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  1. “The crowd was crazy,” said 2019 starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. “I played in Tampa Bay, so this was pretty much the polar opposite of that. Not that it bothered me. What bothered me was Herbie. You have to tip your hat to him.” Hrbek had plenty of opportunities to tip his own hat to the 55,426 full-throated fans, most notably after a third inning grand slam put the 1991 Twins up 8-0. “Right place, right time,” laughed Hrbek. Getting Hrbek into the right place at the right time involved juggling the lineup. With Dan Gladden out tonight with an undisclosed leg injury, Kelly shifted some players around – and raised some eyebrows. Kent Hrbek batting second instead of his traditional cleanup spot? What is this? 2020? “We might know a few things in 1991,” smirked Kelly. Like maybe he wanted his best left-handed hitter getting to face the right-handed Odorizzi a few extra times? “Maybe that,” deadpanned Kelly. “Herbie can swing the bat. He can hit anywhere in the lineup.” Last night it could not have worked better. By the time the third inning had ended, Hrbek had three hits, two home runs, six RBI and had scored three runs. He had the first hit of the game - a single - in the first inning and came around to score on a Chili Davis single. In the second inning he blasted a line drive over the left field wall that also brought home Mike Pagliarulo and stretched the lead to 4-0. The big blow came in the third inning. Odorizzi, who struggled with his control the entire night, started the inning by walking Brian Harper and Gene Larkin. After striking out Greg Gagne, he also walked Pagliarulo, loading the bases. That ended his night. Still, the 2019 Twins nearly escaped. Ryne Harper was brought in to face the top of the order and struck out Chuck Knoblauch on three pitches. That brought up the second spot in the order….and Hrbek? “No, I don’t remember ever hitting second, or at least not starting a game there,” Hrbek said when asked about his spot in the order. “Maybe as a pinch-hitter?” But he was there last night, with the bases loaded, two outs, and a chance to turn this first game of the series into a laugher. Turn he did, on a 1-1 pitch, lifting a majestic fly ball over the baggy in right-center field. The party in the Metrodome stands began. It was a little different in the 2019 Twins dugout. “I have never heard sound like that in my life,” said Odorizzi. While he said the crowd noise didn’t bother him, Odorizzi never did get on track. He didn’t give up the backbreaking second home run, but he kept setting the table with walks while falling behind in the count. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings and walked six. He also gave up five hits while striking out two. The first seven runs of the game were charged to him. The early fireworks paved the way for, and overshadowed, a gem by 1991 starting pitcher Keven Tapani. Tapani nearly pitched a complete-game shutout. After striking out the first two batters in the ninth inning, a ground ball to second base should’ve ended his night. But Hrbek dropped a throw from Knoblauch, allowing Jorge Polanco to reach. Luis Arraez followed that with a double, bringing Tapani to 101 pitches and ending his night before the final out. "We'll need to turn to him again soon," said Kelly. David West came in and got the final out, but only after giving up a three-run bomb to Nelson Cruz that provided a little balm to an otherwise shell-shocked 2019 Twins squad. They’ll attempt to rebound tomorrow night with their ace Jose Berrios on the mound. But the 1991 Twins will have their own ace, Jack Morris, attempt to put them up 2-0 before they travel across downtown to Target Field for Game 3. You can find the boxscore and pitch-by-pitch results for Game One attached below. If you would like to learn more about Out of the Park 21, please click on this link. If you would like to try it, you can also download it for 10% off the regular price using the code TWINSDAILY. MLB Box Score, Minnesota 2019 Twins at Minnesota 1991 Twins Game 1.pdf Minnesota 2019 Twins @ Minnesota 1991 Twins Game Log Game 1.pdf
  2. This week, with the help of Out of the Park, we’ve simulated the 91/19 World Series, a seven-game battle between the 1991 Twins and the 2019 Twins. Kent Hrbek, placed in an unfamiliar spot, drove home seven in a 16-3 rout of the 2019 Bomba Squad, leading the 1991 Twins to a 1-0 series lead in the 91/19 World Series. A surprising lineup decision paid off early, turning the Metrodome into a nearly four-hour long party.“The crowd was crazy,” said 2019 starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. “I played in Tampa Bay, so this was pretty much the polar opposite of that. Not that it bothered me. What bothered me was Herbie. You have to tip your hat to him.” Hrbek had plenty of opportunities to tip his own hat to the 55,426 full-throated fans, most notably after a third inning grand slam put the 1991 Twins up 8-0. “Right place, right time,” laughed Hrbek. Getting Hrbek into the right place at the right time involved juggling the lineup. With Dan Gladden out tonight with an undisclosed leg injury, Kelly shifted some players around – and raised some eyebrows. Kent Hrbek batting second instead of his traditional cleanup spot? What is this? 2020? “We might know a few things in 1991,” smirked Kelly. Like maybe he wanted his best left-handed hitter getting to face the right-handed Odorizzi a few extra times? “Maybe that,” deadpanned Kelly. “Herbie can swing the bat. He can hit anywhere in the lineup.” Last night it could not have worked better. By the time the third inning had ended, Hrbek had three hits, two home runs, six RBI and had scored three runs. He had the first hit of the game - a single - in the first inning and came around to score on a Chili Davis single. In the second inning he blasted a line drive over the left field wall that also brought home Mike Pagliarulo and stretched the lead to 4-0. The big blow came in the third inning. Odorizzi, who struggled with his control the entire night, started the inning by walking Brian Harper and Gene Larkin. After striking out Greg Gagne, he also walked Pagliarulo, loading the bases. That ended his night. Still, the 2019 Twins nearly escaped. Ryne Harper was brought in to face the top of the order and struck out Chuck Knoblauch on three pitches. That brought up the second spot in the order….and Hrbek? “No, I don’t remember ever hitting second, or at least not starting a game there,” Hrbek said when asked about his spot in the order. “Maybe as a pinch-hitter?” But he was there last night, with the bases loaded, two outs, and a chance to turn this first game of the series into a laugher. Turn he did, on a 1-1 pitch, lifting a majestic fly ball over the baggy in right-center field. The party in the Metrodome stands began. It was a little different in the 2019 Twins dugout. “I have never heard sound like that in my life,” said Odorizzi. While he said the crowd noise didn’t bother him, Odorizzi never did get on track. He didn’t give up the backbreaking second home run, but he kept setting the table with walks while falling behind in the count. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings and walked six. He also gave up five hits while striking out two. The first seven runs of the game were charged to him. The early fireworks paved the way for, and overshadowed, a gem by 1991 starting pitcher Keven Tapani. Tapani nearly pitched a complete-game shutout. After striking out the first two batters in the ninth inning, a ground ball to second base should’ve ended his night. But Hrbek dropped a throw from Knoblauch, allowing Jorge Polanco to reach. Luis Arraez followed that with a double, bringing Tapani to 101 pitches and ending his night before the final out. "We'll need to turn to him again soon," said Kelly. David West came in and got the final out, but only after giving up a three-run bomb to Nelson Cruz that provided a little balm to an otherwise shell-shocked 2019 Twins squad. They’ll attempt to rebound tomorrow night with their ace Jose Berrios on the mound. But the 1991 Twins will have their own ace, Jack Morris, attempt to put them up 2-0 before they travel across downtown to Target Field for Game 3. You can find the boxscore and pitch-by-pitch results for Game One attached below. If you would like to learn more about Out of the Park 21, please click on this link. If you would like to try it, you can also download it for 10% off the regular price using the code TWINSDAILY. Download attachment: MLB Box Score, Minnesota 2019 Twins at Minnesota 1991 Twins Game 1.pdf Download attachment: Minnesota 2019 Twins @ Minnesota 1991 Twins Game Log Game 1.pdf Click here to view the article
  3. Over the past few seasons there have been more than a few guys signed that have drawn a groan from Twins Territory. What the initial analysis doesn’t take into account is that the Twins have generated a juggernaut in terms of infrastructure, and it's paid dividends in recent seasons. This time around, it’s Matt Wisler looking to generate a return. Early on this winter the front office tabbed former Top 100 prospect Matt Wisler as being worthy of a major league deal. He combined to throw just over 50 innings in the majors last season, and the results generated a 5.61 ERA. Giving up nearly two homers per nine innings, the counting stats were hardly enticing. But then you take a look under the hood. Wisler posted a 4.23 FIP and an even better 3.83 xFIP. His 14.9% whiff rate and 37% chase rate were career highs, and his 11.0 K/9 wasn’t far off from doubling his career averages. The longball has been an issue for a while, but it’s certainly plausible to see what the Twins like. A season ago Wisler had his slider averaging nearly 84 mph (you guessed it, a career high) while flipping it a whopping 70% of the time. He’s abandoned the sinker, went to a four-seam, and became a two-pitch pitcher. In targeting Sergio Romo again for 2020, as well as bringing in Jhoulys Chacin, it seems pitching coach Wes Johnson is looking to tinker with slider-dominant arms. Minnesota is not some sort of a magic cure for the average pitcher, but the infrastructure now in place has produced. Ryne Harper was a 30-year-old rookie when he put up a 3.81 ERA a year ago, and he may be on the outside looking in because of the overall strength shown by the current relief corps. Matt Magill turned sporadic Show time into two consistent years of big-league run. Although he fizzled down the stretch for the Twins, Magill is now in line to be the Seattle Mariners closer after a strong finish. Things don’t always work out the way you plan. Anibal Sanchez was jettisoned after Lance Lynn was signed, and he went on to have a career year with the Atlanta Braves in 2018. Nick Anderson was never given a shot internally and now is one of the best relievers in baseball. The process being in place does not guarantee a no-fault result. What is true though, is that Minnesota can now be seen as a destination for arms to thrive. Maybe Matt Wisler will be a slider-fastball pitcher that can’t keep the pill in the yard and the next step won’t be taken. In a bullpen that should be expected to be among the better units in baseball though, it’s worth finding out if he can’t be a dominant middle relief option and venture down that path under the tutelage of Johnson. We’ve reached the point that assessment of acquisitions shouldn’t be based around what a player was before coming to the Twins organization, but instead what they will become after getting here. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  4. Aaron and John talk about the pros, cons, and side effects of Brusdar Graterol shifting to the bullpen, trading Ryne Harper to make room for Josh Donaldson, Marwin Gonzalez's link to the 2017 Astros' cheating, feeling bad for Derek Shelton, and the value of being right in theory only. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click this link. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email Click here to view the article
