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  1. ROCHESTER – The premier Vikings Bar in the city of Rochester became a Twins Bar for the night as the Twins Winter Caravan’s final leg made a stop at Whistle Binkies on the Lake Monday night. Featured on this leg were Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, pitcher Louie Varland, hitting coach David Popkins, former Twins reliever and current Special Assistant to Baseball Operations LaTroy Hawkins, and radio play-by-play announcer Cory Provus. Popkins joined his first-ever Winter Caravan for the Twins on this leg and embraced more frigid temps than he had grown up with in San Diego. He joined the leg to spend more time with and bond with Baldelli as Popkins only joined the Twins in 2022. “We’re getting to be more comfortable here and our relationship is building to be pretty strong,” Popkins said. “The feeling-out period is over and now it's in that family period, which is where the fun stuff really happens. It's been a pleasure to get closer to him and he's an incredible person so we look forward to a pretty fun environment.” It had been 20 years for Hawkins since he had last been a part of a Twins Winter Caravan. Coming back to the Twin Cities for Twins Fest and hopping on the Caravan was just another round of trips that Hawkins has had all off-season. His latest trip before coming back to Minnesota was to Arizona for the MLB Dream Series. “It’s a three-day event over MLK weekend every year. We talk about baseball and show the kids that there are other jobs in Major League Baseball that you can get; umpiring, front office, content management, and just about anything with an organization,” Hawkins said. Another trip that Hawkins took this offseason was around his 50th birthday in December, an adventurous story he shared with the crowd at Whistle Binkies. “Through 2022, I had this notion that I wanted to go to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, and I wanted to summit it on my 50th birthday. I thought that would be the coolest thing. I spent two weeks in December in a village teaching young boys and girls baseball, a sport that they had no clue even existed, and that was the highlight of my 50th birthday,” Hawkins said. Before sharing his story on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and teaching kids about baseball for the first time in the country. Hawkins, Popkins, and Baldelli each shared their best advice on what parents can teach their own kids in the Rochester area about the game. “It's not actually about reaching the top of the pyramid, it's about learning all those good values that go into it,” Baldelli said. “It's not all cake and easy. But being positive and really having that determination inside you that you're never going away, you're never quitting. It's hard to beat someone that never quits.” One Twins pitcher that exemplifies those qualities is Varland, who provided the crowd and his coaches with a great perspective on how he approaches his roster situation for spring training. “I'm heading down to spring training, and I'm eager to learn but also very eager to compete. It's gonna be a really competitive spring training. My job is to make it really hard on Rocco and the decisions he will have to make,” Varland said. “Honestly, that is exactly the answer that you want to hear from one of your young players,” Baldelli responded to Varland. “This guy is going out there to compete. And he worries about the things that he can worry about.” The Twins crew made not only one but two kids' nights during the event as nine-year-old Noah Struss had the opportunity to ask the first question of the night and was invited to sit next to Varland for the rest of the night. Noah’s opening question for the panel was, “What is your favorite subject in school?” Varland was the only one to answer the question, and his answer was science. Noah only got the one answer as Provus invited him up to meet Varland and get a picture with him. “That was even more meaningful to see since my dad is a huge Twins fan and brought me to TwinsFest for many years,” Leah Struss, Noah’s mom said. “Oh it was so exciting to see,” added Bryan Struss, Noah’s dad. “He did such a great job. The other kid who had their night made was eight-year-old Emma Landherr, who had a pressing question about the team mascot “Can T.C. Bear talk?” she asked. This was the first time the Landherr attended a Winter Caravan stop as her dad Adam Landherr shared, “We're big Twins fans and usually get up for two or three games a year. We watch and listen all the time these two [Emma and her older brother] are a little older we’ll get to more each year.” The Twins Winter Caravan makes its final stop in Mason City, Iowa, tonight at Music Man Square.
  2. The Twins Winter Caravan made one last trip after Twins Fest to southeast Minnesota and Iowa to finish out the team's winter events. Image courtesy of Theo Tollefson ROCHESTER – The premier Vikings Bar in the city of Rochester became a Twins Bar for the night as the Twins Winter Caravan’s final leg made a stop at Whistle Binkies on the Lake Monday night. Featured on this leg were Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, pitcher Louie Varland, hitting coach David Popkins, former Twins reliever and current Special Assistant to Baseball Operations LaTroy Hawkins, and radio play-by-play announcer Cory Provus. Popkins joined his first-ever Winter Caravan for the Twins on this leg and embraced more frigid temps than he had grown up with in San Diego. He joined the leg to spend more time with and bond with Baldelli as Popkins only joined the Twins in 2022. “We’re getting to be more comfortable here and our relationship is building to be pretty strong,” Popkins said. “The feeling-out period is over and now it's in that family period, which is where the fun stuff really happens. It's been a pleasure to get closer to him and he's an incredible person so we look forward to a pretty fun environment.” It had been 20 years for Hawkins since he had last been a part of a Twins Winter Caravan. Coming back to the Twin Cities for Twins Fest and hopping on the Caravan was just another round of trips that Hawkins has had all off-season. His latest trip before coming back to Minnesota was to Arizona for the MLB Dream Series. “It’s a three-day event over MLK weekend every year. We talk about baseball and show the kids that there are other jobs in Major League Baseball that you can get; umpiring, front office, content management, and just about anything with an organization,” Hawkins said. Another trip that Hawkins took this offseason was around his 50th birthday in December, an adventurous story he shared with the crowd at Whistle Binkies. “Through 2022, I had this notion that I wanted to go to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, and I wanted to summit it on my 50th birthday. I thought that would be the coolest thing. I spent two weeks in December in a village teaching young boys and girls baseball, a sport that they had no clue even existed, and that was the highlight of my 50th birthday,” Hawkins said. Before sharing his story on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and teaching kids about baseball for the first time in the country. Hawkins, Popkins, and Baldelli each shared their best advice on what parents can teach their own kids in the Rochester area about the game. “It's not actually about reaching the top of the pyramid, it's about learning all those good values that go into it,” Baldelli said. “It's not all cake and easy. But being positive and really having that determination inside you that you're never going away, you're never quitting. It's hard to beat someone that never quits.” One Twins pitcher that exemplifies those qualities is Varland, who provided the crowd and his coaches with a great perspective on how he approaches his roster situation for spring training. “I'm heading down to spring training, and I'm eager to learn but also very eager to compete. It's gonna be a really competitive spring training. My job is to make it really hard on Rocco and the decisions he will have to make,” Varland said. “Honestly, that is exactly the answer that you want to hear from one of your young players,” Baldelli responded to Varland. “This guy is going out there to compete. And he worries about the things that he can worry about.” Noah’s opening question for the panel was, “What is your favorite subject in school?” “That was even more meaningful to see since my dad is a huge Twins fan and brought me to TwinsFest for many years,” Leah Struss, Noah’s mom said. “Oh it was so exciting to see,” added Bryan Struss, Noah’s dad. “He did such a great job. The other kid who had their night made was eight-year-old Emma Landherr, who had a pressing question about the team mascot “Can T.C. Bear talk?” she asked. This was the first time the Landherr attended a Winter Caravan stop as her dad Adam Landherr shared, “We're big Twins fans and usually get up for two or three games a year. We watch and listen all the time these two [Emma and her older brother] are a little older we’ll get to more each year.” The Twins Winter Caravan makes its final stop in Mason City, Iowa, tonight at Music Man Square. View full article
  3. Remember just a few years ago when the Minnesota Twins put together one of the best seasons in franchise history? They won 101 games and hit the most home runs any team has ever compiled during a single season. That was all fun, but the 2023 team looks even better. Image courtesy of © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have been hard at work this offseason to supplement a Twins team coming off a second straight losing season. Rocco Baldelli would undoubtedly like to take Minnesota back to the postseason, and doing so in 2023 seems like a must. He gets Carlos Correa back for the long haul and has also seen Joey Gallo, Christian Vazquez, and Kyle Farmer be added. Winning 101 games didn’t happen by accident, and blasting as many home runs as the Bomba Squad did is something we won’t likely see again. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that we’ll see franchise record-level results in 2023, but that doesn’t need to take place for this iteration of the Twins to be better. Put simply, the roster as it stands now is more talented than what we saw in 2019. Going position by position, there is a lot to like. Catcher Gone are Jason Castro and Mitch Garver. Instead, Vazquez has been inserted alongside Ryan Jeffers. Garver was arguably among the best catchers in baseball during his torrid 2019. He won a Silver Slugger and posted a ridiculous .995 OPS. He was coming off just a 104 OPS+ the year prior, and that should be a bar the current tandem can clear. Jeffers has shown an ability to drive the ball and has an exciting offensive profile, but he needs to stay healthy. Vazquez isn’t a juggernaut at the plate, but he’s certainly not a slouch. Infield C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop represented an average veteran presence. Marwin Gonzalez was expected to produce coming off of inflated numbers from the Astros cheating scandal, and Jorge Polanco remained at shortstop following a PED suspension. It was a good-not-great collection on Opening Day. We have seen Jose Miranda break out at the minor league level, showing well in his rookie season. Now at third base, he’ll be next to Correa, with Polanco on the other side of the diamond. It appears Minnesota is all in on Alex Kirilloff at first base, and that is a welcomed sight if it means he’s healthy. There is substantially more upside with a superstar shortstop and some actual top prospects filling out the dirt. They’ll need to play better defense, but this collection should rake. Outfield Byron Buxton and Max Kepler remain the same, but Eddie Rosario and Jake Cave are gone. It’s pretty hard to be disappointed about additions like Joey Gallo and Trevor Larnach. Kepler may be moved at some point, but both the free agent and former top prospect bring plenty to the table. Gallo’s bat may be his calling card, but he’s an excellent defender at all three spots. We saw Larnach show off his arm from left field last year, and there has never been a question about the bat. Grabbing defensive insurance in the form of Michael A. Taylor certainly doesn’t hurt either. Buxton will need to stay healthy, as has always been the issue, but this could be among the better units in baseball. Rotation Jose Berrios in 2019 may be better than anything the Twins currently have. However, gone are Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson. Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, and Pablo Lopez should represent a much higher water level than that group. Mahle may be the best bet to look like an ace, and Lopez was acquired to raise the water level for the group as a whole. We don’t know how Maeda will fare following elbow surgery, but he’s at least back to 100%. The Twins also have good internal depth behind the initial starting rotation, and that’s a good thing, given the need for spot starts along the way. Bullpen Trevor May and Taylor Rogers were the best arms in the pen of yesteryear. Now Pete Maki is working with Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, and Griffin Jax. It’s hard to overstate how good Caleb Thielbar has been and how good Jovani Moran could be. Ryne Harper was a nice success story in 2019, but Blake Parker and Trevor Hildenberger types didn’t leave much room for error. Minnesota can’t allow Emilio Pagan to sink them again, but there should be capable arms to bridge and close out games. As a whole, it’s almost a sweep when it comes to groupings that look better in 2023 than in 2019. What the 2019 squad did was perform on the field, and that remains to be seen from this contingent. They’ll need to stay healthy, and they must go out there and prove it, but Baldelli should be excited by the look of his roster. View full article
  4. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have been hard at work this offseason to supplement a Twins team coming off a second straight losing season. Rocco Baldelli would undoubtedly like to take Minnesota back to the postseason, and doing so in 2023 seems like a must. He gets Carlos Correa back for the long haul and has also seen Joey Gallo, Christian Vazquez, and Kyle Farmer be added. Winning 101 games didn’t happen by accident, and blasting as many home runs as the Bomba Squad did is something we won’t likely see again. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that we’ll see franchise record-level results in 2023, but that doesn’t need to take place for this iteration of the Twins to be better. Put simply, the roster as it stands now is more talented than what we saw in 2019. Going position by position, there is a lot to like. Catcher Gone are Jason Castro and Mitch Garver. Instead, Vazquez has been inserted alongside Ryan Jeffers. Garver was arguably among the best catchers in baseball during his torrid 2019. He won a Silver Slugger and posted a ridiculous .995 OPS. He was coming off just a 104 OPS+ the year prior, and that should be a bar the current tandem can clear. Jeffers has shown an ability to drive the ball and has an exciting offensive profile, but he needs to stay healthy. Vazquez isn’t a juggernaut at the plate, but he’s certainly not a slouch. Infield C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop represented an average veteran presence. Marwin Gonzalez was expected to produce coming off of inflated numbers from the Astros cheating scandal, and Jorge Polanco remained at shortstop following a PED suspension. It was a good-not-great collection on Opening Day. We have seen Jose Miranda break out at the minor league level, showing well in his rookie season. Now at third base, he’ll be next to Correa, with Polanco on the other side of the diamond. It appears Minnesota is all in on Alex Kirilloff at first base, and that is a welcomed sight if it means he’s healthy. There is substantially more upside with a superstar shortstop and some actual top prospects filling out the dirt. They’ll need to play better defense, but this collection should rake. Outfield Byron Buxton and Max Kepler remain the same, but Eddie Rosario and Jake Cave are gone. It’s pretty hard to be disappointed about additions like Joey Gallo and Trevor Larnach. Kepler may be moved at some point, but both the free agent and former top prospect bring plenty to the table. Gallo’s bat may be his calling card, but he’s an excellent defender at all three spots. We saw Larnach show off his arm from left field last year, and there has never been a question about the bat. Grabbing defensive insurance in the form of Michael A. Taylor certainly doesn’t hurt either. Buxton will need to stay healthy, as has always been the issue, but this could be among the better units in baseball. Rotation Jose Berrios in 2019 may be better than anything the Twins currently have. However, gone are Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson. Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, and Pablo Lopez should represent a much higher water level than that group. Mahle may be the best bet to look like an ace, and Lopez was acquired to raise the water level for the group as a whole. We don’t know how Maeda will fare following elbow surgery, but he’s at least back to 100%. The Twins also have good internal depth behind the initial starting rotation, and that’s a good thing, given the need for spot starts along the way. Bullpen Trevor May and Taylor Rogers were the best arms in the pen of yesteryear. Now Pete Maki is working with Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, and Griffin Jax. It’s hard to overstate how good Caleb Thielbar has been and how good Jovani Moran could be. Ryne Harper was a nice success story in 2019, but Blake Parker and Trevor Hildenberger types didn’t leave much room for error. Minnesota can’t allow Emilio Pagan to sink them again, but there should be capable arms to bridge and close out games. As a whole, it’s almost a sweep when it comes to groupings that look better in 2023 than in 2019. What the 2019 squad did was perform on the field, and that remains to be seen from this contingent. They’ll need to stay healthy, and they must go out there and prove it, but Baldelli should be excited by the look of his roster.
  5. There is no denying that the 2022 Minnesota Twins left plenty to be desired. Sure they were leading the AL Central division for a substantial portion of the regular season, but there was no point in which it wasn’t evident they were bleeding wins. The bullpen failed to close things out, and the lineup did little to add more often than not. Fixing those realities in the year ahead remains key. Image courtesy of Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Rocco Baldelli is a good manager and has proven it during his early tenure with the Twins. While he has been criticized for removing arms early, he has often been given pitchers that struggle to go deep in games. He has managed the 26-man roster provided to him, and there is little reason to believe that won’t be the case again this season. If Minnesota wants to extract more from what they put out in the year ahead, there are a few key areas they can control. Baserunning You don’t need analytics to dissect this as a Twins fan. Last season Minnesota was among the worst team on the bases across the entirety of the league. You saw it from an eye test, and you saw it from an individual standpoint. Multiple players ran into outs, and third base coach Tommy Watkins had several players thrown out at home. By Fangraphs base running metric, only the Washington Nationals were worse than the Twins, and their BsR of -20.7 was truly terrible. Infield Defense At the beginning of the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine Era, there was an assumed level of production expected from the defense. When trying to support the team as a whole, playing solid defense was a legitimate way to prop up other lackluster areas. In recent seasons, the Twins' infield defense has become an area of concern, and it’s not one that has been quelled solely through the addition of Carlos Correa. Jose Miranda moving to the hot corner isn't likely to help, but Alex Kirilloff being healthy makes a difference at first base. Still, needing to be better on the dirt is something that remains imperative. Coin Flips Last year, manager Rocco Baldelli could be excused through a handful of things boiled down to bad luck. He often played the infield in or went with the numbers and wound up asking “what if.” The hope would be that there is room for normalization in 2023, and understanding that analytics genuinely bear fruit across a larger sample size. We have yet to see what a healthy version of this roster can do, but that should be the focal point in the year ahead. There is no denying that the Minnesota Twins will point to injury when it comes to ineptitude faced during the 2022 season. Assuming a roster with better health, there should be plenty of improvement. Beyond wanting luck to better benefit them, there will also be opportunities for Minnesota to create its own growth. Forcing that this season will be a must, and it could represent the difference between taking a step forward or another step backward. View full article
  6. Rocco Baldelli is a good manager and has proven it during his early tenure with the Twins. While he has been criticized for removing arms early, he has often been given pitchers that struggle to go deep in games. He has managed the 26-man roster provided to him, and there is little reason to believe that won’t be the case again this season. If Minnesota wants to extract more from what they put out in the year ahead, there are a few key areas they can control. Baserunning You don’t need analytics to dissect this as a Twins fan. Last season Minnesota was among the worst team on the bases across the entirety of the league. You saw it from an eye test, and you saw it from an individual standpoint. Multiple players ran into outs, and third base coach Tommy Watkins had several players thrown out at home. By Fangraphs base running metric, only the Washington Nationals were worse than the Twins, and their BsR of -20.7 was truly terrible. Infield Defense At the beginning of the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine Era, there was an assumed level of production expected from the defense. When trying to support the team as a whole, playing solid defense was a legitimate way to prop up other lackluster areas. In recent seasons, the Twins' infield defense has become an area of concern, and it’s not one that has been quelled solely through the addition of Carlos Correa. Jose Miranda moving to the hot corner isn't likely to help, but Alex Kirilloff being healthy makes a difference at first base. Still, needing to be better on the dirt is something that remains imperative. Coin Flips Last year, manager Rocco Baldelli could be excused through a handful of things boiled down to bad luck. He often played the infield in or went with the numbers and wound up asking “what if.” The hope would be that there is room for normalization in 2023, and understanding that analytics genuinely bear fruit across a larger sample size. We have yet to see what a healthy version of this roster can do, but that should be the focal point in the year ahead. There is no denying that the Minnesota Twins will point to injury when it comes to ineptitude faced during the 2022 season. Assuming a roster with better health, there should be plenty of improvement. Beyond wanting luck to better benefit them, there will also be opportunities for Minnesota to create its own growth. Forcing that this season will be a must, and it could represent the difference between taking a step forward or another step backward.
