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  1. It's taken 2 seasons for the catcher position to go from the top of the league to the bottom. In 2021, the catcher position has 40 K's in 86 PA, with 6 BB. On pace for 324 K's over 162 games. HR trend (162-game rate)... 2019: 307 2020: 246 2021: 170 (Buxton, Cruz on pace to account for 104 of those) 2021 Record when scoring 3 or fewer runs (13 games, 65% of all games): 3-10 2021 Record when scoring 5 or more runs (6 games, 30% of all games): 3-3
  2. Byron Buxton has proven that he will provide multiple wins above replacement, if he stays healthy and hits at an acceptably average level. The bad news is that Buxton failed to stay healthy for the latter half of 2019, limiting what could have been. The great news is that he appeared to be making major swing and philosophy adjustments that may lead to above-average offensive production going forward. The first step was reducing his strikeout rate (K%), that allowed him to have a chance to put more balls in play. While Buxton may never have a strikeout rate below 20%, his 2019 K% of 23.1% decreased by a difference of 22% year-over-year. He also doubled his walk rate (BB%) from his disaster 2018 season, to significantly improve his BB/K ratio to 0.28. If Buxton can continue reducing his strikeout rate (it was over 30% in his first two seasons), and keep his walk rate steady, he will have many more chances to receive more pitches and drive the ball. Another major problem in the beginning of Buxton's career was watching too many early pitches become established in the strike zone, and he would proceed to flail at the third strike when he was in protect-mode. Pitchers threw nearly the same amount of pitches in the zone from 2018 to 2019, but Buxton continued his 4-year trend of swinging at more of these pitches (Z-Swing%). Buxton's contact of pitches in the zone (Z-Contact%) has remained constant throughout his career at roughly 82%, but that's not a bad thing. If contact is constant, but his trend of an increasing ZSwing% continues, Buxton will continue to increase his total contact events on hittable pitches. More aggression on pitches in the zone also reduces pitcher's counts, and ultimately strikeouts. He's come a long way from watching nearly 40% of pitches in the zone go on by in 2015. Increasing total contact on hittable pitches is swell, but the contact result is what matters in the end. Buxton's balls in play had encouraging results in 2019, establishing a career low in groundball rate (GB%) and a career high in flyball rate (FB%). Our new savior, Josh Donaldson previously said, "...they don't pay you for groundballs. They pay you for doubles, they pay you for homers." Well said, Josh. Buxton clearly took note of this philosophy, but how did he increase his flyball rate? Launch angle. Buxton's average launch angle of 19.5 degrees ranked 17th among all MLB players with a minimum of 250 plate appearances, and this also led the team that set the single season home run record. In addition to lifting the ball more often, he was also making stronger contact than ever before. Buxton set career highs in barrel rate, exit velocity, and hard hit percentage in 2019. He was also above the MLB averages in each of these metrics, becoming a below-the-radar Statcast darling. It was an absolute shame Buxton's season ended prematurely, but his trajectory is promising if he can stay on the field. Buxton's changes - reducing his strikeout rate, increasing aggressiveness within the zone, higher launch angle, and harder contact - resulted in a 111 wRC+ for 2019. The path to becoming an above average offensive player has been a long and winding road for Buxton, but he finally arrived after trending in the correct direction for years.
