw how the game can humble a player quickly too. Following the season, he went through being designated for assignment but then being claimed by another organization. He now finds himself with the Minnesota Twins. Let’s start at those two ultimate moments for any baseball player. For those of us who will never experience it (which is most of us), can you imagine the moment when you first get told that you’re heading to the big leagues? Secondly, can you imagine getting your first major league hit? John Hicks was not expecting the moment when it came. His season started out slow, especially with the bat. “The first few months of the season were not as planned, offensively. I felt good behind the plate all year, and when I got to Tacoma and got in the box, things just didn’t click. Things didn’t come up with me from spring training, I guess.” However, in July, Hicks hit .345/.393/.436 (.830). He slowed some in August, however, Mike Zunino was really struggling in the big leagues, and the Mariners decided to send him down to AAA. In Tacoma on August 27th, Hicks was behind the plate. “We’re in the middle of the game. I’m catching. It’s about the 6th or 7th inning. (Former big leaguer) Pat Listach was our manager in AAA. A couple of innings before, he and I were talking about a hitter on the other team. The next inning, that hitter came up. We ended up striking him out, attacking him like we had talked about. So I ran into the dugout and he asked me about it. I told him. He said, ‘Awesome! Alright, well, you’re done. You’re out of the game.’” Hicks had no idea what to think about that. He did what he was supposed to do, and it was successful, so why was he taken out of the game? What was he to do? He went and sat on the bench. “People were coming up to me and saying, ‘Are you going up? Are you going up?’ And I’m like, ‘I have no idea. He just told me I was out of the game.’” Soon after, Hicks walked back over to his manager. He asked if he should head out to the bullpen to help warm up pitchers. Or do something to stop thinking so much. That’s when he got the news from Pat Listach, ““Nah, nah. I’m waiting for confirmation, but you’re going to the big leagues.” The emotion hit him right then and there in the dugout. “It kind of hit me. It was a rush of emotions, and I couldn’t stop smiling. Then he told me to go in and pack. I went in and called my parents. There’s a three-hour time difference from Tacoma to back home (Virginia), so it was like 1 o’clock at home. I think my parents were fine with me waking them up.” My guess is that they were just fine with that phone call as well. But there was a lot of packing to be done, and quickly. “I flew out to Chicago the next day. They flew out my mom and dad, my two brothers and their wives, and then a good family friend, and they all came out and watched.” A couple of days later, August 30th (one day before his 26th birthday), Hicks made his major league debut in Chicago. The opposing pitcher was Jose Quintana. He didn’t take too long to get that first big league hit out of the way. “It was exciting. I went up, and everybody asked me, ‘Are you going to be really aggressive? Are you going to swing at the first pitch?’ I didn’t really know. I said I’m just going to go up, and if it’s a good pitch that I like, I’ll swing. I got up there and took the first pitch. Then he threw me a cutter that ran in, and I stayed inside of it, and I hit kind of a soft liner over second base, in front of the right fielder. I got to first base, and the first base coach leans over my shoulder and said, ‘Hey, there’ll never be a better BB player than you are right now, hitting 1.000, one hit, one at bat.’ I’m like, ‘All lright.’ It obviously went down a little from there, but it was fun.” It was a struggle from there. He ended the season going 2-32 for the Mariners. His other hit was a double and came off of the Angels’ Jered Weaver. Following the season, Hicks was designated for assignment by the Mariners. They called him to let him know that they had about a week to try to trade him or put him on waivers. “It was a long six or seven days, waiting to hear something. Got the call from the Mariners first. He said ‘I’ve got good news and bad news.’ He said you’re no longer a Mariner, but the Twins picked you up.’ Alright! I was really excited to hear that. Got a call from the Twins, talked a little bit with them.” --------------------------------- Before we look forward, let’s look further back. John Hicks grew up in Richmond, Virginia. He attended Goochland High School where he teamed with Ben Verlander, now a minor leaguer in the Tigers organization. “He’s a couple of years younger than I am. He and I actually work out together in the offseason.” But was there any AL Central trash talking? “We spend a lot of time together working out and hitting. He was very excited for me when I got picked up by the Twins. My oldest brother and Justin (Verlander) went to high school together and they’re still really good friends. Justin and my brother went back and forth, and Justin had a few things to say about when I face him, but we’ll see.” Although he was drafted in the 31st round out of high school by the Angels in 2008, he went to the University of Virginia. He played over 60 games all three years. He hit eight home runs each season. He hit a combined 54 doubles. Following his junior season, he was the fourth round pick of the Seattle Mariners. ----------------------------------------------------- He has primarily been a catcher his whole life. “I pretty much only caught in high school. I started catching when I was 11. I had an older brother. He’s two years older and he was a pitcher, so it just kind of worked out that he needed a catcher. My first two years of college, I didn’t catch every game. When I didn’t catch, I played first base and DH.” Clearly the Twins wanted to improve their defense at the catcher position in the offseason. They let Eric Fryer leave as a free agent, traded Chris Herrmann, and DFA'd Josmil Pinto. They acquired John Ryan Murphy from the Yankees as well. Hicks has always taken a lot of pride in his defense behind the plate. “That’s always been something I took pride in, defense. If I can go out and work with that pitcher, and we can use that scouting report that we get before the game, and use that well, and we post zeroes, we’re going to win games. Whether I go 4-4 or 0-4, if we go out and win, that’s what it’s all about.” He will need to learn the pitchers, as well as gain their confidence. That doesn’t happen overnight. “That takes time. Spring