  5. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Ep_464_The_Brusdar_Graterol_Question.mp3 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  6. Box Score Berríos: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 70.9% strikes (66 of 93 pitches) Bullpen: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Sanó, 2 (25), Cave, 2 (4) Multi-Hit Games: Sanó (2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Cave (2-for-2, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB), Castro (2-for-4) Top 3 WPA: Cave .134, Sanó .106, May .042 Bottom 3 WPA: Berríos -.357, Kepler -.122, Romo -.101 The Twins missed out on a great opportunity. They were facing the league’s least productive offense and somehow they were out-hit 17 to 9. The Tigers are also the seventh worst pitching staff in baseball in total strikeouts, but they managed to strike out Twins batters 14 times, including 11 for the starter Drew VerHagen. With the loss and the Cleveland win, the Twins lead atop of the Central now shrinks to two and a half games. All Eyes on La Makina Everybody is still looking for answers as to why José Berríos (La Makina, "The Machine") is having such an abysmal month of August. Earlier this week Ted Schwerzler put together a list of some weird numbers from his season, to help us investigate. The fact is, the version of Berríos we have witnessed in his previous three starts of the month just wasn't the real him. Tonight, he had the chance to shake off the worst month of his career since his rookie season. However, things didn’t start as smoothly as one would think they would against the team with the worst record in baseball. In the first two innings of action, he gave up three hits and walked former Twin Niko Goodrum. He managed to strand all runners, though. In support of their ace, the bats started working early. They manufactured the game’s first run in the first, after a single by Jorge Polanco (Chulo, “Pretty Boy”), followed by a Nelson Cruz (Boomstick) double, which was absolutely crushed: the ball left his bat at 115.1 mph--only his fifth hardest-hit ball of the season. On the second pitch of the home half of the second, the ball was smoked again. Miguel Sanó (Boquetón, “Large Mouth”) clobbered a hanging slider from VerHagen, good for 109.9 mph. That was his 24th of the season. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1165063800560578560 Stay hot, Caveman! While Berríos stabilized a bit, allowing only a couple of runners to reach in the following three innings, he got some more run support. Since being called up for the fourth time this year, to replace an injured Byron Buxton, Jake Cave (Caveman) is making the most of it. This month, he’s the only Twin not named Nelson Cruz to be hitting above .400. Before this game, he was averaging .405 since August 3, when he got called up. He crushed his third dinger of the year in the fifth, to make it 3-0 Twins. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1165076666244304897 Cave would also make his presence felt on defense later in the game, when he robbed Miguel Cabrera of an RBI-extra base hit in the eighth, with a beautiful leaping grab near the warning track. ‘August Berríos’ strikes again Five shutout innings, which weren’t brilliant, of course, and we all thought José was finally getting rid of the funk. We were wrong. Three straight hits to open the sixth put Detroit on the board. After Berríos gave up a one-out walk that loaded the bases, Ronny Rodriguez made him pay, hitting a grand slam to give the Tigers their first lead of the night, 5-3. With that home run, Berríos has now allowed 20 earned runs this August, which is already the second most he’s allowed in any month of his career. The only time he’s given up more than that, 21, was in (surprise, surprise) August 2016. It’s not time to jump to any conclusions, but if Wes Johnson and the coaching staff don’t figure out in the next few weeks what’s wrong with Berríos, this version of him is bound to be crushed in October. Bullpen can’t stop the bleeding either Detroit never actually stopped hitting and scoring. Tyler Duffey (The Doof) and Trevor May (IAMTREVORMAY) managed to keep the game within reach after taking over from Berríos in the sixth and the seventh. But the same thing didn’t happen in the final two innings. Sergio Romo (El Mechón, “The Frosted Tips” or “The Padlock”) and Ryne Harper (Harp) allowed three hits and two earned runs each. Harper’s outing was even more harmful to the Twins, because Miguel Sanó hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, making it a two-run game, 7-5. But Detroit responded immediately and made it a four-run game in the ninth. Just like Sanó, Cave also went on to record his first multi-HR game of the season, hitting a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth. With the four homers, the Twins now have 248 on the year, 20 short of the MLB record. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  7. Kicking off the Players Weekend, the Twins hosted the first of a three-game series against the team with the worst record and offense in baseball, while sending their ace, to the mound. But La Makina's August struggles persisted, allowing the Tigers to win the opener, 9-6.Box Score Berríos: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 70.9% strikes (66 of 93 pitches) Bullpen: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Sanó, 2 (25), Cave, 2 (4) Multi-Hit Games: Sanó (2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Cave (2-for-2, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB), Castro (2-for-4) Top 3 WPA: Cave .134, Sanó .106, May .042 Bottom 3 WPA: Berríos -.357, Kepler -.122, Romo -.101 The Twins missed out on a great opportunity. They were facing the league’s least productive offense and somehow they were out-hit 17 to 9. The Tigers are also the seventh worst pitching staff in baseball in total strikeouts, but they managed to strike out Twins batters 14 times, including 11 for the starter Drew VerHagen. With the loss and the Cleveland win, the Twins lead atop of the Central now shrinks to two and a half games. All Eyes on La Makina Everybody is still looking for answers as to why José Berríos (La Makina, "The Machine") is having such an abysmal month of August. Earlier this week Ted Schwerzler put together a list of some weird numbers from his season, to help us investigate. The fact is, the version of Berríos we have witnessed in his previous three starts of the month just wasn't the real him. Tonight, he had the chance to shake off the worst month of his career since his rookie season. However, things didn’t start as smoothly as one would think they would against the team with the worst record in baseball. In the first two innings of action, he gave up three hits and walked former Twin Niko Goodrum. He managed to strand all runners, though. In support of their ace, the bats started working early. They manufactured the game’s first run in the first, after a single by Jorge Polanco (Chulo, “Pretty Boy”), followed by a Nelson Cruz (Boomstick) double, which was absolutely crushed: the ball left his bat at 115.1 mph--only his fifth hardest-hit ball of the season. On the second pitch of the home half of the second, the ball was smoked again. Miguel Sanó (Boquetón, “Large Mouth”) clobbered a hanging slider from VerHagen, good for 109.9 mph. That was his 24th of the season. Stay hot, Caveman! While Berríos stabilized a bit, allowing only a couple of runners to reach in the following three innings, he got some more run support. Since being called up for the fourth time this year, to replace an injured Byron Buxton, Jake Cave (Caveman) is making the most of it. This month, he’s the only Twin not named Nelson Cruz to be hitting above .400. Before this game, he was averaging .405 since August 3, when he got called up. He crushed his third dinger of the year in the fifth, to make it 3-0 Twins. Cave would also make his presence felt on defense later in the game, when he robbed Miguel Cabrera of an RBI-extra base hit in the eighth, with a beautiful leaping grab near the warning track. ‘August Berríos’ strikes again Five shutout innings, which weren’t brilliant, of course, and we all thought José was finally getting rid of the funk. We were wrong. Three straight hits to open the sixth put Detroit on the board. After Berríos gave up a one-out walk that loaded the bases, Ronny Rodriguez made him pay, hitting a grand slam to give the Tigers their first lead of the night, 5-3. With that home run, Berríos has now allowed 20 earned runs this August, which is already the second most he’s allowed in any month of his career. The only time he’s given up more than that, 21, was in (surprise, surprise) August 2016. It’s not time to jump to any conclusions, but if Wes Johnson and the coaching staff don’t figure out in the next few weeks what’s wrong with Berríos, this version of him is bound to be crushed in October. Bullpen can’t stop the bleeding either Detroit never actually stopped hitting and scoring. Tyler Duffey (The Doof) and Trevor May (IAMTREVORMAY) managed to keep the game within reach after taking over from Berríos in the sixth and the seventh. But the same thing didn’t happen in the final two innings. Sergio Romo (El Mechón, “The Frosted Tips” or “The Padlock”) and Ryne Harper (Harp) allowed three hits and two earned runs each. Harper’s outing was even more harmful to the Twins, because Miguel Sanó hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, making it a two-run game, 7-5. But Detroit responded immediately and made it a four-run game in the ninth. Just like Sanó, Cave also went on to record his first multi-HR game of the season, hitting a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth. With the four homers, the Twins now have 248 on the year, 20 short of the MLB record. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days. Click here to view the article
  8. Coming into the season, I think it is fair to say that most Twins fans were underwhelmed at best with what the front office did to address the bullpen. With the trade deadline fast approaching fans are anxious for the team to upgrade a few relief arms. Assuming the Twins do add a few arms, is it possible that Derrek Falvey and Thad Levine have actually created a new efficiency in creating a bullpen?Aside from adding Blake Parker, who seemed like a rather marginal upgrade, the Twins really didn’t do much to address the bullpen during the offseason. Instead they extended Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler and made several key offensive additions). Rather than adding any big-named, high-priced relievers, the Twins have chosen to roll with minor league free agent signings and their own internal candidates. In some cases it worked remarkably well (as expected with Taylor Rogers and somewhat surprisingly with Ryne Harper), others have been serviceable but haven’t quite taken the step forward that we would have hoped (Trevor May), and some have been a disaster (Fernando Romero and Trevor Hildenberger). The Twins have relied upon the Rochester/Minneapolis shuttle and found some useful pieces, most recently in Zack Littell. Tyler Duffey has also been pretty good for the most part and Devin Smeltzer, Kohl Stewart, and Sean Poppen have provided some useful outings, both starting and in relief. The bullpen is currently sixth in the American League in ERA and first in WPA (Thanks Taylor Rogers!). Although the Twin’s bullpen has been surprisingly effective this year, I don’t think anyone would argue that they couldn’t use at least one more late-inning shut-down reliever along with a quality middle reliever, preferably a lefty. However, not jumping in to make a big off-season reliever signing or two is looking more and more prudent. A quick glance at the stat lines of the top free agent relievers will show how inconsistent the signings were, Well, outside of the Yankees, unfortunately. In general, signing free agent relievers seems to be a crapshoot, as the past couple of seasons have shown. Even with the somewhat suppressed contract amounts of the last two seasons, staying clear of the FA reliever market was shrewd in that Twins avoided the burden of being committed to a potentially ineffective reliever for multiple years. This of course saves the Twins money, but more importantly it keeps them from feeling an obligation to continue running out an ineffective reliever because of money owed, as it is much easier to cut a player who isn’t tied to a large salary (as we’ve seen recently with Matt Magill and Mike Morin). It also makes it more palatable to take on added salary in a trade, whether starter or reliever. This brings us to the potential beauty of the Twins’ plan, if it is in fact their plan. If they do decide to add relievers through trades they have a much better idea of what they are getting than they would through free agency. The Twins are obviously closely monitoring potential trade targets and are aware of how relievers have pitched recently. Although there is always the risk that a player could regress for the remainder of the regular season and/or in the postseason, the odds are certainly lower than that of an off-season acquisition. Plus, relievers who have some years of team control left tend to be younger and therefore less likely for regression than more volatile, older free agents through the remainder of their time with the Twins. Waiting gives the Twins the advantage of seeing the direction in which the potential trade target is trending. They have the luxury of going after the hot hand(s). The Twins are in a great position to make some trades. With a stacked farm system, the Twins can afford to part with a few quality prospects to go after a high-quality reliever or two with some years of team control left, and/or go after upcoming free agents without giving up any top prospects. Falvey and Levine have done a nice job of building the farm system and definitely place a high value on prospects. They undoubtedly have a notion of which prospects are untouchable and seem unlikely to needlessly give away prospects. The front office seems keen to keep the best long- term interests of the team intact (as they should), but with a first place team they are almost obligated to strengthen the pen through some trades. Whether or not this is something the front office cleverly plotted out or just fell into. That is, staying away from free agent relievers, testing/developing internal options, and waiting to make a trade or two (or three) appears ingenious in hindsight. We’ll find out soon enough. Click here to view the article