  3. Tonight the Twins were shut out through seven innings. In this year of the #BombaSquad, I began to realize that I couldn't remember the last time the Twins were shut out. As the game advanced, I began to wonder just what kind of unicorn we were experiencing tonight. So I investigated. Obviously, two late runs were scored as the game ended in a 6-2 loss to Boston, but this was another interesting perspective on the offensive prowess of the 2019 Twins. Let's be clear about something up front: tonight's experience of being nearly shut out says much more about Boston's starter Eduardo Rodriguez than it does about the Twins. Including tonight's 7 innings without giving up an earned run, Rodriguez has now gone at least 7 innings without giving up an earned run in three of his last four starts. He's having a very nice late August into September, and has brought his ERA down from 4.31 on August 12 to 3.81 after tonight in those four starts. But the question remained in my mind: how often have the Twins been shut out this season? The answer: three times. All at Target Field. This also say some interesting things about how much better this homer-heavy team has performed on the road in 2019. The shutouts came on April 30 to Houston (11-0), June 17 to Boston (2-0), and August 21 to Chicago (4-0). So I was not fooling myself. It has been a rare occurrence. For some perspective, three shutouts thus far put the Twins tied for third place in MLB: the Yankees have only been shut out once, Oakland twice, and the Twins, Dodgers, and Atlanta with three each. To compare, Miami brings in the lead (?) with 20 shutouts thus far in 2019. So the 2019 Twins are not being shut out often. How does this compare in Twins' history? I'm glad you didn't ask: but if you had, I would tell you that three puts in the 2019 squad in a tie for second place since 1960. The 2017 team was only shut out twice on their way to a Wild Card game loss in the Bronx. The 1965 team also was only shut out three times on their way to the American League pennant. At this point, an "on pace" query would round down to a guess of the 2019 Twins staying on that number of three for the year. And while it's a long shot, there is still a chance for the Yankees and Oakland to be shut out some more to bring the Twins into a lead in this obscure category. The Twins are still in position to set some very obscure history in that they do not have a shutout on the road yet in 2019. If they can finish out the season keeping this going, it would be the first time in Twins' history. This year, the Yankees join the Twins in not having been shut out on the road. So it seems that Eddie Rosario's eighth inning #Bomba was not completely meaningless. At the very least, it changed the number in the score column off a zero. And on the road no less!
  4. I recently moved to the Anaheim area and was lucky enough to be able to attend Tuesday evenings' game (5/21/19). I also was able to get to a Dodgers' game a few weeks ago against the Nationals. I've been watching the Twins all season on TV (the 5pm start and 8pm finish of the weekday games is glorious), and I am always confident that we are going to end up having a shot to win any game as long as we keep it within 2 or 3 runs because our lineup is beautiful (so deep). The Twins won handedly last night as you all know, but throughout the game something about the team just does not give me that championship edge feel. Especially when I was just able to see a squad like the Dodgers mash the ball around and seemingly always be in control of the game. (I am 'young' and have never seen a Minnesota championship, so I may just be thinking it is never going to occur for any of the teams that I love.) There are so many things to love about the team especially on the offensive side, it feels like runs can be scored at absolutely any part of the lineup with so many great on base percentages and guys mashing balls all over the gaps and out of the park. Maybe this bullpen just doesn't do it for me. Maybe they will clean it up. What do the Twins need to give them that edge? Do you think they already have all of the pieces for a championship run? If we are missing something, what and how do we acquire? GO TWINS GO
  5. For reasons I can't get into, I'm not at my accustomed place(s) on a Sunday morning. It has given me a chance to think about some random things pertaining to the Twins. I don't want to rival Brian or Always 33, but here are some things I am pondering on a Sunday morning: 1) Paul Molitor was a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. He had the requisite 3000 hits, a high number of stolen bases and a World Series ring. He finished his career with the Twins and played three years for them. Included in those seasons was an outstanding 1996, in which he had 225 hits, drove in 113 and won a Silver Slugger. My question is, if Molitor had retired after playing for the Blue Jays and not toiled three years for the Twins, would he have made the Hall? 2) Brian Dozier is my favorite current Twin. He made his first All-Star appearance (which he deserved) and had an incredible first half of 2015. Since the All-Star break, Dozier has not hit well. I believe his OPS is about .665. He run production has suffered and the power has diminished. His OBP is much lower than last year. Has the league figured him out? Will he have to make adjustments to use the whole field? Should he bunt more for base hits? 3) Last year, the Twins weren't good, but especially in the second half of the season they could score runs. This year, they are struggling. While three players that contributed last year (Arcia, Santana, Vargas) were demoted, the Twins have added a rejuvenated Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario and especially Miguel Sano to make up for the heavy regression from the three noted above. Yet, this year the Twins are below the median for run scoring. They've increased their power, relative to the league, but are drawing fewer free passes and no one is hitting for a high average. Is this expected regression or was last year a fluke? 