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  1. I feel like I may have written something like this a year ago, but it rings true again today, and Rocco Baldelli’s club certainly has more to build on. Every time the Twins face New York in the playoffs there will be talk about the futility embedded in the matchup. That’s not a team problem however, and it isn’t even an organizational one. The reality is that the Yankees are often good, and they are often in the Postseason. This current group doesn’t care how things went for Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer. Short of a colossal collapse from the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota will finish second in the AL Central and host New York in the Postseason. Nash Walker recently penned a great piece as to why it may make sense to welcome the Evil Empire. Beyond that, the only history that matters in 2020 is what can be gleaned from the 2019 sweep. Let’s get into that. Where are the bats? After setting a Major League record 307 single-season home runs in 2019, the offensive prowess went in the tank when it mattered most. Minnesota pushed across just seven runs in three games during the ALDS, and they led for a grand total of two innings throughout the series. The trio of Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, and Miguel Sano all became nonexistent, while 39-year-old Nelson Cruz failed to produce anything of substance as well. In 2020 the offense hasn’t been at all what was expected. Thinking they’d light up the scoreboard every night, it just hasn’t been the case. The Twins have missed significant time from sluggers like Garver and Josh Donaldson, while the lineup hasn’t really clicked for any substantial period of time. Even still the results have shown up in the win column, and capable is a good descriptor for what Minnesota can do on any given day. The Yankees lineup is again daunting, but pitching won’t matter if the Twins can’t score. Pitching, Pitching, Pitching Going into the Postseason a year ago there were plenty of concerns about the Twins pitching, and it seemed like a lofty task to keep the Yankees in check. Jose Berrios struggled down the stretch, and Randy Dobnak was given the ball in game two as a matchup play instead of Jake Odorizzi. When the dust settled New York had plated 23 runs across three games against the Twins and Minnesota was swept in quick fashion. The bullpen had gone from massive question mark on Opening Day, to becoming a relative force by season’s end. It didn’t factor much as the Twins were behind early and often in these tilts, and any ability from that group was thwarted pretty quickly. This season the Twins have gotten great efforts from a handful of guys. Jose Berrios has been rolling through his last six turns, while Kenta Maeda looks worthy of Cy Young votes. Michael Pineda returned and picked up right where he left off, and Rich Hill has rounded into form of late. If Jake Odorizzi’s finger is healed in time for October baseball, he too could provide a lift despite such an unfortunate string of luck in 2020. There are few question marks when it comes to the “who” on Rocco’s staff, and he should feel good about choosing any of them for the “when.” Oh, Byron Where Art Thou? A shoulder injury ended Byron Buxton’s season in 2019 and it was a crushing blow for the Twins. Their record in games he played was better to a lopsided degree, and his .827 OPS was as much an indicator as to why as his glove was. Max Kepler posted a breakout season defensively, but centerfield wore on him down the stretch and there’s no denying the upgrade Byron brings all over the diamond just by being in the middle of the grass. Buxton has missed time in 2020 as well, but his 36-game sample has provided a banner year. Currently he owns an .880 OPS and has swatted 12 homers. His plate discipline could use work still as evidenced by the 29/2 K/BB, but he’s getting off an “A” swing plenty, and he’s making sure to do damage when he connects. Still the fastest man in baseball and one of the game’s best defenders, having him patrolling the outfield against any opponent is an upgrade that can’t be overstated. It will never matter to the current collection of players what history has dealt to a franchise, and it shouldn’t. Recent history is something this collection likely wants to overcome however, and each side loaded up with one big new piece. Gerrit Cole was always destined for New York, and Josh Donaldson made a surprise splash in Minnesota. It’s time to tango, and Minnesota is as well positioned as ever. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. It’s a bit unfortunate that 2020 has dealt the world the hand it has. On the sports front, and baseball in particular, the year has looked nothing like a traditional schedule. With Minnesota putting together arguably the most talented roster in franchise history, it’s unfortunate we didn’t get to see it perform over a full 162-game slate. What still matters however, is that all that talent is at the disposal of Rocco Baldelli when the games become win-or-go-home. The most likely opponents for the Twins in the Wild Card round of the Postseason look to be the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, or Cleveland Indians. We know the field at this point, and there’s no reason Minnesota can’t be excited about facing any of these teams. In reverse order though, here’s how I’ll argue the stack up, from easiest to toughest. 7. Toronto Blue Jays (Batting 18th Pitching 18th Fielding 18th) Somewhat of a surprise team, the Blue Jays have competed in what has been an up and down AL East this season. New York looked like a minor league team depending on which lineup you caught them with, and the Red Sox took ownership of the Orioles doldrums positioning. Toronto doesn’t do anything all that well, but they don’t have any glaring problem areas either. Bo Bichette is a stud, and right now Teoscar Hernandez has assumed the production intended for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Hyun-Jin Ryu has looked the part of the ace he was hoped to be, but they haven’t got much help on the pitching front elsewhere. Ken Giles isn’t coming back either, and the bullpen is plenty beatable. 6. Houston Astros (Batting 22nd Pitching 11th Fielding 28th) What a difference a year makes. Houston was probably always going to be seen as tough despite the fallout from their cheating scandal due to the number of weapons that can hurt you. Their problem is that many of them have been a shell of themselves, and the pitching isn’t there either. Gerrit Cole is gone and Justin Verlander is done. George Springer and Michael Brantley have hit, but Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa have been awful. You can’t let this team beat you, they have the talent to do so, but it isn’t the scary Astros anymore. 5. Oakland Athletics (Batting 10th Pitching 8th Fielding 3rd) Taking the Athletics down a notch was the massive loss of Matt Chapman. He’s a superstar and arguably the best defender in baseball at third base. There’s still thump in their lineup with Matt Olson and Marcus Semien, but one through nine isn’t where they’ll beat you. This team can pitch in the rotation and the bullpen, while converting outs at a high clip defensively. Oakland isn’t a team to take lightly but the +53-run differential and overall win tally seems to be aided by a very mediocre AL West. 4. Cleveland Indians (Batting 16th Pitching 1st Fielding 2nd) By now Twins fans have seen enough of the Indians to know what expectations are. The club can once again pitch, shocker, but they still can’t hit. Jose Ramirez has looked like an AL MVP candidate, but the middle of the order still features a black hole in Carlos Santana. The outfield production is atrocious, and they’ll rely on beating teams in low-scoring affairs. This isn’t a group you want to see in October. Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and company can shut down any lineup. That said, there’s warts here and Minnesota has already handled them to the tune of a 7-3 record in 2020. 3. Chicago White Sox (Batting 1st Pitching 9th Fielding 9th) The rivalry has certainly been renewed, and it doesn’t matter who wins the division, the Southsiders will be coming for Minnesota plenty in the years ahead. The Twins split the season series with Chicago, and while a couple of those contests were lopsided, Rick Renteria’s club has the bats to do plenty of damage on their own. I think this unit is still a year away from settling into their own, but a series going up and down that lineup on a nightly basis would be as tense as it gets. Lucas Giolito is not an arm that has owned the Twins, and the rotation is barren behind him and Keuchel. Still though, it’s the bats that make this club worthy of a no-fly zone. 2. New York Yankees (Batting 7th Pitching 14th Fielding 13th) Going on season numbers for the Yankees are relatively hollow considering the amount of time they were without key players. Now a healthy Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have returned, and all bets are off. Gerrit Cole is an ace in every sense of the word, and Masahiro Tanaka is plenty consistent in his own right. I actually don’t think New York’s rotation is that much better than Minnesota’s but turning to Cole twice in a short series could be the trump card. There are questions as to whether Judge and Stanton have enough at bats to feel comfortable, but both are capable of going off at any time. Throw in Luke Voit and D.J. LeMahieu and you’ve once again got an opponent to avoid. 1. Tampa Bay Rays (Batting 11th Pitching 10th Fielding 8th) Maybe I’m overrating the Rays a bit given the opportunities they had against a more lackluster Yankees lineup, but this feels like the most complete team in the American League. Kevin Cash has this club clicking on all cylinders, and most of the names are guys a national landscape would gloss over. Brandon Lowe is a superstar, while Willy Adames has finally started living up to his potential. Tyler Glasnow is a problem on the mound and Nick Anderson may be the best reliever in baseball. Up and down this roster is a group of guys that constantly embody next man up, and anyone is capable of producing on a nightly basis. It’d be a fun narrative series for the Twins, but not one I’d want to willingly sign up for. *Overall ranks based on Fangraphs fWAR totals 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. I hear the Pint commentators, I see the bloggers and TD writers and the posts saying the 16 game losing streak to the Yankees does not count - there are Twins who were not even born when this began - okay I exaggerate. But some were pretty young. It is a different team, different players - and that is true. I think we have said that in every playoff appearance. Don't tell me that the players don't know about this - heck they might even read this rambling essay. Fans know it, the media knows it, and the Yankees know it. So am I nervous about the Yankees in this years playoffs? Yes. Today on ESPN I read, "The Yankees have awoken. Watch out, American League. A little more than a week ago the Yankees had lost their fifth straight game and dropped to 21-21. Even with the expanded playoff format, the unthinkable suddenly seemed possible: The Yankees were actually in danger of missing the playoffs. They were just a half-game ahead of the Orioles for the final wild-card spot, a mere one game ahead of the Tigers -- two teams that combined for 222 losses in 2019. "Droppin' Like A Stone," exclaimed the headline on the back cover of the New York Post, featuring a photo of Gary Sanchez dropping a foul pop-up.' The Yankees have not lost since then and they are beyond winning. They are treating the Blue Jays like a last place team and they are the team that should be defeating the Yankees so they could play the Twins. But the Yankees have hit 383/.478/.957 in this series with 19 home runs. And they just got back Stanton and Judge. Meanwhile the Bomba squad is .243 .318 .429 which looks good and compares with the Yankees who were really bad to start the season. The issue is who is rising? Who is getting momentum? Not that momentum means anything in the post season. But momentum is often a product of confidence and confidence does matter. Right now I look at yesterdays lineup and it is Kepler - 204 Donaldson 215 Polanco 264 Cruz 320 Rosario 251 Sano 220 Buxton 270 Gonzales 216 Jeffers 283 Polanco's BA is falling, Buxton is rising. Kepler and Donaldson have been at the same place all year. Cruz is our best despite a bad WS series. The other player with a good averages are Rooker who is injured. On the bench we have Adrianza - 182, Jake Cave 219, Wade 258, Avila 174, and Astudillo 250. I trust Wade over Cave and I am still disappointed we do not have Blankenhorn instead of Adrianza and Kiriloff instead of Cave. If Garver comes back I want Avila, not Jeffers to be removed. The Yankees have 4 starters with era in the 3+ and their BP looks solid with only Ottavino having a bad year. We have had Dobnak lose his Cinderella status and Odorizzi has been plagued with bad luck and injuries. Hill is a great three inning pitcher and now people are hoping for Homer Bailey to come off the injured list. We have three pitchers under 4 era which includes Hill. What worries me is the inconsistency in the bats. The 16 game losing streak might not mean anything, but Yankee lineup looks like it has fewer weak spots and a stronger bench.