  9. Aside from adding Blake Parker, who seemed like a rather marginal upgrade, the Twins really didn’t do much to address the bullpen during the offseason. Instead they extended Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler and made several key offensive additions). Rather than adding any big-named, high-priced relievers, the Twins have chosen to roll with minor league free agent signings and their own internal candidates. In some cases it worked remarkably well (as expected with Taylor Rogers and somewhat surprisingly with Ryne Harper), others have been serviceable but haven’t quite taken the step forward that we would have hoped (Trevor May), and some have been a disaster (Fernando Romero and Trevor Hildenberger). The Twins have relied upon the Rochester/Minneapolis shuttle and found some useful pieces, most recently in Zack Littell. Tyler Duffey has also been pretty good for the most part and Devin Smeltzer, Kohl Stewart, and Sean Poppen have provided some useful outings, both starting and in relief. The bullpen is currently sixth in the American League in ERA and first in WPA (Thanks Taylor Rogers!). Although the Twin’s bullpen has been surprisingly effective this year, I don’t think anyone would argue that they couldn’t use at least one more late-inning shut-down reliever along with a quality middle reliever, preferably a lefty. However, not jumping in to make a big off-season reliever signing or two is looking more and more prudent. A quick glance at the stat lines of the top free agent relievers will show how inconsistent the signings were, Well, outside of the Yankees, unfortunately. In general, signing free agent relievers seems to be a crapshoot, as the past couple of seasons have shown. Even with the somewhat suppressed contract amounts of the last two seasons, staying clear of the FA reliever market was shrewd in that Twins avoided the burden of being committed to a potentially ineffective reliever for multiple years. This of course saves the Twins money, but more importantly it keeps them from feeling an obligation to continue running out an ineffective reliever because of money owed, as it is much easier to cut a player who isn’t tied to a large salary (as we’ve seen recently with Matt Magill and Mike Morin). It also makes it more palatable to take on added salary in a trade, whether starter or reliever. This brings us to the potential beauty of the Twins’ plan, if it is in fact their plan. If they do decide to add relievers through trades they have a much better idea of what they are getting than they would through free agency. The Twins are obviously closely monitoring potential trade targets and are aware of how relievers have pitched recently. Although there is always the risk that a player could regress for the remainder of the regular season and/or in the postseason, the odds are certainly lower than that of an off-season acquisition. Plus, relievers who have some years of team control left tend to be younger and therefore less likely for regression than more volatile, older free agents through the remainder of their time with the Twins. Waiting gives the Twins the advantage of seeing the direction in which the potential trade target is trending. They have the luxury of going after the hot hand(s). The Twins are in a great position to make some trades. With a stacked farm system, the Twins can afford to part with a few quality prospects to go after a high-quality reliever or two with some years of team control left, and/or go after upcoming free agents without giving up any top prospects. Falvey and Levine have done a nice job of building the farm system and definitely place a high value on prospects. They undoubtedly have a notion of which prospects are untouchable and seem unlikely to needlessly give away prospects. The front office seems keen to keep the best long- term interests of the team intact (as they should), but with a first place team they are almost obligated to strengthen the pen through some trades. Whether or not this is something the front office cleverly plotted out or just fell into. That is, staying away from free agent relievers, testing/developing internal options, and waiting to make a trade or two (or three) appears ingenious in hindsight. We’ll find out soon enough.
  10. The Twins took the lead early, couldn’t hold on to it and were shut out by Oakland pitchers for six straight innings, losing 5-3 at the end. Jake Odorizzi wasn't as sharp as he’s usually been and Ryne Harper suffered a rare loss, only his second of the year. With the Cleveland win against Kansas City, the Twins lead in the AL Central now drops to three games.Box Score Odorizzi: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 63.6% strikes (56 of 88 pitches) Bullpen: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Gonzalez (11) Multi-Hit Games: Castro (2-for-2) Top 3 WPA: Gonzalez .136, Cruz .090, Castro .054 Bottom 3 WPA: Harper -.234, Cron -.217, Rosario -.093 The Twins offense once again shows signs of irregularity. After scoring the three runs early, they were dominated by A’s starter Chris Bassitt and the bullpen. Former Twin Liam Hendriks came in to pitch a five-out save, including a six-pitch eighth. The only highlight for Minnesota bats in the night was Luis Arraez’ hitting streak remaining alive, as he hit an infield single in his last at-bat. He’s now had a hit in 12 consecutive games, the second longest streak in baseball. Odorizzi had some unfinished business against the A’s. Last time he faced them, a blister on his right middle finger cut his start short, after only three innings. He gave up a season high five earned runs, four of which came off a grand slam. He was then put in the 10-day injured list, incidentally missing the first All-Star game of his career. The A's jumped on Odorizzi early. Marcus Semien hit a leadoff home run on the third pitch of the game, a bullet to left field. A couple of batters later Khris Davis grounded to center to score Mark Canha, giving Oakland a two-run lead. After that, Odo went on to pitch three shutout innings, despite not being as sharp as he has usually been this season, striking out only one batter. The offense made a good effort to back up their starter. Miguel Sanó drew a two-out walk in the second and on a Matt Olson fielding error near first base, after a Max Kepler ground ball, he was brought home to cut Oakland’s lead in half. On the following inning, Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-run bomb to give Minnesota the lead. Odorizzi gave up a game-tying single in the fifth, which gave him a no-decision, as he didn’t come back to pitch the sixth. He remains unbeaten at home, where he is 6-0 in the year, now with a 2.56 ERA. He hasn’t lost a game at home since Aug. 24 of last year, against this same Oakland team. The Sire is down Uncharacteristically, Ryne Harper was punished by righties in his relief appearance. Before tonight’s game, right-handed hitters were being held by him to only .203 batting average. Facing the middle part of the A’s lineup, he gave up three hits, all against righties, that were enough to score a couple of runs. This was Harper’s 42nd game of the year, but only the third time he allowed more than one run in an outing. In his relief, the rest of the bullpen did a fine job, pitching three scoreless innings, with Tyler Duffey, Blake Parker and Zack Littell. The latter managed to pitch his tenth consecutive scoreless outing, despite giving up a one-out triple to Semien. He had a little help from a 3-2-3, inning-ending double play. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days. Click here to view the article
  11. Box Score Odorizzi: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 63.6% strikes (56 of 88 pitches) Bullpen: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Gonzalez (11) Multi-Hit Games: Castro (2-for-2) Top 3 WPA: Gonzalez .136, Cruz .090, Castro .054 Bottom 3 WPA: Harper -.234, Cron -.217, Rosario -.093 The Twins offense once again shows signs of irregularity. After scoring the three runs early, they were dominated by A’s starter Chris Bassitt and the bullpen. Former Twin Liam Hendriks came in to pitch a five-out save, including a six-pitch eighth. The only highlight for Minnesota bats in the night was Luis Arraez’ hitting streak remaining alive, as he hit an infield single in his last at-bat. He’s now had a hit in 12 consecutive games, the second longest streak in baseball. Odorizzi had some unfinished business against the A’s. Last time he faced them, a blister on his right middle finger cut his start short, after only three innings. He gave up a season high five earned runs, four of which came off a grand slam. He was then put in the 10-day injured list, incidentally missing the first All-Star game of his career. The A's jumped on Odorizzi early. Marcus Semien hit a leadoff home run on the third pitch of the game, a bullet to left field. A couple of batters later Khris Davis grounded to center to score Mark Canha, giving Oakland a two-run lead. After that, Odo went on to pitch three shutout innings, despite not being as sharp as he has usually been this season, striking out only one batter. The offense made a good effort to back up their starter. Miguel Sanó drew a two-out walk in the second and on a Matt Olson fielding error near first base, after a Max Kepler ground ball, he was brought home to cut Oakland’s lead in half. On the following inning, Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-run bomb to give Minnesota the lead. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1152389720980230150 Odorizzi gave up a game-tying single in the fifth, which gave him a no-decision, as he didn’t come back to pitch the sixth. He remains unbeaten at home, where he is 6-0 in the year, now with a 2.56 ERA. He hasn’t lost a game at home since Aug. 24 of last year, against this same Oakland team. The Sire is down Uncharacteristically, Ryne Harper was punished by righties in his relief appearance. Before tonight’s game, right-handed hitters were being held by him to only .203 batting average. Facing the middle part of the A’s lineup, he gave up three hits, all against righties, that were enough to score a couple of runs. This was Harper’s 42nd game of the year, but only the third time he allowed more than one run in an outing. In his relief, the rest of the bullpen did a fine job, pitching three scoreless innings, with Tyler Duffey, Blake Parker and Zack Littell. The latter managed to pitch his tenth consecutive scoreless outing, despite giving up a one-out triple to Semien. He had a little help from a 3-2-3, inning-ending double play. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  12. There was so much anxiety across Twins Territory heading into this Cleveland series that it seemed to overshadow the fact that this series was also an opportunity. The Twins beat Cleveland 6-2 Saturday night, giving them the chance to deliver a crushing series sweep tomorrow.Box Score Odorizzi: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 60.7% strikes (54 of 89 pitches) Bullpen: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Kepler 2 (23), Cave (2) Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (3-for-5), Kepler (2-for-5, 2 HR), Cave (2-for-3, 2B, HR, BB), Arraez (2-for-5) Top 3 WPA: Cave .210, Odorizzi .153, Harper .141 Jake Odorizzi made his first start since a blister sent him to the injured list. He had an excellent first half, earning him All-Star honors, but he had actually been struggling prior to the injury. In his final four starts, Odorizzi gave up 16 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings pitched (7.85 ERA). That being the case, I was pretty anxious to see how he looked tonight. It wasn’t among his best performances of the season, but he made pitches when he had to and ended up limiting Cleveland to just one run on three hits over 5 1/3 innings. Odorizzi ran into some trouble in the sixth, hitting the leadoff batter then issuing a two-out walk. Luckily Ryne Harper came in and retired Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis to end the threat. It was helpful the lineup gave Odorizzi some breathing room. Max Kepler homered in his first two at-bats, meaning he went deep off Trevor Bauer in five consecutive plate appearances. He hit three home runs against Bauer in Cleveland on June 6. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days. Click here to view the article