4) I have maintained that the Yankees or Blue Jays get one wild card spot, while the Twins are competing with Houston, Texas and the Angels for the second slot. Toronto is on the verge of sweeping the Yankees and with the Yanks injuries and remaining schedule, maybe the Twins can overtake the Evil Empire. Is there a chance that New York can miss the playoffs? Should the Twins consider New York "in play"? 5) Danny Santana was the surprise Rookie of the Year for the Twins last season. He was given the shortstop position to start 2015 (his natural position) and truly has had a miserable major league season. In 64 games at short, he has managed to register as one of the worst defenders at the position, while registering an OPS+ of 45. Late this year, the Twins have resurrected last year's quasi-incumbent, Eduardo Escobar. Esco has hit very well and done his usual capable job on defense. Do the last two seasons guarantee Escobar the starting nod at shortstop next year? What is Santana's future with the Twins? The Twins have another huge game today in Chicago. I hope people have time to offer their opinion about my scattered thoughts. Enjoy the game today or maybe the great out-of -doors or maybe some football today.
  6. Though the Twins' offense has struggled to generate many runs in the month of June, their tremendous success in May and the method of their outburst against the White Sox yesterday reminds us all of what has worked for the team all year: Hit Clusters. Now, the Twins, along with local business partners in the breakfast cereal industry are out to share the secret of their winning ways with the populace at large in this new advertisement for a special Twins Centric Cereal! [Our first shot is of Twins clubhouse where a dejected looking Kennys Vargas and Byron Buxton sit at the team breakfast table] Kennys: It isn't easy to be a big leaguer... Byron: Yeah, and you'd think they'd be able to afford something better than simple toast for us too... [Brian Dozier enters, with a big smile and, if possible, animated unicorns and ninjas] Brian: Are you guys tired of your boring breakfasts and wishing you could score more runs?!? Kennys: That is literally what we were just saying. Brian: Try HIT CLUSTER CEREAL! A joint venture of the Minnesota Twins, General Mills, and Malt o Meal! The official Cluster-Based Cereal of the Minnesota Twins!! http://www.350sweets.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/whitchocclusters2.jpg Byron: Do we have an Official Non-Cluster-Based Cereal? Brian: Don't change the subject Rookie!! HIT CLUSTER CEREAL contains all the valuable nutrients you need to connect hits together for a big inning!! [A series of other smiling Twins players appear with the cereal] Torii Hunter: It's got Single Almonds! Trevor Plouffe: It's got Double Granola Granules!! Eddie Rosario: It's got Triple Fiber Flakes!!! Brian Dozier: Not to mention Home Run Flavor!!!! Joe Mauer: Sometimes, when I really want to cut loose, I even have some with vitamin rich Milk. Torii: For the last time Joe, don't flaunt your decadent party life style in front of the kids! Joe: Sorry... Brian: C'mon Guys! Try a bite!! Kennys: Wow! That taste sure comes through in the clutch! [All the Twins Laugh heartily before the final Voice Over] VOICE OVER: Hit Cluster Cereal is available for a limited time only, and is part of a balanced breakfast with other great Official Minnesota Twins foodstuffs like "Base on Balls Bread" and "Orange (You Glad We're Facing White Sox Pitchers) Juice"
  7. Today is the last day in May. If the Twins were to win, while the Chicago teams both win their games, the Twins will finish the month of May with the best record in the American League. The Twins are 19-7 and have improved on every facet of their game in this month. There has been roster turnover, which improved the quality of the both the lineup and the bullpen. Obviously, there are still roster questions to be answered, but a winning record eases pressure to make immediate moves. How has this been done? It is obvious that there has been improvement in the pitching staff, beyond that, runs have been scored and scored early in the game. The addition of Aaron Hicks (especially) and Eddie Rosario has improved a very weak outfield defense to something close to average. The second question is "can this continue?". While the underlying numbers suggest that the Twins have benefited from a great deal of good fortune, there are other factors that indicate that things can improve. It has been a fun ride. Even if the club regresses a bit, there is reason to believe the Twins will remain relevant for the whole season. Far better than everyone but the most cockeyed optimists predicted.