  4. Cleveland and Chicago are formidable opponents but don’t take your eye off the ball.With the three AL Central leaders separated by a game and a half and the Twins lined up to play the other two back-to-back, it’s critical to remember the important thing: The Yankees straight-up suck right now. The persistent cause of Minnesota’s postseason nightmares is currently in the depths of a 5-15 slide and it’s important to recognize that this is hilarious. Take in a deep breath and laugh the kind of laugh that rings with joy and merriment and makes others laugh with you. The Yankees are bad at baseball and you love to see it. It’s great, and you shouldn’t be ashamed for enjoying it. Relish their misery. It whips ass. There are extenuating circumstances if you’re inclined to sympathy. Unlike any other team in baseball, the Yankees have injuries. Unlike any other team in baseball, the Yankees have critical players in prolonged slumps. Name one other team that could overcome injuries or slumps, much less both simultaneously. It can’t be done! You might think that the crucial matter at hand is fending off Cleveland and Chicago for the AL Central crown in this last frenzied quarter of the truncated season. You are thinking wrong. All three teams are going to get in, home field doesn’t exist, and any division pennant from 2020 is going to have an asterisk larger than the champion’s logo. Focus on what’s important. Focus on the Yankees being an epic trainwreck. This coming weekend promises to be filled with distractions for local sports fans. Not only are Minnesota and Cleveland battling at Target Field, the Vikings make their 2020 debut against the hated Packers. There are NBA and NHL playoffs. The Lynx and the Loons are playing. There’s even a slate of college football games on Saturday and the US Open at Flushing Meadows. It’s a staggering buffet of sports action. And I’m asking you to please spare an eyeball for the upstart Baltimore Orioles (only two games below .500!) as they battle the Bronx Bombers. New York is clinging to the last playoff spot in the AL at this writing. Would be a shame if they lost it at the hands of a team that went 54-108 in 2019. A damn shame. Click here to view the article
  5. With the three AL Central leaders separated by a game and a half and the Twins lined up to play the other two back-to-back, it’s critical to remember the important thing: The Yankees straight-up suck right now. The persistent cause of Minnesota’s postseason nightmares is currently in the depths of a 5-15 slide and it’s important to recognize that this is hilarious. Take in a deep breath and laugh the kind of laugh that rings with joy and merriment and makes others laugh with you. The Yankees are bad at baseball and you love to see it. It’s great, and you shouldn’t be ashamed for enjoying it. Relish their misery. It whips ass. There are extenuating circumstances if you’re inclined to sympathy. Unlike any other team in baseball, the Yankees have injuries. Unlike any other team in baseball, the Yankees have critical players in prolonged slumps. Name one other team that could overcome injuries or slumps, much less both simultaneously. It can’t be done! You might think that the crucial matter at hand is fending off Cleveland and Chicago for the AL Central crown in this last frenzied quarter of the truncated season. You are thinking wrong. All three teams are going to get in, home field doesn’t exist, and any division pennant from 2020 is going to have an asterisk larger than the champion’s logo. Focus on what’s important. Focus on the Yankees being an epic trainwreck. This coming weekend promises to be filled with distractions for local sports fans. Not only are Minnesota and Cleveland battling at Target Field, the Vikings make their 2020 debut against the hated Packers. There are NBA and NHL playoffs. The Lynx and the Loons are playing. There’s even a slate of college football games on Saturday and the US Open at Flushing Meadows. It’s a staggering buffet of sports action. And I’m asking you to please spare an eyeball for the upstart Baltimore Orioles (only two games below .500!) as they battle the Bronx Bombers. New York is clinging to the last playoff spot in the AL at this writing. Would be a shame if they lost it at the hands of a team that went 54-108 in 2019. A damn shame.
  6. Here is what the Twins Daily writers had to say when asked, “Do you think the World Series Champion in an 82-game season would be legitimate?” Seth Stohs: Of course. The NHL and NBA had 82-game seasons and then they crown legitimate champions. If it's about number of games, the NFL plays 16 games and then has a champion. If the question is because it's a shortened season, well, then there have been several shortened seasons in MLB history and those champions have been considered legit. Nick Nelson: To me, the legitimacy of naming a 2020 MLB champion is more dependent on the makeup of a season than its length. I think 82 games is sufficient, especially with expanded playoffs. But how many players aren't participating? Is it fair to call this an official season of record if numerous stars opt out, especially if some teams are disproportionately affected? I don't think so. Ted Schwerzler: It’s still a season and not just a playoff. It’s different, but sanctioned and legitimate, nonetheless. Cody Pirkl: I would say yes, but I think the public perception will be based off of what team wins it. If a team like the Diamondbacks or the White Sox won, I think people would be more likely to point out the small sample size not being legit. John Bonnes: Yes. Nash Walker: Yes! 100% yes from me. As others have pointed out, overcoming the obstacles of a global pandemic and delayed season is more impressive than a regular year. It’s gonna be different, but legitimacy won’t be a question for me. Whoever takes the cake will have earned it during an unprecedented time. Cody Christie: I think it is a strange proposition because there have been previous shortened seasons, but none that have been in the 80-game range. I think fans of the winning club will view it as legitimate, especially if it isn’t the Yankees or the Dodgers. Tom Froemming: Absolutely, assuming there aren’t any major alterations to shorten the postseason format. Matt Braun: The championship was won under the rules set forward by MLB and the players association. Yes, it would be an unusual World Series victory, but the team accomplished what they did legitimately with the same parameters as every other franchise. Cooper Carlson: While I understand there will always be an asterisk for the 2020 World Series champion, I still believe the champion will be legitimate. 82 games is enough to weed out who the best teams are and provide a solid group of playoff teams. After 82 games last year, the playoff teams would have been the Yankees, Twins, Astros, Dodgers, Braves, Cubs, Rays, Rangers, Brewers and Phillies. That group truly only has one outlier (sorry Texas) so I think 82 games will work. While 82 isn’t ideal, it’s the best we’re going to get in 2020 and that’s alright. Andrew Thares: Yes, since playoff performance isn’t as heavily correlated to regular season performance as most people think, and that is already what determines the World Series champion. Matthew Lenz: Yes, same rules and chances for every team. Teams may inadvertently be better built for an 82-game season but I still think that’s a big enough sample to figure out which team is the best. What do you think? Is the winner of a World Series in an 82-game season legit? Leave a COMMENT and continue the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. I join others with regret that we continue to move down the the next pitcher on the list essays. If I was more motivated I would go back and see how many "sign this pitcher" essays have been on the site since Thanksgiving. But the essence of so many comments is - why would they come here, not what they would sign for. I do not think that it is money that is winning. If you or your girlfriend are from Philadelphia you want to go home, if you have had your career in warm cities or are tired of being in cold and windy Chicago then you look to places like Atlanta and LA. It is unfortunate that we do not have a WAR for location - where would we rank? Yankees have bad weather, but they have mystique and money. So how can we evaluate our location - situation? What are the qualities that players want? History Yes it matters if you are the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox. Our Minnesota history is now 59 years - not quite the Cincinnati Reds (1869) or Atlanta dating to 1876 with stops in Boston and Milwaukee, or the Cubs who started out as the White Stockings (that's true) in 1870. But if we accept the Senators (Nationals) as our historic heritage goes back to the 1872 Olympics so we are in the discussion, however, even Twins Daily finds it hard to talk about the Senators/Nationals/Olympics/Blue Legs/Statesmen. Winning records and legends New York Yankees (40 appearances in WS) wins this, but the Dodgers (20) aren't far behind. They may be lacking a classic win like they had with Kirk Gibson in the last couple decades, but they are still always in the battle. The Giants (20) have classic history from both NY and SF in World Series lore. The Cardinals are often considered to be the Yankees of the west and NL and they have 19 appearances. The Twins have 6 with their Washington DC history doubling the appearances. We rank number 14 there. Climate Yes it is nice to pitch those April and May games in above zero temps with no snow on the ground. Unfortunately we have only the Brewers and Detroit to compare with Minneapolis/St Paul in this category and they are both south of us. Only Seattle is further north and they have an ocean to warm them. Club House Culture It is nice to play with your buddies even though the Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue A's showed that championships aren't always for the most compatible troops and Leo Durocher said - Nice Guys finish Last. But in today's game the Twins are putting together a really nice atmosphere that should build up its WAR and the millennials should love it. A really nice place to live In my mind there is no place better to live than Minnesota, Lakes, Rivers, Parks, shopping, sports, education. Not everyone will see that - some care about income tax despite their fortunes and we cannot compete with a state that has no tax - seven US states don't impose state income tax — Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Now I would not trade because I like what our tax buys us, but I am not an agent. So where does that leave us? Our location/team WAR has to be in the 40 percentile by this list so then it is MONEY. Can we buy loyalty?