  13. Box Score Odorizzi: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 60.7% strikes (54 of 89 pitches) Bullpen: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Kepler 2 (23), Cave (2) Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (3-for-5), Kepler (2-for-5, 2 HR), Cave (2-for-3, 2B, HR, BB), Arraez (2-for-5) Top 3 WPA: Cave .210, Odorizzi .153, Harper .141 Jake Odorizzi made his first start since a blister sent him to the injured list. He had an excellent first half, earning him All-Star honors, but he had actually been struggling prior to the injury. In his final four starts, Odorizzi gave up 16 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings pitched (7.85 ERA). That being the case, I was pretty anxious to see how he looked tonight. It wasn’t among his best performances of the season, but he made pitches when he had to and ended up limiting Cleveland to just one run on three hits over 5 1/3 innings. Odorizzi ran into some trouble in the sixth, hitting the leadoff batter then issuing a two-out walk. Luckily Ryne Harper came in and retired Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis to end the threat. It was helpful the lineup gave Odorizzi some breathing room. Max Kepler homered in his first two at-bats, meaning he went deep off Trevor Bauer in five consecutive plate appearances. He hit three home runs against Bauer in Cleveland on June 6. https://twitter.com/MLBStats/status/1150201663011119110 Kepler has actually faced Bauer more than any other pitcher over his career. He entered tonight with a .324/.378/.647 line against him (1.025 OPS). Pretty amazing to see that kind of ownage of such a good pitcher. Jake Cave also homered off Bauer and provided a big two-run double in the eighth inning to give the Twins, who were only holding a one-run advantage at that point, some wiggle room. The Twins played some nice defense, as they turned a couple double plays and Byron Buxton made an outstanding catch to take a hit away in the eighth inning. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1150227525055873026 Buxton finished out the rest of the eighth inning, but did not come out to play defense in the ninth. Similar to last night’s game, the Twins faced some adversity. Bauer struck out 11 batters in his six innings, and the Cleveland staff combined for 15 Ks. Jonathan Schoop had a particularly rough night, striking out three times and leaving five men on base. And, again, this was a 3-2 game heading into the eighth inning. The Twins have had to fight for these two victories. With this win, the Twins have extended their lead back up to 7.5 games in the division. Jose Berrios will take the mound tomorrow afternoon and hope to put an exclamation point on what's already been a statement series for the Twins. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  14. Needless to say, the Twins have – in general – been a huge surprise this year. Even the most starry-eyed optimist could not have predicted in March that at the All-Star break, they'd be ahead in the division by 5 1/2 games, on pace to win 102 and shatter the MLB home run record. Within this shocking success, there have been several unexpected developments. Here are my picks for the five biggest (good) surprises so far in 2019.1. Twins catchers lead the American League in OPS... by a mile. Minnesota's backstop position, fueled primarily by the production of Mitch Garver and Jason Castro, has yielded a .913 OPS through 89 games. That's 41 points higher than second-place Seattle, and 111 higher than the third-place White Sox. Twins catchers lead all counterparts with 24 home runs. This, to me, is the runaway winner for most surprising twist of the 2019 campaign. Back in the spring we were viewing this unit as a relative question mark, with Garver trying to back up a solid (concussion-punctuated) rookie campaign, and Castro coming off major knee surgery at 31. It's almost unfortunate that Castro's remarkably resurgent season – his current .860 OPS exceeds his previous career-best of .835, set when he was a 26-year-old All-Star back in 2013 – has been overshadowed by the theatrics of Garver, who's already almost doubled his rookie home run total in just 44 games. Not only has Garver been an all-around beast, rocking a .984 OPS that ranks 10th among MLB hitters with 150+ PA, but he's been incredibly clutch, slashing .417/.475/.778 with RISP, and his defensive improvements have been staggering. 2. Jake Odorizzi has allowed only 10 home runs. He hasn't been the best in the rotation at limiting the long ball; Martin Perez has given up only seven. But that's always been a strength for the groundballing left-hander. Odorizzi has always been an extreme fly ball pitcher and, by the time Minnesota acquired him, it appeared his susceptibility to the home run might derail his career. In 2016, he gave up 29 homers in 188 2/3 innings (1.4 HR/9) and in 2017 he surrendered 30 in 143 1/3 innings (1.9 HR/9). This year, Odorizzi has given up just 10 home runs in 88 2/3 innings, good for a 1.0 HR/9 rate. And that's AFTER allowing six in his past four starts. That Odorizzi has managed an above-average HR rate while giving up the most fly balls of any starter in the league (50.9%), in an era where balls are flying out of the park like never before, is completely bonkers. Consider that Justin Verlander, who will start Tuesday night's All-Star Game for the AL, has already given up 26 bombs at the break. His previous career high is 30. (He's uh... none too happy about this.) Odorizzi's proclivity for keeping it in the yard seems plainly unsustainable from a statistical standpoint, and maybe it is. Perhaps his recent flare-up is a sign of what's to come in the second half. But I will point out two things: 1) He's been dealing with a blister lately, and 2) His stinginess extends back beyond this year, to the bulk of 2018. Odorizzi allowed only six homers in 20 starts after June 1st last year. Add those innings to this year's sample and he's surrendered just 16 bombs in his last 190 innings, all while yielding a constant stream of fly balls in the most homer-happy era in MLB history. Nuts. 3. Ryne. Freaking. Harper. I can't believe it's taken me this long to get to him, but that just speaks to the ridiculous nature of the two accomplishments above. Harper has been nothing short of a godsend and, all things considered, one of the best Twins signings in memory. At a time where the team desperately needed right-handed relief help (especially because, unbeknownst to them, they'd be getting almost nothing collectively from Addison Reed, Trevor Hildenberger and Fernando Romero), the front office landed an absolute stud in the form of a 30-year-old minor-league signing, with zero major-league experience. Harper has been fantastic from any perspective. His 2.92 ERA and 1.05 WHIP are pristine, as is the 38-to-8 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. Major-league batters are slashing just .223/.267/.353 against him, and this is all with his numbers being negatively skewed by a June outing where he gave up three runs in the 18th inning because Rocco Baldelli was forced to call on him for a third straight day. This is an instance of self-scouting more than anything, as the Twins had Harper all last year in the minors. But they deserve plenty of credit for bringing him back, giving him a spring training invite, and believing in the validity of his stellar Grapefruit League results. His final appearance before the break, in which he notched a career-high four strikeouts with seven swings-and-misses on 15 pitches, looked to be an emphatic statement that his amazing first half was no flash in the pan. 4. Luis Arraez has all but locked up the second base job for 2020. Coming into this season, Arraez was more of a fun novelty than legitimate prospect. He didn't make our preseason Top 20 Prospects list, appearing instead as an honorable mention, because the general sentiment was that – despite his undeniably amazing contact skills and lovable scrappiness – he lacked the power and athleticism to be an impact guy at the next level. Arraez has spent his entire season proving us all wrong. In 54 games between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit .344/.409/.401. And it's a little tough to envision him going back down, given his .393/.453/.524 line in 95 plate appearances with the Twins. Despite having turned 22 in April, he looks mature beyond his years at the plate, swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone than any Minnesota batter other than Garver, with a lower whiff rate than even Willians Astudillo. As a result, he's drawn more walks than strikeouts, and he sprays liners all over the field. In other words, there's been nothing artificial about Arraez's instant success, although obviously he's not gonna be a .400 hitter. And the sudden emergence of a hinting power – he has two home runs with the Twins, after totaling six in 367 minor-league games – suggests that further upside may be lurking. As a point of comparison, the previous tenant at second base, Brian Dozier, was hitting zero home runs in 58 games at rookie ball when he was the same age as Arraez is now. As we've seen time and time again, pop tends to come on late. It wouldn't take much to turn Arraez – who was on basically no one's radar four months ago – into a young MLB star. With Jonathan Schoop due for a free agency after the season, I'm thinking Minnesota's plans are all but set for next year at second. 5. Byron Buxton is striking out at lower rate than the MLB average. For years, we all dreamed about how fun it would be if Buxton – someway, somehow – could turn himself into a contact hitter, fully weaponizing that elite speed by putting the ball in play at a high clip. Sadly, the notion seemed to be just that: a dream, of the pipy variety. In parts of four previous MLB seasons, Buxton had posted the following strikeout percentages: 31.9%, 35.6%, 29.4%, 30.0%. From 2015 through 2018, his K-rate was seventh-highest out of 287 hitters to make 1,000+ PA in the majors. It seemed the best realistic hope was a modest decrease, into the solidly higher-than-average range. This still could've easily made Buxton a star (he gained MVP votes with a 29.4% K-rate in 2017). Instead, he has completely remade himself at the plate, cutting down on whiffs to a drastic degree with only 59 strikeouts in 260 plate appearances. That's a 22.7% rate – fractionally lower than the big-league average of 22.8%. As a guy who lifts the ball at a higher rate than anyone else on the team, and has otherworldly speed, I'd expect a higher BABIP for Buxton than his current .302. Which is to say I think there's more in the tank, even though he's been tremendous as is, with an .816 OPS and 24 doubles at the break. As long as he can stay healthy, I believe Buxton will be the team's top MVP contender without question by year's end. ~~~ I've obviously left plenty of other surprises on the table. Jorge Polanco is an All-Star. Max Kepler has already set a career high in home runs (this one wasn't THAT surprising to me). Ehire Adrianza has raked. Eddie Rosario is on pace for 36 homers and 109 RBIs. Eight different players are on pace for more than 3.4 fWAR, which was Rosario's final mark last year when we named him team MVP. What positive developments have caught you off-guard in the first half? Sound off in the comments. Click here to view the article