  8. The Twins just completed a very successful trip to Pittsburgh and Chicago, winning four of five games and finally catching (and technically passing) the Tigers. The club is at their high-water mark of seven games over .500 and returns home to face the Red Sox and Blue Jays in their next two series. The team is third in run-scoring and in the middle of the pack for runs allowed. There are soft spots in the lineup, but no real holes, and there seem to be replacements available for the team's biggest weaknesses. The Twins have been great at home (14-6) and they have clobbered left handed pitching. Paul Molitor has done a fine job as a rookie manager, mixing traditional with innovation. I don't know if the Twins can contend. I am believing more after this road trip than I have at any time this year. The offense, just like last year, has found the whole exceeding the sum of the parts. The pitching staff this year has been better than their metrics. The infield defense is pretty good and the outfield defense has improved dramatically with the recent addition of Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario. I am in favor of reworking the bullpen and perhaps recalling a position player or two who could provide more offense. There are minor league players who could offer an upgrade. Just a reminder, the Twins have been in playoff position for almost all of the last two weeks.
  9. There is currently a thread for the starting lineup going and some of the conversation is about who fills out the roster. I am starting a separate thread about the entire 25-man roster. We all know that whoever goes north with the club will get some chance to play and if they make good they will get more chances, so IMHO it is far more important who makes the club than exactly who is a "starter" when the season opens. In the starting lineup thread, there seems to be pretty good agreement on who starts. All nine spots are far from locked down, of course. I will assume the Twins go with 12 pitchers and 13 position players. I think that will be the way they start the season. Position players first, rationale to follow: Position players: Catcher: (2) Suzuki, Fryer Infield: (6) Mauer, Dozier, Florimon, Plouffe, Escobar, Bartlett Outfield/DH: (5) Willingham, Presley, Arcia, Mastroianni, Kubel When I originally put together a 25-man roster, I penciled in Pinto as the starter at catcher. Recent rumblings tell me that Suzuki will be doing a lot of catching at least to start the season and that the Twins would like Pinto to get a little more AAA time. It also helps that he has options and that a month in Rochester will give the Twins another year of his services. Another catching/25th man candidate is Chris Herrmann. He hits like a backup catcher, but does play other positions (and may try more this spring). If the Twins bring three catchers north, I'm sure the third guy will be Herrmann. I don't think they'll start the year that way, though. Infield: Unless the Twins make another free agent signing or trade, I think the starters and principal backup are set. I added Bartlett late because (1) he has a .795 lifetime OPS vs. left handed pitching (2) he is a veteran who can be a bench player without hurting his performance or damaging his future. (3) he might qualify as the best option to be a RH pinch hitter late in games. Bartlett could get some starts at short against lefties and with two backup infielders, Gardy might use Plouffe as a DH especially against left handers. Colabello figures here, too, but I just can't see him making the team since he really isn't a good fielder and his swing was exploited in the majors last year. Outfield: I originally had Parmelee making the club and still hope that he finds a way, but with a second backup infielder, there isn't room for him unless he outhits Kubel or the Twins roll the dice without a backup center fielder again. I can't see Hicks making the club out of spring training, but I hope he is back by June and moves Presley/Mastro into a backup role. I included Mastroianni as the backup outfielder because he can play all three positions, has base stealing speed and hits right handed, making him a potential platoon partner for Presley.