  8. When the Twins hired Wes Johnson last November, it was a rare move in which a Major League Baseball team tapped a college coach to join the big league staff. Outside of the industry, the hiring was a curiosity considering the lack of experience in handling professional pitchers but those following closely knew that Johnson was viewed as one of the sharpest teachers anywhere in the game. We're far from anointing the decision as an all-out success but everything is trending in the right direction. The Yankees, who parted ways with pitching coach Larry Rothschild last week, are now trying to follow the Twins down the collegiate path.According to D1 Baseball's Kendall Rogers, the Yankees have made "college pitching coaches a high priority" for the position. Rogers says that the Yankees have interviewed Michigan's Chris Fetter and Johnson's replacement at Arkansas, Matt Hobbes. The Yankees also inquired about Arizona's Nate Yeskie (a Driveline favorite) and TCU's Kirk Saarloos but both coaches turned them down. This past spring, I asked Johnson what he thought were the key differences between the college game and professional ball and what made that appealing for teams. "I think the college game, we have the resources, we have a smaller number of players, so we are able to go in and do a lot of research with biomechanics and Trackman and write those individual plans," Johnson said. "As you’re seeing that’s just where the game is going and so these guys have the experience doing it, so it makes it easier. You look, basketball, in the NBA and the NFL, that’s not uncommon but for some reason it is uncommon in baseball. In the NFL you have great head coaches who never played a day of college football or anything of that nature, and they are phenomenal. Same way in basketball." That's a huge factor for major league teams. College ball is where the forefront of development lies and the technology aspect was embraced heavily. Major league teams were late to utilize and some teams recognized that they didn't have the coaching infrastructure to incorporate the changes. Pitching coaches like Rothchild, while unbelievably knowledgeable about the craft, lacked the experience working with the advancements. "I think that college baseball has been slightly ahead of professional baseball in some regard," said the Twins' minor league catching instructor Tanner Swanson. "I think from an educational standpoint there’s just more people in that space who understand how this stuff works and we’re seeing how it is utilized now and implement it in a professional environment." As this continues to unfold and more college coaches are picked from the amateur ranks, keep in mind that this was Derek Falvey vision all along when he assumed the position of Chief Baseball Officer with the Minnesota Twins. “When I came here, one of the things I thought about over my career in baseball was where are the people learning and growing and developing as coaches," Falvey told me. "I found when I was in different positions I would go to different conventions, college conventions or off-sites or these events, and I met these different people from college and thought wow, these people really have curious minds, they are high character individuals, they care about baseball deeply." You may be surprised by the amount of money college pitching coaches at large universities make. Before leaving Arkansas, Johnson was making $250,000 a year and the Twins reportedly offered him a deal that is "well north" of $350,000 per year. The Yankees obviously have the biggest pocketbook so they could throw money at whoever they feel is the top coach but, for many teams, they typically pay between $150,000 to $300,000 for a pitching coach. Not everyone is as bold as the Twins when it comes to handing out money to unproven coaches. So you can see why some coaches, like Nate Yeskie who is earning “elite SEC school range” income, might turn down the opportunity. After all, most SEC head coaches make over a million a year and pitching coaches have a payday of half of that. Beyond just income, the time dedicated to the job is significantly different and could favor a switch to the professional ranks. While pro baseball coaches have higher scrutiny (although you could argue SEC coaches are constantly under the microscope), college coaching requires a year-round commitment and does not have the luxury of regrouping during the offseason. The Twins hired their Gulf Coast League pitching coach, Zach Bove, out of the College of Central Florida (you can read more about him in my article in the Offseason Handbook). Bove noted that the main difference between pro and college ball for coaches is the extra downtime pro coaches receive. “In college you have practices and games and then you are going out on the weekends to recruit or have phone calls to make,” said Bove. “People ask me how my time’s been and you have no idea,” said Johnson. “It’s 365 days a year in college. You’re on the phone with advisers, agents, parents and kids. Then you got your guys. You put it all into a funnel and let it come out on a calendar and you definitely have more free time in professional baseball than coaching in the SEC.” It is odd to live in a world where the Minnesota Twins are the trend-setters and organization like the New York Yankees are trying to follow suit. The Twins did well in capitalizing on a market inefficiency but that avenue might be closing soon as other teams pillage college programs. Click here to view the article
  9. According to D1 Baseball's Kendall Rogers, the Yankees have made "college pitching coaches a high priority" for the position. Rogers says that the Yankees have interviewed Michigan's Chris Fetter and Johnson's replacement at Arkansas, Matt Hobbes. The Yankees also inquired about Arizona's Nate Yeskie (a Driveline favorite) and TCU's Kirk Saarloos but both coaches turned them down. This past spring, I asked Johnson what he thought were the key differences between the college game and professional ball and what made that appealing for teams. "I think the college game, we have the resources, we have a smaller number of players, so we are able to go in and do a lot of research with biomechanics and Trackman and write those individual plans," Johnson said. "As you’re seeing that’s just where the game is going and so these guys have the experience doing it, so it makes it easier. You look, basketball, in the NBA and the NFL, that’s not uncommon but for some reason it is uncommon in baseball. In the NFL you have great head coaches who never played a day of college football or anything of that nature, and they are phenomenal. Same way in basketball." That's a huge factor for major league teams. College ball is where the forefront of development lies and the technology aspect was embraced heavily. Major league teams were late to utilize and some teams recognized that they didn't have the coaching infrastructure to incorporate the changes. Pitching coaches like Rothchild, while unbelievably knowledgeable about the craft, lacked the experience working with the advancements. "I think that college baseball has been slightly ahead of professional baseball in some regard," said the Twins' minor league catching instructor Tanner Swanson. "I think from an educational standpoint there’s just more people in that space who understand how this stuff works and we’re seeing how it is utilized now and implement it in a professional environment." As this continues to unfold and more college coaches are picked from the amateur ranks, keep in mind that this was Derek Falvey vision all along when he assumed the position of Chief Baseball Officer with the Minnesota Twins. “When I came here, one of the things I thought about over my career in baseball was where are the people learning and growing and developing as coaches," Falvey told me. "I found when I was in different positions I would go to different conventions, college conventions or off-sites or these events, and I met these different people from college and thought wow, these people really have curious minds, they are high character individuals, they care about baseball deeply." You may be surprised by the amount of money college pitching coaches at large universities make. Before leaving Arkansas, Johnson was making $250,000 a year and the Twins reportedly offered him a deal that is "well north" of $350,000 per year. The Yankees obviously have the biggest pocketbook so they could throw money at whoever they feel is the top coach but, for many teams, they typically pay between $150,000 to $300,000 for a pitching coach. Not everyone is as bold as the Twins when it comes to handing out money to unproven coaches. So you can see why some coaches, like Nate Yeskie who is earning “elite SEC school range” income, might turn down the opportunity. After all, most SEC head coaches make over a million a year and pitching coaches have a payday of half of that. Beyond just income, the time dedicated to the job is significantly different and could favor a switch to the professional ranks. While pro baseball coaches have higher scrutiny (although you could argue SEC coaches are constantly under the microscope), college coaching requires a year-round commitment and does not have the luxury of regrouping during the offseason. The Twins hired their Gulf Coast League pitching coach, Zach Bove, out of the College of Central Florida (you can read more about him in my article in the Offseason Handbook). Bove noted that the main difference between pro and college ball for coaches is the extra downtime pro coaches receive. “In college you have practices and games and then you are going out on the weekends to recruit or have phone calls to make,” said Bove. “People ask me how my time’s been and you have no idea,” said Johnson. “It’s 365 days a year in college. You’re on the phone with advisers, agents, parents and kids. Then you got your guys. You put it all into a funnel and let it come out on a calendar and you definitely have more free time in professional baseball than coaching in the SEC.” It is odd to live in a world where the Minnesota Twins are the trend-setters and organization like the New York Yankees are trying to follow suit. The Twins did well in capitalizing on a market inefficiency but that avenue might be closing soon as other teams pillage college programs.
  10. Data scientist and former FiveThirtyEight journalist Rob Arthur wrote a piece today for Baseball Prospectus. The premise was that the baseball teams played the game with all season is now gone, and that’s quite a damning revelation. If you don’t have access to a subscription at Baseball Prospectus, he did a nice job breaking it down to a bite-sized Twitter thread. The ball itself is causing more drag than it has at any point since 2016. Home runs are down more than 50%, and the playing field established for 162 games has now been abolished. https://twitter.com/No_Little_Plans/status/1182286423833096192 Arthur went on to clarify that weather is not the culprit for these outcomes. He stated that drag factors in both temperature and pressure, while also noting conditions have been more optimal than normal and don’t have a significant overall impact. Considering the research he provided, and the comments offered up by Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, I began to think of specific examples. Earlier I mentioned thinking that something seemed off about that Dodgers and Nationals game to close out the National League Division Series. I didn’t dig in enough to see the amount of wall scrapers typically present on a game-by-game basis, but it certainly seemed abnormal. I did however consider that Will Smith at bat in the bottom of the 9th. His 100 mph exit velocity and 26-degree launch angle resulted in a fly out. During the regular season there was 75 similar occurrences of those inputs, and they resulted in 44 homers with an 83% base hit rate. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/1182363415228141574 This is a Minnesota Twins website, so let’s bring things full circle here. Parker Hageman immediately turned to Monday’s game against the Yankees. I remembered thinking it was odd to see Gleyber Torres barely get out on a well struck ball, but it was Marwin Gonzalez’s blast that immediately looked gone and fell way short that got me. As Parker notes, the Twins 1B had his well struck ball become a pretty small outlier. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/1182366456899670016 If we think back to game one, there were homers hit by both Miguel Sano and Nelson Cruz that struck me as odd. Although the ball went out to the opposite field, power sluggers like those two rarely need every extra inch to reach the seats. In doing some research through MLB’s own Statcast service, the balls that left the yard in the Postseason traveled an average of 70 feet shorter than they same circumstances produced during the regular season. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/1182367265683058688 All along, the expectation should’ve been that the sport would walk the baseball back. Despite the home run providing a level of excitement to the game (one that pace of play changes would seemingly be geared towards), Rob Manfred has publicly stated that inquiries would be made too many times for tools of the trade to go untouched. What strikes this writer as irresponsible, unfair, and downright disingenuous is to make these wholesale changes during the season. The point isn’t to suggest that the Twins or any other team is getting a raw deal because of the deadened baseball. What is fair is for players across the league, most importantly hitters, to have a level of frustration aimed at the governing body of their sport. As former pitcher Dallas Braden puts it, “The guy that deflated footballs in the NFL was drug over the coals by the commissioner of the NFL for altering the sports’ ball. What do WE do when it’s THE COMMISSIONER altering balls like some MAD plastic surgeon? Let the man snip & shape as he sees fit, no issues?” I’ll never have a problem with seasons being analyzed separately as not all factors remain the same as the calendar changes. I do think you’ve got a significant problem when the integrity of a collective season is being manipulated at the drop of a hat. Because of this uproar Major League Baseball has now issued a statement on the situation. Unfortunately it does little to address any of the actual problems and avoids any statements that point to real reasons why there's such drastic changes in results. https://twitter.com/BizballMaury/status/1182385320311963649