training is very important. Taking the time to get to know him and know how they like to attack hitter. They need to have confidence in you that if they have a runner on third base and a hitter that’s going to chase up there that they can throw that curve ball or split or slider in the dirt and you’re going to block it for them. It should never be a doubt in their mind that you will. For me, that’s huge. If they trust me that I’m going to get it done, then we’ll get somewhere.” Hicks likely starts the season as the Twins third catcher. In other words, he is likely to start the season in Rochester. Should there be an injury to Kurt Suzuki or John Ryan Murphy, Hicks would get the call. That is an important role on a team because catcher is certainly a position where injuries can happen. They can send him up and down without needing to clear waivers, which they needed to do with Eric Fryer as he was out of options. Hicks has two option years remaining. Hicks enjoyed the Twins Fest experience for several reasons. “It’s been good. Like I said, we’re getting to know the pitchers, and the position players too. Putting the faces to the name. Getting to know them a little bit better so when we get to spring training, we can just jump into it. I think it’s huge. And, it’s fun to get out here and see the ballpark and all that.” He will be starting his trek from Virginia to Ft. Myers on the 14th. He’ll make stops in North Carolina and northern Florida before getting there in plenty of time to report. “I’m excited to be here. I think it’s a good situation to be in. I’m excited to get out in spring training and get it going.” Click here to view the article
  14. And for eight innings, the script was followed. Ace Justin Verlander, who had just recently returned to the rotation, was masterful. Meanwhile, the Tigers chased Ervin Santana after just four innings. As a result, the Tigers entered the 9th inning with a 6-1 lead. But the Twins rallied and capped their comeback with a Brian Dozier home run to left field. The Twins walked off 8-6 winners. It was just one game, but to Twins fans it felt like the passing of a torch. The aging Tigers era was over. The youthful Twins era had begun. I don’t know if that’s how it felt to Tigers fans, but since that moment, things have fallen apart for the Tigers. They lost the last two games of that series. Then they stumbled badly enough through the rest of July that General Manager Dave Dombrowski became a seller at the trade deadline, moving ace David Price to the Blue Jays and slugger Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets. Then Dombrowski was fired. Now it looks like the Tigers manager, Brad Ausmus, will be fired at the end of the season. There are even rumors that former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is the frontrunner to replace him. That’s what happens when a team implodes; the Tigers’ record since that fateful night is only 21-36. So the Tigers visit Target Field this September with recent roles reversed. This year, they are trying to play the spoiler while the Twins are chasing a playoff spot. They’re still dangerous. Detroit is 8-5 versus the Twins this year, though it appears the Twins will miss Verlander in this series and their other top pitcher, Anibal Sanchez, is on the DL. With an extended stretch of summer this week, there should be plenty of Twins fans watching the teams adopt their new roles. After all, who wouldn’t want to see that one swing that changes everything?
  15. Did one Brain Dozier swing change everything? Yes it did. On Friday, July 10th, the Tigers were playing their second game of a four-game set versus the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers were in an unusual position - behind the Twins by a couple of games in the standings. But there was no way that was going to last. The Tigers had owned the Twins for four years and 2015 was more of the same; the Tigers had an 8-2 record against the Twins so far that season.And for eight innings, the script was followed. Ace Justin Verlander, who had just recently returned to the rotation, was masterful. Meanwhile, the Tigers chased Ervin Santana after just four innings. As a result, the Tigers entered the 9th inning with a 6-1 lead. But the Twins rallied and capped their comeback with a Brian Dozier home run to left field. The Twins walked off 8-6 winners. It was just one game, but to Twins fans it felt like the passing of a torch. The aging Tigers era was over. The youthful Twins era had begun. I don’t know if that’s how it felt to Tigers fans, but since that moment, things have fallen apart for the Tigers. They lost the last two games of that series. Then they stumbled badly enough through the rest of July that General Manager Dave Dombrowski became a seller at the trade deadline, moving ace David Price to the Blue Jays and slugger Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets. Then Dombrowski was fired. Now it looks like the Tigers manager, Brad Ausmus, will be fired at the end of the season. There are even rumors that former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is the frontrunner to replace him. That’s what happens when a team implodes; the Tigers’ record since that fateful night is only 21-36. So the Tigers visit Target Field this September with recent roles reversed. This year, they are trying to play the spoiler while the Twins are chasing a playoff spot. They’re still dangerous. Detroit is 8-5 versus the Twins this year, though it appears the Twins will miss Verlander in this series and their other top pitcher, Anibal Sanchez, is on the DL. With an extended stretch of summer this week, there should be plenty of Twins fans watching the teams adopt their new roles. After all, who wouldn’t want to see that one swing that changes everything? Click here to view the article
  16. I just became acquainted to this Justin Verlander/Kate Upton leak thing, and oh boy....it defiantly happened. All I will say here on this 'family accessible' site is Mr. Verlander went from having a bad year professionally to having the worst year of his life. He has become a joke overnight and will likely never be taken seriously again. I almost feel bad for... *looks at multitude of pictures*...oh, nevermind. BTW, this is not intended to be vulgar or inappropriate in any way. This is just meant to start a discussion about this situation which is connected to a Major League pitcher. If it is deemed too inappropriate for TD, I will remove this Topic if asked. -Noah Trautmann
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