  7. Of course, it’s the beginning of January and hope springs eternal. Maybe that sentiment is more traditionally reserved for Spring Training, but the dead of winter needs some heat in Twins Territory. An offseason ago the front office paid the man, now in 2023 it’s time to watch Byron Buxton break loose. Image courtesy of © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Realistically fans of the Minnesota Twins have been awaiting a breakout from Byron Buxton for the better part of seven years. In that time he’s either flashed ability, or shown a very brief glimpse of availability. Only once, in 2020, did we come close to seeing what it looked like together and even that is debatable. For Minnesota, paying Buxton should’ve been a no-brainer. He’s among the best players in the world when healthy, and the only reason they were in position as the only to be able to give him a $100 million contract is because free agency and a $300 million contract has been thwarted by injury. Buxton spent the early portion of his Major League career being instructed to put the ball on the ground, utilize his speed, and sacrifice a power tool that was so evident during his pre-draft process. The Georgia native looked to project as a true five-tool player, and a previous Minnesota regime sought to get less of a ceiling while attempting to ensure a safer floor. By 2017, we began to see how silly that looked. Buxton racked up MVP consideration largely for his defense, winning both a Platinum and Gold Glove. He did hit 16 longballs though, and that came across a big league best 140 games. Injury struck again in 2018, but by 2019 it was clear the Twins star was an offensive threat too. In 2020 he advanced his MVP positioning while posting a career-best 125 OPS+. It’s hard to count the contribution as whole however, given that he played in just over 50% of an already truncated 60 game season. The past two seasons we have seen Buxton compile a 150 OPS+ and look the part of a guy who should rack up bombs and extra-base hits with ease. While still seeking a season of true availability to pair it with, 2022 brings promise. In the first year of a new seven-year deal, Buxton played in 92 games. That is the most he’s logged in any season since 2017, and comes with the caveat that he was injured almost from the get go. Despite needing consistent fluid drains of his knee following a slide against the Boston Red Sox, Buxton continued to produce. Although his pendulum swung a bit too far in the slugging over on-base direction, he managed pain and remained available for Rocco Baldelli’s club for much of the competitive duration. Despite the Twins feeling good about where Buxton is in his offseason program, there is some reason for caution. He underwent a knee surgery following the regular season, and will soon ramp back up to baseball activities. Given what he produced while playing with a substantial injury last season though, it’s more than clear that Minnesota stands to come up big time if he can be kept on the field. That has definitely been the mantra throughout the duration of his eight year career, but Buxton posted numbers that would extrapolate to 49 homers, five triples, and 23 doubles over the course of a full season. His 7.0 fWAR would have ranked 6th in baseball, and behind only American League MVP winner Aaron Judge among hitters. There is no one more focused on keeping Buxton on the field this season than himself, and the Twins are certainly attempting to put a new foot forward with Nick Paparesta leading the training staff. For the vast majority of Minnesota’s roster, the production from those carried over will largely impact how much noise this club makes. We shouldn’t be questioning how good Buxton is anymore, he’s otherworldly. The only question is if he can remain out there, and fighting through what he did a season ago and racking up 92 games, should bring some promise for something we haven’t seen in years. View full article
  8. Realistically fans of the Minnesota Twins have been awaiting a breakout from Byron Buxton for the better part of seven years. In that time he’s either flashed ability, or shown a very brief glimpse of availability. Only once, in 2020, did we come close to seeing what it looked like together and even that is debatable. For Minnesota, paying Buxton should’ve been a no-brainer. He’s among the best players in the world when healthy, and the only reason they were in position as the only to be able to give him a $100 million contract is because free agency and a $300 million contract has been thwarted by injury. Buxton spent the early portion of his Major League career being instructed to put the ball on the ground, utilize his speed, and sacrifice a power tool that was so evident during his pre-draft process. The Georgia native looked to project as a true five-tool player, and a previous Minnesota regime sought to get less of a ceiling while attempting to ensure a safer floor. By 2017, we began to see how silly that looked. Buxton racked up MVP consideration largely for his defense, winning both a Platinum and Gold Glove. He did hit 16 longballs though, and that came across a big league best 140 games. Injury struck again in 2018, but by 2019 it was clear the Twins star was an offensive threat too. In 2020 he advanced his MVP positioning while posting a career-best 125 OPS+. It’s hard to count the contribution as whole however, given that he played in just over 50% of an already truncated 60 game season. The past two seasons we have seen Buxton compile a 150 OPS+ and look the part of a guy who should rack up bombs and extra-base hits with ease. While still seeking a season of true availability to pair it with, 2022 brings promise. In the first year of a new seven-year deal, Buxton played in 92 games. That is the most he’s logged in any season since 2017, and comes with the caveat that he was injured almost from the get go. Despite needing consistent fluid drains of his knee following a slide against the Boston Red Sox, Buxton continued to produce. Although his pendulum swung a bit too far in the slugging over on-base direction, he managed pain and remained available for Rocco Baldelli’s club for much of the competitive duration. Despite the Twins feeling good about where Buxton is in his offseason program, there is some reason for caution. He underwent a knee surgery following the regular season, and will soon ramp back up to baseball activities. Given what he produced while playing with a substantial injury last season though, it’s more than clear that Minnesota stands to come up big time if he can be kept on the field. That has definitely been the mantra throughout the duration of his eight year career, but Buxton posted numbers that would extrapolate to 49 homers, five triples, and 23 doubles over the course of a full season. His 7.0 fWAR would have ranked 6th in baseball, and behind only American League MVP winner Aaron Judge among hitters. There is no one more focused on keeping Buxton on the field this season than himself, and the Twins are certainly attempting to put a new foot forward with Nick Paparesta leading the training staff. For the vast majority of Minnesota’s roster, the production from those carried over will largely impact how much noise this club makes. We shouldn’t be questioning how good Buxton is anymore, he’s otherworldly. The only question is if he can remain out there, and fighting through what he did a season ago and racking up 92 games, should bring some promise for something we haven’t seen in years.
  9. With huge gaps to fill on a staff facing the losses of José Berríos and Kenta Maeda, Minnesota's front office took an unconventional approach to pitching this year. Did it work? I think we can safely say: not really! But a dissection of what went wrong reveals some worthwhile nuggets to take forward. Image courtesy of Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports Having lost their top two starters to a deadline sell-off trade and Tommy John surgery, the Twins headed into last offseason with a barren rotation outlook. It was unclear exactly how Derek Falvey and Thad Levine would realistically be able to offset these big losses. Yes, they had money to spend. But the next premier frontline starting pitcher to choose Minnesota in free agency would be the first. Some creativity was gonna be needed to field a contending staff, and Levine hinted as much early on. The general manager's quotes led me to write a column around this time last year: Are the Twins About to Build a Radically Unconventional Pitching Staff? “I think with the challenge comes opportunity,” Levine had said. “We’re going to be as creative as we can be in terms of not being necessarily hemmed into the notion of it has to look exactly the way it has always looked. We may end up looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” The Twins followed through on their foreshadowing ... to an extent. With their only stable veteran workhorses – José Berríos, Kenta Maeda, and Michael Pineda – out of the picture for 2022, the team didn't acquire proven inning-eaters to replace them. Instead, their pickups were Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer and Chris Paddack, none of whom had thrown even 140 innings the prior season. Meanwhile, the only rotation incumbents were Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, who had thrown a collective 120 innings in the big leagues. The front office assembled a staff full of pretty good pitchers who were – almost uniformly – unequipped to provide any length, and so we saw Levine's vision more or less come to life: vast numbers of different arms rotating in and out to cobble together nine-inning games. The Twins used a franchise-record 38 different pitchers. Their starters averaged 4.8 innings, second-fewest in the American League. They used six or more different pitchers in a game 31 times. Radically unconventional indeed. And, had this approach been successful, you wouldn't hear me complaining. But clearly it was not. The Twins ranked 19th in ERA, 19th in FIP, 20th in fWAR. Even for a club that was built around the strength of its lineup, that's not nearly good enough. The plan, at its core, was not a terrible one: maximize the stuff of your pitchers in shorter stints, shield them from multiple trips through the order, and possibly reduce injuries from overuse. Alas, none of those supposed benefits came to fruition. So what went wrong, and what can we learn? Was the entire philosophy bunk, or was the execution botched? I would argue, probably more of the latter. There might be some merit to the concept, provided the Twins heed these lessons learned: The starters weren't good enough, or healthy enough, even in shortened starts. I don't dislike the idea of signing a cheap pitcher – who doesn't have the repertoire or durability to go deep – for the back of your rotation and unleashing him in highly effective 4-5 inning bursts. The problem is that this group lacked the capacity to be highly effective even with this usage. Bundy held his own the first time through the lineup, then got mashed the second time through (.291/.327/.534), often making the third time a moot point. Archer posted an 85 ERA+ despite almost never pitching past the fourth. He placed a heavy weight on the bullpen every fifth day, and rarely left them in a good spot. Meanwhile, the cautious management wasn't enough to prevent Ober, who only once threw even 90 pitches in a start, from being derailed by a season-ruining groin injury. It wasn't enough to prevent Gray, who grumbled about Rocco Baldelli's early hooks, from multiple significant hamstring injuries. If the Twins want an approach like this to pay dividends, they need to find pitchers who are actually capable of excelling in shorter starts (a la Andrew Heaney) and they need to better help their players physically adapt to the altered routines. You've got to have at least one starter who can be the workhorse. Even with all of the above being addressed, I still think you've got to have at least one starting pitcher in your rotation who you can count on to give you some length. This strategy built around five-and-flies, piggybacking and the like becomes a lot more palatable when there is a fixture like Berríos routinely firing 6-7 innings each time through the rotation. That likely contributed to the decision to acquire Tyler Mahle at the deadline. He threw 180 innings in 2021 (would've led the Twins by 60), and had completed six or more frames in eight of nine starts for the Reds leading up the trade. Of course, Mahle proved to be the opposite of a remedy for Minnesota, and now only adds to the uncertainty of a 2023 rotation in desperate need of stable and dependable durability. Their bullpen wasn't built adequately to handle the burden. This is what really gets me. Levine talked about "looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff," and then their only bullpen addition of the offseason was Joe Smith, who could barely be counted on for one inning. The Twins rarely carried anything resembling a long man on the staff, and would typically just march out endless one-inning relievers after short starts. This led to them frequently burning through all of their high-leverage arms on one night and burning out the back end of their bullpen for the next. To make a system like this work, you've got to have an array of arms capable of getting more than three outs on a regular basis. The routine of four-inning starts followed by 5-6 relievers is not a workable formula as we saw. Losing your pitching coach mid-season doesn't help. This one can't so much be blamed on the front office and their planning. It's difficult to anticipate such a disruptive event in the heart of your season, and Wes Johnson's abrupt departure made matters tougher as the Twins tried to hold together their experimental pitching staff through the second half. Pete Maki undoubtedly played a significant role in architecting this year's plan, and now, as the apparent choice going forward at pitching coach, he'll be able to more directly pull the strings and execute to his preferences. So, to summarize... The model of building a pitching staff with reduced emphasis on traditional 6-7 inning starters isn't bad in theory. Indeed, there's plenty of evidence that it is the inexorable direction of baseball at large. But if the Twins want to lean into this movement as they did in 2022, they need to get better at. That means: Filling the rotation with starters who can at least stay healthy and excel in 4-5 inning starts. Finding at least one workhorse type starter who can reliably give you 6+ innings each turn. Equipping the bullpen with enough firepower and multi-inning relievers to shoulder the load. Having one central mastermind oversee the operation (and if it's not working, find someone new). As you're looking through the options available in our bullpen chapter of the Offseason Handbook, these are lessons worth keeping in mind. View full article
