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Twitter

  1. I’d like to discuss the way I see forward for the Minnesota Twins to become a team ready for a deep playoff run or World Series victory. The focus will be on top quality pitching. I’ll use a couple of case studies of teams that had very deep and strong pitching and great success, those teams being the 1980 Baltimore Orioles and the 1972-1974 Oakland A’s. Then I’ll take a look at how the Twins can get to that level. First, how did I get to this point of believing pitching is more important than I originally thought? Although, a Twins fan since 1964, the media and options for following the Twins on a more comprehensive level only opened up to me in the 1970s. I lived in Toledo, Ohio but had discovered the Twins at Tinker Field in Orlando when my Dad took me to a game vs. the Cincinnati Reds. The Twins won and the rest was history for me! In the 1960s it was linescores in the newspaper and the occasional game of the week with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek. Then one glorious night in 1973, I thought to myself, "Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pick up Twins games on the radio." I had been twirling the station tuner knob that night pickng up any games I could. Seemingly miraculously, within 10-15 minutes I heard a new voice and paused to see what team(s) I had come across. Imagine my astonishment when I learned that it was the Twins broadcast from WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. I first heard the voice of Herb Carneal that night and stayed up late listening to Twins baseball as my recollection is that it was a doubleheader, possibly from the west coast. Herb became my constant companion for many years and my love for the Twins grew exponentially. I remember annually thnking the the Twins were going to win the AL West this season and the next and the next but it never happened. Why? I couldn’t figure it out as they had such fine hitters as Jim Holt, Steve Braun, Rod Carew, Bobby Darwin, Mike Cubbage, then Glenn Adams, Lyman Bostock and Larry Hisle. The 1977 team brought things into clear focus. The offense, while maybe not as deep as 2019, was at the upper echelon - arguably the greatest offense in Twins history. On June 26, 1977 I listened to and scored from my basement in Ohio, a 19-12 Twins win over the White Sox, listening to Harey Carey from 670 WMAQ in Chicago. Alas, the Twins had a mediocre to poor pitching staff in 1977. That to go along with possibly the best hitting team in Twins history and, in my opinion, the greatest manager in Twins history - the brilliant tactician and innovator, Gene Mauch. Suffice to say, from 1977 on, I realized that only a team with very strong pitching could hope to be in the playoffs (back them it was only AL East vs. West, then the World Series) or win the World Series. Let’s take a look at the 1977 Twins. (courtesy of baseball-reference.com) Pos Name Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ C Butch Wynegar# 21 144 617 532 76 139 22 3 10 79 2 3 68 61 .261 .344 .370 .715 96 1B Rod Carew* 31 155 694 616 128 239 38 16 14 100 23 13 69 55 .388 .449 .570 1.019 178 2B Bob Randall 29 103 342 306 36 73 13 2 0 22 1 4 15 25 .239 .289 .294 .583 61 SS Roy Smalley# 24 150 680 584 93 135 21 5 6 56 5 5 74 89 .231 .316 .315 .631 74 3B Mike Cubbage* 26 129 464 417 60 110 16 5 9 55 1 4 37 49 .264 .321 .391 .712 94 LF Larry Hisle 30 141 620 546 95 165 36 3 28 119 21 10 56 106 .302 .369 .533 .902 144 CF Lyman Bostock* 26 153 660 593 104 199 36 12 14 90 16 7 51 59 .336 .389 .508 .897 144 RF Dan Ford 25 144 510 453 66 121 25 7 11 60 6 4 41 79 .267 .338 .426 .764 108 DH Craig Kusick 28 115 325 268 34 68 12 0 12 45 3 1 49 60 .254 .370 .433 .803 120 Pos Name Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ DH Rich Chiles* 27 108 295 261 31 69 16 1 3 36 0 1 23 17 .264 .323 .368 .691 89 DH Glenn Adams* 29 95 290 269 32 91 17 0 6 49 0 2 18 30 .338 .376 .468 .844 130 3B Jerry Terrell 30 93 235 214 32 48 6 0 1 20 10 4 11 21 .224 .263 .266 .530 46 2B Rob Wilfong* 23 73 193 171 22 42 1 1 1 13 10 4 17 26 .246 .321 .281 .602 67 LF Bob Gorinski 25 54 126 118 14 23 4 1 3 22 1 0 5 29 .195 .226 .322 .548 48 CF Willie Norwood 26 39 91 83 15 19 3 0 3 9 6 1 6 17 .229 .281 .373 .654 78 IF Luis Gomez 25 32 74 65 6 16 4 2 0 11 0 2 4 9 .246 .290 .369 .659 80 C Glenn Borgmann 27 17 54 43 12 11 1 0 2 7 0 0 11 9 .256 .407 .419 .826 128 C Bud Bulling 24 15 39 32 2 5 1 0 0 5 0 0 5 5 .156 .270 .188 .458 29 3B Larry Wolfe 24 8 27 25 3 6 1 0 0 6 0 0 1 0 .240 .269 .280 .549 51 2B Sam Perlozzo 26 10 27 24 6 7 0 2 0 0 0 0 2 3 .292 .346 .458 .804 119 DH Randy Bass* 23 9 19 19 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .105 .105 .105 .211 -42 Next the pitching staff that held the team to an 84-77 record. Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP Team Totals 27.1 84 77 4.36 161 161 126 35 4 25 1442.0 1546 776 698 151 507 737 91 4.21 1.424 Rank in 14 AL teams 7 8 12 11 9 10 8 12 12 12 10 7 12 Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP SP Dave Goltz 28 20 11 3.36 39 39 0 19 2 0 303.0 284 129 113 23 91 186 119 3.42 1.238 SP Paul Thormodsgard 23 11 15 4.62 37 37 0 8 1 0 218.0 236 122 112 25 65 94 86 4.30 1.381 SP Geoff Zahn* 31 12 14 4.68 34 32 0 7 1 0 198.0 234 116 103 20 66 88 85 4.24 1.515 SP Pete Redfern 22 6 9 5.18 30 28 2 1 0 0 137.1 164 89 79 13 66 73 77 4.44 1.675 Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP CL Tom Johnson 26 16 7 3.13 71 0 54 0 0 15 146.2 152 57 51 11 47 87 128 3.59 1.357 RP Ron Schueler 29 8 7 4.41 52 7 21 0 0 3 134.2 131 74 66 16 61 77 91 4.63 1.426 RP Tom Burgmeier* 33 6 4 5.09 61 0 20 0 0 7 97.1 113 56 55 15 33 35 79 5.10 1.500 RP Dave Johnson 28 2 5 4.58 30 6 16 0 0 0 72.2 86 42 37 7 23 33 88 4.24 1.500 RP Jeff Holly* 24 2 3 6.89 18 5 6 0 0 0 48.1 57 37 37 8 12 32 58 4.37 1.428 Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP Gary Serum 20 0 0 4.37 8 0 2 0 0 0 22.2 22 11 11 4 10 14 93 5.39 1.412 Bill Butler* 30 0 1 6.86 6 4 0 0 0 0 21.0 19 17 16 5 15 5 59 7.64 1.619 Mike Pazik* 27 1 0 2.50 3 3 0 0 0 0 18.0 18 5 5 1 6 6 163 3.79 1.333 Don Carrithers 27 0 1 6.91 7 0 3 0 0 0 14.1 16 13 11 2 6 3 59 5.60 1.535 Jim Shellenback* 33 0 0 7.94 5 0 0 0 0 0 5.2 10 7 5 1 5 3 54 6.62 2.647 Jim Hughes 25 0 0 2.08 2 0 2 0 0 0 4.1 4 1 1 0 1 1 209 2.97 1.154 Notice that the starting rotation was basically one pitcher deep, their ace, Dave Goltz, he of the knuckle-curve. The staff ERA was 4.36, which is not so much a reflection of the quality of the starting staff but of the superior work of two relievers who ate up 281.1 innings. Tom Johnson was the one most responsible for holding down the team ERA with his 3.13 ERA, 16-7 record and 146.2 innings as the closer! Amazingly, after the Twins had lost Bill Campbell and his 17-5 record in relief in 1976 to free-agency, they were able to plug in Johnson. It’s pretty plain to see that the top 9 pitchers listed, excepting Goltz and Johnson, are what held back this team with a juggernaut offense from a possible division championship or even World Series victory. Just one quality starter. Two other major factors influenced my thinking on the value of deep, quality pitching. The first was the astonishing success of the 1972-1974 Oakland A’s, who may have won 5-7 World Series in a row except for the advent of free-agency. Charley Finley waved the white flag of surrender just as much as Calvin Griffith did and the Oakland dynasty was destroyed. Take a look at the pitching staff of a World Champion three years running. The names changed slightly but the prioritization on pitching is the teachable lesson! (courtesy of baseball-reference.com) Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP Team Totals 26.7 94 68 3.29 162 162 116 46 12 41 1457.1 1311 532 143 494 797 109 3.83 1.239 Rank in 12 AL teams 2 11 2 9 2 2 3 2 3 9 4 8 Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP SP Ken Holtzman* 27 21 13 2.97 40 40 0 16 4 0 297.1 275 98 22 66 157 120 3.18 1.147 SP Vida Blue* 23 20 9 3.28 37 37 0 13 4 0 263.2 214 96 26 105 158 109 3.89 1.210 SP Catfish Hunter 27 21 5 3.34 36 36 0 11 3 0 256.1 222 95 39 69 124 107 4.40 1.135 SP Blue Moon Odom 28 5 12 4.49 30 24 4 3 0 0 150.1 153 75 14 67 83 79 4.05 1.463 SP Dave Hamilton* 25 6 4 4.39 16 11 1 1 0 0 69.2 74 34 8 24 34 81 4.16 1.407 Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP CL Rollie Fingers 26 7 8 1.92 62 2 49 0 0 22 126.2 107 27 5 39 110 186 2.36 1.153 RP Darold Knowles* 31 6 8 3.09 52 5 26 1 1 9 99.0 87 34 7 49 46 116 4.13 1.374 RP Horacio Pina 28 6 3 2.76 47 0 24 0 0 8 88.0 58 27 8 34 41 129 4.25 1.045 RP Paul Lindblad* 31 1 5 3.69 36 3 11 0 0 2 78.0 89 32 8 28 33 97 4.25 1.500 Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP Glenn Abbott 22 1 0 3.86 5 3 1 1 0 0 18.2 16 8 3 7 6 94 5.14 1.232 Rob Gardner* 28 0 0 4.91 3 0 0 0 0 0 7.1 10 4 2 4 2 77 7.20 1.909 Chuck Dobson 29 0 1 7.71 1 1 0 0 0 0 2.1 6 2 1 2 3 55 8.14 3.429 Second was playing table top baseball with a good friend who was an avid Orioles fan. We played my Twins team against his Orioles for many games, who while not having the