  15. 1. Twins catchers lead the American League in OPS... by a mile. Minnesota's backstop position, fueled primarily by the production of Mitch Garver and Jason Castro, has yielded a .913 OPS through 89 games. That's 41 points higher than second-place Seattle, and 111 higher than the third-place White Sox. Twins catchers lead all counterparts with 24 home runs. This, to me, is the runaway winner for most surprising twist of the 2019 campaign. Back in the spring we were viewing this unit as a relative question mark, with Garver trying to back up a solid (concussion-punctuated) rookie campaign, and Castro coming off major knee surgery at 31. It's almost unfortunate that Castro's remarkably resurgent season – his current .860 OPS exceeds his previous career-best of .835, set when he was a 26-year-old All-Star back in 2013 – has been overshadowed by the theatrics of Garver, who's already almost doubled his rookie home run total in just 44 games. Not only has Garver been an all-around beast, rocking a .984 OPS that ranks 10th among MLB hitters with 150+ PA, but he's been incredibly clutch, slashing .417/.475/.778 with RISP, and his defensive improvements have been staggering. 2. Jake Odorizzi has allowed only 10 home runs. He hasn't been the best in the rotation at limiting the long ball; Martin Perez has given up only seven. But that's always been a strength for the groundballing left-hander. Odorizzi has always been an extreme fly ball pitcher and, by the time Minnesota acquired him, it appeared his susceptibility to the home run might derail his career. In 2016, he gave up 29 homers in 188 2/3 innings (1.4 HR/9) and in 2017 he surrendered 30 in 143 1/3 innings (1.9 HR/9). This year, Odorizzi has given up just 10 home runs in 88 2/3 innings, good for a 1.0 HR/9 rate. And that's AFTER allowing six in his past four starts. That Odorizzi has managed an above-average HR rate while giving up the most fly balls of any starter in the league (50.9%), in an era where balls are flying out of the park like never before, is completely bonkers. Consider that Justin Verlander, who will start Tuesday night's All-Star Game for the AL, has already given up 26 bombs at the break. His previous career high is 30. (He's uh... none too happy about this.) Odorizzi's proclivity for keeping it in the yard seems plainly unsustainable from a statistical standpoint, and maybe it is. Perhaps his recent flare-up is a sign of what's to come in the second half. But I will point out two things: 1) He's been dealing with a blister lately, and 2) His stinginess extends back beyond this year, to the bulk of 2018. Odorizzi allowed only six homers in 20 starts after June 1st last year. Add those innings to this year's sample and he's surrendered just 16 bombs in his last 190 innings, all while yielding a constant stream of fly balls in the most homer-happy era in MLB history. Nuts. 3. Ryne. Freaking. Harper. I can't believe it's taken me this long to get to him, but that just speaks to the ridiculous nature of the two accomplishments above. Harper has been nothing short of a godsend and, all things considered, one of the best Twins signings in memory. At a time where the team desperately needed right-handed relief help (especially because, unbeknownst to them, they'd be getting almost nothing collectively from Addison Reed, Trevor Hildenberger and Fernando Romero), the front office landed an absolute stud in the form of a 30-year-old minor-league signing, with zero major-league experience. Harper has been fantastic from any perspective. His 2.92 ERA and 1.05 WHIP are pristine, as is the 38-to-8 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. Major-league batters are slashing just .223/.267/.353 against him, and this is all with his numbers being negatively skewed by a June outing where he gave up three runs in the 18th inning because Rocco Baldelli was forced to call on him for a third straight day. This is an instance of self-scouting more than anything, as the Twins had Harper all last year in the minors. But they deserve plenty of credit for bringing him back, giving him a spring training invite, and believing in the validity of his stellar Grapefruit League results. His final appearance before the break, in which he notched a career-high four strikeouts with seven swings-and-misses on 15 pitches, looked to be an emphatic statement that his amazing first half was no flash in the pan. 4. Luis Arraez has all but locked up the second base job for 2020. Coming into this season, Arraez was more of a fun novelty than legitimate prospect. He didn't make our preseason Top 20 Prospects list, appearing instead as an honorable mention, because the general sentiment was that – despite his undeniably amazing contact skills and lovable scrappiness – he lacked the power and athleticism to be an impact guy at the next level. Arraez has spent his entire season proving us all wrong. In 54 games between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit .344/.409/.401. And it's a little tough to envision him going back down, given his .393/.453/.524 line in 95 plate appearances with the Twins. Despite having turned 22 in April, he looks mature beyond his years at the plate, swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone than any Minnesota batter other than Garver, with a lower whiff rate than even Willians Astudillo. As a result, he's drawn more walks than strikeouts, and he sprays liners all over the field. In other words, there's been nothing artificial about Arraez's instant success, although obviously he's not gonna be a .400 hitter. And the sudden emergence of a hinting power – he has two home runs with the Twins, after totaling six in 367 minor-league games – suggests that further upside may be lurking. As a point of comparison, the previous tenant at second base, Brian Dozier, was hitting zero home runs in 58 games at rookie ball when he was the same age as Arraez is now. As we've seen time and time again, pop tends to come on late. It wouldn't take much to turn Arraez – who was on basically no one's radar four months ago – into a young MLB star. With Jonathan Schoop due for a free agency after the season, I'm thinking Minnesota's plans are all but set for next year at second. 5. Byron Buxton is striking out at lower rate than the MLB average. For years, we all dreamed about how fun it would be if Buxton – someway, somehow – could turn himself into a contact hitter, fully weaponizing that elite speed by putting the ball in play at a high clip. Sadly, the notion seemed to be just that: a dream, of the pipy variety. In parts of four previous MLB seasons, Buxton had posted the following strikeout percentages: 31.9%, 35.6%, 29.4%, 30.0%. From 2015 through 2018, his K-rate was seventh-highest out of 287 hitters to make 1,000+ PA in the majors. It seemed the best realistic hope was a modest decrease, into the solidly higher-than-average range. This still could've easily made Buxton a star (he gained MVP votes with a 29.4% K-rate in 2017). Instead, he has completely remade himself at the plate, cutting down on whiffs to a drastic degree with only 59 strikeouts in 260 plate appearances. That's a 22.7% rate – fractionally lower than the big-league average of 22.8%. As a guy who lifts the ball at a higher rate than anyone else on the team, and has otherworldly speed, I'd expect a higher BABIP for Buxton than his current .302. Which is to say I think there's more in the tank, even though he's been tremendous as is, with an .816 OPS and 24 doubles at the break. As long as he can stay healthy, I believe Buxton will be the team's top MVP contender without question by year's end. ~~~ I've obviously left plenty of other surprises on the table. Jorge Polanco is an All-Star. Max Kepler has already set a career high in home runs (this one wasn't THAT surprising to me). Ehire Adrianza has raked. Eddie Rosario is on pace for 36 homers and 109 RBIs. Eight different players are on pace for more than 3.4 fWAR, which was Rosario's final mark last year when we named him team MVP. What positive developments have caught you off-guard in the first half? Sound off in the comments.
  16. A stellar pitching performance - which included using Kyle Gibson as the opener - was derailed by an unusual off game by the offense. After holding Texas offense to only one run through ten innings, Twins bats never showed up and a three-run homer off the bat of Rougned Odor in the 11th prevented the Twins from sweeping the Rangers.Box Score Smeltzer: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 64.6% strikes (42 of 59 pitches) Rest of Staff: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 12 K Home Runs: None Multi-Hit Games: Garver (2-5), Sanó (2-3, R) Top 3 WPA: May .288, Harper .170, Smeltzer .117 Bottom 3 WPA: Mejia -.462, Kepler -.194, Gonzalez -.169 After scoring a total of 23 runs in the first two games of this series, the Twins really struggled to put runs on the board Sunday, before a crowd of 35,495. They were unable to score more than one run against a Ranger pitching staff which didn’t have a single pitcher with more than three innings of work in the game. Texas out-hit Minnesota 10-8 and the Twins went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Openers and Smeltzer Gibson pitched only one inning and didn't have the smoothest of starts. He had a long, 26-pitch inning (only 14 strikes), struggling with his command. He pitched to the top five Rangers batters, as Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Gallo reached safely, but he managed to strand both. José Leclerc, the Rangers opener, also allowed to men to reach, but he managed to close the inning with 15 pitches. He came back to pitch the second, but didn’t last long. Smeltzer took advantage of Gibson’s outing and cruised past the bottom half of the Texas lineup in the second with only twelve pitches. He went on to have an uneventful game, pitching into the sixth. He never pitched himself into any jams, as the Rangers never had more than one man on at any point of his outing. They did tie the game in the fourth, with Joey Gallo leading off the inning with a double and then being scored by former Twin Danny Santana a couple of batters later. Sanó, Buxton Definitely Back on Track Not too long ago we were all discussing what was wrong with Miguel Sanó, as he was slumping really hard. He then he decided he was through with that and decided to catch on fire. He came into this game slashing .348/.423/.739 (1.162) in the past seven games and he did not slow down. After smacking a single in the second inning he scored the first run of the game, crossing the plate on a Byron Buxtton triple Similar to Miggy, Buxton went through a rough funk since coming back from the IL. In the first five games back he went 1-for-16. But he started to regain confidence in the first game of this Texas series and came into the game hitting 3-for-9 with three runs batted in. He started this game reaching safely twice, once with the RBI-triple in the second and one on a fielder’s choice in the fourth. On that play, he nearly scored Sanó again after Miggy had walked to reach for the second time, but he (Sano) was thrown out at home. The Twins bullpen continued its impressive recent stretch, in spite of the loss. Adalberto Mejía gave up the winning home run to Odor in the 11th, but Minnesota relievers still hold a 3.08 ERA since June 14, which ranks third best in the majors. That is, of course, considering that technically all innings pitched after Gibson’s departure will count as bullpen stats. The Twins get to the All-Star break with a 56-33 record. That’s the most wins the Twins have gotten before the All-Star break since 1969. They now hold a five-and-a- half game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central, but the Indians won their sixth in a row today, as they swept the Reds, reaching the 50-win mark. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days. Click here to view the article
  17. Box Score Smeltzer: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 64.6% strikes (42 of 59 pitches) Rest of Staff: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 12 K Home Runs: None Multi-Hit Games: Garver (2-5), Sanó (2-3, R) Top 3 WPA: May .288, Harper .170, Smeltzer .117 Bottom 3 WPA: Mejia -.462, Kepler -.194, Gonzalez -.169 After scoring a total of 23 runs in the first two games of this series, the Twins really struggled to put runs on the board Sunday, before a crowd of 35,495. They were unable to score more than one run against a Ranger pitching staff which didn’t have a single pitcher with more than three innings of work in the game. Texas out-hit Minnesota 10-8 and the Twins went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Openers and Smeltzer Gibson pitched only one inning and didn't have the smoothest of starts. He had a long, 26-pitch inning (only 14 strikes), struggling with his command. He pitched to the top five Rangers batters, as Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Gallo reached safely, but he managed to strand both. José Leclerc, the Rangers opener, also allowed to men to reach, but he managed to close the inning with 15 pitches. He came back to pitch the second, but didn’t last long. Smeltzer took advantage of Gibson’s outing and cruised past the bottom half of the Texas lineup in the second with only twelve pitches. He went on to have an uneventful game, pitching into the sixth. He never pitched himself into any jams, as the Rangers never had more than one man on at any point of his outing. They did tie the game in the fourth, with Joey Gallo leading off the inning with a double and then being scored by former Twin Danny Santana a couple of batters later. Sanó, Buxton Definitely Back on Track Not too long ago we were all discussing what was wrong with Miguel Sanó, as he was slumping really hard. He then he decided he was through with that and decided to catch on fire. He came into this game slashing .348/.423/.739 (1.162) in the past seven games and he did not slow down. After smacking a single in the second inning he scored the first run of the game, crossing the plate on a Byron Buxtton triple https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1147950527810015232 Similar to Miggy, Buxton went through a rough funk since coming back from the IL. In the first five games back he went 1-for-16. But he started to regain confidence in the first game of this Texas series and came into the game hitting 3-for-9 with three runs batted in. He started this game reaching safely twice, once with the RBI-triple in the second and one on a fielder’s choice in the fourth. On that play, he nearly scored Sanó again after Miggy had walked to reach for the second time, but he (Sano) was thrown out at home. The Twins bullpen continued its impressive recent stretch, in spite of the loss. Adalberto Mejía gave up the winning home run to Odor in the 11th, but Minnesota relievers still hold a 3.08 ERA since June 14, which ranks third best in the majors. That is, of course, considering that technically all innings pitched after Gibson’s departure will count as bullpen stats. The Twins get to the All-Star break with a 56-33 record. That’s the most wins the Twins have gotten before the All-Star break since 1969. They now hold a five-and-a- half game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central, but the Indians won their sixth in a row today, as they swept the Reds, reaching the 50-win mark. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1148003874877276160 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  18. Let's review the facts as they stand. The most intriguing pieces currently in the Twins' bullpen are: Taylor Rogers, formerly an 11th-round pick turned nondescript minor-league starter, who transitioned into relief duty immediately in the majors, and blossomed into a top-tier setup man over three short years. Ryne Harper, a former 37th-round pick who toiled in the minors for nine years before making the Twins out of camp this spring on a minor-league deal. He debuted as a 30-year-old rookie. Blake Parker, the team's biggest offseason bullpen splash. His smallish free agent contract as a castoff from the Angels was whittled down further after his physical. I hesitate to call him "intriguing" at this point, given his trendline, but overall he's gotten it done. Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Zack Littell: All former middling prospects as starters, finding new gears as MLB relievers. Before you write off any of the three as flashes in the pan, or overachieving mediocrities, go back and read Rogers' blurb again. As I watch Duffey, May and Littell develop into lethal flamethrowers, I do wonder how differently their careers might have gone if the organization had committed to their role changes as quickly and decisively as with Rogers. With all due respect to Matt Magill and Mike Morin, I don't quite put either at the same level of faith as those above, but each one fits the narrative: discarded minor-league pitchers finding surprising success in the majors. Meanwhile, here are the pitchers conspicuously NOT contributing to the current campaign: Addison Reed, who signed the largest free agent reliever deal in franchise history 18 months ago. The Twins ate a good portion of it when they released him last month. Trevor Hildenberger, who was the team's most reliable bullpen arm for about a year before falling apart at the seams midway through 2018. He's currently on the injured list at Triple-A. Fernando Romero, the former top pitching prospect who's flamed out in multiple stints with the Twins this year, and hasn't looked a whole lot better in Triple-A. I know the common refrain on Romero – especially with the benefit of hindsight: "Why mess with him? They shoulda left him as a starter." But that ignores two things: 1) he wasn't throwing or holding up all that well as a starter, and 2) I mean, look at the examples of Duffey/May/Littell. There are certainly downsides to waffling and delaying. With Romero, it's an unaffordable luxury because he'll be out of options next spring. The malfunctions with all three of these players are largely driving the urgency to make improvements. But each of them, and Reed especially, epitomizes the reason that's a much taller order than many clamoring fans would like to believe. Anyone expressing certainty that Craig Kimbrel would've been a decisive upgrade is kidding themselves. Reed, like Kimbrel, generated less free agent demand than expected, given his backend pedigree, but he still had all the makings of a bullpen stud. He was younger and less weathered than Kimbrel. And in the early portion of his contract, Reed looked the part. But his drop-off was both rapid and ruthless. And the thing is, he's not alone. Reed is a somewhat extreme version of an all-too-common outcome. I just checked in on the top RP options listed in the latest Offseason Handbook, and there are vastly more busts than even moderately decent values. Kimbrel still hasn't pitched in the majors. David Robertson's thrown only seven innings due to injury issues. Andrew Miller's been mediocre. Kelvin Herrera, Jeurys Familia and Joe Kelly have been terrible. Cody Allen was so bad he's already been cut by the Angels, and signed by Minnesota to a minors deal. Allen now feels like a long shot to make any kind of meaningful impact; but, as you go through the names above, doesn't that feel true for almost anyone? Granted, some of these guys had their red flags, but all had strong track records, and signed for many millions of dollars. To a man, they've all floundered. Meanwhile, the Twins are finding their most credible help in a 30-year-old journeyman and a bunch of failed minor-league starters. And most of these guys are hitting their own skids at times. What all of this suggests to me: First, it's really hard to be a relief pitcher in the major leagues right now, with stacked lineups of aggressive upper-cut swingers just waiting to feast on premium heat. This is borne out by the numbers: MLB relievers, as a whole, have a 4.50 ERA this year, up from 4.08 last year and higher than their starting counterparts (!). Second, and not unrelatedly: it's going to be very difficult for the Twins to solve this problem. Difficult, and stressful. They aren't short on resources by any means, but that's not the problem. Those onerous contracts plaguing other teams who splurged on the relief market last winter are one thing; when you start giving up valuable prospects, stakes are raised, especially for a team in Minnesota's position. There are a lot of seemingly tantalizing relief options out there on the trade market. We've been covering them in a series of profiles here on the site, so this might be a good time to get caught up: Liam Hendriks, RHP, Athletics Ty Buttrey, RHP, Angels Ken Giles, RHP, Blue Jays Sam Dyson, RHP, Giants Brad Hand, LHP, Indians Oliver Perez, LHP Cleveland Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds John Gant, RHP, Cardinals Alex Colome, RHP, White Sox Seth Lugo, RHP, Mets Greg Holland, RHP, Diamondbacks Sean Doolittle, LHP, Nationals Kirby Yates, RHP, Padres There are compelling cases to be made for several of the above, plus some others who haven't yet been covered. I myself am quite high on Raisel Iglesias. But no matter who I might favor, data shows there's an overwhelming chance I'll be wrong. The same is true for you. Again, I apologize for the bluntness. But of course, it doesn't matter if we're right – only the guys leading the front office. What's most important is that they buy into what's to come, rather than what's already gone. If only it were that easy.
  19. Are great relievers born? Made? Produced artificially in a laboratory somewhere deep in the Nevadan desert? We don't know the answer. If you think you do, you're probably wrong. Sorry to be so blunt, but that's just the nature of relief pitching. The Twins are living proof of its caprice and volatility. Which is why, as Minnesota embarks on a quest to improve its needy bullpen, they face a mighty challenge.Let's review the facts as they stand. The most intriguing pieces currently in the Twins' bullpen are: Taylor Rogers, formerly an 11th-round pick turned nondescript minor-league starter, who transitioned into relief duty immediately in the majors, and blossomed into a top-tier setup man over three short years.Ryne Harper, a former 37th-round pick who toiled in the minors for nine years before making the Twins out of camp this spring on a minor-league deal. He debuted as a 30-year-old rookie.Blake Parker, the team's biggest offseason bullpen splash. His smallish free agent contract as a castoff from the Angels was whittled down further after his physical. I hesitate to call him "intriguing" at this point, given his trendline, but overall he's gotten it done.Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Zack Littell: All former middling prospects as starters, finding new gears as MLB relievers. Before you write off any of the three as flashes in the pan, or overachieving mediocrities, go back and read Rogers' blurb again. As I watch Duffey, May and Littell develop into lethal flamethrowers, I do wonder how differently their careers might have gone if the organization had committed to their role changes as quickly and decisively as with Rogers.With all due respect to Matt Magill and Mike Morin, I don't quite put either at the same level of faith as those above, but each one fits the narrative: discarded minor-league pitchers finding surprising success in the majors. Meanwhile, here are the pitchers conspicuously NOT contributing to the current campaign: Addison Reed, who signed the largest free agent reliever deal in franchise history 18 months ago. The Twins ate a good portion of it when they released him last month.Trevor Hildenberger, who was the team's most reliable bullpen arm for about a year before falling apart at the seams midway through 2018. He's currently on the injured list at Triple-A.Fernando Romero, the former top pitching prospect who's flamed out in multiple stints with the Twins this year, and hasn't looked a whole lot better in Triple-A.I know the common refrain on Romero – especially with the benefit of hindsight: "Why mess with him? They shoulda left him as a starter." But that ignores two things: 1) he wasn't throwing or holding up all that well as a starter, and 2) I mean, look at the examples of Duffey/May/Littell. There are certainly downsides to waffling and delaying. With Romero, it's an unaffordable luxury because he'll be out of options next spring. The malfunctions with all three of these players are largely driving the urgency to make improvements. But each of them, and Reed especially, epitomizes the reason that's a much taller order than many clamoring fans would like to believe. Anyone expressing certainty that Craig Kimbrel would've been a decisive upgrade is kidding themselves. Reed, like Kimbrel, generated less free agent demand than expected, given his backend pedigree, but he still had all the makings of a bullpen stud. He was younger and less weathered than Kimbrel. And in the early portion of his contract, Reed looked the part. But his drop-off was both rapid and ruthless. And the thing is, he's not alone. Reed is a somewhat extreme version of an all-too-common outcome. I just checked in on the top RP options listed in the latest Offseason Handbook, and there are vastly more busts than even moderately decent values. Kimbrel still hasn't pitched in the majors. David Robertson's thrown only seven innings due to injury issues. Andrew Miller's been mediocre. Kelvin Herrera, Jeurys Familia and Joe Kelly have been terrible. Cody Allen was so bad he's already been cut by the Angels, and signed by Minnesota to a minors deal. Allen now feels like a long shot to make any kind of meaningful impact; but, as you go through the names above, doesn't that feel true for almost anyone? Granted, some of these guys had their red flags, but all had strong track records, and signed for many millions of dollars. To a man, they've all floundered. Meanwhile, the Twins are finding their most credible help in a 30-year-old journeyman and a bunch of failed minor-league starters. And most of these guys are hitting their own skids at times. What all of this suggests to me: First, it's really hard to be a relief pitcher in the major leagues right now, with stacked lineups of aggressive upper-cut swingers just waiting to feast on premium heat. This is borne out by the numbers: MLB relievers, as a whole, have a 4.50 ERA this year, up from 4.08 last year and higher than their starting counterparts (!). Second, and not unrelatedly: it's going to be very difficult for the Twins to solve this problem. Difficult, and stressful. They aren't short on resources by any means, but that's not the problem. Those onerous contracts plaguing other teams who splurged on the relief market last winter are one thing; when you start giving up valuable prospects, stakes are raised, especially for a team in Minnesota's position. There are a lot of seemingly tantalizing relief options out there on the trade market. We've been covering them in a series of profiles here on the site, so this might be a good time to get caught up: Liam Hendriks, RHP, AthleticsTy Buttrey, RHP, AngelsKen Giles, RHP, Blue JaysSam Dyson, RHP, GiantsBrad Hand, LHP, IndiansOliver Perez, LHP ClevelandRobert Stephenson, RHP, RedsJohn Gant, RHP, CardinalsAlex Colome, RHP, White SoxSeth Lugo, RHP, MetsGreg Holland, RHP, DiamondbacksSean Doolittle, LHP, NationalsKirby Yates, RHP, PadresThere are compelling cases to be made for several of the above, plus some others who haven't yet been covered. I myself am quite high on Raisel Iglesias. But no matter who I might favor, data shows there's an overwhelming chance I'll be wrong. The same is true for you. Again, I apologize for the bluntness. But of course, it doesn't matter if we're right – only the guys leading the front office. What's most important is that they buy into what's to come, rather than what's already gone. If only it were that easy. Click here to view the article