  10. With 70% of the season in the books, I thought I would take a look at what has happened compared to my expectations. I thought the Twins would improve slightly, but because of starting pitcher issues, they wouldn't contend. So far, in this very general prediction, I am right. The Twins look like they will win a few more games, finishing somewhere in the high 60s to low 70s and their starting pitching has been a bigger mess than I would have predicted. More specifically, I said that the overall success of the season would be determined by the number of players who established themselves. In that category of players were non-rookie, first year starters--Florimon, Dozier, Plouffe, and Parmelee. In addition, Aaron Hicks was the Opening Day CF, making his debut on that night. So far, the results in this category have been distressing. Only Dozier has made a case to be a solution, with Florimon probably exceeding expectations but still a poor offensive option. Plouffe had a decent first half, but since an injury he's been dreadful. Parmelee never really got going and Hicks spent about a minute above the Mendoza line and is now assigned to Rochester. As far as development of pitchers, we can start with the failures--Worley and Diamond--both sent to AAA on merit. The hope is that perhaps neither were fully recovered from off-season surgeries and that they will compete for spots in 2014. Correia and Pelfry, on balance, have been close to what would be expected (which isn't much). The guy who has stepped forward is Deduno, who has seemingly put his own spin on "pitch to contact" and has done well in his dozen or so starts. The bullpen has been a team saver. IMHO, it has kept the Twins from becoming the Central Division version of the Astros. From middle guys to the closer, all have performed at least decently on balance. There is an excess there, particularly if the Twins come up with enough starting pitching next year to average 6 innings instead of this season's norm of barely 5. The defense, on balance, has improved. Up the middle, with an improved Mauer behind the plate, Florimon and Dozier in the middle infield and mostly Hicks in center, they are much better than 2012. The outfield corners not so much. First and third are status quo. I haven't mentioned a couple of rookies. Gibson has not been good at all, but he looks like he has enough stuff to be a decent starter. Caleb Thielbar has been a real revelation as a member of the bullpen. Chris Colabello and Oswaldo Arcia have hit some long balls. Arcia has reinforced the opinion that he will be a cornerstone for the club in the years ahead. In summary, this is a team in transition. The next wave is getting closer and we've seen a couple of players who will be part of that wave. It is disappointing that some medium talents haven't stepped up, but not really that surprising. Because of this, the prospects for next year look more bleak than I would have predicted at the start of the year.
  11. I watched the club in person for a week. I saw four games and watched the minor leaguers for parts of three days. I think going to spring training is something fans should do. You get to see the players up close, get to see the players before they are stars, and get access to the brain trust. I spoke to Terry Ryan for awhile and listened to him speak to other fans, as well. Here is my unprofessional evaluation of the 2013 Twins: Offense--small improvement. I expect improvement from the middle infield mostly because it can't get much worse. I also expect at least two of these three (Plouffe, Parmelee and Dozier) to thrive and establish themselves as big league regulars. Hicks won't hit for the average that Span did, but he's always had a pretty good OBP and he has some power. The Twins will start with four regulars 30 or over (counting Mauer who turns 30 next month) so it isn't likely those guys will be better than last year. Pitching--Slight improvement in the rotation, decline in the bullpen. While none of the starters look stellar, I expect overall improvement, sadly because they were so bad last year. Most everybody will probably get a chance and somebody will step up as Diamond did last year. Perkins will be the closer and I expect him to be pretty good. Burton was terrific last year--it's pretty tough to expect an encore from him. Most of the rest of the bullpen is filled with question marks. Defense--Marked improvement. I think Florimon or Escobar will get most of the innings at short and both are good defensive players. Dozier seems to have found his niche at second and Hicks is a gifted defender. Add in a reinvigorated Mauer catching more and throwing more effectively and the core of the defense looks very good. There will be limited range for the corner outfielders and questions about Plouffe's defense at third, but overall the Twins look much improved when they are in the field. Does this mean more wins? I expect a few more victories, but until they get more horses in the rotation, the Twins will still struggle to get close to .500.
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