offense of the Twins, kept running out a relentless rotation of Palmer, Flanagan, Dennis Martinez, Scott McGregor. I was defeated more often than not by this pitching staff and got used to being dominated. I was forever changed! This is the kind of staff I’d like to see the Twins aspire to! (courtesy of baseball-reference.com) Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP Team Totals 26.8 90 71 3.56 161 161 96 65 14 33 1429.0 1340 566 107 509 754 99 3.60 1.294 Rank in 14 AL teams 5 10 5 1 2 2 11 2 4 4 7 5 Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP SP Jim Palmer 32 21 12 2.46 38 38 0 19 6 0 296.0 246 81 19 97 138 143 3.48 1.159 SP Mike Flanagan* 26 19 15 4.03 40 40 0 17 2 0 281.1 271 126 22 87 167 87 3.37 1.273 SP Dennis Martinez 24 16 11 3.52 40 38 0 15 2 0 276.1 257 108 20 93 142 100 3.54 1.267 SP Scott McGregor* 24 15 13 3.32 35 32 2 13 4 1 233.0 217 86 19 47 94 106 3.46 1.133 Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP CL Don Stanhouse 27 6 9 2.89 56 0 47 0 0 24 74.2 60 24 0 52 42 122 3.55 1.500 RP Joe Kerrigan 24 3 1 4.77 26 2 16 0 0 3 71.2 75 38 10 36 41 74 4.85 1.549 RP Tippy Martinez* 28 3 3 4.83 42 0 16 0 0 5 69.0 77 37 4 40 57 73 3.47 1.696 RP Nelson Briles 34 4 4 4.64 16 8 4 1 0 0 54.1 58 28 6 21 30 76 4.19 1.454 RP John Flinn 23 1 1 8.04 13 0 5 0 0 0 15.2 24 14 3 13 8 45 6.54 2.362 Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP Tim Stoddard 25 0 1 6.00 8 0 3 0 0 0 18.0 22 12 3 8 14 60 4.86 1.667 Dave Ford 21 1 0 0.00 2 1 1 0 0 0 15.0 10 0 0 2 5 2.32 0.800 Sammy Stewart 23 1 1 3.18 2 2 0 0 0 0 11.1 10 4 0 3 11 115 1.44 1.147 Earl Stephenson* 30 0 0 2.79 2 0 2 0 0 0 9.2 10 3 0 5 4 131 3.31 1.552 Elrod Hendricks 37 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 2.1 1 0 0 1 0 3.87 0.857 Larry Harlow* 26 0 0 67.50 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.2 2 5 1 4 1 9 37.09 9.000 Now, let’s compare this year’s Twins staff to, first the 1977 Twins, and then secondly to the 1973 A’s and the 1978 Orioles. (courtesy of baseball-reference.com) Pos Name Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP Team Totals 30.4 29 41 .414 4.94 70 70 70 0 0 17 610.1 619 335 104 209 574 84 4.67 1.357 Rank in 15 AL teams 12 4 14 8 9 8 11 13 13 14 5 13 Pos Name Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP SP Jose Berrios 27 7 2 .778 3.56 14 14 0 0 0 0 83.1 70 33 10 21 87 115 3.58 1.092 SP J.A. Happ* 38 3 3 .500 6.12 12 12 0 0 0 0 60.1 69 41 11 18 44 67 5.13 1.442 SP Michael Pineda (10-day IL) 32 3 4 .429 3.70 11 11 0 0 0 0 56.0 49 23 10 15 51 111 4.48 1.143 SP Matt Shoemaker 34 2 8 .200 7.57 13 11 2 0 0 0 54.2 66 46 12 23 37 54 6.04 1.628 SP Kenta Maeda 33 2 2 .500 5.01 10 10 0 0 0 0 46.2 55 26 9 14 46 82 4.80 1.479 Pos Name Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP CL Taylor Rogers* 30 2 3 .400 2.73 28 0 11 0 0 7 29.2 26 9 3 5 41 152 2.23 1.045 RP Hansel Robles 30 3 3 .500 2.84 32 0 9 0 0 5 31.2 21 10 2 19 33 145 3.80 1.263 RP Jorge Alcala 25 1 1 .500 3.49 29 0 11 0 0 0 28.1 16 11 7 7 24 118 5.54 0.812 RP Tyler Duffey 30 0 2 .000 4.15 28 0 2 0 0 2 26.0 23 12 2 13 24 100 3.94 1.385 RP Alex Colome 32 2 4 .333 5.40 27 0 10 0 0 2 25.0 28 15 5 12 26 77 5.49 1.600 Pos Name Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP Randy Dobnak 26 1 6 .143 7.83 13 5 3 0 0 1 43.2 60 38 11 12 25 53 6.19 1.649 Caleb Thielbar* 34 2 0 1.000 4.13 22 0 4 0 0 0 24.0 26 11 3 7 36 101 2.80 1.375 Bailey Ober 25 0 0 3.71 4 4 0 0 0 0 17.0 18 7 3 2 21 113 3.52 1.176 Cody Stashak (10-day IL) 27 0 0 6.89 15 0 1 0 0 0 15.2 16 12 2 10 26 61 3.62 1.660 Lewis Thorpe* (7-day IL) 25 0 2 .000 3.86 4 3 1 0 0 0 14.0 13 6 1 4 5 109 4.24 1.214 Luke Farrell 30 1 0 1.000 2.08 11 0 3 0 0 0 13.0 11 3 1 5 14 202 3.17 1.231 Shaun Anderson 26 0 0 9.35 4 0 0 0 0 0 8.2 13 9 1 5 8 46 4.90 2.077 Griffin Jax (40-man) 26 0 0 8.64 3 0 2 0 0 0 8.1 11 8 4 3 9 49 8.33 1.680 Derek Law 30 0 0 8.53 5 0 3 0 0 0 6.1 11 6 2 6 9 51 7.28 2.684 Juan Minaya 30 0 0 4.26 4 0 2 0 0 0 6.1 5 3 2 3 4 102 7.91 1.263 Devin Smeltzer* (10-day IL) 25 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 4.2 1 0 0 1 3 3.81 0.429 Brandon Waddell* 27 0 1 .000 11.25 4 0 2 0 0 0 4.0 10 5 2 3 1 40 11.42 3.250 Willians Astudillo (40-man) 29 0 0 3.00 3 0 3 0 0 0 3.0 1 1 1 1 0 153 8.51 0.667 Statistically, this is the worst pitching staff we’ve looked at. This rotation is basically a two man rotation out of 5 where the 1977 Twins were basically one. Staffs like the 1977 and 2021 Twins will never lead to a high quality team featuring one and two viable starters type rotations. Obvious, right? My argument would be that Falvey and Levine should be trying to get that to 4 or 5 quality starters and not put resources to players like J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, Alex Colome or even Josh Donaldson. Donaldson has good qualities but one thing he isn’t is a quality pitcher. What’s the way forward? I think, based on his 3.70 ERA so far and the virtual impossibility of signing 3 FA quality starters, that they need to re-sign Michael Pineda. They also need to re-sign Jose Berrios. That’s only 2 of 5 quality starters. We have to hope that Maeda rounds back into form. Further the FO is going to have to sign a quality free agent pitcher. Then we have to hope that Bailey Ober builds on what he as started so far. And hope that Barnes, Duran or Balazovic make a breakthrough. There are other good arms. I’ve pictured below the kinds of pitchers we need in at least 3 or 4 spots. It would be nice to have Christy Mathewson as a Twin but, alas, that’s not possible. He’s my favorite pitcher of all time. Let me know what you think. My motto is pitching, pitching and more pitching!!!
  2. Twins fans were rightfully excited about acquring slick fielding SS Andrelton Simmons last night. If you want to spend a fun 10 mintues, check out his defensive highlight reel . There's no doubt that grabbing the best defensive SS since Ozzie Smith will upgrade the Twins roster. Combine Simmons with already strong defenders in Buxton, Donaldson, Jeffers, and Kepler, you can see how quickly the mind would shift to "well, what does this mean for their pitching?". In my opinion, this means two things: 1) It upgrades the Twins existing staff (and should be helpful to one guy in particular) 2) It might tell us a bit about who the Twins could target next for a SP, given their newly upgraded defense Simmons Impact on Existing Twins Pitchers: Looking purely at GB% (calculated by the number of ground balls induced/number of balls put in play), we know that based on an improved defense, the more balls hit on the ground, the higher chance they have to be converted into outs than they did 24 hours ago (pre-Simmons signing). It's even more fun to look at how much better the Twins defense is than in 2017 when Falvey and Levine took over. JD Cameron takes a look into that here. From Fangraphs, a "ground ball pitcher" is any pitcher who has a GB% over 50%. League wide in 2019 - 2020, the average GB% was 42.8%. Here is how the Twins current staff stacks up by GB% using combined stats from the 2019 and 2020 seasons. For the most part, the majority of the staff has a below average GB% (would love to see what this chart looked like for the 2004 pitch-to-contact Twins). Two names stand out here. 1. Randy Dobnak - GB% of 58.8%*** 2. Taylor Rogers - GB% of 48.2% ***Since he came into the league, Randy Dobnak ranks 7th out of 284 pitchers in GB%. Which SP could the Twins acquire that would benefit most from the Twins defense? Given that any ball hit on the left side of the infield should be vaccumed up quicker than a Dyson, maybe this shifts how the front office approaches filling out the rotation. Ground ball pitchers stand to gain a lot if their infield can consistently convert more ground balls into outs. It's the little things in baseball that make the major differences. From 2019 - 2020, there were 284 pitchers that threw at least 75 IP. Below are the ranks and GB% for the remaining free agents. For this exercise, I only focused on FA that had a GB% at 44% or higher. You can see the entire list from Fangraphs here. Brett Anderson - 55.2% (17th) Jake Arrieta - 51.4% (30th) Adam Wainwright - 47.4% (71st) Cole Hamels - 47.0% (79th) Aaron Sanchez - 46.9% (81st) Homer Bailey - 44% (128th) Below are the ranks for potential trade candidates that have popped up in rumors. Again, I only focused on players with a GB% of 44% or higher. Luis Castillo - 56.1% (13th) Sonny Gray - 50.9% (35th) German Marquez - 49.5% (52nd) Jon Gray - 46.9% (81st) BONUS. Here are a couple bullpen free agents that could benefit from a good defensive infield: Jeremy Jeffress - 50.0% Alex Colome - 47.7% So there you have it. I will be interested to see how the Twins defense positively impacts the pitching staff all year long. Specifically, I am excited to see what this means for Randy Dobnak. For now, I am most interested to see what the Simmons acquisition means in how the Twins front office addresses the rest of their pitching needs. Do any names on this list jump out to you as being good targets for the Twins? Maybe now even moreso with a Simmons addition?