  11. The long awaited postseason return to Target Field was met with some mixed emotions, as the Twins brought a 2-0 series deficit back from New York, and were suddenly on the brink of elimination. The Twins gave themselves plenty of chances to give this crowd a reason to erupt, but time and time again they came up short in the clutch, going a dreadful 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. In the end, the Twins dropped their 16th consecutive postseason game by a score of 5-1, ending the season for the Bomba Squad.Box Score Odorizzi: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 65.9% strikes (54 of 82 pitches) Home Runs: Rosario (1) Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (3-for-4, 2B, HR), Arraez (2-for-4, 2B) WPA of +0.1: Rosario .110, Cron .104 WPA of -0.1: Sano -.165, Kepler -.139, Gonzalez -.118, Cruz -.112, Polanco -.108, Garver -.101 Here's A Look At Today's Win Probability Chart Download attachment: vs Yankees 10-7-2019.PNG (Chart via Fangraphs) Despite being down in the series 2-0, Twins were amped at the start of the game, and Jake Odorizzi gave them something to cheer about in the top of the first. After striking out DJ LeMahieu to start the ballgame, Odorizzi appeared to get Aaron Judge to fly out to Eddie Rosario in right for two quick outs. However, Judge was awarded first base after catcher’s interference was called. That was no problem for Odorizzi, as he came back and got Brett Gardner to strike out and Edwin Encarnacion to fly out to end the inning. Odorizzi wasn’t able to keep the Yankees off the board for long, however, as Gleyber Torres hit a fly ball that just cleared the wall, and Jake Cave’s glove, in left. Rocco Baldelli went out and asked the umpires to review the home run for fan interference, and while a fan did reach over the railing and made contact with the ball, it was clearly already over the fence, along with Cave’s glove, before the fan touched it. Luckily for the Twins, the home run came with nobody on base, which feels like a rare occurrence for the Yankees against the Twins of late. The Twins gave themselves an excellent opportunity to get on the scoreboard themselves in the bottom of the second. Eddie Rosario drove a pitch about six inches above the zone deep off the top of the right-center field wall for a lead off double, narrowly missing a home run. After a Mitch Garver walk, and a Luis Arraez single, the Twins had the bases loaded and nobody out. However, as was the narrative all season long, the Twins failed to get the job done with the bases loaded, thanks to a Miguel Sano popup, and strikeouts from Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Cave. Gio Urshela led off the Yankee third with a blopper that dropped in front a Jake Cave, who inexplicably laid out for the baseball, coming up a few feet short, and allowing the ball to get past him, turning a routine single into a lead off double for Urshela. Urshela was able to advance to third on a DJ LeMahieu ground out, and looked like he might be stranded there after Aaron Judge struck out. However, Brett Gardner came through with a two-out single that went right past a shifted Miguel Sano, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead. After singles from Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario, the Twins had another scoring chance with two on and two out, for Mitch Garver, in the bottom of the third. After getting ahead in the count 3-0, Garver took what was pretty clearly ball four high, however, umpire Gary Cederstrom didn’t see it that way, calling it a strike. After that, Luis Severino was able to battle back and strike out Garver to end the inning. Jake Odorizzi did his job in the fourth and fifth innings, by keeping the Yankees off the board and working two pretty clean innings. Overall, for the night, Odorizzi earned a tip of the cap for doing his job by limiting the Yankees to just two runs across five innings, keeping the Twins in the game into the later innings. Luis Arraez got yet another Twins rally attempt going in the bottom of the sixth, when he drilled a one-out double that split the gap in left-center field. Miguel Sano followed that up with good at-bat, working the count full before driving a ball that left the bat at 107.9 MPH, toward the wall in right, but Aaron Judge used all of his 6’8” frame to reach up and snare the ball out of midair. Marwin Gonzalez followed that up by driving a flyball high into the Minnesota sky, but that ball came up just shy of the fence, as Judge made the catch on the warning track to end the Twins sixth. The Yankees added to their lead in the top of the seventh after yet another clutch hit off the bat of Didi Gregorius. Gleyber Torres started the inning with a ringing double off of Taylor Rogers. Then with one out, Gregorius ripped a single down the first base line, bringing around Torres to extend the Yankee lead to three. It took a long, and I mean long, time but the Twins were finally able to get on the board thanks to this Eddie Rosario blast to lead off the bottom of the eighth. The Yankees tacked on a couple more runs in the ninth to extend their lead to four in the top of the ninth. Cameron Maybin took Sergio Romo deep, with what looked like a lazy fly ball that just cleared the wall in left. They tacked on their fifth, and final, run of the game, thanks to, you guessed it, yet another RBI off the bat of Didi Gregorius. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Twins got themselves a little rally going in the bottom of the ninth, getting each of the first two hitters on to lead off the inning. However, the ninth ended in the same way as every other Twins rally of the ballgame. Max Kepler picked up the first out of the inning, by striking out three straight sliders from Aroldis Chapman. Jorge Polanco then lined a ball up the middle that appeared destined for a base hit until Didi Gregorius grabbed the ball, and with it the Twins hopes and dreams. The Twins season came to an end with Nelson Cruz at the plate looking at strike three right down the middle. The Twins ended the game going just 3-for-9 on balls put in play over 100 MPH. Those nine batted balls had an average expected batting average of .612. Instead, the Twins got just over half of that, and of course all the ones that didn’t drop for a hit were the ones hit in the highest leverage spots, but hey that’s baseball. Postgame with Baldelli: Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: 10-7-2019 vs Yankees.PNG ALDS Game Recaps: Twins ALDS Game 2 Recap: Nothing Works, Twins Lose 12th Straight To Yankees Twins ALDS Game 1 Recap: Bad Defense, Questionable Management Leads to Loss Click here to view the article
  12. Box Score Odorizzi: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 65.9% strikes (54 of 82 pitches) Home Runs: Rosario (1) Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (3-for-4, 2B, HR), Arraez (2-for-4, 2B) WPA of +0.1: Rosario .110, Cron .104 WPA of -0.1: Sano -.165, Kepler -.139, Gonzalez -.118, Cruz -.112, Polanco -.108, Garver -.101 Here's A Look At Today's Win Probability Chart (Chart via Fangraphs) Despite being down in the series 2-0, Twins were amped at the start of the game, and Jake Odorizzi gave them something to cheer about in the top of the first. After striking out DJ LeMahieu to start the ballgame, Odorizzi appeared to get Aaron Judge to fly out to Eddie Rosario in right for two quick outs. However, Judge was awarded first base after catcher’s interference was called. That was no problem for Odorizzi, as he came back and got Brett Gardner to strike out and Edwin Encarnacion to fly out to end the inning. Odorizzi wasn’t able to keep the Yankees off the board for long, however, as Gleyber Torres hit a fly ball that just cleared the wall, and Jake Cave’s glove, in left. Rocco Baldelli went out and asked the umpires to review the home run for fan interference, and while a fan did reach over the railing and made contact with the ball, it was clearly already over the fence, along with Cave’s glove, before the fan touched it. Luckily for the Twins, the home run came with nobody on base, which feels like a rare occurrence for the Yankees against the Twins of late. The Twins gave themselves an excellent opportunity to get on the scoreboard themselves in the bottom of the second. Eddie Rosario drove a pitch about six inches above the zone deep off the top of the right-center field wall for a lead off double, narrowly missing a home run. After a Mitch Garver walk, and a Luis Arraez single, the Twins had the bases loaded and nobody out. However, as was the narrative all season long, the Twins failed to get the job done with the bases loaded, thanks to a Miguel Sano popup, and strikeouts from Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Cave. Gio Urshela led off the Yankee third with a blopper that dropped in front a Jake Cave, who inexplicably laid out for the baseball, coming up a few feet short, and allowing the ball to get past him, turning a routine single into a lead off double for Urshela. Urshela was able to advance to third on a DJ LeMahieu ground out, and looked like he might be stranded there after Aaron Judge struck out. However, Brett Gardner came through with a two-out single that went right past a shifted Miguel Sano, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead. After singles from Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario, the Twins had another scoring chance with two on and two out, for Mitch Garver, in the bottom of the third. After getting ahead in the count 3-0, Garver took what was pretty clearly ball four high, however, umpire Gary Cederstrom didn’t see it that way, calling it a strike. After that, Luis Severino was able to battle back and strike out Garver to end the inning. Jake Odorizzi did his job in the fourth and fifth innings, by keeping the Yankees off the board and working two pretty clean innings. Overall, for the night, Odorizzi earned a tip of the cap for doing his job by limiting the Yankees to just two runs across five innings, keeping the Twins in the game into the later innings. Luis Arraez got yet another Twins rally attempt going in the bottom of the sixth, when he drilled a one-out double that split the gap in left-center field. Miguel Sano followed that up with good at-bat, working the count full before driving a ball that left the bat at 107.9 MPH, toward the wall in right, but Aaron Judge used all of his 6’8” frame to reach up and snare the ball out of midair. Marwin Gonzalez followed that up by driving a flyball high into the Minnesota sky, but that ball came up just shy of the fence, as Judge made the catch on the warning track to end the Twins sixth. The Yankees added to their lead in the top of the seventh after yet another clutch hit off the bat of Didi Gregorius. Gleyber Torres started the inning with a ringing double off of Taylor Rogers. Then with one out, Gregorius ripped a single down the first base line, bringing around Torres to extend the Yankee lead to three. It took a long, and I mean long, time but the Twins were finally able to get on the board thanks to this Eddie Rosario blast to lead off the bottom of the eighth. https://twitter.com/MLBONFOX/status/1181419646500519936 The Yankees tacked on a couple more runs in the ninth to extend their lead to four in the top of the ninth. Cameron Maybin took Sergio Romo deep, with what looked like a lazy fly ball that just cleared the wall in left. They tacked on their fifth, and final, run of the game, thanks to, you guessed it, yet another RBI off the bat of Didi Gregorius. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Twins got themselves a little rally going in the bottom of the ninth, getting each of the first two hitters on to lead off the inning. However, the ninth ended in the same way as every other Twins rally of the ballgame. Max Kepler picked up the first out of the inning, by striking out three straight sliders from Aroldis Chapman. Jorge Polanco then lined a ball up the middle that appeared destined for a base hit until Didi Gregorius grabbed the ball, and with it the Twins hopes and dreams. The Twins season came to an end with Nelson Cruz at the plate looking at strike three right down the middle. The Twins ended the game going just 3-for-9 on balls put in play over 100 MPH. Those nine batted balls had an average expected batting average of .612. Instead, the Twins got just over half of that, and of course all the ones that didn’t drop for a hit were the ones hit in the highest leverage spots, but hey that’s baseball. Postgame with Baldelli: https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1181440075768291328 Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: ALDS Game Recaps: Twins ALDS Game 2 Recap: Nothing Works, Twins Lose 12th Straight To Yankees Twins ALDS Game 1 Recap: Bad Defense, Questionable Management Leads to Loss
  13. Despite being the record setting club on the road during the 2019 season, Rocco Baldelli’s Minnesota Twins dropped the first two games to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. Returning home to play a postseason game in Minneapolis for the first time since 2010 the Bomba Squad is going to need some serious resolve. Jake Odorizzi has come through in some big spots this season, and this collection is counting on him to do that once again.ALDS Game 3 New York Yankees (103-59) @ Minnesota Twins (101-61) Series: 2-0 Yankees Start Time: 8:40 PM ET / 7:40 PM CT Forecast: 60 degrees and sunny Pitching Matchup: RHP Luis Severino vs RHP Jake Odorizzi Lineups: Download attachment: Lineups1007.png Jake Odorizzi posted a sub-2.00 ERA through his first 13 starts for the Twins this season, and he was below 3.00 until the month of July. For the first half of the season Odorizzi established himself as the go-to arm behind Jose Berrios and earned a trip to his first All-Star Game because of it. July was not kind as the former Rays righty posted a 7.43 ERA in five turns and desperately needed to get back on track. Making nine more starts the rest of the way he rebounded with a 3.04 ERA .647 OPS against and 65/16 K/BB. As a fly ball pitcher it always made sense to turn Odorizzi loose in Target Field, but it was actually in New York that Jake fared significantly better than this outfit. His length in a series that has seen Minnesota get just a combined 6.0 IP from starters is a narrative to watch. Yankees Starter Aaron Boone turns to Luis Severino for game three. Had he been healthy in 2019 Severino would’ve likely been the game one choice as a two-time All-Star and Cy Young candidate at age 25. Instead he’s thrown just 12.0 IP this season and he’s yet to be given a leash longer than 80 pitches. Severino is a strikeout pitcher with plenty of velocity, and he’s fanned more than 10 per nine each of the past two seasons. He hasn’t been known to give up the long ball, and command isn’t much of a problem either. Luis does have a 6.26 ERA across 23 postseason IP however, and with the uncertainty of a small runway to get ready for this action, New York may decide to go with a quick hook. Battle Tested Twins There’s no denying that Minnesota is up against it and in a far from enviable position. That being said, this group has veterans sprinkled in that can provide levity during this type of scenario. Baldelli has kept things light and loose for his club all season, and nothing suggests bucking that trend now. Minnesota didn’t suffer a three-game losing streak until their 94th game of the season and surrendered to that fate just twice all season. Including a loss in the final game of the regular season the Twins are riding a three-game skid, but history suggests an ability to put the fire out. All hands will be on deck in an elimination game, and the expectation should be that the usage of Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, and Sergio Romo should be more liberal if the situation presents itself. While pitching has been a downfall, and the management of it, a central focus will be placed on the quality of at-bats and production from the lineup. After breaking records left and right during the regular season, the Twins have been outscored 18-6 in the past 18 innings. Climbing out of a 2-0 hole is hardly an easy task, and looking at it from a big picture view does nothing to minimize the situation. The Twins need to take their opportunities in small chunks at a time and attempt to win each inning on the path to making this a series before it’s over. Click here to view the article
  14. ALDS Game 3 New York Yankees (103-59) @ Minnesota Twins (101-61) Series: 2-0 Yankees Start Time: 8:40 PM ET / 7:40 PM CT Forecast: 60 degrees and sunny Pitching Matchup: RHP Luis Severino vs RHP Jake Odorizzi Lineups: Jake Odorizzi posted a sub-2.00 ERA through his first 13 starts for the Twins this season, and he was below 3.00 until the month of July. For the first half of the season Odorizzi established himself as the go-to arm behind Jose Berrios and earned a trip to his first All-Star Game because of it. July was not kind as the former Rays righty posted a 7.43 ERA in five turns and desperately needed to get back on track. Making nine more starts the rest of the way he rebounded with a 3.04 ERA .647 OPS against and 65/16 K/BB. As a fly ball pitcher it always made sense to turn Odorizzi loose in Target Field, but it was actually in New York that Jake fared significantly better than this outfit. His length in a series that has seen Minnesota get just a combined 6.0 IP from starters is a narrative to watch. Yankees Starter Aaron Boone turns to Luis Severino for game three. Had he been healthy in 2019 Severino would’ve likely been the game one choice as a two-time All-Star and Cy Young candidate at age 25. Instead he’s thrown just 12.0 IP this season and he’s yet to be given a leash longer than 80 pitches. Severino is a strikeout pitcher with plenty of velocity, and he’s fanned more than 10 per nine each of the past two seasons. He hasn’t been known to give up the long ball, and command isn’t much of a problem either. Luis does have a 6.26 ERA across 23 postseason IP however, and with the uncertainty of a small runway to get ready for this action, New York may decide to go with a quick hook. Battle Tested Twins There’s no denying that Minnesota is up against it and in a far from enviable position. That being said, this group has veterans sprinkled in that can provide levity during this type of scenario. Baldelli has kept things light and loose for his club all season, and nothing suggests bucking that trend now. Minnesota didn’t suffer a three-game losing streak until their 94th game of the season and surrendered to that fate just twice all season. Including a loss in the final game of the regular season the Twins are riding a three-game skid, but history suggests an ability to put the fire out. All hands will be on deck in an elimination game, and the expectation should be that the usage of Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, and Sergio Romo should be more liberal if the situation presents itself. While pitching has been a downfall, and the management of it, a central focus will be placed on the quality of at-bats and production from the lineup. After breaking records left and right during the regular season, the Twins have been outscored 18-6 in the past 18 innings. Climbing out of a 2-0 hole is hardly an easy task, and looking at it from a big picture view does nothing to minimize the situation. The Twins need to take their opportunities in small chunks at a time and attempt to win each inning on the path to making this a series before it’s over.