  10. Having lost their top two starters to a deadline sell-off trade and Tommy John surgery, the Twins headed into last offseason with a barren rotation outlook. It was unclear exactly how Derek Falvey and Thad Levine would realistically be able to offset these big losses. Yes, they had money to spend. But the next premier frontline starting pitcher to choose Minnesota in free agency would be the first. Some creativity was gonna be needed to field a contending staff, and Levine hinted as much early on. The general manager's quotes led me to write a column around this time last year: Are the Twins About to Build a Radically Unconventional Pitching Staff? “I think with the challenge comes opportunity,” Levine had said. “We’re going to be as creative as we can be in terms of not being necessarily hemmed into the notion of it has to look exactly the way it has always looked. We may end up looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” The Twins followed through on their foreshadowing ... to an extent. With their only stable veteran workhorses – José Berríos, Kenta Maeda, and Michael Pineda – out of the picture for 2022, the team didn't acquire proven inning-eaters to replace them. Instead, their pickups were Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer and Chris Paddack, none of whom had thrown even 140 innings the prior season. Meanwhile, the only rotation incumbents were Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, who had thrown a collective 120 innings in the big leagues. The front office assembled a staff full of pretty good pitchers who were – almost uniformly – unequipped to provide any length, and so we saw Levine's vision more or less come to life: vast numbers of different arms rotating in and out to cobble together nine-inning games. The Twins used a franchise-record 38 different pitchers. Their starters averaged 4.8 innings, second-fewest in the American League. They used six or more different pitchers in a game 31 times. Radically unconventional indeed. And, had this approach been successful, you wouldn't hear me complaining. But clearly it was not. The Twins ranked 19th in ERA, 19th in FIP, 20th in fWAR. Even for a club that was built around the strength of its lineup, that's not nearly good enough. The plan, at its core, was not a terrible one: maximize the stuff of your pitchers in shorter stints, shield them from multiple trips through the order, and possibly reduce injuries from overuse. Alas, none of those supposed benefits came to fruition. So what went wrong, and what can we learn? Was the entire philosophy bunk, or was the execution botched? I would argue, probably more of the latter. There might be some merit to the concept, provided the Twins heed these lessons learned: The starters weren't good enough, or healthy enough, even in shortened starts. I don't dislike the idea of signing a cheap pitcher – who doesn't have the repertoire or durability to go deep – for the back of your rotation and unleashing him in highly effective 4-5 inning bursts. The problem is that this group lacked the capacity to be highly effective even with this usage. Bundy held his own the first time through the lineup, then got mashed the second time through (.291/.327/.534), often making the third time a moot point. Archer posted an 85 ERA+ despite almost never pitching past the fourth. He placed a heavy weight on the bullpen every fifth day, and rarely left them in a good spot. Meanwhile, the cautious management wasn't enough to prevent Ober, who only once threw even 90 pitches in a start, from being derailed by a season-ruining groin injury. It wasn't enough to prevent Gray, who grumbled about Rocco Baldelli's early hooks, from multiple significant hamstring injuries. If the Twins want an approach like this to pay dividends, they need to find pitchers who are actually capable of excelling in shorter starts (a la Andrew Heaney) and they need to better help their players physically adapt to the altered routines. You've got to have at least one starter who can be the workhorse. Even with all of the above being addressed, I still think you've got to have at least one starting pitcher in your rotation who you can count on to give you some length. This strategy built around five-and-flies, piggybacking and the like becomes a lot more palatable when there is a fixture like Berríos routinely firing 6-7 innings each time through the rotation. That likely contributed to the decision to acquire Tyler Mahle at the deadline. He threw 180 innings in 2021 (would've led the Twins by 60), and had completed six or more frames in eight of nine starts for the Reds leading up the trade. Of course, Mahle proved to be the opposite of a remedy for Minnesota, and now only adds to the uncertainty of a 2023 rotation in desperate need of stable and dependable durability. Their bullpen wasn't built adequately to handle the burden. This is what really gets me. Levine talked about "looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff," and then their only bullpen addition of the offseason was Joe Smith, who could barely be counted on for one inning. The Twins rarely carried anything resembling a long man on the staff, and would typically just march out endless one-inning relievers after short starts. This led to them frequently burning through all of their high-leverage arms on one night and burning out the back end of their bullpen for the next. To make a system like this work, you've got to have an array of arms capable of getting more than three outs on a regular basis. The routine of four-inning starts followed by 5-6 relievers is not a workable formula as we saw. Losing your pitching coach mid-season doesn't help. This one can't so much be blamed on the front office and their planning. It's difficult to anticipate such a disruptive event in the heart of your season, and Wes Johnson's abrupt departure made matters tougher as the Twins tried to hold together their experimental pitching staff through the second half. Pete Maki undoubtedly played a significant role in architecting this year's plan, and now, as the apparent choice going forward at pitching coach, he'll be able to more directly pull the strings and execute to his preferences. So, to summarize... The model of building a pitching staff with reduced emphasis on traditional 6-7 inning starters isn't bad in theory. Indeed, there's plenty of evidence that it is the inexorable direction of baseball at large. But if the Twins want to lean into this movement as they did in 2022, they need to get better at. That means: Filling the rotation with starters who can at least stay healthy and excel in 4-5 inning starts. Finding at least one workhorse type starter who can reliably give you 6+ innings each turn. Equipping the bullpen with enough firepower and multi-inning relievers to shoulder the load. Having one central mastermind oversee the operation (and if it's not working, find someone new). As you're looking through the options available in our bullpen chapter of the Offseason Handbook, these are lessons worth keeping in mind.
  11. The Minnesota Twins were projected to be roughly a .500 team coming into the 2022 Major League Baseball season. Then a strong month of May had them looking like division winners. When the dust settled and had them at home for the postseason, plenty of changes became expected, but the front office decided not to make hardly any. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Earlier this week the Twins announced that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had opted to keep the entirety of their coaching staff intact. Head trainer Michael Salazar was relieved of his duties, but Rocco Baldelli, Tommy Watkins, Jayce Tingler, Pete Maki, David Popkins, and the rest of the field staff were set to return. Maybe that’s shocking, but then again, maybe it shouldn’t be. Talking with a source in the Twins front office, there was a conversation less than two weeks ago that Minnesota had decided to move on from at least two individuals that have since been retained. That shift may have even surprised some within the organization, but if the front office has shown anything since their hiring, maybe we should have seen it coming. Falvey and Levine have always operated to the beat of their own drum, and they’ve been extremely process oriented. For the sake of organizational change, this line of thinking seems imperative. The tandem was handed Paul Molitor as their manager following the firing of Terry Ryan, and despite a Manager of the Year award that kept him around a bit longer, it never seemed like the sides' intentions were married. Minnesota’s front office has relied heavily on forward-thinking and process being able to drive results. The nature of that reality means having a coaching staff that can disseminate ideas and generates buy-in from players on the field. Former Twins reliever Ryan Pressly noted something along these lines when he touched on how the Houston Astros helped him to turn a corner. It’s in that reasoning that someone like pitching coach Pete Maki would be retained. The front office continues to invest heavily in pitching development. Encouraging signs from expected talents such as Josh Winder and Simeon Woods Richardson are necessary, but it’s the breakthroughs from the likes of Louie Varland, Bailey Ober, David Festa, and many others that should have fans believing that the system works. Wes Johnson was supposed to orchestrate it at the highest level but left for a payday too good to pass up from Louisiana State University. Maki was someone the Twins plucked from the college ranks as well, and although he may have been thrust into a situation sooner than anticipated, he’s been able to connect with his subjects. Maybe Minnesota could’ve made Popkins the fall guy for a terrible amount of run production with runners in scoring position, and maybe Watkins should’ve been held a bit more accountable on some egregious sends. Still, both have a substantial history in the game and have been able to generate production with this team. On the bench, Tingler brings previous managerial experience and has a wealth of knowledge to impart to a clubhouse he can certainly resonate with. As a whole, there’s more benefit for Falvey and Levine sticking with their guys than not. Salazar was in charge for two previous seasons of relative health, and although 2022 was disastrous, it’s hardly fair to suggest some level of substantial onus being on his plate. At the end of the day, this has always been publicly made about injuries, and therefore that’s the path of least resistance. Moving forward, Falvey and Levine must show they got it right. That starts with a reversal of production in 2023. The coaching staff can only do what the on-field talent gives them. Minnesota’s front office will again need to supplement a core that should compete, but advancing themselves along the edges is the goal of this team, and if there was a belief in those at the helm entering the season, it seems that remains for 2023 as well. View full article
  12. Earlier this week the Twins announced that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had opted to keep the entirety of their coaching staff intact. Head trainer Michael Salazar was relieved of his duties, but Rocco Baldelli, Tommy Watkins, Jayce Tingler, Pete Maki, David Popkins, and the rest of the field staff were set to return. Maybe that’s shocking, but then again, maybe it shouldn’t be. Talking with a source in the Twins front office, there was a conversation less than two weeks ago that Minnesota had decided to move on from at least two individuals that have since been retained. That shift may have even surprised some within the organization, but if the front office has shown anything since their hiring, maybe we should have seen it coming. Falvey and Levine have always operated to the beat of their own drum, and they’ve been extremely process oriented. For the sake of organizational change, this line of thinking seems imperative. The tandem was handed Paul Molitor as their manager following the firing of Terry Ryan, and despite a Manager of the Year award that kept him around a bit longer, it never seemed like the sides' intentions were married. Minnesota’s front office has relied heavily on forward-thinking and process being able to drive results. The nature of that reality means having a coaching staff that can disseminate ideas and generates buy-in from players on the field. Former Twins reliever Ryan Pressly noted something along these lines when he touched on how the Houston Astros helped him to turn a corner. It’s in that reasoning that someone like pitching coach Pete Maki would be retained. The front office continues to invest heavily in pitching development. Encouraging signs from expected talents such as Josh Winder and Simeon Woods Richardson are necessary, but it’s the breakthroughs from the likes of Louie Varland, Bailey Ober, David Festa, and many others that should have fans believing that the system works. Wes Johnson was supposed to orchestrate it at the highest level but left for a payday too good to pass up from Louisiana State University. Maki was someone the Twins plucked from the college ranks as well, and although he may have been thrust into a situation sooner than anticipated, he’s been able to connect with his subjects. Maybe Minnesota could’ve made Popkins the fall guy for a terrible amount of run production with runners in scoring position, and maybe Watkins should’ve been held a bit more accountable on some egregious sends. Still, both have a substantial history in the game and have been able to generate production with this team. On the bench, Tingler brings previous managerial experience and has a wealth of knowledge to impart to a clubhouse he can certainly resonate with. As a whole, there’s more benefit for Falvey and Levine sticking with their guys than not. Salazar was in charge for two previous seasons of relative health, and although 2022 was disastrous, it’s hardly fair to suggest some level of substantial onus being on his plate. At the end of the day, this has always been publicly made about injuries, and therefore that’s the path of least resistance. Moving forward, Falvey and Levine must show they got it right. That starts with a reversal of production in 2023. The coaching staff can only do what the on-field talent gives them. Minnesota’s front office will again need to supplement a core that should compete, but advancing themselves along the edges is the goal of this team, and if there was a belief in those at the helm entering the season, it seems that remains for 2023 as well.