  20. Box Score Pineda: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 72.1% strikes (57 of 79 pitches) Home Runs: Garver (10), Cron (14), Cruz (9) Multi-Hit Games: Gonzalez (4-for-5, 2B, RBI), Garver (3-for-5, HR, RBI), Cron (2-for-4, HR), Buxton (2-for-4), Polanco (2-for-5) WPA of +0.1: Gonzalez .200, Garver .200, Cruz .150, Cron .170 WPA of -0.1: Rosario -.110, Astudillo - .120, Pineda -.120, Schoop -.140 (chart via FanGraphs) There were two opposite games at Comerica Park on Friday night. One while Boyd was out on the mound for the Tigers and a completely different one after he completed his great outing, as usual. Minnesota took advantage of Detroit’s bullpen, which came into this game with the third-worst ERA in the league since the start of May, at 5.60. It took the Twins offense only three pitches into the eighth inning to break the tie and take the lead for good. Gonzalez maintained his great moment and had the fourth four-hit game of his career, the first one since Sept. 25, 2017, while still with the Astros. Mitch Garver also found his swing after a bad start since returning from the IL, hitting the first home run of the game, to go with two other hits. Overall, Minnesota managed to get 14 hits. Michael Pineda was making his first start after 10 days in the IL due to a knee tendinitis. He didn’t pitch as well as in his previous four games, in which he got four consecutive quality starts, but he did deliver a good outing, completing five innings and allowing three earned runs with no walks. That was good enough and you probably couldn’t have hoped for much more than that. If he’s not been great so far, he’s proven to be a solid fifth starter. The bullpen held the Tiger offense scoreless through four innings, bouncing back from a rather bad trip to Cleveland. The Twins improve to 42-20, maintaining the best record in the American League and a 10.5 game lead in the Central Division. Story of the Game Pineda struggled right away, as he loaded the bases in the first inning and saw Brandon Dixon score Christin Stewart on a one-out sac fly. Fortunately, he managed to hold the Tiger offense to that one run. In his 21-pitch effort, he gave up a walk and hit Nicholas Castellanos. In the end of the second, Byron Buxton made yet another fine defensive play in center field, robbing JaCoby Jones of an extra-base hit, to end the inning. Minnesota took the lead in the top of the third. After Buxton snapped his 0-for-18 matchup against Matthew Boyd and advanced to third base on a balk (which got Ron Gardenhire ejected) Mitch Garver hit his first home run since coming back from the IL. That homer also ended his mini-slump since coming back from rehab assignment, as he had hit 2-for-15 in his previous four games. And he crushed that, too. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1137147499788079109 While things appeared to be stabilizing for Big Mike in the fourth, the Tigers had other ideas. They tied the game after Miguel Cabrera led off the inning with a double and was later brought home by a one-out double to left by Ronny Rodriguez. In the fifth, Pineda's struggles continued, as Detroit retook the lead on a Castellanos two-out single to left that scored old friend Niko Goodrum. But just like that, the SotaPop offense was at it again, scoring right after being scored on. C.J. Cron destroyed a curveball from Boyd to hit his 14th homer of the year and tied the game once again. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1137163991166464000 Boyd finished yet another great start against Minnesota having dealt through seven innings. Then, in the third pitch of the eighth, with Joe Jimenez pitching, the tie was broken. Nelson Cruz hit a bomb to right field, making it 4-3 Minnesota. The eighth inning party, sponsored by the Tiger bullpen, continued. Cron doubled off Jimenez, just to be followed by Gonzalez’s fourth hit of the night, bringing him home. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1137172109078040577 Meanwhile, after being roughed up in Cleveland, the Twins bullpen did a superb job to hold on to the victory. Mike Morin and Ryne Harper combined for two flawless innings following Pineda’s departure. Both of them had identical performances of 13 pitches with nine strikes, giving up nothing but a hit. Harper truck out the side and earned his first MLB win. Tyler Duffey, on the other hand, didn’t pitch in the eighth as well as they had in the sixth and seventh. He allowed two runners to reach, and both advanced on a wild pitch, but he managed to deliver scoreless outing. Another Twins insurance run was added in the top of the ninth. Buxton led off the inning with a double, his MLB-leading 21st and his second hit of the game. Then, he was scored by a Garver grounder to center, his third hit of the night, making it 6-3 Twins. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1137178212092563456 Blake Parker got his ninth save of the season, but he made it interesting. Detroit batters demanded 28 pitches from him and two runners reached on walks. But, in the end, Parker pushed through. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1137195776407351297 Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Game Sat at DET, 3:10 pm (Gibson-TBD) Last Game MIN 5, CLE 4: Max Power Against Bauer More from Twins Daily Cali Connection Jumps Draft Boards: Q&A with Keoni Cavaco Twins Bring Local Product Home: Q&A with Matt Wallner Craig Kimbrel and Risk Tolerance
  21. The Tigers didn’t sell this one for cheap, especially with Matthew Boyd on the mound, but everything eventually fell into place for the Twins. Michael Pineda had a decent return from the IL, the bullpen bounced back, Marwin Gonzalez had himself a night and Bombas were hit. It was a fun one in Detroit.Box Score Pineda: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 72.1% strikes (57 of 79 pitches) Home Runs: Garver (10), Cron (14), Cruz (9) Multi-Hit Games: Gonzalez (4-for-5, 2B, RBI), Garver (3-for-5, HR, RBI), Cron (2-for-4, HR), Buxton (2-for-4), Polanco (2-for-5) WPA of +0.1: Gonzalez .200, Garver .200, Cruz .150, Cron .170 WPA of -0.1: Rosario -.110, Astudillo - .120, Pineda -.120, Schoop -.140 Download attachment: Win67.png (chart via FanGraphs) There were two opposite games at Comerica Park on Friday night. One while Boyd was out on the mound for the Tigers and a completely different one after he completed his great outing, as usual. Minnesota took advantage of Detroit’s bullpen, which came into this game with the third-worst ERA in the league since the start of May, at 5.60. It took the Twins offense only three pitches into the eighth inning to break the tie and take the lead for good. Gonzalez maintained his great moment and had the fourth four-hit game of his career, the first one since Sept. 25, 2017, while still with the Astros. Mitch Garver also found his swing after a bad start since returning from the IL, hitting the first home run of the game, to go with two other hits. Overall, Minnesota managed to get 14 hits. Michael Pineda was making his first start after 10 days in the IL due to a knee tendinitis. He didn’t pitch as well as in his previous four games, in which he got four consecutive quality starts, but he did deliver a good outing, completing five innings and allowing three earned runs with no walks. That was good enough and you probably couldn’t have hoped for much more than that. If he’s not been great so far, he’s proven to be a solid fifth starter. The bullpen held the Tiger offense scoreless through four innings, bouncing back from a rather bad trip to Cleveland. The Twins improve to 42-20, maintaining the best record in the American League and a 10.5 game lead in the Central Division. Story of the Game Pineda struggled right away, as he loaded the bases in the first inning and saw Brandon Dixon score Christin Stewart on a one-out sac fly. Fortunately, he managed to hold the Tiger offense to that one run. In his 21-pitch effort, he gave up a walk and hit Nicholas Castellanos. In the end of the second, Byron Buxton made yet another fine defensive play in center field, robbing JaCoby Jones of an extra-base hit, to end the inning. Minnesota took the lead in the top of the third. After Buxton snapped his 0-for-18 matchup against Matthew Boyd and advanced to third base on a balk (which got Ron Gardenhire ejected) Mitch Garver hit his first home run since coming back from the IL. That homer also ended his mini-slump since coming back from rehab assignment, as he had hit 2-for-15 in his previous four games. And he crushed that, too. While things appeared to be stabilizing for Big Mike in the fourth, the Tigers had other ideas. They tied the game after Miguel Cabrera led off the inning with a double and was later brought home by a one-out double to left by Ronny Rodriguez. In the fifth, Pineda's struggles continued, as Detroit retook the lead on a Castellanos two-out single to left that scored old friend Niko Goodrum. But just like that, the SotaPop offense was at it again, scoring right after being scored on. C.J. Cron destroyed a curveball from Boyd to hit his 14th homer of the year and tied the game once again. Boyd finished yet another great start against Minnesota having dealt through seven innings. Then, in the third pitch of the eighth, with Joe Jimenez pitching, the tie was broken. Nelson Cruz hit a bomb to right field, making it 4-3 Minnesota. The eighth inning party, sponsored by the Tiger bullpen, continued. Cron doubled off Jimenez, just to be followed by Gonzalez’s fourth hit of the night, bringing him home. Meanwhile, after being roughed up in Cleveland, the Twins bullpen did a superb job to hold on to the victory. Mike Morin and Ryne Harper combined for two flawless innings following Pineda’s departure. Both of them had identical performances of 13 pitches with nine strikes, giving up nothing but a hit. Harper truck out the side and earned his first MLB win. Tyler Duffey, on the other hand, didn’t pitch in the eighth as well as they had in the sixth and seventh. He allowed two runners to reach, and both advanced on a wild pitch, but he managed to deliver scoreless outing. Another Twins insurance run was added in the top of the ninth. Buxton led off the inning with a double, his MLB-leading 21st and his second hit of the game. Then, he was scored by a Garver grounder to center, his third hit of the night, making it 6-3 Twins. Blake Parker got his ninth save of the season, but he made it interesting. Detroit batters demanded 28 pitches from him and two runners reached on walks. But, in the end, Parker pushed through. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Pen67.png Next Game Sat at DET, 3:10 pm (Gibson-TBD) Last Game MIN 5, CLE 4: Max Power Against Bauer More from Twins Daily Cali Connection Jumps Draft Boards: Q&A with Keoni Cavaco Twins Bring Local Product Home: Q&A with Matt Wallner Craig Kimbrel and Risk Tolerance Click here to view the article