  15. We’ll do a lot of looking ahead to this Twins-Yankees ALDS here at Twins Daily over the coming days, but I thought it was also worthwhile to take a quick look back at how these teams have played against each other so far in 2019. There’s no denying the Yankees dominance over the Twins in postseason play, but it’s also completely irrelevant. Rocco Baldelli’s response to whether he was aware of the recent postseason history between the Twins and Yankees was the exact message the entire organization and its fans needed to hear. https://twitter.com/dohyoungpark/status/1177986288194113537 So how about 2019? The Twins went 2-4 against the Yankees this season, though New York only held the advantage in run differential by five (43-38). Here’s how things went at Yankee Stadium, with links to the Twins Daily game recap for each contest: May 3 | NYY 6, MIN 3 May 4 | MIN 7, NYY 3 May 5 | NYY 4, MIN 1 (8 innings) The Bomba Squad was uncharacteristically quiet in that series, and a few untimely errors crippled the pitching staff. There were three unearned runs allowed the first game and one more in the finale. The teams met again nearly two months later in Minneapolis. July 22 | MIN 8, NYY 6 July 23 | NYY 14, MIN 12 (10 innings) July 24 | NYY 10, MIN 7 The Twins evened up the season series at two games a piece, then had New York against the ropes in the second game at Target Field. The Twins led 8-2 through the first four innings, but suffered a crushing extra-inning loss in what was among the most thrilling games of the season. https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1178505743558959104 Over the entire season series, the Twins combined to hit a solid .254/.343/.512 (.855 OPS), but the Yankees had a much more impressive .327/.402/.588 line (.989 OPS). Poor starting pitching was a common theme throughout for both teams. Here’s a look at the numbers: NYY SPs: 8.54 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 6.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 1.045 OPS against in 26 1/3 innings. MIN SPs: 7.45 ERA, 1.97 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, 1.047 OPS against in 29 innings. Ick. The biggest separator was bullpen performance. Twins relievers combined for a 5.87 ERA in 23 frames while the Yankees pen posted a 3.38 ERA over 26 2/3 innings. Blake Parker managed to give up five runs while recording just five outs against the Yankees, so I guess take that with a grain of salt. Parker’s dreadful appearance in that July 23 madhouse of a game was his last in a Twins uniform. Considering the changes both these teams have gone through since late July, even this season’s previous matchups might not matter. That alone illustrates how completely ridiculous it is to drag any prior years into the conversation.
  16. So, after nine years of waiting (and mainly losing), the Twins reach their first playoff series since the inaugural season of Target Field. A great number of things have occurred since that series in 2010 including the death of Osama Bin Laden, the official ending of the Iraq war, and about 20 terrible Godzilla movies. Naturally, the team that awaits the Twins this year is the same team that has knocked them out of the playoffs the last three times the Twins have made it and five of the last six times that the Twins have reached the playoffs. I don’t need to say the team by name as even just thinking about them sends a cold chill down the spine of any Twins fan, but hopefully this year will be different. Of course, I had to go with The Strokes for my artist reference but instead of “Is This It” (which is way more doubtful in tone), I decided to switch it to “This Is It” because again, I make the rules.Brief Overview: Strip away the jerseys, the locations, and the history, and these are two remarkably similar teams. The Twins ended up finishing the season with just one more homer than the Yankees in order to be officially dubbed the home run champ of MLB, but the Yankees look to be their match in just about every offensive category. Conversely, both teams have rock solid bullpens and suspect starting pitching, giving us a match-up that will certainly be interesting to watch as it unfolds. What They Do Well: When talking about the 2019 Yankees, the most immediate topic is their great offense. Not only did they give the Twins a run for their money in the home run chase, they actually ended up a single point ahead of them in team wRC+ (117 to 116). One point of difference is essentially meaningless but the Yankees’ feat is especially impressive when you consider that Giancarlo Stanton barely played, Aaron Judge missed some time, Aaron Hicks is now out for the year, Didi Gregorius played just 82 games, and Edwin Encarnación has struggled with his own injuries since being traded to the Yankees. The depth players such as Gio Urshela and Cameron Maybin have been the backbone to a Yankees offense that has almost never been at full strength and it is in those players especially where the Yankees lineup goes from good to elite. The other great strength for the Yankees is found in their bullpen. Not entirely surprising as they have had a death bullpen for about three years now and it seemed like they were well on their way to a historic one in 2019. While they never quite reached that height, the Yankees’ bullpen sits at second in baseball by fWAR and their collection of relievers is one of just three groups with a total fWAR over seven (Rays ahead of them at 7.6, Twins below them at 7.3). Needless to say, they will be relying heavily on this group in each game and it won’t be surprising at all if each Yankees starter has a short leash. What They Do Not Do Well: We have covered their offense and relief pitching so far and both have been great, there has to be somewhere where they falter, right? Indeed there is, as their starting pitching fWAR was good for 17th in all of baseball with their 10.6 mark being exactly as good as the Tigers. Now, this isn’t crap-all-over-the-Tigers week because I’ve already done that about three times this year, but being tied with that team in anything is never a good sign. The Yankees boast a solid 1-2 punch of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, but the quality of starters drops immediately and the volatility goes through the roof. Thanks to Domingo Germán losing postseason eligibility due to his domestic violence incident, the next two starters become J.A. Happ and his 5.34 FIP and Luis Severino who has thrown all of 12 innings in MLB this season. This is where the Twins will have an opportunity to take advantage and possibly put up runs quickly. Hilariously, the Yankees have the sixth lowest number of stolen bases in MLB this year. This is funny because the Twins have by far the lowest total at just 28 swiped bags (second lowest is the Cubs at 45). While this is less “what do they not do well” and more “what are they not even trying to do”, it still is notable that the Yankees will mainly stick to hitting for power when it comes to scoring runs in the series and the Twins will most definitely follow suit. Individuals Of Note: For a team historically known for cartoonish evil and throwing money at anyone that walked, the modern Yankees are somewhat the reverse of that as they are full of players either developed internally or targeted from other teams in order to improve when they join New York. The shining example of this in 2019 is D.J. LeMahieu who was finally freed from the oppressive confines of Coors Field when he signed a somewhat modest deal with the Yankees this last offseason. The result is a massive 5.4 fWAR season that saw him top his career high for wRC+ with a 136 mark. LeMahieu will likely serve as the leadoff hitter and his .375 OBP in 2019 will serve the Yankees well in this series. There are currently just two players currently on the Yankees who were with them when they last played the Twins in a playoff series. One is C.C. Sabathia who might not make the ALDS roster and the other is Brett Gardner who continued to defy age as he put up yet another solid season for the Yanks. His 115 wRC+ was his highest since 2012 and he set a new career high in isolated power with a .253 mark that absolutely destroyed his last career high. Somehow, he remains a thorn in the side of other teams and I can assure you that he will be a pest in this series as well. There are four names the Twins and their fans need to know; Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman. These four horsemen of the apocalypse stand as the most trusted relievers in Aaron Boone’s back pocket and they will be called on in whatever situation presents itself. Chapman has been melting faces for awhile so I don’t think I need to talk about him too much as has Zack Britton who has somewhat suspect peripherals (3.74 FIP) but a cartoonishly high ground ball rate of 77.2% and a past history of success. Tommy Kahnle is the “Jekyll and Hyde” member of the bullpen as he was all sorts of awful last year but is back to dominating this year to the tune of a 3.33 FIP thanks in part to his 90 MPH changeup (for real). Adam Ottavino is the newcomer who has video game-like movement on his pitches but is also known for walking his fair share of batters with a career BB/9 of 4.02 and a 2019 BB/9 of 5.43. This is the kind of stuff the Twins will have to navigate through in order to beat the Yankees and I can guarantee that a number of games in the series will come down to which bullpen didn’t falter that day and which one did. Recent History: The Twins and Yankees played two series this season and the Yankees won both 2-1 giving them the season series at 4-2. Although, every game except for one was within three runs and the one game that wasn’t was the Twins’ lone win in Yankee Stadium this year. Pitching Match-ups: Friday: Berríos vs Paxton Saturday: TBD vs Tanaka Monday: TBD vs Severino No pitching matchups have been announced as of writing this article on Wednesday night. The matchups will be updated as the announcements are made. Ending Thoughts: Well, here it is! This is the reason why we pour so much energy into following a team over the off season and during the long season. There really is nothing quite like postseason baseball and it gets even better when the team that you root for is one of the few that will play. For the Twins, this is the result of a multi-year effort full of botched moves and fired personnel as the 2019 team finally broke through to win the division in epic fashion. From here on out, everything will be under a microscope as each mistake and clutch play will be amplified under the pressure that is the postseason. Will the Rocco Baldelli-fronted Twins finally slay the Yankee dragon that haunted the Ron Gardenhire squads of the past or will the Twins’ incredible run be cut short? Frankly, I’m not someone that can see into the future, but the pessimism of the past cannot bring me down as I predict that the Twins will indeed win a playoff series against the Yankees. See Also Looking at When Odorizzi Should Pitch in the Playoffs Yankees' Weaknesses: The Lineup Attacking the Heart of the Yankees Order: Part 1 Damage Control: Pitching is Minnesota's Primary Advantage in ALDS How Minnesota Can Punch Against Paxton The Only Twins-Yankees History That Might Actually Matter Click here to view the article
  17. Brief Overview: Strip away the jerseys, the locations, and the history, and these are two remarkably similar teams. The Twins ended up finishing the season with just one more homer than the Yankees in order to be officially dubbed the home run champ of MLB, but the Yankees look to be their match in just about every offensive category. Conversely, both teams have rock solid bullpens and suspect starting pitching, giving us a match-up that will certainly be interesting to watch as it unfolds. What They Do Well: When talking about the 2019 Yankees, the most immediate topic is their great offense. Not only did they give the Twins a run for their money in the home run chase, they actually ended up a single point ahead of them in team wRC+ (117 to 116). One point of difference is essentially meaningless but the Yankees’ feat is especially impressive when you consider that Giancarlo Stanton barely played, Aaron Judge missed some time, Aaron Hicks is now out for the year, Didi Gregorius played just 82 games, and Edwin Encarnación has struggled with his own injuries since being traded to the Yankees. The depth players such as Gio Urshela and Cameron Maybin have been the backbone to a Yankees offense that has almost never been at full strength and it is in those players especially where the Yankees lineup goes from good to elite. The other great strength for the Yankees is found in their bullpen. Not entirely surprising as they have had a death bullpen for about three years now and it seemed like they were well on their way to a historic one in 2019. While they never quite reached that height, the Yankees’ bullpen sits at second in baseball by fWAR and their collection of relievers is one of just three groups with a total fWAR over seven (Rays ahead of them at 7.6, Twins below them at 7.3). Needless to say, they will be relying heavily on this group in each game and it won’t be surprising at all if each Yankees starter has a short leash. What They Do Not Do Well: We have covered their offense and relief pitching so far and both have been great, there has to be somewhere where they falter, right? Indeed there is, as their starting pitching fWAR was good for 17th in all of baseball with their 10.6 mark being exactly as good as the Tigers. Now, this isn’t crap-all-over-the-Tigers week because I’ve already done that about three times this year, but being tied with that team in anything is never a good sign. The