  3. Today is the official first day of the offseason! Annnnd nobody knows what to expect. What we almost assuredly can count on is that the Twins payroll will be reduced from what it was in 2020. With that in mind, the front office will have to be smarter about how they spend their money. Here are a few “under the radar” pitching signings that could prove valuable in 2021. The way I am looking at this is that the Twins have at least one spot open in their rotation. Ideally, I would like to see them add two this offseason and push Dobnak to the #6 spot, looking in. More on that in my 2021 “Offseason Blueprint” that I hope to write next week. Also, with Romo now officially a free agent alongside May and Clippard, the Twins will have to look for some more help in the bullpen. I don’t fully trust Thielbar to be the lone lefty next to Taylor Rogers so I examine two lefty arms that can be had for a discount and one possible right handed replacement for May/Clippard. Each name below could provide a solution at a relatively low price. Drew Smyly Smyly signed a 1 year/$4M deal in San Francisco in 2020. He appeared in 7 games in 2020 (5 starts). In 26 innings he produced 42 (!!!) strikeouts for a 14.4 K/9. He was good for a 3.42 ERA (2.01 FIP). Between the Rangers and the Phillies in 2019, Smyly started 21 games. In 114 total innings he produced a 6.24 ERA (6.24 FIP) with a 9.5 K/9. His WHIP ballooned to 1.588, where he also posted a 4.2 BB/9. 2019 was his first full season since 2016 following Tommy John surgery in 2017. What changed? Small sample size? Finally healthy? Taking a look at BrooksBaseball, Smyly went from a 4-pitch mix to just 3 pitches midway through 2019. He abandoned his changeup entirely and instead focused on a four seam, cutter, and curve. He added 2.6 mph to his fastball in 2020 (from 91.2 to 93.8 mph). Opponents also went from slugging .632 on that pitch in 2019 to only .263 in 2020 (small sample size of 220 pitches). His curve was especially devastating in 2020, opponents only hit .184 in 50 PA’s. 27 of his 42 K’s were on this pitch (64.3%). If the Twins believe his numbers are for real, and maybe there’s another gear here, he could be a solid low-cost #5 SP or swingman between the rotation and the ‘pen. Could they sign him for a 1/$4-6M contract? Taijuan Walker Rumored to have been in the mix to sign Taijuan Walker before the 2020 season, the Twins ultimately passed when he showed up to a tryout throwing his fastball in the mid-80’s. Having recently come off of Tommy John as well (missed most of 2018 and 2019), there was concern about his arm. He ended up settling for a 1-year/$2M deal with Seattle, and was eventually traded to Toronto at this year’s trade deadline. At only 27 years old Walker put up solid numbers this year between two teams: 11 GS, 53.1 IP, 2.70 ERA (4.56 FIP), 8.4 K/9 His fastball velocity stayed up where he averaged 93mph (in 2015 - 2016 he averaged 95.1mph). He was brilliant in 5 of his 6 outings as a Blue Jay ending with a 1.37 ERA in his last 26 innings. There are some concerns, however, with such a small sample size, the peripherals are not amazing. Other than limiting hard hit %, the screenshot below doesn’t scream ‘sustainable’. But, if looking for a buy-low #5 SP, you could do much worse than Walker. The bet is that he stay healthy for an entire year. Will he take another 1-year deal in the $4-5M range? Oliver Perez Do you also feel like Perez has been around FOREVER? Well, he has. He made his debut in 2002. Lately, he has been hiding in Cleveland’s bullpen only to be deployed very carefully by Terry Francona. When used correctly, the 39 year old is still effective. From 2018 - 2020 with CLE, Perez appeared in 139 games. 91 IP, 105 K’s (10.4 K/9), 2.67 ERA (2.83 FIP) Forever considered a LOOGY, I was concerned how the new 3-batter rule in 2020 would impact Perez, but, he did just fine: 2.00 ERA in 18 innings with 14 K’s. He is still death to lefties, and when used properly, could be a good addition to the Twins ‘pen with a lack of lefty arms behind Rogers and Thielbar (who, again, I don’t fully trust). Perez vs LHH 2018 - 2020: 191 batters faced, .295 SLG, 52 K’s Last year he signed a 1-year/$2.5M deal, would he take equal to or less than that in 2021? Sean Doolittle OK. This one is a bit trickier to predict. Sean was an All-Star in 2018 with the Nationals. But since, hasn’t been great (other than his takes on social media, which are awesome by the way). In 2018 with OAK, Doolittle was nails. He posted a 1.60 ERA in 45 innings with 25 saves and a 12 K/9. In 2019 - 2020, Doolittle struggled. He posted a 4.26 ERA (4.70 FIP) in 67.2 IP and a 9.6 K/9. In 2020, he had a knee issue and struggled with a dip in velocity but recovered a bit before a second injury ended his season entirely. Doolittle was however a staple in the Nationals ‘pen during their World Series run in 2019. He threw 10.1 innings only allowing 2 runs while striking out 8. He threw 3 scoreless IP in the WS. Like Perez, he is a lefty tough on left-handed batters. Doolittle vs LHB 2018 - 2020: 131 batters faced, .331 SLG, and 48 K’s Doolittle will be 35 by the end of the 2021 season. It’s unlikely that he will earn the $6.5M salary he had in 2020. Will he consider a 1-year $2-3M deal or if his market has plummeted entirely, a minor league deal with MIN? Keone Kela OK. I have no clue what to expect here. There’s a lot to unpack. Kela came up as a promising arm in the Rangers organization. He had some issues with management when they put him in a minor league practice game in Spring Training, and his effort, um wasn’t there. The Rangers ended up trading him to Pittsburgh where he had some other issues including not even showing up to the Bucs for a week, getting suspended for a clubhouse issue, and delaying his 2020 season due to COVID testing. Injuries impacted his 2019 and ultimately ended his 2020 season with right forearm inflammation. But, when going right, Kela is one of the best right handed arms in the game. He ended his season in 2018 as the closer in Texas and was the expected closer in PIT before the injuries. He basically just relies on two pitches, a four seam that can touch 97 mph and a curve. Between 2018 - 2020 Kela appeared in 89 games: 83.2 IP, 2.90 ERA (3.29 FIP), 11.0 K/9, 25 saves If the Twins can find a way to bring Kela in on a reasonable 1-year deal, there is loads of upside. However, I do feel the interest is going to be very high among all teams for this reason given his age and potential. So, that's it. Are there any "under the radar" pitchers you think the Twins should go after?
  4. Okay, time to take a look at Lewis Thorpe. This is, afterall, the reason we all woke up this morning, right? Thankfully for all involved, we can skip the lengthy preamble and just get into the analysis. Like Dobnak, whom I covered in this space last week, Thorpe made his MLB debut for the Twins last season (though he started the year off in AAA, whereas Dobnak basically covered every level in the organization in 2019). Let’s take a look at Thorpe’s results from his MLB stint: • 27.2 IP (essentially the same sample as Dobnak) • 10.08 K/9 (yes, please) • 3.25 BB/9 (that’ll play) • 6.18 ERA (yikes) • 3.47 FIP (okay, let’s take a look at the BABIP, HR rates, and other batted ball tendencies) • 4.14 xFIP (so he had a lower than league average HR/FB rate, but honestly ½ of a run isn’t much in this small of a sample, it’s a difference of 1.5 ER allowed in 27 IP) I see a number of things I want to look at here, and we will see where this takes us: • Swinging Strike Rate: 11.8% • Zone Percentage: 44.3% • BABIP: .438 • HR/9: 0.98 • HR/FB: 10.3% • Line Drive Rate: 31.3% Let’s start with his plate discipline numbers to see whether we think these strikeout and walk rates, which are the stuff aces are made of (a quick a dirty thing to do to identify elite skills is to subtract the BB/9 from the K/9; anything over 6 is great). Let’s start off with the walks and underlying control skills. Thorpe was in the strike zone with 44.3% of his pitches in his limited MLB innings. Among qualified starters, he would have ranked 17th, just behind Yu Darvish and just ahead of Lance Lynn. As I mentioned last week, there were 61 qualified starters, so the top 20 is the top 1/3rd. It’s also worth mentioning that his BB/9 in nearly 100 AAA innings was 2.34 in 2019 and in AA and AAA in 2018, he compiled 130 innings with a 2.5 BB/9. I think it’s safe to say Thorpe has great control and can likely be relied upon to avoid free passes. On to strikeouts. Thorpe has consistently delivered a K/9 in the double digits throughout his time in AA, AAA, and MLB in 2017 (10.50), 2018 (10.92 in AA; 10.80 in AAA) and 2019 (11.12 in AAA, 10.08 in MLB). I’m happy to report that his swinging strike rate during his MLB stint backs this up. His 11.8 swinging strike rate would have been 22nd among qualifying starters (again, right around the top 1/3). As I noted with Dobnak, it is not particularly common for the same pitcher to post strong control numbers and miss a lot of bats. Here is the list of pitchers who had a zone percentage of at least 44.3% and a swinging strike rate of at least 11.8% (if you read the Dobnak post last week, this will look familiar). • Gerrit Cole – 16.8%/45.2% • Max Scherzer – 16.4%/45.6% • Justin Verlander – 16.1%/45.2% • Lucas Giolito – 15%/47.2% • Yu Darvish – 13.4%/44.5% • Charlie Morton – 12.9%/45.1% • German Marquez – 12.7%/46.6% • Walker Buehler – 12.1%/46.5% • Joe Musgrove – 12%/45.5% Still good company, just as it was for Dobnak last week (and I’m on board with prying Musgrove away from Pittsburgh). Okay, so he’s in the zone and missing bats. Those skills have consistently translated to strikeouts and walks (for pitchers in general, and for Thorpe since he was promoted to AA in 2017). So if he’s so great why did he post an ERA of more than 6 runs per nine innings? I know a lot of people won’t like to hear this, but he was unlucky. Pitchers cannot control everything that happens, and particularly in small samples some bad luck can really torch your ratios. For starters, he allowed a .438 BABIP. The highest BABIP among qualified starters was .347 – one hundred points lower! That’s a fluke. Thorpe also only stranded 66% of his baserunners. Only three qualified starters had lower strand rates, and none of then posted a K/9 over 8.5 (Musgrove had the lowest strand rate in the major leagues; more evidence that he'd be a great add). He was helped a bit by having a relatively low HR/FB, particularly given the fact that he allowed a lot of hard contact (39.8%), and the BABIP was fueled by a 31.3% line drive rate. It’s likely intuitive to anyone who has read this far, but line drives are by far the most likely type of batted ball to result in a base hit. Again, though, so much of all of this is dependent on such a small sample that it’s hard to know if that’s really who he is. If those line drives turned into fly balls he’d likely see his BABIP come down, but he’d also likely allow more home runs. It’s also feasible that a pitcher who misses bats like he does can figure out how to induce weaker contact, especially if he relies more heavily on his slider. A commenter noted on the Dobnak post that Dobnak had faced some weaker offenses. That’s also true of Thorpe, who faced AL central foes for the majority of his appearances. Something to keep in mind. Honestly, he’s a lot like Dobnak. The biggest difference between the two (aside from pedigree) is that Dobnak had good fortune with batted balls and Thorpe had bad fortune. All-in-all, I’d say Thorpe gives us plenty of reason to be excited about the possibilities for the back end of the rotation in 2020. The Twins don’t need all of the potential starters on the 40-man to be great, and they appear to have put together a system full of high variance, high upside arms. Not a bad place to be.