  13. Over the course of the past few seasons, plenty has been made of the struggles plaguing the Minnesota Twins. While the product on the field has failed, there’s also been plenty of finger-pointing at those that control it. When it comes to the manager, what do fans need to see? Image courtesy of Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports Rocco Baldelli took over as manager for the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2019 season. He replaced Hall of Fame player, Paul Molitor. Although Molitor was seen favorably in his time on the field, he was more of a figurehead manager, celebrated for his own accolades, than those accomplished from the dugout. Molitor seemed to be on the hot seat following a 103-loss campaign in 2016, but the 85-win season brought him Manager of the Year honors and spared him another season under Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Wanting to bring in their own manager and distance themselves from the Terry Ryan regime, Falvey and Levine cast a wide net and ultimately landed on Baldelli. A former top prospect with a solid career, this is Baldelli’s first managing gig. He came highly respected from the forward-thinking, and analytically driven, Tampa Bay Rays organization. In year one (2019), Baldelli was praised mightily as he orchestrated one of the most successful regular seasons in franchise history. The Bomba Squad invigorated the fanbase, and a club led by Nelson Cruz launched the most home runs by any team over a single season in Major League Baseball history. 2020 is hard to quantify given the truncated nature of the pandemic-influenced season, and we know how the past two years have gone. After what can be categorized as a wildly successful beginning, Baldelli’s allure with fans has hit the skids. Is that largely due to a reflection of what his team has done lately, more of a response to what he’s brought to the table as a whole, or something in between? If there are two chief complaints for the Twins manager, I’d likely boil them down to pitching management and lack of ultimate success. Pitching Management The first relates directly to starting pitchers and bullpen usage. Over the course of recent seasons, it’s become a major complaint from the fanbase that Baldelli pulls his starters too soon. To date in 2022, the Twins 4.8 innings per start is tied for 28th across Major League Baseball. That average is higher than only the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays. That’s notable as the former is doing so by circumstance, while the latter is doing so by choice. The league average innings per start is 5.2, which is just above Minnesota’s tally. As discussed earlier this year, short starts aren’t simply a Twins thing, and they really aren’t a Baldelli thing either. Baseball has trended toward pulling pitchers earlier as hitters have become so much more advanced, and there are so few truly elite arms. A team like Tampa Bay has supplemented that reality with strong tactics and bullpen help, while the teams who rely most on their starters such as the Astros, Guardians, and Phillies have arms like Justin Verlander, Shane Bieber, and Aaron Nola. Across baseball in 2022, there was an average of 32.2 pitchers used in 2023. That’s the second highest number in the history of the sport, trailing only the 34.4 used last season. What has to happen for Baldelli to allow starters a longer leash is two-fold. Minnesota must produce more runs than they did in 2022, and the starting pitchers have to be better. Expecting the likes of Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy to give five or more innings on a routine basis isn’t logical. While Baldelli has a say in player acquisition, he’s also at the mercy of the team provided to him. Implore the front office to better when it comes to acquisitions on the front end (or the bullpen if following the Rays model) and the results should follow. Win When it Counts While it’s not the fault of this current Twins club that the franchise totes an 0-18 record in the postseason currently, it is at the forefront of fans’ minds. The reality is that no matter how many division titles the Twins have won, and they’ve gone .500 in that regard under Baldelli, they’ve also bowed out without even a playoff victory while he’s been in charge. It’s certainly not easy to win in October, especially if you’re getting paired up against a juggernaut like New York or Houston. However, there’s no reason why a team winning 101 games should bow out with a whimper, or why you can’t grab a victory at home in a short series. Twins fans want to see the regular season translate into playoff success. With 30 teams, and only one winning their final tilt, it’s hard to suggest World Series or bust as an expectation, but doing something of note beyond the 162-game calendar would go a long way. Knowing 2023 is an integral point for Minnesota and Baldelli, what are you hoping for in a change of pace? If you support what Rocco has brought to the table, why? If you need to see better, what could change your opinion? View full article
  14. Rocco Baldelli took over as manager for the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2019 season. He replaced Hall of Fame player, Paul Molitor. Although Molitor was seen favorably in his time on the field, he was more of a figurehead manager, celebrated for his own accolades, than those accomplished from the dugout. Molitor seemed to be on the hot seat following a 103-loss campaign in 2016, but the 85-win season brought him Manager of the Year honors and spared him another season under Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Wanting to bring in their own manager and distance themselves from the Terry Ryan regime, Falvey and Levine cast a wide net and ultimately landed on Baldelli. A former top prospect with a solid career, this is Baldelli’s first managing gig. He came highly respected from the forward-thinking, and analytically driven, Tampa Bay Rays organization. In year one (2019), Baldelli was praised mightily as he orchestrated one of the most successful regular seasons in franchise history. The Bomba Squad invigorated the fanbase, and a club led by Nelson Cruz launched the most home runs by any team over a single season in Major League Baseball history. 2020 is hard to quantify given the truncated nature of the pandemic-influenced season, and we know how the past two years have gone. After what can be categorized as a wildly successful beginning, Baldelli’s allure with fans has hit the skids. Is that largely due to a reflection of what his team has done lately, more of a response to what he’s brought to the table as a whole, or something in between? If there are two chief complaints for the Twins manager, I’d likely boil them down to pitching management and lack of ultimate success. Pitching Management The first relates directly to starting pitchers and bullpen usage. Over the course of recent seasons, it’s become a major complaint from the fanbase that Baldelli pulls his starters too soon. To date in 2022, the Twins 4.8 innings per start is tied for 28th across Major League Baseball. That average is higher than only the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays. That’s notable as the former is doing so by circumstance, while the latter is doing so by choice. The league average innings per start is 5.2, which is just above Minnesota’s tally. As discussed earlier this year, short starts aren’t simply a Twins thing, and they really aren’t a Baldelli thing either. Baseball has trended toward pulling pitchers earlier as hitters have become so much more advanced, and there are so few truly elite arms. A team like Tampa Bay has supplemented that reality with strong tactics and bullpen help, while the teams who rely most on their starters such as the Astros, Guardians, and Phillies have arms like Justin Verlander, Shane Bieber, and Aaron Nola. Across baseball in 2022, there was an average of 32.2 pitchers used in 2023. That’s the second highest number in the history of the sport, trailing only the 34.4 used last season. What has to happen for Baldelli to allow starters a longer leash is two-fold. Minnesota must produce more runs than they did in 2022, and the starting pitchers have to be better. Expecting the likes of Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy to give five or more innings on a routine basis isn’t logical. While Baldelli has a say in player acquisition, he’s also at the mercy of the team provided to him. Implore the front office to better when it comes to acquisitions on the front end (or the bullpen if following the Rays model) and the results should follow. Win When it Counts While it’s not the fault of this current Twins club that the franchise totes an 0-18 record in the postseason currently, it is at the forefront of fans’ minds. The reality is that no matter how many division titles the Twins have won, and they’ve gone .500 in that regard under Baldelli, they’ve also bowed out without even a playoff victory while he’s been in charge. It’s certainly not easy to win in October, especially if you’re getting paired up against a juggernaut like New York or Houston. However, there’s no reason why a team winning 101 games should bow out with a whimper, or why you can’t grab a victory at home in a short series. Twins fans want to see the regular season translate into playoff success. With 30 teams, and only one winning their final tilt, it’s hard to suggest World Series or bust as an expectation, but doing something of note beyond the 162-game calendar would go a long way. Knowing 2023 is an integral point for Minnesota and Baldelli, what are you hoping for in a change of pace? If you support what Rocco has brought to the table, why? If you need to see better, what could change your opinion?