Yankees boast a solid 1-2 punch of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, but the quality of starters drops immediately and the volatility goes through the roof. Thanks to Domingo Germán losing postseason eligibility due to his domestic violence incident, the next two starters become J.A. Happ and his 5.34 FIP and Luis Severino who has thrown all of 12 innings in MLB this season. This is where the Twins will have an opportunity to take advantage and possibly put up runs quickly. Hilariously, the Yankees have the sixth lowest number of stolen bases in MLB this year. This is funny because the Twins have by far the lowest total at just 28 swiped bags (second lowest is the Cubs at 45). While this is less “what do they not do well” and more “what are they not even trying to do”, it still is notable that the Yankees will mainly stick to hitting for power when it comes to scoring runs in the series and the Twins will most definitely follow suit. Individuals Of Note: For a team historically known for cartoonish evil and throwing money at anyone that walked, the modern Yankees are somewhat the reverse of that as they are full of players either developed internally or targeted from other teams in order to improve when they join New York. The shining example of this in 2019 is D.J. LeMahieu who was finally freed from the oppressive confines of Coors Field when he signed a somewhat modest deal with the Yankees this last offseason. The result is a massive 5.4 fWAR season that saw him top his career high for wRC+ with a 136 mark. LeMahieu will likely serve as the leadoff hitter and his .375 OBP in 2019 will serve the Yankees well in this series. There are currently just two players currently on the Yankees who were with them when they last played the Twins in a playoff series. One is C.C. Sabathia who might not make the ALDS roster and the other is Brett Gardner who continued to defy age as he put up yet another solid season for the Yanks. His 115 wRC+ was his highest since 2012 and he set a new career high in isolated power with a .253 mark that absolutely destroyed his last career high. Somehow, he remains a thorn in the side of other teams and I can assure you that he will be a pest in this series as well. There are four names the Twins and their fans need to know; Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman. These four horsemen of the apocalypse stand as the most trusted relievers in Aaron Boone’s back pocket and they will be called on in whatever situation presents itself. Chapman has been melting faces for awhile so I don’t think I need to talk about him too much as has Zack Britton who has somewhat suspect peripherals (3.74 FIP) but a cartoonishly high ground ball rate of 77.2% and a past history of success. Tommy Kahnle is the “Jekyll and Hyde” member of the bullpen as he was all sorts of awful last year but is back to dominating this year to the tune of a 3.33 FIP thanks in part to his 90 MPH changeup (for real). https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1166306014020415490 Adam Ottavino is the newcomer who has video game-like movement on his pitches but is also known for walking his fair share of batters with a career BB/9 of 4.02 and a 2019 BB/9 of 5.43. https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1168264275644862470 This is the kind of stuff the Twins will have to navigate through in order to beat the Yankees and I can guarantee that a number of games in the series will come down to which bullpen didn’t falter that day and which one did. Recent History: The Twins and Yankees played two series this season and the Yankees won both 2-1 giving them the season series at 4-2. Although, every game except for one was within three runs and the one game that wasn’t was the Twins’ lone win in Yankee Stadium this year. Pitching Match-ups: Friday: Berríos vs Paxton Saturday: TBD vs Tanaka Monday: TBD vs Severino No pitching matchups have been announced as of writing this article on Wednesday night. The matchups will be updated as the announcements are made. Ending Thoughts: Well, here it is! This is the reason why we pour so much energy into following a team over the off season and during the long season. There really is nothing quite like postseason baseball and it gets even better when the team that you root for is one of the few that will play. For the Twins, this is the result of a multi-year effort full of botched moves and fired personnel as the 2019 team finally broke through to win the division in epic fashion. From here on out, everything will be under a microscope as each mistake and clutch play will be amplified under the pressure that is the postseason. Will the Rocco Baldelli-fronted Twins finally slay the Yankee dragon that haunted the Ron Gardenhire squads of the past or will the Twins’ incredible run be cut short? Frankly, I’m not someone that can see into the future, but the pessimism of the past cannot bring me down as I predict that the Twins will indeed win a playoff series against the Yankees. See Also Looking at When Odorizzi Should Pitch in the Playoffs Yankees' Weaknesses: The Lineup Attacking the Heart of the Yankees Order: Part 1 Damage Control: Pitching is Minnesota's Primary Advantage in ALDS How Minnesota Can Punch Against Paxton The Only Twins-Yankees History That Might Actually Matter
  18. You won’t have any trouble finding glowing stories about the New York slugger. Sanchez was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, and he consistently popped up on top 100 prospect lists through his time in the minor leagues. A two-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner up, Sanchez owns an .846 career OPS and surpassed the 100-home run plateau this past season. Just about to turn 27, it’s Sanchez that is often thought of as the premiere backstop in baseball. With a breakout 2019 season under his belt, Mitch Garver threw all of that for a loop. I’ve described Garver as “The best catcher in baseball” when tweeting out his exploits on a regular basis. What may have started out as somewhat in jest has become a ringing endorsement of talent that holds serve with the high praise. Following a decent showing during his 2018 rookie season Garver went to work over the winter, and it is paying off in any more significant way would likely be impossible. At the end of the regular season Rocco Baldelli had played Garver in 93 games. He was given regular rest sprinkling in veteran Jason Castro, and he missed time after a Shohei Ohtani slide into home put him on the Injured List with an ankle injury. When the dust settled on those 93 games, Garver posted a .995 OPS. In Minnesota Twins history only four players have posted a higher single-season OPS: his teammate Nelson Cruz, 2009 MVP Joe Mauer, 1977 MVP Rod Carew, and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew (twice). Mitch ripped 16 doubles, which is a modest total on its own, but launched a Twins record 31 dingers (30 as a catcher) with a nutty .630 slugging percentage. When stepping into the batter’s box Garver brought his lumber and terrorized opposing pitchers. He’s been a bat first player for most of his career though, and it’s what he did behind the plate that elevated his game and stature in baseball’s landscape. After posting a -16 DRS and -9.2 FRM (framing runs) in 2018 he jumped those results to 0 DRS and 0.8 FRM in 2019. Working with Tanner Swanson over the offseason he focused on controlling the bottom of the strike zone and exponentially increased his effectiveness by percentage of called strikes. During the ALDS press conference on Tuesday afternoon Cory Provus asked Garver about the work he put in and if he was happy with where things wound up from a defensive growth standpoint. Mitch answered, “I think about that a lot.” He talked about the importance of stealing any extra strike and how you may quantify that. There’s a level of importance that plays into all facets of the game based on how each pitch is received. Garver also noted that “the confidence level from a manager to put you back there knowing the work I put in is translating to the game, I think that shows a lot. Having a manager that can trust you behind the plate, that’s kind of more important than all of those things (referring to defensive metrics).” Whether Mitch is in the lineup for every game of the series or not, it will be the time he’s on the field that his ability can truly take the spotlight it deserves. Sanchez has gotten the accolades while playing in the mega-market that is New York. The Yankees “Kraken” is the longball leader since he entered the league. Going into 2019 it was a good bet that he’d return to Silver Slugger status and regain his place at the peak of the position. For now, though it’s Garver’s chance to show he heads the conversation and currently carries the torch. Minnesota is often a secondary thought when it comes to national discussions. The smaller market that Minneapolis is will never trump the costs, and regardless of the press that this Bomba Squad has driven, individual contributors will fall by the wayside. For the guy from Albuquerque that has had to grind for everything he’s earned, that’s probably all fine and well. Over the course of this series though, Mitch Garver can allow his play to overshadow even the largest of markets. If and when those moments come it will be good for him, because he’ll have earned it.
  19. There isn’t a ton of history between this collection of Twins and the Yankees presumed ace. Paxton started Opening Day at Target Field last season after a bald eagle attempted to throw him off his game. That lineup couldn’t be further from the 2019 collection, and this squad saw him for just three innings in May before he hit the injured list for nearly a month. Rather than breaking down individual matchups, the intrigue between what both sides do well is a tug-of-war between who wins out. Rocco Baldelli’s club set the single-season MLB home run record in 2019, besting this New York club by one. They owned the second-best slugging percentage in the history of baseball, and they thrive by hitting the ball out of the park. Dominated by right-handed power, left-handed arms are something the Twins have stuck a fork in all year. Facing lefties 39 times they posted a .286/.357/.529 slash line with 88 home runs. That’s an average of 2.3 HR per start against lefties as opposed to their 1.8 HR per start against righties. There’s also the consideration of where Paxton may pitch against the Twins. Unless his butt injury bumps him from a game one appearance, he can be expected to take the ball starting the series and then in a potential game four scenario. The first game would be at Yankees Stadium with that second start coming at Target Field. Minnesota has been a record-breaking road team this year, and the lineup has an OPS .31 points higher away from Target Field. In those road contests they also left the yard an additional 33 times. From a stadium standpoint Target Field and Yankees Stadium have both played very similarly in 2019. Per ESPN’s MLB Park Factors they rank 24th and 25th in HR. What we saw between these squads both during the extra-inning affair in Minneapolis, and their total body of work, is that any given night can make a ball yard look pretty small. So how does this stack up against Paxton? Well, there’s a lot to unpack. As a lefty it would be expected that righties hit better off of him, and that is the case. Opposite- handed batters own a .752 OPS against him while left-handed hitters have posted just a .670 OPS. Those lefties enjoy a higher .266 average and .314 on-base percentage. Righties jump way up in terms of slugging, posting a .445 mark, nearly 100 points higher. Surrendering 23 homers in 2019, Paxton has allowed only two of them to left-handed hitters and he has a K/BB two trips to the bench higher against lefties. Although Yankees Stadium is often considered a bandbox, Paxton has enjoyed his time at home. In 15 home starts he has an ERA a full run lower (3.35) with an OPS nearly 200 points less (.650) than where he’s at on the road (.814). 2019 was Paxton’s worst full season as a starter. He posted his highest ERA, walk rate, and HR rate. He’s given up a career high hard-hit rate, fly ball rate, and nearly matched his HR/FB tally from 2018. That’s not to suggest this isn’t still a top-tier pitcher as the former Mariner is sitting down over 11 per nine and gets swinging strikes 14% of the time. It’s for spots like these that the Yankees went and swung the deal to bolster their rotation. At the end of the day something must give, and it’s pretty hard not to say the pressure is on the Bombers. Paxton is pitching in the postseason for the first time, and now doing so with the weight of the empire on his back. He throws with the arm that Minnesota clobbers, and he’ll be coming off an injury-shortened start his last time out. As the home team it’s on New York to hold serve in the Bronx, and with Luis Severino likely to follow Paxton, a game one steal may be the best hand for the Twins to play. Given how closely these two teams look on paper, it’s hard to imagine we’re going to see anything less than a four-game series. If the Twins can continue playing to their strengths and get to Paxton in game one, they’ll be in a great spot to make their way to the American League Championship Series. There’s no denying that Minnesota needs to perform up to expectations as well, but if there’s a draw they should be salivating about, it’s this one. Not all aces are made equal, and much like Jose Berrios for Minnesota, Paxton has plenty to prove across the entire baseball landscape. Pitching can tend to have the upper hand in October, but Baldelli employing #BombaSZN early would hardly be a shock.