  5. I’m going to dive into blogging here and see where it goes. Sometimes, as a writer, the hardest thing is to come up with an idea that’s worth writing about and that people will actually be interested to read. I expect that to be my struggle, but I’ve got what I think will be an interesting series to kick things off, and maybe that will be the extent of my contributions. Time will tell. In any case, nobody wants to read about me. You want to see what information you can glean about our Twins. Given the rampant discussions on Twitter and on various blogs regarding the state of the Twins’ pitching staff, I thought it would be interesting to do a series on the numbers underlying the starters currently projected to be in the mix for the Twins. While I’m sure others will make starts this season, here are the guys I’m hoping to work my way through for this series: Jose Berrios Jake Odorizzi Michael Pineda Rich Hill Homer Bailey Devin Smeltzer Lewis Thorpe Randy Dobnak By way of framing the series, I think there are pretty clearly three different groups. The known (but in some cases misunderstood) quantities, the new veterans, and the prospects. When the season starts, we know Pineda and Hill will not be in the rotation, and we know Berrios, Odorizzi, and Bailey will be (barring injury, of course). That being the case, I decided to start off by diving into the three prospects (a term I’m using loosely, given the MLB experience they got last year), starting with Dobnak. A common question we hear, read, and think to ourselves as we are trying to fall asleep: “Can Randy Dobnak be a key piece of a successful playoff run?” I can cut to the chase and just say the answer is yes, but if you want to know why, go ahead and keep reading the words. Let’s start by looking at Dobnak’s surface-level stats: 28.1 IP – lots and lots of caveats about the small sample 7.31 K/9 – not inspiring, but we will need to take a look at his swinging strike rates 1.59 BB/9 – elite, but let’s see how often he’s really in the strike zone 1.59 ERA – wow, but a lot of this depends on the above 2.90 FIP – also wow 3.77 xFIP – still wow, but we will need to look into his batted ball tendencies because 0.32 HR/9 is the reason for the jump from his FIP to his xFIP. Okay, so we have a few things to dive into: Swinging Strike Rates, which are generally highly correlated to K/9 Zone Percentage, which is highly correlated to BB/9 Batted Ball Tendencies, which are going to be a bit more difficult to use to extrapolate, given the small sample. Getting hitters to swing and miss, and throwing strikes are generally skills the pitcher possesses (or does not), while the results – K/9, BB/9, HR/9, etc. Fluctuate due to randomness, umpire tendencies, opponents’ skill, etc. (esp in small samples). Here’s what we see for Dobnak on those plate discipline skills: 43.8% of his pitches were in the strike zone 12.9% of his pitches resulted in a swinging strike Putting those numbers into context, 61 pitchers qualified for the ERA title last season, so the median pitcher would be the one whose result was 31st among qualified starters. For swinging strike, it turns out that is a couple of familiar names: Jose Berrios and Homer Bailey at 10.8 percent. Looking at zone percentage, there is a three way tie among Jeff Smardzija, Mike Soroka, and Bailey again at 42.6 percent (a bit of a preview of the Bailey post. Hmm). By now you’ve surely noticed that Dobnak’s numbers were markedly above the median. In fact, his zone percentage of 43.8% would have tied him with Zach Eflin for 20th among all qualified starting pitchers, just a tick below Noah Syndergaard at 43.9 percent. His swinging strike rate of 12.9% puts him in a three way tie with Charlie Morton and Clayton Kershaw, who were tied for 14th among qualified starters. Obviously good company. It gets better. If you look at qualified starters who posted at least a 12.9% swinging strike rate combined with a 43.9% zone percentage – that rare combination of being in the zone and missing bats – here is the list you get for 2019: Gerrit Cole – 16.8%/45.2% Max Scherzer – 16.4%/45.6% Justin Verlander – 16.1%/45.2% Lucas Giolito – 15%/47.2% Yu Darvish – 13.4%/44.5% Charlie Morton – 12.9%/45.1% Just missed: Clayton Kershaw German Marquez Lance Lynn Noah Syndergaard Trevor Bauer Walker Buehler Does this mean Dobnak is in the company of these elite aces? Of course not. What it does suggest, though, is that his success was not a fluke. He displayed an elite combination of skills in missing bats (which generates strikeouts) and living in the strike zone (which prevents walks). This suggests that he has considerable upside. He also threw essentially a major league innings load last year – compiling more than 160 innings across 4 levels from High A to the majors. This suggests he’s capable of providing the Twins with volume as well as quality, something that is not always the case for prospect pitchers. There are reasons to be worried, though. The difference between Dobnak’s FIP and his xFIP was driven by an unsustainably low 5.3% HR/FB rate. The lowest HR/FB rate among qualified starters was 9.3%, and given Dobnak’s 42.5% hard hit rate, it’s safe to assume more of those fly balls will reach the seats going forward. That said, if he regresses to the mean in HR/9 and posts 150 innings with a sub-4.00 ERA, that’s obviously a serviceable starting pitcher. And, given that FIP and xFIP were driven by his 7.31 K/9, if those swinging strikes turn that into a 9.00+ K/9, he has considerable upside to deliver a lower ERA.
  6. Slowly but surely, even the least observant among us will have noticed the precious minutes of daylight being added since the winter solstice, spreading good cheer to Druids everywhere. And with the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting falling to a mere 23 days, our thoughts turn to baseball, opening day, the first game cancelled due to snow, the All-Star Game, the trade deadline, rosters expanding in September, the Arizona Fall League, the Wild Card game, the Divisional Series, the League Championship Series, the World Series, winter meetings, the hot stove league, and pitchers and catchers reporting in 2021. With such a plethora of events to keep us non-Druid baseball fans occupied, it's easy to overlook the complex machinations of who might start Game 3 of the 2021 American League Championship Series for your Minnesota Twins. But with the sun well shy of the 2020 vernal equinox, it's time to fire up our crystal balls and clear up the somewhat muddy waters of October 2021. Let's look at the candidates: Trevor Bauer - Fresh off a World Championship season with the Cincinnati Reds, Bauer looks every bit the part of a #1 starter, so why include him here? Well remember, we're talking about 2021, and you can be darn sure that we won't be skating to the divisional championship with as much ease as we did in 2019 and 2020. Playing the division down to the wire means our rotation isn't exactly lined up how we'd prefer. Still, having Bauer settle in as our #3 for the rotation is not so bad, huh friends? I sure don't think so, and that's why he's my first choice here. Robbie Ray - Sure, he hasn't pitched in a playoff game since 2017 and totally fell apart down the stretch for us in 2021, but when a guy has an alliterative name, you slot him in as the Third Thrower, amiright? Besides, he has an October birthday. He was practically born to pitch the third game in the series before next year's Fall Classic. James Paxton - Yes, I know he's 32 in 2021. Yes, I know it isn't likely he'll even be on the Twins. But when every body else is looking to the right? The wise move is to look left. That's why I could see him making a lot of sense here. Randy Dobnak - That mustache and glasses costume just doesn't get old. Still just 26 years old in 2021, Dobnak is ready to grab the spotlight and squeeze it in a way that normal people can't squeeze light. He's the kind of guy who seems ready-made to step into the folklore of Minnesota baseball. Are you ready for Legenddobnak? Johan Santana - Hey, I don't think it'll happen either, but we're talking about 2021 here. Anything can happen, including Johan coming out of retirement with a brand new arm and the same ol' circle change. Would you want to face a brand-new-armed-Johan in Game 3 of the 2021 American League Championship Series? I didn't think so. Now it's your turn to get real about the playoffs of next season. Who do you think should start Game 3 of the 2021 American League Championship Series for the Twins?
  7. In his fourth offseason at the head of the Minnesota Twins, there are two words Derek Falvey wishes he could take back, "Impact Pitching". It's all the casual Twins fan has been talking about this offseason, up until the Josh Donaldson signing, of course. The fact of the matter is that the Twins were agressive in pursuing their "Plan A" options for the offseason in free agents Ryu, Bumgarner, and Wheeler. It just didn't work out, mostly because of forces outside of their control. To me, the Josh Donaldson signing signaled that the front office is pushing their chips to the middle of the table in 2020. At 34 years old, Donaldson might only have two years of elite production left. Now might be the time to capitalize in making that final offseason move for "impact pitching" right?; not necessarily. The Twins made a pair of early offseason moves to their staff with Odorizzi accepting their Qualifying Offer, Pineda coming back on a two year deal, and a pair of New Years Eve signings in Rich Hill and Homer Bailey. There is no doubt the Opening Day pitching staff still has some question marks but on paper this is a fine starting 5. The question marks of course come from Pineda who is suspended for the first 39 games of 2020 and Rich Hill, who had "primary and revision" surgery and won't be back until "June or July". Per Fangraphs Team Depth Charts 2020 Projections, the Twins starting staff projects to have a total WAR of 11.6, ranked 21st in MLB. Now, like I mentioned, this is because of the starts that should be made by Pineda and Hill in April - June will have to be made up by the likes of Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe. Fangraphs projects that this trio will pitch 169 total innings - which may be too many for a team with deep playoff run aspirations. But if things shake out like the Twins hope, they will have a fine starting 5 for the second half of the year, not even factoring in a potential July 31st trade. But they have to get there first. That's the key. As of right now there are two options the Twins have to add to their existing rotation, trade or sign a remaining free agent. Sure, trading for a Robbie Ray, Matthew Boyd, or Jon Gray would be nice. However, it seems that with each day closer to Spring Training, that possibility dwindles. What if they went a different direction... What if they were able to sign a pitcher with starting experience who can bridge the gap in April and May to fill in until Pineda's return? What if once he is not needed in the rotation anymore he can be added to the bullpen to strengthen the back end of baseball games? What if he actually happens to be a very good reliever? Enter, Collin McHugh. Collin McHugh - The Starter In 2016 - 2017, McHugh started 45 games for the Astros. In 248 innings, McHugh posted a 4.14 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and a 8.7 k/9. He missed quite a bit of time in 2017 with right shoulder tendonitis. In 2018 he pitched only in the bullpen (more on that in a minute). In 2019, the Astros put McHugh in the rotation on Opening Day. On the surface his numbers are ugly as a starter. In 8 starts, he posted a 6.37 ERA in 41 innings with a 9.2 k/9 allowing an OPS of .808 (yikes). But let's break this down a bit and only focus on the first six starts he made in 2019, as that really is all the Twins would need out of him before Pineda is back on May 10th. McHugh only had one rough start. If you eliminate that outing, 5 of those 6 starts were very good. He threw 28.2 innings, struck out 36 batters, had three quality starts (one out away from 4), and allowed 8 runs - a 2.51 ERA. That tells a much different story. Collin McHugh - The Reliever As stated earlier, in 2018 McHugh became a full time reliever. He was outstanding posting a 1.99 ERA, 2.72 FIP, a 11.7 k/9 in 72.1 innings. He also pitched in 4 playoff games that year allowing zero runs in 4 innings. After he was done starting in 2019, he went back to the Astros bullpen posting a 2.67 ERA, a 10.7 k/9, in 27 appearances across 33.2 innings. Solid. Do I think the Twins still need an "impact" SP to propel them to postseason success? Sure. Do I think the July 2019 Twins rotation could be very solid? Of course. But, they have to get there. Collin McHugh would help the Twins do that and add depth to an already established bullpen core for the second half of the season. A very hybrid and cost effective approach to bolstering the Opening Day Twins rotation. They can always wait to make their "impact pitching" move until the July 31st deadline. Signing McHugh would allow them the flexibility to do that.