  15. Blame can be passed around when a team doesn't meet expectations. Who should receive blame for the Twins' failures, and who is most responsible? Image courtesy of Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports The Twins are finishing a terrible September that saw the team go from contender to pretender in a few weeks. There are plenty of reasons for fans to be frustrated, but the season's conclusion offers time to reflect on the 2022 campaign. Here are the people most responsible for the Twins' downfall this season. Culprit 1: The Front Office The front office will take the brunt of the blame for any team that falls short of its ultimate goal. Last off-season was unique because of the lockout, and Minnesota took a unique approach to construct the roster. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine thought the pitching pipeline was ready to contribute in 2022, so the team didn't need to acquire any of the best free agent pitchers. This plan failed as the team's farm system took a step back, and the pitching pipeline has yet to arrive. It's also easy to blame the front office for some of the prominent players the team acquired during the 2022 season. Minnesota traded Taylor Rogers shortly before Opening Day for Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan. The timing of the trade was terrible, even if Rogers ended up having a poor season. Paddack was terrific for four games before needing Tommy John surgery. Pagan has been one of baseball's worst relievers for multiple seasons, and the team continued to use him in high-leverage situations. Minnesota's front office received praise following July's trade deadline because it seemed like the team was "going for it." Neither of the other AL Central teams made significant moves, and the Twins acquired Tyler Mahle, Jorge Lopez, and Michael Fulmer. Mahle has struggled with a shoulder injury since being acquired, and Lopez hasn't lived up to his All-Star performance from the first half. Mahle's acquisition might be the most frustrating as he added his name to a growing list of injured pitchers the Twins acquired via trade. In the end, the front office was wrong about the organization's young pitchers being ready to contribute. Falvey and Levine didn't address the bullpen in the offseason, which haunted the team. It cost the team multiple prospects at the trade deadline after the club had already been treading water for most of June and July. Now, the front office is facing a critical offseason as this current group's winning window is closing. Culprit 2: Rocco Baldelli Minnesota's front office gave Baldelli a vote of confidence over the weekend when they said he is part of the team's long-term plans. Fans may still blame the manager for the team's poor performance for multiple months. Obviously, he has been dealing with one of baseball's most injured rosters, but the team doesn't seem to have much fight left in them. Last season, the team was out of the race for much of the season, but the club played well in September as younger players got an opportunity. This year's team played its worst baseball in September. Sometimes it's easy to forget that preseason models projected this team to finish around .500. Pitching staff usage is one of the most significant areas where fans blame a manager. Many will point fingers at Baldelli for his bullpen usage or for pulling his starters too early. However, it is also essential to consider that the team lost its pitching coach in the middle of the season. Minnesota's bullpen was terrible, and there is only so much Baldelli can do with the players on the roster. Also, Twins starters were rarely allowed to face a line-up for the third time, a philosophy many organizations have adopted in recent years. Baldelli deserves some blame, but even baseball's best manager wouldn't have won with Minnesota this season. Culprit 3: Injuries It's easy for anyone looking at the Twins' 2022 season to blame injuries for the team's poor performance. No American League team has put more players on the IL than the Twins this season. At one point, Minnesota had nearly a full roster of players on the IL, and it was a team that could be reasonably competitive in the AL Central. The Reds are the only club with more days lost to injury than the Twins, but anyone following the team knows that number doesn't tell the whole story. Minnesota allowed many players to stay off the IL even when injuries hampered their performance. Bryon Buxton talked his way out of multiple IL stints, and there were stretches where he struggled on the field. Jorge Polanco tried to play through an injury, Tyler Mahle made two starts at less than 100%, and Max Kepler played through a broken toe. Few organizations have the depth to withstand the number of injuries the Twins suffered in 2022. Reflecting on a season that started with renewed expectations can be challenging. However, there is plenty of blame to go around as the season winds to a close. Who deserves the most blame for the Twins' failures in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  16. The Twins are finishing a terrible September that saw the team go from contender to pretender in a few weeks. There are plenty of reasons for fans to be frustrated, but the season's conclusion offers time to reflect on the 2022 campaign. Here are the people most responsible for the Twins' downfall this season. Culprit 1: The Front Office The front office will take the brunt of the blame for any team that falls short of its ultimate goal. Last off-season was unique because of the lockout, and Minnesota took a unique approach to construct the roster. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine thought the pitching pipeline was ready to contribute in 2022, so the team didn't need to acquire any of the best free agent pitchers. This plan failed as the team's farm system took a step back, and the pitching pipeline has yet to arrive. It's also easy to blame the front office for some of the prominent players the team acquired during the 2022 season. Minnesota traded Taylor Rogers shortly before Opening Day for Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan. The timing of the trade was terrible, even if Rogers ended up having a poor season. Paddack was terrific for four games before needing Tommy John surgery. Pagan has been one of baseball's worst relievers for multiple seasons, and the team continued to use him in high-leverage situations. Minnesota's front office received praise following July's trade deadline because it seemed like the team was "going for it." Neither of the other AL Central teams made significant moves, and the Twins acquired Tyler Mahle, Jorge Lopez, and Michael Fulmer. Mahle has struggled with a shoulder injury since being acquired, and Lopez hasn't lived up to his All-Star performance from the first half. Mahle's acquisition might be the most frustrating as he added his name to a growing list of injured pitchers the Twins acquired via trade. In the end, the front office was wrong about the organization's young pitchers being ready to contribute. Falvey and Levine didn't address the bullpen in the offseason, which haunted the team. It cost the team multiple prospects at the trade deadline after the club had already been treading water for most of June and July. Now, the front office is facing a critical offseason as this current group's winning window is closing. Culprit 2: Rocco Baldelli Minnesota's front office gave Baldelli a vote of confidence over the weekend when they said he is part of the team's long-term plans. Fans may still blame the manager for the team's poor performance for multiple months. Obviously, he has been dealing with one of baseball's most injured rosters, but the team doesn't seem to have much fight left in them. Last season, the team was out of the race for much of the season, but the club played well in September as younger players got an opportunity. This year's team played its worst baseball in September. Sometimes it's easy to forget that preseason models projected this team to finish around .500. Pitching staff usage is one of the most significant areas where fans blame a manager. Many will point fingers at Baldelli for his bullpen usage or for pulling his starters too early. However, it is also essential to consider that the team lost its pitching coach in the middle of the season. Minnesota's bullpen was terrible, and there is only so much Baldelli can do with the players on the roster. Also, Twins starters were rarely allowed to face a line-up for the third time, a philosophy many organizations have adopted in recent years. Baldelli deserves some blame, but even baseball's best manager wouldn't have won with Minnesota this season. Culprit 3: Injuries It's easy for anyone looking at the Twins' 2022 season to blame injuries for the team's poor performance. No American League team has put more players on the IL than the Twins this season. At one point, Minnesota had nearly a full roster of players on the IL, and it was a team that could be reasonably competitive in the AL Central. The Reds are the only club with more days lost to injury than the Twins, but anyone following the team knows that number doesn't tell the whole story. Minnesota allowed many players to stay off the IL even when injuries hampered their performance. Bryon Buxton talked his way out of multiple IL stints, and there were stretches where he struggled on the field. Jorge Polanco tried to play through an injury, Tyler Mahle made two starts at less than 100%, and Max Kepler played through a broken toe. Few organizations have the depth to withstand the number of injuries the Twins suffered in 2022. Reflecting on a season that started with renewed expectations can be challenging. However, there is plenty of blame to go around as the season winds to a close. Who deserves the most blame for the Twins' failures in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  17. Following a tilt against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 30, the Minnesota Twins announced first baseman Miguel Sano had a torn meniscus and would undergo knee surgery. He returned following the maximum rehab assignment and now is again back on the injured list after just three games. Is this the end of the line? Although Miguel Sano spent the maximum 20 days on the injured list, he played in just 12 games. The Twins curiously had part of his rehab assignment take place during the All-Star Break which ate up time that Sano could’ve gotten in at bats. Regardless, he performed extremely well on the farm, slashing .333/.422/.795 split across a few Complex League games and Triple-A. Relegated to the back-end of Minnesota’s lineup, Sano got in just six at-bats before returning to the injured list. Drawing two starts but playing just one complete game, it’s clear Rocco Baldelli sees the slugger as little more than a revolving piece at this point. Sano was hitless in his return to action and posted four strikeouts without generating a walk. There’s no denying that the front office took as much time as they could to look at options before activating Sano. It appeared a possible DFA was on the table, and that would’ve left the Twins on the hook for the remaining $7 million or so on his deal. In a perfect world, they’d find a trade partner to offload his remaining commitment, but there’s just little reason for anyone to pay for Minnesota’s anchor of an expense. So now it remains to be seen what an eventual timeline for a return to play looks like, but it’s hard not to imagine this being the end of the road. We’re into August and the 26-man roster needs to be best positioned for a Postseason run. Gilberto Celestino was optioned to make room for Sano initially, but it’s hard to argue he’s not of more value as a fourth outfielder. Even though Alex Kirilloff is hurt and that takes away an option at first base, the Twins have developed other depth there in the form of Jose Miranda and Luis Arraez. If the timeline is short, and it probably won’t be considering the previous handling of the same injury for Sano, a decision would need to be made as to how he factors back in. Another rehab stint could happen, but that would just be delaying the inevitable. If a return can happen in something like 10 days, Sano could find himself as an option given the health of the current roster. Even then, however, that DFA from before could again rear its head. Maybe Minnesota would rather not end this era of such a highly prized prospect on a whimper, but it didn’t seem to deter them before. Across 694 games with the Twins during his eight-year career in the big leagues, Sano has blasted 162 home runs. There’s been highs and lows, but I think it’s probably safe to assume this is where it ends. Should he not play another game in a Minnesota uniform, what would register as some of your favorite memories for the Dominican product that sparked an entire documentary and put the Twins farm system on the map? View full article