  20. Taking a view at the Major League Baseball Postseason there’s an incredible number of great storylines to follow. You have the lowest payroll in baseball making the field, a major league record setting home run lineup, and a handful of expected participants. For the next month we’ll be treated to the culmination of a 162-game schedule used to produce only the best of the best. Looking back at how I saw things entering the year, I didn’t do too horribly. Looks like I’ll nail a couple of award winners, and four of the six division champs. From there things went downhill, but this is our chance to get it right in October. Let’s get into it. Wild Card Round: Rays over Athletics Nationals over Brewers We’ve got two intriguing matchups for a one-game situation here. In the American League Tampa Bay is probably the most welcoming team of needing to win a single game. They’ve pieced together nine inning affairs all season long and they still have frontline pitching in the rotation to come out firing. I like the Oakland lineup a good deal more than what Tampa brings to the table but believe that this game will be won on the bump. In the National League we get two teams that got hot down the stretch. Milwaukee is without their MVP, and the pitching is a definite question mark there, but they’ve had some key contributors step up in big ways. I liked the Nationals as a World Series team before the season started, and I still wouldn’t be shocked if they made a run. Their rotation rivals that of the Houston Astros at the top, and the lineup is filled with guys that can burn you. There’s zero denying the bullpen is a complete mess, but if they could provide some room for the starting arms, they’ll ride them hard. Divisional Round: Twins over Yankees Astros over Rays Braves over Cardinals Dodgers over Nationals Arguably the greatest narrative going into the Postseason is the history Minnesota brings with it. They haven’t won a game in October since 2004, and they’ve been dominated by the New York Yankees. One thing about that rings certain though, it’s history and you can bet no one in that clubhouse gives a damn. The pitching matchups, rotation and bullpen, are relatively even. So, to are lineups that went one-two in home run production this season. James Paxton being a lefty against the powerful righty Twins lineup will set the stage in game one. If the Twins steal one in New York, and they’ve been great on the road, this series will get interesting quick. I don’t think you can make much argument against Houston being the best team in baseball. They have the rotation, bullpen, and lineup to compete with anyone. Charlie Morton will do his best against his former team, but I’m not sure that Tampa has the lineup to hang with the Astros over the course of a five-game series. The pitching matchups with Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow contributing are going to be great, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this be a bit of a test for A.J. Hinch’s club. If there’s a team that could surprise in the National League, I think it’s the Braves. They’re filled with youth that’s contributing in big ways, and their lineup is as potent as anyone. Josh Donaldson has re-emerged as a star, and his presence with Freddie Freeman should provide plenty of veteran leadership for Brian Snitker’s club. St. Louis performed admirably down the stretch to put themselves in this position, but I’m not sure they were tested in the NL Central. They’ll take a game or two, but just don’t see enough here for any real noise. I’d still love to put the Nationals in a position to make the World Series, and while Los Angeles has some bullpen woes of their own, I just don’t trust Washington enough behind their three horses. Juan Soto is going to be fun on a big stage, but the Dodgers are littered with talent and they’ll pull the right strings to advance. Dave Roberts has been here plenty, and wanting to get over the hump, this is probably his best opportunity. Championship Round: Astros over Twins Dodgers over Braves There’s a significant amount of parallels between Houston and Minnesota. Similarly constructed organizations at this point, the Twins are still looking at the Astros in a light of what they aspire to be. In a seven-game series when Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke can all take the ball twice if need be, Rocco Baldelli’s piecemeal rotation is going to be up against it. Minnesota is going to need to blast their way to victories at the hitter friendly Minute Maid, but they’ll be doing it against arms that have no intention of giving up runs. It will be fun to see the Twins garner this experience, and while nothing is certain next year, there’s a good deal of returning youth that can use it as fuel to a fire propelling them to take the next step. A toss up goes to the favorite here. If the Dodgers pen is going to be exposed before the World Series, this is the lineup capable of doing it. Atlanta is the real deal offensively, and while they’ll face Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, there’s no one they’re going to be afraid of. Cody Bellinger could have wrapped up an MVP when the regular season concluded, and though he slowed down some in stretches this year, elevating when the lights are brightest wouldn’t be unexpected for the young star. Two top seeds matching up together, the two best teams in baseball for much of the year, let me have it. World Series: Astros over Dodgers Just too good to get knocked off, and too hungry to be denied, Houston gets back to the top of the baseball world. Houston didn’t revamp their whole way of operating and develop this much talent to win one title. After falling short in 2018, they’ll get their second ring in three years. Alex Bregman looks like an MVP candidate, Yordan Alvarez is the unquestioned AL Rookie of the Year, and there’s a host of veterans that make this the most dangerous organization in the sport. I don’t expect a veteran club like the Dodgers to put up anything short of a difficult test, but Houston would need to get in their own way to come up empty handed here. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  21. The New York Yankees lineup is set up in a way to strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. Their relentless barrage of slugger after slugger helped them score more runs this season (943) than any team since 2007. They also hit a staggering 306 home runs, a number topped only by this year’s Minnesota Twins. As many Twins fans saw in that Yankees series at Target Field in July, the Yankee lineup can pounce on a pitching staff at any moment, and practically carry their team to victory. This is why it is imperative that the Twins pitchers have a plan in place for attacking each hitter, if they want to “slay the dragon”.In Part 1 of this two-part series, we will be breaking down the strengths and weakness of DJ LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton, and finding the best approach for the Twins pitchers and fielders against each of them. DJ LeMahieu DJ LeMahieu has quietly been one of the best all-around players in the American League this season. Not only has he filled in well at three different positions in the infield, but his bat came to play, as his 136 wRC+ ranked 21st among all qualified MLB hitters in 2019. What makes LeMahieu so successful is that he doesn’t have many weaknesses. Here are LeMahieu’s wOBA versus each pitch type, and what percentile they rank in Major League Baseball this year. Download attachment: DJ LeMahieu 1.PNG When breaking down LeMahieu’s splits versus lefties and righties, it comes as no surprise that he is a much better hitter versus lefties than he is against righties, given that LeMahieu is a right-handed hitter, as he has a 182 wRC+ against lefties vs a 119 wRC+ against righties. To get a better idea on how to approach LeMahieu, depending on the hand of the pitcher, lets take a look at the same chart as above, but this time broken down by opposing pitcher handedness. Download attachment: DJ LeMahieu 2.PNG From these charts, it is clear that Twins pitchers should avoid throwing off-speed pitches, such as changeups and splitters to LeMahieu altogether. Their main approach should be to pepper LeMahieu with fastballs in and force him to hit his way on base. For right-handed Twins pitchers, they should be able to work in some breaking pitches against LeMahieu as well. Another part of DJ LeMahieu’s game that is quite apparent is his approach at the plate. Illustrated below is DJ LeMahieu’s spray chart from the 2019 season. Download attachment: chart (15).png From this spray chart, the part that is most clear is DJ LeMahieu rarely pulls the ball in the air. The Twins defenders should take advantage of this by having all their outfielders shade pretty significantly towards right field. Additionally, it would make sense to have Jorge Polanco shade a little more towards the third base bag to help cut off the large amount of ground balls LeMahieu hits in the hole between shortstop and third. Gary Sanchez When it comes to facing Gary Sanchez, the key is to avoid letting him make contact. Fortunately for the Twins, Sanchez makes this pretty easy, as his contact rate of 70.2 percent ranks 237th out of the 273 hitters with at least 300 plate appearances in 2019. Sanchez especially struggles to make contact with breaking balls, as his contact rate on them is just 59.2 percent this season. Another way to induce Sanchez to swing and miss is by getting him to chase fastballs up and in on his hands. While avoiding contact is an optimal strategy with any hitter at the plate, Gary Sanchez is one of those hitters where it seems especially important, as he barrels the ball up roughly one out of every five times he puts the ball in play. That’s the fourth highest among any hitter who put at least 200 balls in play this year. A big reason for this is the pull heavy approach that Sanchez has at the plate, as you can see in the spray chart down below. Download attachment: chart (16).png Gary Sanchez’s ground ball distribution is almost exclusively pulls down the third base line. The Twins shouldn’t have much trouble exploiting this with a three-man shift on the left side of the infield. Another thing the Twins should take advantage of is Sanchez’s speed, or lack thereof, as his sprint speed of 25.5 feet per second is down near the bottom of the league. This should allow the Twins infielders to play further back to cover more ground laterally, and still have enough time to make the throw over to first to get Sanchez in time. Giancarlo Stanton (Note: All statistics for Stanton are from 2018, due to limited sample in 2019) When it comes to facing Giancarlo Stanton the approach is simple: feed him breaking ball after breaking ball after breaking ball. Whether it is a righty or a lefty on the mound for the Twins, it doesn’t matter, just don’t throw anything straight to Stanton. In 2018, Stanton whiffed at 45.8 percent breaking balls that he swung at. Since he struggles mightily vs. breaking balls against lefties, it is probably their best option to try to get Stanton out, unless they possess an excellent changeup. To illustrate this point further, here are Stanton’s wOBA breakdowns by pitch type and pitcher handedness in 2018. Download attachment: Gincarlo Stanton 1.PNG Just as was the case with Gary Sanchez, the Twins should be able to employ an extreme pull shift to the left side of the infield when Giancarlo Stanton is up at the plate, as we can see from his spray chart down below. Download attachment: chart (17).png While Stanton isn’t the fastest of runners, at 26.8 feet per second, he still has enough speed where the Twins probably won’t be able to take advantage of it by playing deeper in the hole, like they can for Sanchez. In the outfield, the Twins should pretty much just play straight up, as Stanton's spray is pretty even on balls in the air. As we can see the Yankees order can provide quite the challenge, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to attack them to keep their lineup in check. The key will be for the Twins to take each hitter one at a time and do what they can to get that hitter out. Stay tuned later in the week, as we will be featuring three more juggernauts in the Yankees order in Part 2. Click here to view the article
  22. In Part 1 of this two-part series, we will be breaking down the strengths and weakness of DJ LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton, and finding the best approach for the Twins pitchers and fielders against each of them. DJ LeMahieu DJ LeMahieu has quietly been one of the best all-around players in the American League this season. Not only has he filled in well at three different positions in the infield, but his bat came to play, as his 136 wRC+ ranked 21st among all qualified MLB hitters in 2019. What makes LeMahieu so successful is that he doesn’t have many weaknesses. Here are LeMahieu’s wOBA versus each pitch type, and what percentile they rank in Major League Baseball this year. When breaking down LeMahieu’s splits versus lefties and righties, it comes as no surprise that he is a much better hitter versus lefties than he is against righties, given that LeMahieu is a right-handed hitter, as he has a 182 wRC+ against lefties vs a 119 wRC+ against righties. To get a better idea on how to approach LeMahieu, depending on the hand of the pitcher, lets take a look at the same chart as above, but this time broken down by opposing pitcher handedness. From these charts, it is clear that Twins pitchers should avoid throwing off-speed pitches, such as changeups and splitters to LeMahieu altogether. Their main approach should be to pepper LeMahieu with fastballs in and force him to hit his way on base. For right-handed Twins pitchers, they should be able to work in some breaking pitches against LeMahieu as well. Another part of DJ LeMahieu’s game that is quite apparent is his approach at the plate. Illustrated below is DJ LeMahieu’s spray chart from the 2019 season. From this spray chart, the part that is most clear is DJ LeMahieu rarely pulls the ball in the air. The Twins defenders should take advantage of this by having all their outfielders shade pretty significantly towards right field. Additionally, it would make sense to have Jorge Polanco shade a little more towards the third base bag to help cut off the large amount of ground balls LeMahieu hits in the hole between shortstop and third. Gary Sanchez When it comes to facing Gary Sanchez, the key is to avoid letting him make contact. Fortunately for the Twins, Sanchez makes this pretty easy, as his contact rate of 70.2 percent ranks 237th out of the 273 hitters with at least 300 plate appearances in 2019. Sanchez especially struggles to make contact with breaking balls, as his contact rate on them is just 59.2 percent this season. Another way to induce Sanchez to swing and miss is by getting him to chase fastballs up and in on his hands. While avoiding contact is an optimal strategy with any hitter at the plate, Gary Sanchez is one of those hitters where it seems especially important, as he barrels the ball up roughly one out of every five times he puts the ball in play. That’s the fourth highest among any hitter who put at least 200 balls in play this year. A big reason for this is the pull heavy approach that Sanchez has at the plate, as you can see in the spray chart down below. Gary Sanchez’s ground ball distribution is almost exclusively pulls down the third base line. The Twins shouldn’t have much trouble exploiting this with a three-man shift on the left side of the infield. Another thing the Twins should take advantage of is Sanchez’s speed, or lack thereof, as his sprint speed of 25.5 feet per second is down near the bottom of the league. This should allow the Twins infielders to play further back to cover more ground laterally, and still have enough time to make the throw over to first to get Sanchez in time. Giancarlo Stanton (Note: All statistics for Stanton are from 2018, due to limited sample in 2019) When it comes to facing Giancarlo Stanton the approach is simple: feed him breaking ball after breaking ball after breaking ball. Whether it is a righty or a lefty on the mound for the Twins, it doesn’t matter, just don’t throw anything straight to Stanton. In 2018, Stanton whiffed at 45.8 percent breaking balls that he swung at. Since he struggles mightily vs. breaking balls against lefties, it is probably their best option to try to get Stanton out, unless they possess an excellent changeup. To illustrate this point further, here are Stanton’s wOBA breakdowns by pitch type and pitcher handedness in 2018. Just as was the case with Gary Sanchez, the Twins should be able to employ an extreme pull shift to the left side of the infield when Giancarlo Stanton is up at the plate, as we can see from his spray chart down below. While Stanton isn’t the fastest of runners, at 26.8 feet per second, he still has enough speed where the Twins probably won’t be able to take advantage of it by playing deeper in the hole, like they can for Sanchez. In the outfield, the Twins should pretty much just play straight up, as Stanton's spray is pretty even on balls in the air. As we can see the Yankees order can provide quite the challenge, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to attack them to keep their lineup in check. The key will be for the Twins to take each hitter one at a time and do what they can to get that hitter out. Stay tuned later in the week, as we will be featuring three more juggernauts in the Yankees order in Part 2.