  8. Hubert Humphrey coined the term "cold Omaha" when he said that the Twin Cities would be a Cold Omaha without professional sports. I believe the Blue Jays must have thought they did not want to be a Canadian Minnesota if they did not sign some players and make the club interesting. Well the Twins are interesting and last year they were winning. Now we do not have Schoop and we hope (and I expect) that Arraez will not regress. We do not have CJ Cron and we hope we have someone to replace his bat and glove and we do not have Juan Castro so we write about how Avila is actually better than Castro (are we dreaming?). Our pitching got us to the playoffs, but could not win a game in the playoffs. We did pull Berrios too soon, the bats did go quiet, and we had no one beyond Odorizzi to stop the bleeding except Mr Dobnak. So we have signed our top three pitchers (actually we have not given Berrios the extension he needs) and we let go the last two pitchers, but we have not signed anyone to take their place meaning that we expect our rookie/young guys to step in and fill the positions. Fine. The Blue Jays had two down years and they told their fans that the are going to do something about that. So they signed Ryu - a pitcher we were told would not want to leave the warm west coast. Does he know that Toronto is south only if you live in Canada? (Disclaimer - I know they are south of Minneapolis - https://www.ctvnews.ca/sports/who-s-the-north-portland-minneapolis-teams-question-raptors-claim-1.2168407) They also signed Travis Shaw (his name has appeared on some Twins posts too). They signed Tanner Roark, they traded for Chase Anderson (pitcher), they are taking a chance on Matt Shoemaker making a comeback and they signed Japanese pitcher Shun Namaguchi too. And they still have Ken Giles (forget about the Twins trade for him - it is not going to happen). And by the way, they have that young nucleaus - Bichette, Gurerro, and Biggio too (and I do not mean their fathers). I believe we have also talked about our window being now because of our young nucleus. What next? Oh, they are talking to the Red Sox about acquiring David Price who once pitched for the Jays.
  9. Last year Twins starters rarely got past the 6th inning. Should they start using a multi inning opener more often. Bullpen used 3 innings most games, why not have an opener pitch the first 2-3 innings, then put in the "starter" for 5-6 innings.
  10. When the Twins Bombas broke the MLB record for HRs there was elation - and rightfully so. It is fun to see records fall and even to have some marks like 56 straight game hitting streaks seem to be impossible to break. When I was young (1950s) I got hooked on baseball and my little transistor radio would sneak under my pillow at night so I could follow the Milwaukee Braves. I loved the way baseball connected me with my dad and Grandpa, the way it related to the old town teams my relatives played on and the symmetry of the game. It just seemed to be one of the constants in a buzzing world of change. BUT........... There is the juiced ball which periodically makes an appearance when baseball seems to need a boost or the juiced players like Sosa and McGwire who also came at a time when baseball needed a boost. Of course they cheated, just like the league itself and I would not put them in the HOF except in an exhibit - the Flawed Savoirs of Baseball. So does the Bombas record mean as much as the HR record because of the ball? Or the record of 131 triples by the 1894 Phillies when the ball was bruised, cut, stained, softened? The record of 191 triples by Paul Waner hasn't been challenged since Musial retired with 177 in 1963 and no one remembers that amazing number by Stan as much as his hits 3630 and Home-runs 475. Doubles are still important, but we seldom talk about - Stan Musial was also third all time with 725 doubles! Why is he so often forgotten in talks about the greats? Tris Speaker had 792 and Pete (tarnished) Rose had the second most - 746. Earl Webb is hardly a name that gets much air time, but he has the single season record of 67. The closest for a modern player is (HOF ballet) Todd Helton with 59 in 2000. I loved the symmetry of 60, but I have no relationship to 73. I guess Mark McGwire caught my fancy with 70 because of the number, not the player. 61 had the same blah position as 73, but the year and the story are so compelling - Maris losing his hair versus Bond growing a bigger head. Then there was the fair-haired boy Mantle who everyone rooted for and the brooding boy from the plains that nobody in NY could understand - and he won. I can hardly get started on pitching. My hero was Warren Spahn - despite missing multiple years in the military he still won 20+ games 13 times (don't even start on the wins don't mean anything) and he won 363 games in the era when Maris went for 60 and Mantle did multiple 50 HRs. He also finished his games - what a concept. The pitchers ahead of him played in the deadball era - Johnson, Matthewson, Young, Gavin or the emerging modern era - Alexander. I know we cannot compare Radbourne's 48 and 59 win back to back seasons. They had 2 man rotations back then, but then we had four man rotations when Spahn pitched, then 5 man rotations and now we have bullpen games! So how do the records compare? Spitballs, batters asking for high or low pitches in 1867 - 1887, scuffed balls, cut balls - of course Perry belongs in the hall, he should be in the spitter wing - it was legal until 1920. The pitchers had to throw underhand until 1883 - and, no this was not softball. So how do we measure our 5 inning starters, or the (yuck) openers? Batters cork their bats - sometimes with hilarious results , and for the seasons from 1885 - 1893 batters were allowed to flatten one side of their bats. In 1887 11 players hit 400! Of course that was the only year that walks counted as hits. With the OPS emphasis maybe we should go back to that. Up to 1864 balls caught on one bounce were outs and until 1883 foul balls caught on one bounce were outs. Want a walk-off, you get a single, or double. It depends on how many bases you needed to score the winning run until 1920. No walk-off home runs. Of course you could make up the difference with a ground rule double that counted as a HR until 1930 - MLB was still chasing HR records. Then Babe Ruth showed them he did not need them, he had no ground rules in his 60. So this long winded rant is because I have now lost faith in baseball records. All the changes that I list pale in comparison to the long history of excluding black players. Take out Brock and Gibson and what were the Cardinals in 1967? Remove Aaron from the Braves, Clemente from the Pirates, Mays from the Giants. We have added teams and diluted the talent, we have added 8 games to the season and not accounted for it in the record book. We think we are so statistically smart that we no longer need SBs, but what would the Dodgers have done with Wills on the bases, of the Yankees and A's without the disruption of Rickey? By the way, the unwritten rules are not part of this discussion, because I find them so stupid. There have been greenies, alcohol, and PEDs and the records go on and on. We have added a short season of playoff games and continue to compare the current records with the past for post season statistics. Imagine what Yogi Berra would have had in his ten World Series years if he could have added at least 7 more games to each seasons end. We lament the loss of a large percentage of young fans and I keep thinking that two things moved many of us - the minor leagues (which are now contracting) and baseball cards with what seemed like simple and biblical numbers. It is also the ability to recognize the player - NFL has an issue because they could swap numbers on the players and from the stands no one will know. It is like watching knights joust - without unique armor they were just riding robots. This is the appeal of soccer - same number of players and you can see their faces! Hockey has the same problem as NFL, compounded with the fact that we cannot see that little puck and they change lines so often no one who is not a fanatic really knows who is in the game. The NBA has stolen the face recognition - fewer players, lots of close ups, an emphasis on personalities. This is what the MLB had, but they missed the connection and let it slip. So I will keep watching and thinking about the game because I am too old to switch now so I will quit - I am sure I tweaked many of your ideas so take a shot at educating a 74 year old fan.
  11. In January 2019, Thad Levine answered a question at Twins Fest: "The best time to acquire players of that magnitude is when your window to win is wide open, not when you got your fingers underneath the window and you're trying to jam the window open. I want to do it when we're projected to win the Central and we're ready to put our foot on someone's throat". After a fantastic 2019 season ending in a disappointing fashion, Derek Falvey addressed the media and is quoted as saying "We're going to target impact pitching". Well, time to put up or shut up, Falvine. I put together what I believe should be a realistic outcome for the 2020 offseason based on the above statements from the front office. 1. Leave the historic 2019 offense alone In this plan, I didn't change anything with the offense that set a MLB record for home runs. This includes picking up CJ Cron's option. As long as the team is healthy, they should have no problem scoring runs. Maybe the biggest move was the one not made - trading Eddie Rosario. I don't think the Twins (nor the fans) are going to like what the return for Rosario would be. Keeping the unofficial captain of this team intact will keep the offense rolling. Hopefully a healthy ankle will help him move around the outfield better improving on his down defensive metrics. I am hopeful Eddie might even take a step forward in 2020. 2. Beef up the bullpen The one silver lining in the Sam Dyson injury is that the Twins were forced to use other arms in high leverage situations down the stretch. They discovered Tyler Duffey and Zack Littell could be solid pieces in late innings. Adding to an already promising mix with Will Harris (2/$16M contract) and Drew Pomeranz (2/$7mil contract) will give Rocco plenty of options in 2020. Will Harris quitely had a 2019 season with a 1.50 ERA and 9.30 K/9 in 60 innings. Oh, and he has appeared in 23 postseason games - 12 of which came this year during the Astros World Series run. His age (35 on opening day) could be one cause for concern. A two year deal feels right, here. Drew Pomeranz is an interesting one. An absolute disaster in 2018 and most of 2019 makes this signing questionable. However, 26 innings of lights out baseball in Milwaukee make it seem like there may be more potential here. He has increased his velocity after a permanent move to the bullpen, has always been lights out vs lefties, and now will be working with Wes Johnon. Sign. Me. Up. Pair him with Taylor Rogers and we could be looking at a bullpen that is a nightmare for opposing managers playing matchups. Pomeranz would come at a discount, of course. 3. Sign a veteran backup catcher Martin Maldonado makes some sense here as a backup. Very poor offensively but a solid backstop. I would be open to other options here, such as Jason Castro on a one year deal, but am thinking he would want a chance to start somewhere else. I know Anaheim needs a catcher 4. Go find an "ace" starter and keep Jake Odorizzi OK, it's put up time, Falvine. Sign Zack Wheeler. When you said "impact pitching" - this is what it means. Not Kevin Correia or Mike Pelfrey which is some people's opinion of impact (*cough* Terry Ryan). Go get us a guy that is equal to, or, with the potential to be better than Jose Berrios. This free agent market is flush with solid top of the rotation targets that do not grow on trees, for the Minnesota farm system at least. I think Wheeler makes a lot of sense. A 5/$125M contract would be by far the biggest free agent contract in Twins history but, the time is now. There is no excuse. Get. It. Done. Zack Wheeler 2018-2019: Innings: 377 ERA: 3.65 K/9: 8.9 Yeah, I'd take that in this rotation. Other acceptable "ace" type pitchers - Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg, or Hyun-jin Ryu Also, depending on the outcome of Odorizzi and his qualifying offer, the Twins have to find a way to bring him back. If he rejects, they have the upper hand compared to other teams. A three year deal sounds about right. Plus, Jake likes it here. His kids are Vikings fans now. I pray for them. 5. Bring in a vet presence to stablize rotation MLB.com reported that Cole Hamels is open to a one-year deal on a win now club. Hey, Cole! Over here! Come on out to Minnesota. Bringing in a veteran like Cole with playoff experience (and a connection to Thad Levine, might I add) will stabalize the rotation and give a solid 4 starters to run train on the AL Central in the regular season, plus be ready for any October opposing matchup. Hamels put up soild numbers as a Cub. He was lights out in the first half of 2019 but an injury derailed the mid point of his season, and it never really seemed like he recovered. A 2020 rotation of: 1. Wheeler 2. Berrios 3. Odorizzi 4. Hamels 5. Dobnak/Graterol Sounds like a winning recipe to me. A recipe that might not add up to 101 regular season wins again, but hey, it can't do worse in the playoffs! *This was not a dare, @BaseballGods* Total payroll: $141.5 million A Twins franchise record but very realistic. Anything lower than this, with the free agent pitching market as stacked as it is and a desperate need to fill the rotation, is an absolute insult to the fanbase. The improbable 2019 Twins magic season captured fan interest in Minnesota again. We got a taste of playoff baseball at Target Field for the first time in 9 years and we want more. The window is wide open. It's time for the Pohlad's and the front office to honor their promises and give us a team to dream on in 2020. Foot, meet throat. Time to stomp on the competition in the AL central and get back to the playoffs.