  18. The Minnesota Twins are trending towards a finish to the 2022 Major League Baseball season that has them looking at something near a .500 record. It was hardly how this had to go, but not far off from where projections initially suggested. If the organization is going to avoid another shakeup, then 2023 is do or die. Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the Minnesota Twins front office six seasons ago. 2023 will be year seven. In that timeframe the club has been to the postseason three times while winning two AL Central division titles. There’s certainly some success there, but ultimately it comes with an 0-6 record in the postseason, which has accounted for one-third of the 0-18 futility during October. There’s only a partial pass for the Twins to be had in 2022. The injuries were significant. 37 pitchers have been used for the first time in franchise history. Byron Buxton played injured from the jump, and time was missed by Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco. All those things are fair to suggest that plenty has been working against Rocco Baldelli and his bosses. It’s also time to realize there’s no more room for error or excuses. It’s safe to say that the front office, and the manager, aren’t looking for a pass. Both those in the clubhouse and those employing it are looking for a way to create a sustainable winner for the future. Falvey was brought in to develop a pitching pipeline similar to that of Cleveland. Levine is a smart general manager who has made some shrewd moves. Baldelli can run a clubhouse and has orchestrated difficult decisions. For all the good each party has done, the results now have to follow. In year seven the Twins won’t, and shouldn’t be given the benefit of doubt. 2022 saw a franchise-high payroll that included the signing of superstar shortstop Carlos Correa. He fell into Minnesota’s lap and is likely gone over the offseason. It will be on the front office to appropriately name his replacement, and find ways to use that money. Plenty of the roster is penciled but almost all of it carries some level of uncertainty as to availability or expectation. There’s no more room for acquisitions like Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer. Every offseason addition has to be made under the premise of creating the best roster possible, with nothing added just to fill the fringes. Management can’t dictate any more reclamation projects to play a substantial role, and when something doesn’t work similar to Emilio Pagan this season, the plug has to be pulled. It’s more than fair to understand those running the Twins are an incredibly smart group with very good ideas. Both rooted in analytical outcomes and results based decision making, there’s probably never been a better group across the board. Ultimately though, the only thing that matters is the wins and losses, and they haven’t had enough of them. Over the winter the front office and coaching staff will need to find ways to improve internally. That will mean staffers being replaced, coaches being changed out, and developmental areas being addressed. This should be the last go-round for the collective as a whole, and there’s no excuse to forgo bringing in fresh faces to help reach the ultimate goal. There’s plenty of argument to be made that 2022 was never seen as the year to go “all in.” The trade deadline was navigated with a focus on the now, but a vision to the future as well. Fast forwarding to Opening Day 2023 and the future becomes now, with no more room for missteps. It’s time to come through on the vision, or change it entirely. View full article
  19. Coming into the 2022 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins were largely projected as a runner-up to the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central Division. Now with the regular season coming to a close and it not playing out that way, how would you define the year as a whole? Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports After limping through the last impactful series of the season against the Cleveland Guardians over the weekend, Minnesota’s postseason hopes were all but cooked. Having led the division for a vast majority of the season, injuries mounted and ultimately ruined any potential to hang on. That’s not to say injuries were the defining factor in falling short, Minnesota contributed to that plenty on their own as well. Relatively early on in the year, it was apparent that the AL Central was going to fade behind the competition. Chicago’s ineptitude was injury-related as well, but they were also horribly managed by Tony La Russa, and consistently played bad baseball defensively. Cleveland has a great manager in Terry Francona, and as expected, their pitching kept them in it while young players got their feet wet. Minnesota’s place in all of that got shuffled early after a strong May, but it shouldn’t be lost that no one seemed to want to win this division down the stretch. Therein lies the definition of the 2022 Minnesota Twins season: A failure to capitalize. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine didn’t throw all of Jim Pohlad’s resources at the 2022 season to suggest it was World Series or bust. Nothing about a bullpen addition of only Joe Smith said, “We’re all in.” However, what was done should’ve been enough and at every juncture, the Twins came up short. When the trade deadline came around and there was an opportunity to improve a winning ball club, the front office added a top-level starter in Tyler Mahle. They addressed the bullpen by bringing in Michael Fulmer and Jorge Lopez. Then, as it had all season long, it quickly was wiped out on and off the field. Every team has injuries, but very few had as many and those as impactful as the Twins. Byron Buxton played hurt from the jump. Pitching was constantly in flux. Alex Kirilloff never got better. They won through them, for a time. When Minnesota would create their own fortunes, generating base runners and putting guys in scoring position, they consistently failed to capitalize. Baserunning was bad, defense equally so. All season long the Twins found themselves with the opportunity to control their own destiny, run away and hide with the division, and create noise. Instead, they responded with more trips to the injured list, poor situational hitting, and an overall lack of execution. If we were to reflect on the season as a whole, taking a bit of a step back from the emotions down the stretch, maybe we should've seen this coming. After all, a .500 record was largely what was projected from the get-go. For a good portion of the season, all this team amounted to a .500 ballclub. Ultimately though, after creating their own good fortune, a wilting happened and nothing was done to substantiate it. There’s certainly a handful of different ways to get where Minnesota finished, but as The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman put it, the Twins took the least enjoyable way to get there. Good teams capitalize on their opportunities, and although this one was masked as a good team for a while, they simply never capitalized on what was in front of them. View full article
  20. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the Minnesota Twins front office six seasons ago. 2023 will be year seven. In that timeframe the club has been to the postseason three times while winning two AL Central division titles. There’s certainly some success there, but ultimately it comes with an 0-6 record in the postseason, which has accounted for one-third of the 0-18 futility during October. There’s only a partial pass for the Twins to be had in 2022. The injuries were significant. 37 pitchers have been used for the first time in franchise history. Byron Buxton played injured from the jump, and time was missed by Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco. All those things are fair to suggest that plenty has been working against Rocco Baldelli and his bosses. It’s also time to realize there’s no more room for error or excuses. It’s safe to say that the front office, and the manager, aren’t looking for a pass. Both those in the clubhouse and those employing it are looking for a way to create a sustainable winner for the future. Falvey was brought in to develop a pitching pipeline similar to that of Cleveland. Levine is a smart general manager who has made some shrewd moves. Baldelli can run a clubhouse and has orchestrated difficult decisions. For all the good each party has done, the results now have to follow. In year seven the Twins won’t, and shouldn’t be given the benefit of doubt. 2022 saw a franchise-high payroll that included the signing of superstar shortstop Carlos Correa. He fell into Minnesota’s lap and is likely gone over the offseason. It will be on the front office to appropriately name his replacement, and find ways to use that money. Plenty of the roster is penciled but almost all of it carries some level of uncertainty as to availability or expectation. There’s no more room for acquisitions like Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer. Every offseason addition has to be made under the premise of creating the best roster possible, with nothing added just to fill the fringes. Management can’t dictate any more reclamation projects to play a substantial role, and when something doesn’t work similar to Emilio Pagan this season, the plug has to be pulled. It’s more than fair to understand those running the Twins are an incredibly smart group with very good ideas. Both rooted in analytical outcomes and results based decision making, there’s probably never been a better group across the board. Ultimately though, the only thing that matters is the wins and losses, and they haven’t had enough of them. Over the winter the front office and coaching staff will need to find ways to improve internally. That will mean staffers being replaced, coaches being changed out, and developmental areas being addressed. This should be the last go-round for the collective as a whole, and there’s no excuse to forgo bringing in fresh faces to help reach the ultimate goal. There’s plenty of argument to be made that 2022 was never seen as the year to go “all in.” The trade deadline was navigated with a focus on the now, but a vision to the future as well. Fast forwarding to Opening Day 2023 and the future becomes now, with no more room for missteps. It’s time to come through on the vision, or change it entirely.
  21. After limping through the last impactful series of the season against the Cleveland Guardians over the weekend, Minnesota’s postseason hopes were all but cooked. Having led the division for a vast majority of the season, injuries mounted and ultimately ruined any potential to hang on. That’s not to say injuries were the defining factor in falling short, Minnesota contributed to that plenty on their own as well. Relatively early on in the year, it was apparent that the AL Central was going to fade behind the competition. Chicago’s ineptitude was injury-related as well, but they were also horribly managed by Tony La Russa, and consistently played bad baseball defensively. Cleveland has a great manager in Terry Francona, and as expected, their pitching kept them in it while young players got their feet wet. Minnesota’s place in all of that got shuffled early after a strong May, but it shouldn’t be lost that no one seemed to want to win this division down the stretch. Therein lies the definition of the 2022 Minnesota Twins season: A failure to capitalize. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine didn’t throw all of Jim Pohlad’s resources at the 2022 season to suggest it was World Series or bust. Nothing about a bullpen addition of only Joe Smith said, “We’re all in.” However, what was done should’ve been enough and at every juncture, the Twins came up short. When the trade deadline came around and there was an opportunity to improve a winning ball club, the front office added a top-level starter in Tyler Mahle. They addressed the bullpen by bringing in Michael Fulmer and Jorge Lopez. Then, as it had all season long, it quickly was wiped out on and off the field. Every team has injuries, but very few had as many and those as impactful as the Twins. Byron Buxton played hurt from the jump. Pitching was constantly in flux. Alex Kirilloff never got better. They won through them, for a time. When Minnesota would create their own fortunes, generating base runners and putting guys in scoring position, they consistently failed to capitalize. Baserunning was bad, defense equally so. All season long the Twins found themselves with the opportunity to control their own destiny, run away and hide with the division, and create noise. Instead, they responded with more trips to the injured list, poor situational hitting, and an overall lack of execution. If we were to reflect on the season as a whole, taking a bit of a step back from the emotions down the stretch, maybe we should've seen this coming. After all, a .500 record was largely what was projected from the get-go. For a good portion of the season, all this team amounted to a .500 ballclub. Ultimately though, after creating their own good fortune, a wilting happened and nothing was done to substantiate it. There’s certainly a handful of different ways to get where Minnesota finished, but as The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman put it, the Twins took the least enjoyable way to get there. Good teams capitalize on their opportunities, and although this one was masked as a good team for a while, they simply never capitalized on what was in front of them.