  23. Unlike many Twins fans, Henry Blomquist doesn't fear the New York Yankees. "This is a different season. These guys are too young to care about the past, and honestly I'd rather play them than the Astros. Verlander and Gerrit Cole? Let the wild card team deal with that." However, Blomquist does care about time. The 26-year-old Richfield bachelor is working two jobs as he attempts to pay back student loans. The prospect of a Twins/Yankees playoff game makes for a very crowded day. "Do you remember that one game they played earlier this year, went into extra innings, Aaron Hicks won the game and it was a football score," asked Blomquist. "Neither team's pitching has gotten any better. It's going to be a co-rec softball game every night." Blomquist spends his days working at a local credit union, then picks up gigs for a rideshare company in the evening. He figures if he plans it right, he can squeeze in a relatively normal Twins/Yankees game in between the two. "If they can keep it down to, like, a 9-7 game with only one team really going bananas with the pitching changes, I should be able to watch the whole thing, then get people home from bar close and night shifts," said Blomquist. "Squeeze in 3-4 hours of sleep before I have to go back to work in the morning. That should be doable." However, he has no contingency plan if the games go sideways. "I have to accept that there's a chance that 9-7 score is in the 4th inning and Martin Perez is coming into the game," said Blomquist. "Radio doesn't work in my Ultima anymore, but the passengers seem to be alright with these smooth jazz CDs I got at Goodwill. Kenny G. is no substitute for Cory Provus, I'll tell you what."
  24. When the calendar turns in just over a week the Minnesota Twins will play postseason baseball. They’ll host a game at Target Field for the first time since 2010. Rocco Baldelli will be looking to guide the franchise to its first October win since October 5, 2004. When constructing a 25-man roster for the playoffs teams often look to exploit opportunity on the fringes. An extra pen arm here, or a specific skill set off the bench. For the Twins, they could have a decision to make when it comes to the last position player.As the Houston Astros and New York Yankees battle back and forth for the number one seed, it’s the Bronx Bombers that Minnesotans should be welcoming. History can be cast aside as no one currently on this roster cares about previous futility. Aaron Boone’s squad has plenty of warts on the bump and the Twins lineup can go toe-to-toe with anyone. No matter who they face though, what happens in a late game situation when Baldelli needs to work some magic? Is it speed, or is it patience? Minnesota acquired Ian Miller from the Seattle Mariners in early August. He was a 14th-round pick in the 2013 draft and had yet to debut in the big leagues at 27-years-old. Not a top prospect by any means, Miller provided outfield depth on the farm but this move was about a specific asset. He’s fast and can steal a base. Even before Byron Buxton had his season come to an end due to shoulder surgery, the likelihood that he’d be available in a late game situation off the bench isn’t good (because he’d be starting). Miller fits the mold of a Terrance Gore type, and that’s exactly why the speedy outfielder (Gore) finds late season opportunity again in 2019, with the Yankees. Miller has stolen 243 bases in the minor leagues while being caught 51 times. That’s a success rate of 83% and puts him into the threshold of the additional 90 feet being a worthy gamble. Unfortunately he also has just a .340 OBP on the farm and isn’t typically heralded for his ability to get on base. Taking over on the basepaths may be beneficial, but could come at the cost of an additional at-bat later in the game. Despite being capable in the outfield there are a good deal of question marks outside of his ability to swipe bags. The aforementioned Gore has been inserted into nine playoff games over seven seasons. He’s stolen five bases, being caught once and has scored three runs. The Twins made the prudent move by adding him to the 40-man roster. He’s now eligible for the postseason, and they continued down their forward-thinking path at the beginning of September. Baldelli’s squad has stolen just three bases since the All-Star break though, and a team so capable of scoring from first base may not deem the gamble to second as a risk worth taking. On the flip side of the coin, I can’t help but be reminded of the at-bat Luis Arraez took in mid-July against Edwin Diaz. Regardless of the closer’s struggles this season, Minnesota’s rookie stepped in at an 0-2 count against a dominant arm and took a walk. Having the ability to generate a very strong at-bat against some of baseball’s best pen arms could prove invaluable during a big situation in October. Fortunately for Minnesota Arraez has worked his way into the starting lineup, but LaMonte Wade could represent a similar asset to consider. Despite missing a significant portion of his big league time this year due to injury, he hasn’t missed a beat in the time that he has played. Wade owns a career .389 OBP in the minors and has walked in 20% of his big league plate appearances. He’s struck out just three times in 41 opportunities, and has faced three-ball counts 32% of the time he’s stepped in. Despite a .161 batting average, he’s bolstered it with a .366 OBP and routinely makes pitchers work. Like Miller, Wade too plays the outfield and could take over for a starter as a defensive replacement. He’s got the ability to play all three outfield spots, and despite not being a speedster, can hold down all three roles at an above average clip. The decision here is an interesting one because it deals with two parts of the game that Minnesota has left largely unattended in 2019. The Twins have the fifth best OBP in baseball, but they’ve taken only the 18th most walks in the game. When constructing this lineup over the winter it was apparent that power production was a focus, and we’ve seen that play out at a record setting pace. No one has stolen fewer bases than Minnesota’s 26, and is postseason play the time to start looking for 90 extra feet? Both of these players probably found themselves on the outside looking in when the outfield was in its healthiest state. Now with some holes, the Twins will look to create opportunity through utility on the fringes. Miller and Wade present opportunity, but which way will Minnesota go, and will they consider either of them at all? Click here to view the article
  25. As the Houston Astros and New York Yankees battle back and forth for the number one seed, it’s the Bronx Bombers that Minnesotans should be welcoming. History can be cast aside as no one currently on this roster cares about previous futility. Aaron Boone’s squad has plenty of warts on the bump and the Twins lineup can go toe-to-toe with anyone. No matter who they face though, what happens in a late game situation when Baldelli needs to work some magic? Is it speed, or is it patience? Minnesota acquired Ian Miller from the Seattle Mariners in early August. He was a 14th-round pick in the 2013 draft and had yet to debut in the big leagues at 27-years-old. Not a top prospect by any means, Miller provided outfield depth on the farm but this move was about a specific asset. He’s fast and can steal a base. Even before Byron Buxton had his season come to an end due to shoulder surgery, the likelihood that he’d be available in a late game situation off the bench isn’t good (because he’d be starting). Miller fits the mold of a Terrance Gore type, and that’s exactly why the speedy outfielder (Gore) finds late season opportunity again in 2019, with the Yankees. Miller has stolen 243 bases in the minor leagues while being caught 51 times. That’s a success rate of 83% and puts him into the threshold of the additional 90 feet being a worthy gamble. Unfortunately he also has just a .340 OBP on the farm and isn’t typically heralded for his ability to get on base. Taking over on the basepaths may be beneficial, but could come at the cost of an additional at-bat later in the game. Despite being capable in the outfield there are a good deal of question marks outside of his ability to swipe bags. The aforementioned Gore has been inserted into nine playoff games over seven seasons. He’s stolen five bases, being caught once and has scored three runs. The Twins made the prudent move by adding him to the 40-man roster. He’s now eligible for the postseason, and they continued down their forward-thinking path at the beginning of September. Baldelli’s squad has stolen just three bases since the All-Star break though, and a team so capable of scoring from first base may not deem the gamble to second as a risk worth taking. On the flip side of the coin, I can’t help but be reminded of the at-bat Luis Arraez took in mid-July against Edwin Diaz. Regardless of the closer’s struggles this season, Minnesota’s rookie stepped in at an 0-2 count against a dominant arm and took a walk. Having the ability to generate a very strong at-bat against some of baseball’s best pen arms could prove invaluable during a big situation in October. Fortunately for Minnesota Arraez has worked his way into the starting lineup, but LaMonte Wade could represent a similar asset to consider. Despite missing a significant portion of his big league time this year due to injury, he hasn’t missed a beat in the time that he has played. Wade owns a career .389 OBP in the minors and has walked in 20% of his big league plate appearances. He’s struck out just three times in 41 opportunities, and has faced three-ball counts 32% of the time he’s stepped in. Despite a .161 batting average, he’s bolstered it with a .366 OBP and routinely makes pitchers work. Like Miller, Wade too plays the outfield and could take over for a starter as a defensive replacement. He’s got the ability to play all three outfield spots, and despite not being a speedster, can hold down all three roles at an above average clip. The decision here is an interesting one because it deals with two parts of the game that Minnesota has left largely unattended in 2019. The Twins have the fifth best OBP in baseball, but they’ve taken only the 18th most walks in the game. When constructing this lineup over the winter it was apparent that power production was a focus, and we’ve seen that play out at a record setting pace. No one has stolen fewer bases than Minnesota’s 26, and is postseason play the time to start looking for 90 extra feet? Both of these players probably found themselves on the outside looking in when the outfield was in its healthiest state. Now with some holes, the Twins will look to create opportunity through utility on the fringes. Miller and Wade present opportunity, but which way will Minnesota go, and will they consider either of them at all?
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