  12. What do you think about moving Gibbs to the bullpen? He seems like he's usually very solid the first time through the order and then g6ets bad after that.
  13. Hello...my name is Chris MacLean. I host the Turn A Pair Baseball Podcast. I'm interviewing Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher Brian Rapp on Sunday 6/23. I would love to hear from Twins fans. What would you like me to ask him? Would you like to know specifics about him,specifics about the organization or perhaps the CR Kernels? Any and all feedback is much appreciated. Thanks, Chris
  14. Game 2 of the four-game series features Michael Pineda versus Gerrit Cole. The Twins currently have the second-best record in MLB while the Astros are percentage points ahead in the AL West. Pineda has been inconsistent so far, while Cole has been disappointing. It would figure that many more runs will be scored tonight in cold, wet Target Field. Today marks the end of April and the Twins, in addition to their 17-9 record, have some good stats going for them. They lead in homers per game, OPS, and are in the top quadrant for runs per game. Pitching is middle-of-the-pack. They have out-homered their opponents by a 50-29 count. Even in good years, the Twins haven't outhomered their opponents often. This year's club is constructed differently, for sure.
  15. This is an except of a post originating from Zone Coverage. Read it in full at this link. You could be forgiven if the Minnesota Twins recalling Tyler Duffey on the last homestand didn’t register on your radar. A lot of things are going on with this team right now — most notably, winning and hitting homers — and the return of a reliever who posted a 7.20 ERA when fans saw him last probably doesn’t many of them too excited. But if you think it’s the same Duffey you’ve seen before, you’re sorely mistaken. Duffey’s early results have been fairly positive — it has only been three appearances spanning four innings — as the 28-year-old righty has fanned five of the 16 batters he’s faced while allowing just one earned run. A furtive glance at his HR/9 would indicate he hasn’t graduated from last season’s bombing, but that’s just one homer allowed in a small sample size. It doesn’t indicate much, and if the things Duffey has been working on continue to stick, that number will come down quickly. Duffey is the newest convert to the concept of tunneling. What is tunneling? It’s really a simple concept that has picked up steam in recent years with the increased usage of GIFs on social media platforms like Twitter. Tunneling is the idea that the baseball travels down the same path regardless of what pitch it is, only deviating from that plane at a point where a hitter is either unable to differentiate what it is, or unable to react to it. Basically, for a pitcher like Duffey it’s like throwing his curveball and fastball on the same plane, with the high fastball mixing beautifully with the curve down that is his bread and butter.
  16. Sound the alarm! The Twins pitchers currently lead the league in team strikeout percentage! I know, I know, we’re talking about three games in March. This sample size hopes one day it will grow up to become a “small sample size.” That said, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi each struck out 10+ batters in the Twins first two games, something that only Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling have ever done before. As an encore, Michael Pineda and Martin Perez teamed up for 11 strikeouts in 7.2 IP in game three. There’s a legitimate chance that this is the best starting rotation to ever reside on Target Field’s mound. It would not surprise the reader to know that the Twins have been really bad at getting strikeouts. For five straight seasons, from 2011 through 2015, they finished dead last in team K% in all of baseball. In the 35 years since the Pohlad family took over as the Twins’ owners, their 15.9 K% is the second to worst in the MLB, just 0.1% better than the last-place Tigers. So ya, leading the league in strikeout percentage is very unusual, even if it is only three games into the year. But the question is: are the Twins pitchers really this good or are the Indians hitters really bad? Should we commence construction of Wes Johnson's statue? Or should we point and laugh at the Cleveland’s crappy lineup? A point in the favor of Twins pitchers is that their stuff has been better. Odorizzi’s velocity is up nearly a mile per hour over where it was a year ago, and his swinging strike rate was up 140% over his career mark. Berrios had a similar increase in his swinging strike rate (156% increase over his career mark). Pineda also got more whiffs and was insanely efficient in blanking Cleveland through his four innings. Perez maintained his spring velocity bump with a fastball that maxed out at 97 mph while producing a swinging strike rate at nearly double his career mark. Here’s the problem though: if the Indians hitters really do suck, then these improvements in swinging strike rates are exactly what we’d expect to see. Bad hitting teams make opposing pitchers look good. It’s the pitching equivalent of a Snapchat filter that removes your blemishes and makes your eyes look like Alita (you know, the freaking Battle Angel). With proven major-league hitters Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis on the injured list, the Indians gave 18% of their team’s plate appearances to a putrid combination of Eric Stamets, Max Moroff, and Brad Miller. Hanley Ramirez was batting fifth despite not having played a major-league game since last May. Their leadoff hitter Leonys Martin has never produced an above-average DRC+ in his career. These guys are … not great. It’s Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, and the cast of The Expendables up there hacking. To see if having a bad lineup explains the Twins’ pitching dominance, I looked at the PECOTA projections for each Cleveland hitter and weighted them based on the number of plate appearances they actually had in this series. This gave me with a PECOTA-projected K% for the Indians when Jose Ramirez gets 12 plate appearances and Jake Bauers gets 9 and Jordan Luplow gets 4 … you get the picture. I did the same with Twins pitchers, weighting them by batters face for each pitcher and adding them all together. INDIANS HITTERS PROJECTED K% 21.7% TWINS PITCHERS PROJECTED K% 21.2% ACTUAL K% FOR BOTH 38.6% Had the Indian’s projected strikeout percentage been worse, I would’ve been tempted to chalk this up to terrible Indians hitting. Similarly, had the Twins projected strikeout percentage been higher, I'd talk myself into thinking the Twins pitchers are great. As it is, we’ve probably got a little from Column A and a little from Column B, but even that is uncertain in our tiny sample. We can’t glean anything conclusive from three games, we knew that coming in, but these are interesting data points that trend in an exciting direction. As we collect more and more data points over the coming weeks and months, the picture will continue loading until it eventually becomes clear. In the meantime, we can stare these particular data points and admire their beauty. Twins pitchers are striking people out and it’s amazing.