  22. The Minnesota Twins traded for Jorge Lopez at the 2022 Major League Baseball trade deadline. Acquiring the All-Star closer from the Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota looked to shore up their leaky bullpen. It hasn’t gone well. Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports Derek Falvey and Thad Levine orchestrated a near-flawless trade deadline for the Minnesota Twins. They grabbed a good starter in Tyler Mahle, and netted a bullpen piece in Michael Fulmer. Acquiring an All-Star closer in Jorge Lopez was a great get as well, but it’s hardly gone as planned. Lopez came to the Twins with a 1.68 ERA across 48 1/3 innings. He racked up 19 saves for Baltimore and virtually all of his work came in high leverage. He had a strong 10.1 K/9 and a WHIP below 1.000. If regression was going to hit, it shouldn’t have been expected to be brutal given a solid 3.00 FIP. Fast forward to where we are now and Lopez has made 15 appearances for the Twins totaling 14 1/3 innings. He owns a 4.40 ERA and an awful 11/9 K/BB. He hasn’t allowed a home run but is giving up more than ten hits per nine innings and every appearance is a tightrope act to get through. Before coming to Minnesota, Lopez was allowing just a 19.8% hard-hit rate and was getting whiffs 11.4% of the time. His fastball was being used 55% of the time and clocked in just shy of 98 mph on average. Lopez used the curveball 20% of the time and often twirled it as his out pitch. Since joining the Twins, he has continued using his fastball and the life remains the same. Instead of predominantly going to the curveball as a secondary offering, however, he’s dropped the usage and now is going with his changeup 20% of the time. The hard-hit rate is the same, but the whiff rate has dropped below 9%. It’s not at all abnormal for a pitcher to experience tweaks from a new organization, but it could be that the Twins have tinkered too much here. Although the sample size is small, and Lopez will remain in the organization for the next two seasons, swapping out secondary offerings has not produced positive results to this point. Lopez was hit around plenty as a starter, and reducing his repertoire has been integral in his advancement as a reliever. He’ll need to advocate for himself though if there’s a better belief in a specific secondary offering. When with Baltimore, it seemed the curveball paired just fine with his heat, and while it’s still there, the changeup replacing its usage may not be the best step forward. You can bet both Lopez and the Twins coaching staff will look to get him right the rest of the way, and the hope would be he finds another gear in 2023 as he returns to early-season form. That said, it may be time to reverse course on the current plan, at least through the duration of the season, to see if better results can be achieved. I don’t think Lopez has reverted to being a bad pitcher as he was in his starting days, but finding the right offerings to unlock his best self has to be a focus from here on out. Would you say that Lopez has been a disappointment in his short time with the Twins? View full article
  23. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine orchestrated a near-flawless trade deadline for the Minnesota Twins. They grabbed a good starter in Tyler Mahle, and netted a bullpen piece in Michael Fulmer. Acquiring an All-Star closer in Jorge Lopez was a great get as well, but it’s hardly gone as planned. Lopez came to the Twins with a 1.68 ERA across 48 1/3 innings. He racked up 19 saves for Baltimore and virtually all of his work came in high leverage. He had a strong 10.1 K/9 and a WHIP below 1.000. If regression was going to hit, it shouldn’t have been expected to be brutal given a solid 3.00 FIP. Fast forward to where we are now and Lopez has made 15 appearances for the Twins totaling 14 1/3 innings. He owns a 4.40 ERA and an awful 11/9 K/BB. He hasn’t allowed a home run but is giving up more than ten hits per nine innings and every appearance is a tightrope act to get through. Before coming to Minnesota, Lopez was allowing just a 19.8% hard-hit rate and was getting whiffs 11.4% of the time. His fastball was being used 55% of the time and clocked in just shy of 98 mph on average. Lopez used the curveball 20% of the time and often twirled it as his out pitch. Since joining the Twins, he has continued using his fastball and the life remains the same. Instead of predominantly going to the curveball as a secondary offering, however, he’s dropped the usage and now is going with his changeup 20% of the time. The hard-hit rate is the same, but the whiff rate has dropped below 9%. It’s not at all abnormal for a pitcher to experience tweaks from a new organization, but it could be that the Twins have tinkered too much here. Although the sample size is small, and Lopez will remain in the organization for the next two seasons, swapping out secondary offerings has not produced positive results to this point. Lopez was hit around plenty as a starter, and reducing his repertoire has been integral in his advancement as a reliever. He’ll need to advocate for himself though if there’s a better belief in a specific secondary offering. When with Baltimore, it seemed the curveball paired just fine with his heat, and while it’s still there, the changeup replacing its usage may not be the best step forward. You can bet both Lopez and the Twins coaching staff will look to get him right the rest of the way, and the hope would be he finds another gear in 2023 as he returns to early-season form. That said, it may be time to reverse course on the current plan, at least through the duration of the season, to see if better results can be achieved. I don’t think Lopez has reverted to being a bad pitcher as he was in his starting days, but finding the right offerings to unlock his best self has to be a focus from here on out. Would you say that Lopez has been a disappointment in his short time with the Twins?
  24. Twins fans have been left frustrated at the end of the last two seasons, but for entirely different reasons. Here are four reasons why the 2022 season is more frustrating than last year. Image courtesy of David Banks-USA TODAY Sports Nearly every baseball fan base will suffer frustration in any given season. Only one team walks away with the World Series title, and even the best clubs go through slides in a 162-game season. Minnesota still has a small window to reach the postseason, but it will take a tremendous turnaround from a very injured roster. So, what makes this season more frustrating than last year? Early-Season Success Most national projections had the Twins as the second-best team in the AL Central going into the season. Minnesota's early success masked the fact that the club was likely heading for a .500 record. Obviously, projections can be taken with a grain of salt, but the Twins' early season success changed the team's outlook. The AL Central was a mess, and it looked like the Twins had an opportunity to capitalize on one of baseball's worst divisions. During the 2021 season, the team was out of playoff contention by the end of the season's first month. While this was frustrating, it was easier for fans not to get wrapped up in the team's poor play for the remainder of the year. Trade Deadline Success and Failure As July ended, the Twins were playing poorly, but they still sat at the top of the AL Central. Even so, the front office went into the trade deadline looking to add pieces to the roster. For the first time under this regime, it felt like the front office was trying to set the Twins up for second-half success and a possible playoff run. On paper, the players acquired at the deadline looked like a success, but it has turned into a failure. Tyler Mahle is injured, and likely won't pitch again in 2022. Jorge Lopez hasn't been a dominant reliever with the Twins while being pushed out of the closer role. Ideally, both players would lead Minnesota to a division title, which adds to fans' frustration when they aren't meeting expectations. Mounting Injuries Last season, it didn't matter if there were injured players because the Twins were out of contention. Every team deals with injuries, but they have been catastrophic for the 2022 Twins. Injuries have become the theme for Minnesota as the club has put more players on the injured list than any other American League team. This has to be frustrating for the coaching staff because it feels like the team is playing without a full deck. It becomes easy to point fingers when a club isn't performing as expected, but the Twins can field a full roster of currently injured players. Not Meeting Injury Timelines Another frustration related to injuries is how frequently the club has been wrong about timelines for players to return. It has been standard practice for teams to provide an injury timeline when a player goes on the IL. Unfortunately, the club has placed numerous players on the IL, but they haven't seemed to be able to get return timelines correct for multiple seasons. Traditionally, Minnesota has been conservative with their provided injury timelines, so one would hope the players could meet those timelines. For fans, this can add to frustration levels because there is an expectation that the team will improve when players get back on the field. Ultimately, the 2022 season has been frustrating for everything involved with the Twins. Fans have every right to be frustrated as the club has squandered an opportunity for a third division title in the last four seasons. Do you think the 2022 season has been more frustrating than 2021? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  25. Coming into the season, off of a long lockout, the Minnesota Twins were not seen as favorites. Even after signing a superstar in Carlos Correa, the questions about pitching remained. Yes, Sonny Gray was acquired, but Kenta Maeda was expected to be out most of the year, and a young duo in Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober were expected to carry the load. Bullpen questions remained, and only Joe Smith was brought in to answer them. After a mediocre first month, Rocco Baldelli had his guys clicking through May. Maybe the one period of relative health throughout the whole season, Minnesota’s manager orchestrated an 18-12 record. It’s been .500 or worse each month since then, and despite the initial expectations, it’s hard to suggest they weren’t raised after Derek Falvey and Thad Levine provided reinforcements at the deadline. Whether Minnesota claws back and makes the postseason or not, the manager has plenty to sort through this season. Baldelli has now managed more than 500 games for Minnesota and has accumulated a winning record. His win percentage is .533, well above Ron Gardenhire’s .484, Paul Molitor’s .471, or Tom Kelly’s .478. The Twins have won the division twice during his four-year tenure, and they should be seen as a candidate to do so again in 2023. It’s not fair to chalk 2022 up as a wash entirely because of injuries. Baldelli has consistently operated with half of his deck, but there’s been ample opportunity to provide better results. It’s probably worth wondering how things would have gone if Minnesota had seen even a slightly better outcome in terms of the guys they’ve lost to injury. It’s also not fair to suggest Baldelli has failed given the hurdles he’s had to clear. Ultimately a front office wants a manager to be their representative of process in the clubhouse. I think it’s safe to say that Baldelli is in lockstep with his bosses. It’s also more than evident that Baldelli gets along with his players, and has their respect as well. Both of those realities are integral when deciding to keep someone in the position. Unlike Molitor before him, it seems that Baldelli is able to effectively communicate with the guys on the field, and is able to get buy-in when wanting players to try new things. If the Twins were to change course, it probably would have a ripple effect throughout the clubhouse, and that sort of shakeup may not be beneficial given the youth expected to produce in 2023 and beyond. Consistency among leadership can be viewed as a positive, and Baldelli has already connected with so many that will take on larger roles in the years ahead. Should Minnesota make a move, and I think there's an opportunity for them to do so, it will come throughout the coaching staff as a whole. Maybe there's opportunity to shore up baserunning or generate a secondary voice in the clubhouse. Pete Maki has been fine in Wes Johnson’s position, but a more established pitching coach makes sense as well. At times throughout this season, it’s seemed the clubhouse needed a more vocal leader to beg for accountability or change. While that’s not Baldelli’s demeanor and isn’t really that of Correa or Byron Buxton, it could be that of a performance coach or someone tabbed with the background solely to rise to the occasion. We’ll see changes this offseason, there will be more than a few on the coaching staff, but I think it’s safe to say the front office should and will retain their manager.
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