  17. “So you are trying to find a good, reliable, knowledgeable pitching coach for yourself or your son? Well there are a few things you need to remember when choosing who will be giving you instruction. It is very important to take your time and consider all your available options when selecting a pitching instructor, as there are a lot of them out there. First, you must consider what your intentions for hiring a pitching coach. Do you want to throw harder? Develop a new pitch? Work on your footwork? Etc. Different coaches might specialize in different areas of the pitching game, and it is important to find a coach that will be able to really help you work at what you want to accomplish.” "]http://www.thecompletepitcher.com/pitching_coaches.htm[/url] 2019 Wes Johnson – our new hire who breaks the mold and gives us a college teacher, someone who has studied the stats, observed and researched and hopefully knows how to transfer his ideas to the pitchers themselves. We have nothing but hope and wait and see. "When he was hired at Arkansas the Razorbacks sports site said this, "Known nationally for his player development and ability to increase velocity throughout his staff, Johnson arrives in Fayetteville after serving as the pitching coach last season with Mississippi State. Before that, he spent four years at Dallas Baptist University, helping build the Patriots into a perennial national baseball power. “I am pleased to add Wes Johnson, one of the nation’s premier pitching coaches, to our staff,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “He is an experienced college baseball coach and has played an instrumental role in the recent successes of Mississippi State and Dallas Baptist. Wes has developed a stellar reputation throughout the country, based on his ability to develop his players, both individually, and his pitching staffs, collectively, into some of the most successful performers in college baseball. I am happy to welcome Coach Johnson and his family back to his home state of Arkansas and look forward to getting him on campus to get started with our program.” https://arkansasrazorbacks.com/wes-johnson-hired-as-new-razorback-pitching-coach/ 2018 Garvin Alston – short term solution who I expected to last longer than the hitting coach since his arms were doing better than the bats. After pitching six games for the Rockies he immediately began to coach in both the majors and the minors. The Twins made him one of there big new changes, but obviously the fact that the pitching was succeeding more than the hitting did not save his job. 2017 Neil Allen was 58 – 90 with eight teams after being the Mets closer and finishing his career with 75 saves. After his career he was a minor league pitching coach with the Jays, Yankees, and Rays before joining the Twins. An arrest and suspension for a DUI led to his downfall and dismissal. 2016 Neil Allen/Eric Rasmussen Rasmussen was the Twins Minor league pitching coach who had to step up to the majors to fill in for Allen. 2015 Neil Allen 2002 – 2015 Rick Anderson Rated by Bleacher Report as the 43rd best pitching coach of all time. He “preaching a theory based on control, pitching to contact and allowing the defense behind the pitchers to do their job.” 1986 – 2001 Dick Such 16 years with the Twins after three with Texas. He only pitched in 21 games in his career, all with the Washington Senators. He was Tom Kelly’s right hand man and is ranked #16 all time among pitching coaches. BR writes that “for the next 16 seasons oversaw a Twins' staff that didn't always lead in major categories, but through his guidance and theories based on control and command, kept Twins' teams in games longer than most.” “Such helped guide pitching staffs that were instrumental in World Series championships in 1987 and 1991, and nurtured pitchers such as Scott Erickson, Kevin Tapani, Eddie Guadardo, Brad Radke and Johan Santana.” With a cup of coffee in the majors, Anderson was a career coach with 13 years in the minors before coaching in the majors. 1985 Johnny Podres/Dick Such The manager that was hired and caused Johnny Podres to quit in protest was Ray Miller. Miller was a complete flop as a manager, too bad he had the wrong job – according to Bleacher Report Miller, when he was with the Orioles was the 13th best pitching coach of all time. 1984 Johnny Podres Johnny won 148 games and accumulated 30 WAR during his career and then became a Minnesota Twins pitching coach. But he had an alcohol problem in in 1983 he left the team for treatment. “Podres is 50 years old. He said all the cocktails finally caught up with him. ''I was getting sick,'' he said. ''It got to the point where my stomach was killing me.'' Finally, one night in May, Podres went to Dr. Leonard Michienzi, the Twins' physician, and told him about his stomach pains. ''Johnny was acutely ill with a lot of abdominal pain,'' Dr. Michienzi said. ''It could have been a number of things, but I knew Johnny had some ... drinking habits. I had talked to him for two years about it. I checked him into Hennepin County Medical Center, and they found that he had pancreatitis. Pancreatitis and drinking don't go together. I told Johnny he couldn't drink, but I know him and he was going to drink. I was afraid of what might happen. I had a friend who kept drinking and died. We discussed it, and he agreed to have the treatment.'' One Is Too Many After he entered St. Mary's, Podres finally admitted to himself that he was an alcoholic. ''You've got to admit it to yourself,'' he said. ''Then you can do something about it.'' He spent four weeks at St. Mary's, leaving June 21 with a new body, a new mind and a fresh outlook, but also with a new battle ahead.” NYT July 30, 1983. 1983 Johnny Podres/Jim Shellenback 1981 – 1982 Johnny Podres 1978 – 1980 Camilo Pascual The Twins great pitcher who had a 174 – 170 record pitching for terrible Senator Teams before they became the Twins. He had 40.9 WAR and a 3.63 career ERA. He is in the Cuban baseball HOF, the Latino HOF and the Twins HOF. 1976 – 1977 Don McMahon was a relief specialist for the Milwaukee Braves during their 1957 – 1958 world series years and continued to pitch relief until 1974 when he was 44. In 18 years he won 90 games and had a 2.96 era. 1975 Lee Stange Is rated as the 48th best pitching coach of all time by Bleacher Report. He pitched 10 years and served primarily as Boston’s pitching coach after 14 years. 1974 Buck Rogers had a nine-year career as a catcher and became a manager in 1980 and managed four years with three teams. He was a bullpen coach before taking over the pitching staff. 1972 - 1973 Al Worthington was a great relief pitcher for the Twins. For six years out of a 14-year active pitching career. He and Johnny Klippstein handled the bullpen and combined for 73 games in the world series year. In his first year Lee Stange who would also be a pitching coach was on the staff with him. 1970 – 1971 Marv Grissom was in the majors for ten years and was 47 – 45 for his career and appeared in 356 games. He also missed four seasons in the service. In 1954 he paired with Hoyt Wilhelm in the Giants bullpen. He had a 15 year career as a pitching coach. 1969 Art Fowler Was ranked #17 best pitching coach of all time by Bleacher report. Fowler followed Billy Martin wherever he went and because of that was a pitching coach for five different teams. He was with Martin all four times he was a Yankee manager and is credited with helping Guidry with his amazing season. 1967 – 1968 Early Wynn A Hall of Fame pitcher with exactly 300 wins. He hung on until he got the magic number at least two years beyond when he should have retired, but he was a workhorse and deserves his HOF status. He began with the Senators and had his best years with Cleveland. He would then go one to manage in the Twins Minor leagues. 1965 – 1966 Johnny Sain - Spahn and Sain and pray for rain was the motto for the Boston Braves when he was pitching. Then he became the 7th best pitching coach in history according to Bleacher Reports. He was a success for eight teams and the record of improvement in pitching was amazing. His problem was with management and his own irascible personality. He wore out his record regularly like he did with the World Series Twins in 1966 after going to the series in 1965. In Minnesota he guided Mudcat Grant to a 20 win season back when wins counted. 1962 – 1964 – Gordon Maltberger “compiled a 20–13 record in 135 appearances, mostly as a relief pitcher, with a 2.70 earned run average and 136 strikeouts.” He died 10 years later in Texas. 1961 – Eddie Lopat won 166 games and had his best years with the Yankees. His career era was 3.21. He lost his position as Yankee pitching coach when they let Stengel go. He was with the Twins one year and then the As for a year as pitching coaches. So we have a range of no major leagues to Hall of Fame, mostly pitchers, one catcher in the role of pitching coaches. Three are ranked by bleacher report in the top 50 of all time, but who really knows? Like managers we tend to judge by wins and losses, but pitching coaches can only work with what is given to them and cannot field or hit for the pitcher. What is their role? Communications and cheer leading. Observe, film, make sure the pitch maintains the repetition that is his most effective. Watch the feet on the rubber, the grip, the arm angle, and the release point. Cheer lead, talk to the manager, have the bullpen players ready. Maybe the important thing is to manage the manager. The full Bleacher Report top 50 can be found here - https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1047146-the-50-best-mlb-pitching-coaches-of-all-time#slide50
  18. A few days ago I looked at the Twins lineup and bench and we had a total war of 16+, which is not good and our defensive metrics were not good either. So how do we stand at this point with our pitching? I am using baseball reference as my go to on each player. I am not projecting surprises rookies or trades or FA. There is nothing that makes me think I should. Starting Rotation - WAR - Projections (win-loss) ERA, Whip - someone has to win the game so they count for me. Jose Berrios 3.8 12-10, 4.02, 1.20 Kyle Gibson 3.9 10-11 4.24 1.39 Jake Odorizzi 1.5 8-8 4.18 1,28 Michael Pineda 0.6 4-4 4.37 1.30 - 2017 stats Fernando Romero 0.4 5-5 4.19 1.31 Bullpen Addison Reed 0.1 2-4 3.68 1.23 Taylor Rogers 2.2 3-3 3.46 1.17 Trevor Hildenberg -0.6 4.4 4.50 1.59 Trevor May 0.6 3.2 3.92 1.23 Gabriel Moya 0.2 3-2 4.22 1.27 Adelberto Mejia 1.0 4-4 3.87 1.35 Matt Magill 0.7 3-3 4.08 1.38 Kohl Stewart 0.6 3-3 3.84 1.30 I took Kohl as a random person from Little, DeJong, Curtiss... The WAR for our starters in 10.2 WAR for relievers is 4,8 I am sometimes confused by WAR because if I add our 16.6 batters to the starters and relievers we have 31 games won next year. I think we can ignore that. If these are our pitchers we have 64 wins and 63 losses which leaves us with 34 games from our call ups and fill ins. So lets keep going with the next pitchers on the list. Stephen Gonsalves -0.6 4-3 4.58 1.44 Zach Littell - 0.5 2-3 4.30 1.78 Chase DeJong 0.2 3-4 4.22 1.30 John Curtiss 0.0 1-2 4.34 1.31 Tyler Duffey -0.8 3-3 5.04 1.32 Aaron Slegers 0.0 3-3 4.50 1.28 That brings us to a collective 80 - 81 and someone else - maybe Astudillo Willans will pitch the deciding game on our 500 season. The WAR for this group is -1.7. So with our team as it now stands that is the summary I can extract from Baseball Reference. Do you agree or disagree? This has to fit with https://twinsdaily.com/blogs/entry/11299-%7B%3F%7D/ I wish it was a rosier picture, but this is just looking at the data as it sits right now with a team that seems committed to the status quo! I cannot find WAR for coaches.
  19. What a rotation I have gone through all but DH in my thought process on next year and I really do not care who is DH since it seems like the Twins like to move it around. But the rotation is the real issue. Bleacher reports had this reflection on Starting Pitching - https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1187854-is-starting-pitcher-the-most-important-position-for-building-a-successful-team . Very seldom do people attend the game because there will be a great match up of closers. We still look at Verlander, Kluber, Severino, Greinke as marquee names for any game. So who starts for the Twins in 2019 and 2020? I can easily write in Berrios. Is there anyone who compares? Gibson has turned the corner and we are still wondering if it is real, but yes, he is number two. Ervin Santana was a wonderful story, but the emphasis is on was! He is gone, I would almost guarantee it, but I guarantee nothing. Jake Odorizzi had a near no-hitter recently so we forget how mediocre he has been. 6 – 10 4.41 ERA 1,32 Whip, 30 games, 155 innings – an average of 5 innings per start. Yes, he will be in the rotation next year. Then there are the September debuts: Kohl Stewart – six games, 24 innings, ERA+ 81, 1.78 Whip, 5.47 ERA. Prospect #28. Aldalberto Mejia – 5 games, 2.01 ERA, 1.16 WHIP Aaron Slegers - 3 games, 5.68 ERA which is lower than his MLB career 6.11, 1.42 WHIP Michael Pineda who benefits from being injured all year and then injured again instead of making a Sep call up He is 40 – 41 with a 4.40 ERA, and a 1.19 WHIP. He will take one of the five spots, even if he has not earned it. Chase De Jong – the FO acquired him so he has a front of the line position and he gave up no runs in his first appearance. His MLB record has him with an ERA of 5.57 and a WHIP of 1.51. Smoke and mirrors so far for MN. Stephen Gonsalves who has dominated the minor league reports for the last four years has stunk in his debut – 9.39 ERA, within 1 of Belisle, and a 2.67 WHIP. Awful. Is it real? He is rated prospect #5. If not for Gonsalves and Belisle Littell would be on the stink listing with 8.44 ERA and 2.06 Whip. Zack was prospect number 20 which was a downgrade from his previous ranking at #11. If not them, who? Among the top 30 prospects – which include the above pitchers is Brusdar Gratol, our number 4 prospect. He is 20 and has proven himself at all the levels he has pitched at. MLB.com says he comes up in 2021. If the above pitchers continue there stink ratings he could be 2020. Blake Enlow is prospect number 9, he is 20, and projected for 2021. He could push 2020. Lewis Thorpe is prospect number 10 and why he did not get a September call up is a mystery to me. He could be in the mix for next year. He was 8 – 7 with an era of 3.54 and a WHIP of 1.24 in 2018. Jordan Balazovic is prospect number 30 and projected for 2021. We also have some pitchers that were acquired in trades this summer, but none seem MLB ready, yet. Then there are the FA. I will not project signing them, but Patrick Corbin of the AZ Diamondbacks hits the market at age 29. His stats look really good. He would be a good signing. Dallas Keuchel of the Astros is a dream, but one I think we should pass on. I am not as convinced as others that he has the ACE potential for the future. Clayton Kershaw – pardon me, I cannot type while I am laughing. With all this information and some experience with seeing how this FO works (or doesn’t) this is my guess. 2019 • Berrios • Gibson • Odorizzi • Pineda • Mejia • DeJong 2020 • Berrios • Gibson • DeJong • Thorpe • Gratol • Wells
  20. The Twins have ridden the roller coaster during the Paul Molitor era. Up in 2015, way down in 2016, a peek at the playoffs in 2017 and now way down in 2018. The roller coaster claimed a front-office victim in longtime GM Terry Ryan two years ago and now there has to be some heat on field manager Molitor after this season's extreme disappointment. The complaints about the old regime included being too "old school", including pitch-to-contact staffs, not using advanced metrics, cookie cutter approaches to hitting, and of course, not spending enough to bring in and keep talent. Fair complaints all, I think. However, in the Levine/Falvey era, we see little real progress and a real lack of talent in the upper minors. This year's crop of September call-ups is among the most uninspiring in recent memory. I believe there are two keys to being competitive and sustaining that competitiveness for a number of years. The first is pitching. Levine and Falvey are supposed to be pitching guys. They have acquired pitching, but with mixed results at best. Their best talent at the top levels of the farm system doesn't have many, if any, outstanding talents. Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi didn't move the needle much for the big club this year. Perhaps they have suffered from some bad luck and just need to add quality until it sticks and stays. All I can say is this, the Twins rank in the bottom third of almost every meaningful pitching stat. You don't win year after year with far below average pitching. The other component which is missing in my opinion is defense. For the last two years, the Twins have gone with a primary shortstop who is well below average defensively, couple that with a revolving door in center field this year, the trading of the regular second baseman and the season-ending injury to primary catcher Jason Castro, and you have a toxic mess turning outs into outs. Further, and if there is one complaint about Molitor that sticks, it is this. The team has been woeful at executing fundamental baseball. I'm talking about throwing to the proper base, making needless throws, failing to hit cutoff men and the like. Add in that opposing baserunners are taking extra bases like free gifts and this is tough to watch. I think the front office needs to commit to pitching and defense in a big way this offseason. That would include making every effort to keep their most gifted defender (Byron Buxton) in Minnesota and on the field as much as possible. Secondly, I think the Twins need a defensive-minded shortstop, with the idea that Jorge Polanco can move to what I think is his natural position, second base. On the pitching front, more and better arms to augment the so-so rotation (I think Gibson/Berrios/Odorizzi is fine for #2-4) and a questionable bullpen. I like May/Hildenberger/Rogers, but more is needed included a closer. The Twins have been in the baseball wilderness long enough. They need to have a solid plan for improvement, stick with it and stay relevant not for an occasional year, but consistently. I think the long suffering fan base deserves it.
  21. By now, most of us have noticed how Matt Magill has been a solid arm in the Twins bullpen this season. He made his first appearance of 2018 in a clunker of a game (which I attended ) on April 29th against the Cincinnati Reds. He threw 2.1 innings that Sunday and gave up just 3 hits and 0 earned runs, adding 2 punch-outs as well. So far this year with the Twins, he’s given up a total of 3 ER over 23.2 IP, for an ERA of 1.14. Magill was drafted in 2008 in the 31st round to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had two briefs stints in the majors with both the L.A. Dodgers (2013) and the Cincinnati Reds (2016) before joining the Minnesota Twins (2018). During that time, he had ERA’s of 6.51 and 6.23 respectively. He’s clearly been around for a while; so why the recent success on the bump? In my mind, there’s two simple reasons: He’s throwing more strikes:In 2013 as a starting pitcher, Magill gave 28 free passes in 27.2 IP (BB/9 = 9.11 – ouch.) In 2016 as a relief pitcher, he had a BB/9 of 10.38 in just 4.1 IP Now, in 2018, he currently holds a BB/9 of 1.3 – and that is fun to watch [*]His stuff is a lot better: His fastball velocity has an average of 95.1 MPH so far in 2018, compare that to 93.1 MPH in 2016, and 91.8 MPH in 2013. He’s getting more movement on both his 4-seam fastball, and his “cutter” or hard slider. Check out the charts from FanGraphs below on the horizontal movement for Magill's pitches (2018 first, 2016 second). For your reference, a positive value on horizontal movement means the ball will be moving away from a right-handed hitter, and therefore a negative value means the ball is tailing in on a righty. Clearly, in 2018 he’s getting more movement on that cut fastball (FC), slightly more run in on the righties, and again more velocity with the 4-seamer (FA). This could be a contributing factor to why he's been so effective this season at producing weak contact (.219 BABIP - Nice!). Check out the vertical movement below (2018 first, 2016 second): Again, the notable difference is with the cut fastball (FC). Magill is throwing the ball over the plate, and he has increased his velocity considerably, while getting more movement on his cutter. This is a recipe for continued success and I believe it’s time for Molitor to start utilizing him in higher leverage spots. Can somebody explain to me why he hasn’t gotten this chance yet? Let me know what you think in the comments! -Miles
  22. Today I wanted to break down how the Twins pitchers can beat the Yankees top hitters. I will talk about where to get swings and misses, outs, and where to simply avoid placing the ball (danger zones). Brett Gardner Gardner is a pest at the plate. Very tough to strikeout and always battles. Swings and misses don't happen often, (lowest on Yankees at 4.62%) but he is patient (10.46% called first strike) and he struggles with pitches on the outer half or down and out of the zone. Getting him into two-strike counts is going to be key since his wOBA is only .218 with two strikes. Even if he doesn't swing and miss, most of his outs come on outer half pitches anyway. Gardner is most dangerous on pitches that are left up in the zone or leak into the middle of the zone. KEYS: Get ahead early, miss out of the zone. Aaron Judge With Stanton hitting behind Judge, its going to be tough to pitch around. Definitely want to limit base runners with this much power in the lineup. Judge has had trouble making contact with pitches low and away so if Twins pitchers can pound that corner, he won't have much success (62.9% strikes on pitches low and away). He has also yet to get a hit on a fastball up in the zone. Pitchers with good velocity will have success mixing in elevated fastball that he will either swing under or change his eye level. Anywhere over the plate is dangerous against Judge. He barrels up a ton of pitches that are anywhere over the heart of the plate. KEYS: Spot pitches low and away, elevate the fastball. Giancarlo Stanton We all know about the crazy power Stanton has and how dangerous of a hitter he can be. So far, he's struggled a bit this season, mostly because he's swinging and missing 17.09% of the time. Fastballs and sliders have made up over 76% of his swinging strikes. His biggest weakness is the high fastball. Any pitch that doesn't get up enough will probably be crushed so the Twins need to make sure to miss high instead of laying fastballs over the heart of the plate or hanging breaking-balls that he can send into orbit. KEYS: Elevate the fastball, breaking-balls out of the zone. Didi Gregorius Gregorius has been hot so far this season as the Yankees SS. His strength is that he does not miss on pitches in the zone. He has had a lot of success so far on low pitches that he can elevate. Gregorius is a tough customer to strikeout, so keeping the ball up and away from his danger zone is key. He's a tough out so Twins pitchers need to hit their spots while staying in the strikezone because he is not a guy that chases a ton of pitches. KEYS: Challenge in the zone, stay away from low strikes. Gary Sanchez Sanchez is another hitter that can be dangerous when he gets his pitch. Pitches up and in or on the outer half he struggles with so that will be a key for Twins pitchers to stay on those edges. Almost 50% of his swings and misses come on slider low and away out of the zone. Sanchez has success hitting pitches on the inner half or anything left over the heart of the plate. KEYS: Slider down and away. If the Twins pitching staff has success against these hitters, then we should be successful in the Bronx.
  23. I did some math. Assuming i) the Pythagorean theory of winning percentage, and ii) the Twins score the same number of runs in '18 as they did in '17 (788), then a .05 (not .5) decline in ERA results in additional win. Last year, the Twins' ERA was 4.59. So, if you want to forecast this years team ERA with all the additions, then one can forecast win totals. Examples- if all the additions result in a decline from 4.59 to 4.54, the model predicts one more win. If predicted ERA drops to 4.39, four more wins. ERA of 4.19, eight more wins or roughly 92 wins. By the way, the above are approximations. If your a math nerd, I'd be happy to provide math details.
  24. The Twins have made a concerted effort this offseason to improve their pitching staff with additions of Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke, Addison Reed and Michael Pineda. However, it doesn’t appear that any of those moves will be a limiting factor as the Twins look to make further additions. Earlier this week, Derek Falvey said that “he doesn’t believe the Twins have any major budget constraints to sign a much-needed starter.” This is good news for Twins fans that are hoping that the Twins will sign Yu Darvish, but it also means that they are considering other options to bolster their pitching staff as well. One of the potential options that the Twins are showing interest in is 31-year-old Wade Miley. Wade Miley isn’t the sexiest name out there on the starting pitcher market, but he could be a value grab for the Twins as they look to add depth to their rotation. One thing the Twins will be able to count on in Miley is his durability, as he has averaged 186 innings per season over the last six years. Miley has a respectable 4.38 ERA, and 3.95 xFIP, over his career, though he has been suspect of late with a 5.48 ERA over the past two seasons. This will make Miley a cheap signing, that the Twins could take a flyer on. When digging into Miley’s peripheral numbers, it appears that he is poised for a bounce back season in 2018. Despite the 5.48 ERA in 2016 and 2017 combined, Miley had an xFIP that was more than a full run lower at 4.34. This is due in large part to Miley’s HR/FB jumping to 16.2% and 19.4% in the last two years respectively. This is up from the 10.6% HR/FB that Miley had averaged in his career before 2016. A lot of this can be explained by the fact that Miley spent part of 2016, and all of 2017 as a member of the Baltimore Orioles, who play in notoriously hitter friendly Camden Yards. If you put Miley in a more pitcher friendly park in 2018, his HR/FB ratio will almost surely go down, and along with it his ERA. One area of concern for Miley entering 2018 is his walk rate. In 2017, Miley saw his BB/9 balloon from his 2.79 career average, all the way up to 5.32. This was by far the highest of any full time starting pitcher in 2017, as the next highest walk rate from a pitcher that threw at least 150 innings was Chad Kuhl’s 4.12 BB/9. This screams that this number is, in large part, a product of the random variation that comes from a sample size of just one season. It is very reasonable to assume that Miley’s walk rate might regress back closer to his career norms in 2018. It could also be helpful for Miley to get away from the Orioles nightmare pitching situation (Orioles starters had a 5.70 ERA in 2017, the worst of any team since the 2012 Rockies). If the Twins do find themselves in a situation where they are unable to sign one of the more prolific starters that are still available in free agency, Wade Miley might just be an okay option for the Twins to either fall back on, or complement a different move with. Given the current state of the free agent market, and the fact that the Orioles decided to pay the $500K to buyout their $12MM team option for Miley in 2018, the Twins should be able to sign Miley to a one-year deal, in the $4M - $7M per year range.
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