  22. By the end of next week, the Minnesota Twins will be more than a third of the way through their 2019 schedule. After completing a dominant sweep in Anaheim, they have the best record and second-best run differential in baseball. Their lead in the AL Central has ballooned to eight games. We're still a week away from June, but it is not by any means too early to start thinking big.It's been a long time since Twins fans last had the luxury of contemplating things like pennant races and playoff rotations and jockeying for home field advantage. I can't remember ever having any such thoughts before the end of May. But we're at a point where talking about the Twins as likely postseason entrants and World Series contenders is not fanciful. It's almost obligatory. Throughout the entirety of a drawn-out rebuilding process that began with a 99-loss season in 2011, Minnesota has been future-focused. At their best (in 2015 and '17), they straddled the line, scrapping for an unlikely postseason berth while keeping their eyes trained on a championship window to come. Here in 2019, if perhaps slightly ahead of schedule, the window has been thrust open. The future is now. There is nothing fluky or superficial about the stunning success of this Twins team. Finding weaknesses is tough. The lineup continues to reaffirm that its unparalleled 1-through-9 power and run-scoring prowess are for real. The rotation has no blatant holes. (Michael Pineda gets some flack, but all his numbers outside of a bloated HR rate – and correspondingly high ERA – are quite good for a fifth starter.) And the bullpen has, thus far, been beyond respectable. As Matt Braun concluded in a blog entry here on Thursday, "These guys have actually been pretty good, so lay off them for now." He makes many fair points, noting that the unit rates well in key categories like FIP and leverage metrics. There's no doubt Twins relievers have performed extraordinarily well thus far. But as I view the Twins through this new, unfamiliar lens – sudden division favorites with legitimate championship aspirations – the bullpen does weigh on me. It's almost inconceivable at this point, given how absurdly consistent they've been since Day 1, but eventually this team will hit some turbulence. The bats will go through some quieter periods, and the starters will experience downspells or injuries. In the dog days of the summer, we will really see this bullpen tested. As much as this team has surpassed my every expectation, even the most optimistic side of me can't see it grading out too well in those moments. And when it comes to matching up against the other kingpins in the American League? Houston, New York and Boston have deep pens custom-built for October. Tampa Bay, as usual, has a vast assortment of incredibly effective relievers that no one's ever heard of – in fact, they have the game's best bullpen ERA. I guess you could put the Twins in the same boat as the Rays, a club they seemingly modeled their approach after. Like Minnesota, Tampa has opportunistically traded away good relievers, filling the vacancies through internal pipeline or low-wattage additions. Both teams have mostly eschewed free agency; as you watch Addison Reed get cut loose with his millions in dead money, while Blake Parker and Ryne Harper continually deliver, it grows a lot tougher to question that strategy. The Twins are finding ways to extract the most out of their talent. Pitching coaches Wes Johnson and Jeremy Hefner are clearly getting through with good info. Rocco Baldelli's decision-making and usage patterns have been strong, from my view, and he places a clear focus on taking care of his players. All these factors help elevate a group toward its true potential. Still, unless some sort of supernatural enchantment is at play (and it's getting a little harder to rule that out with each passing day), no objective onlooker can view this bullpen with great confidence going forward. Taylor Rogers is clearly awesome. I'm willing to buy into Parker, although his 1.10/3.87 split in ERA/FIP points to a clear luck element to his ridiculously good results thus far. After those two, the Twins have: Trevor May. Sadly not anywhere near the same guy he was last year. His swinging strike rate is down to single digits (from an elite 15.4% last year), because his stuff isn't compelling people to swing outside the zone, which is also leading to too many walks. May's throwing as hard as ever and it isn't hard to envision him turning that corner, but so far he hasn't.Ryne Harper. There's no knocking his splendid performance up to this point. But he's a 30-year-old MLB rookie whose fastball sits in the high-80s. He's going to need to keep doing it for quite a while longer before lifting all shrouds of doubt.Matt Magill. The Twins were believers. They had him in their bullpen plans before an injury sidelined him to start the year, and since joining the team in late April, Magill has validated their faith. He might be one of the least intimidating-looking pitchers in baseball but his spectacular velocity – 95 and 88 on average with the fastball and slider – belie his aesthetic. He has ridden that stuff to copious strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA. This is clearly a higher-caliber pitcher than we saw last year, but everyone recalls the way his hot start turned ice cold in 2018.Mike Morin. He has thrown strikes and gotten people out. (8.1 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 1 ER). What more could you ask? But it's only nine appearances. He's also a 28-year-old who has thrown 24 MLB innings over the past two years, and owns a 3.99 career ERA in Triple-A.Austin Adams. Can't help but be impressed by his arm out of the gates. He throws even harder than Magill, and looked dominant in two outings before getting blown up by the Angels on Thursday. His nightmare outing in Anaheim (0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 ER) will set his numbers back for a while. And it served as a reminder: As good as some of these relievers look at times, and as much as the Twins might be optimizing their repertoires and usage, these are still pitchers signed to minor-league contracts, drawing zero demand from the league at large. Him, Magill, Morin, Harper. And the next guy can more or less be placed in the same group.Tyler Duffey. He almost certainly would've been waived from the 40-man roster during the offseason, if not for holding an option that allowed the Twins to stash him at Triple-A. Now he's in the Minnesota bullpen and looking very much like the dominant reliever we all dreamed he could be. Duffey is finally showing some bite on his heater, and in combination with his ever-vexing curveball, it's piling up strikeouts.So after Parker and Rogers, you have May and then five guys that are more or less veteran Triple-A pitchers thrust into MLB action. With the exception of Adams' implosion, they've all handled it beautifully. All are awesome individual stories, and given the substance behind each of these performances, it isn't that hard to see any one of them sustaining. But... all of them? That feels like too tall an ask, even in this possibly enchanted season. Depth is of the essence. And that's where the pressing concerns emerge. The front office was planning around Trevor Hildenberger and Fernando Romero (and maybe Reed) as key late-inning contributors, but at present both are struggling as part of a GHASTLY bullpen at Rochester: The Triple-A rotation hasn't been so hot either. There's no credible help at the highest level of the minors. Double-A is a little more interesting, and on Thursday, Brusdar Graterol's presence in Minneapolis raised considerable intrigue among the fan base. It sounds like Graterol was here for evaluation, but the idea of a call-up wasn't that far-fetched, which says quite a lot for 20-year-old pitcher (and for the Twins' underlying need). He's been absurdly dominant in Double-A. Alas, the right-hander recently dealt with a trapezius issue and the Twins will smartly place his welfare ahead of the team's. With that in mind, who's going to help this bullpen? The internal reinforcement slate at present is not inspiring. The MLB Draft is suddenly less than two weeks away, meaning that Craig Kimbrel is about to be freed from his burdensome compensation pick tether. That'll fire up the discussions around him again, which is fair. But I maintain that the trade market is a superior avenue. That's how the Astros acquired the best reliever in baseball (from the Twins, unfortunately) and it's a big part of how Tampa constructed its bullpen. The Twins are sneakily well positioned. Their relief corps has performed well, so no trade partner is going to be able to leverage it as an urgent weakness against them. At the same time, the Twins are more motivated to be proactive than other big-market contenders, who are largely flush with high-paid, established options. Will this press them to make a hard push for Kimbrel on the other side of the draft? Or to be aggressive early in the trade market and snatch a big arm? I'll be interested to find out. Most of all, I'm just giddy to be be in a position to think about such things. Click here to view the article
  23. It's been a long time since Twins fans last had the luxury of contemplating things like pennant races and playoff rotations and jockeying for home field advantage. I can't remember ever having any such thoughts before the end of May. But we're at a point where talking about the Twins as likely postseason entrants and World Series contenders is not fanciful. It's almost obligatory. Throughout the entirety of a drawn-out rebuilding process that began with a 99-loss season in 2011, Minnesota has been future-focused. At their best (in 2015 and '17), they straddled the line, scrapping for an unlikely postseason berth while keeping their eyes trained on a championship window to come. Here in 2019, if perhaps slightly ahead of schedule, the window has been thrust open. The future is now. There is nothing fluky or superficial about the stunning success of this Twins team. Finding weaknesses is tough. The lineup continues to reaffirm that its unparalleled 1-through-9 power and run-scoring prowess are for real. The rotation has no blatant holes. (Michael Pineda gets some flack, but all his numbers outside of a bloated HR rate – and correspondingly high ERA – are quite good for a fifth starter.) And the bullpen has, thus far, been beyond respectable. As Matt Braun concluded in a blog entry here on Thursday, "These guys have actually been pretty good, so lay off them for now." He makes many fair points, noting that the unit rates well in key categories like FIP and leverage metrics. There's no doubt Twins relievers have performed extraordinarily well thus far. But as I view the Twins through this new, unfamiliar lens – sudden division favorites with legitimate championship aspirations – the bullpen does weigh on me. It's almost inconceivable at this point, given how absurdly consistent they've been since Day 1, but eventually this team will hit some turbulence. The bats will go through some quieter periods, and the starters will experience downspells or injuries. In the dog days of the summer, we will really see this bullpen tested. As much as this team has surpassed my every expectation, even the most optimistic side of me can't see it grading out too well in those moments. And when it comes to matching up against the other kingpins in the American League? Houston, New York and Boston have deep pens custom-built for October. Tampa Bay, as usual, has a vast assortment of incredibly effective relievers that no one's ever heard of – in fact, they have the game's best bullpen ERA. I guess you could put the Twins in the same boat as the Rays, a club they seemingly modeled their approach after. Like Minnesota, Tampa has opportunistically traded away good relievers, filling the vacancies through internal pipeline or low-wattage additions. Both teams have mostly eschewed free agency; as you watch Addison Reed get cut loose with his millions in dead money, while Blake Parker and Ryne Harper continually deliver, it grows a lot tougher to question that strategy. The Twins are finding ways to extract the most out of their talent. Pitching coaches Wes Johnson and Jeremy Hefner are clearly getting through with good info. Rocco Baldelli's decision-making and usage patterns have been strong, from my view, and he places a clear focus on taking care of his players. All these factors help elevate a group toward its true potential. Still, unless some sort of supernatural enchantment is at play (and it's getting a little harder to rule that out with each passing day), no objective onlooker can view this bullpen with great confidence going forward. Taylor Rogers is clearly awesome. I'm willing to buy into Parker, although his 1.10/3.87 split in ERA/FIP points to a clear luck element to his ridiculously good results thus far. After those two, the Twins have: Trevor May. Sadly not anywhere near the same guy he was last year. His swinging strike rate is down to single digits (from an elite 15.4% last year), because his stuff isn't compelling people to swing outside the zone, which is also leading to too many walks. May's throwing as hard as ever and it isn't hard to envision him turning that corner, but so far he hasn't. Ryne Harper. There's no knocking his splendid performance up to this point. But he's a 30-year-old MLB rookie whose fastball sits in the high-80s. He's going to need to keep doing it for quite a while longer before lifting all shrouds of doubt. Matt Magill. The Twins were believers. They had him in their bullpen plans before an injury sidelined him to start the year, and since joining the team in late April, Magill has validated their faith. He might be one of the least intimidating-looking pitchers in baseball but his spectacular velocity – 95 and 88 on average with the fastball and slider – belie his aesthetic. He has ridden that stuff to copious strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA. This is clearly a higher-caliber pitcher than we saw last year, but everyone recalls the way his hot start turned ice cold in 2018. Mike Morin. He has thrown strikes and gotten people out. (8.1 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 1 ER). What more could you ask? But it's only nine appearances. He's also a 28-year-old who has thrown 24 MLB innings over the past two years, and owns a 3.99 career ERA in Triple-A. Austin Adams. Can't help but be impressed by his arm out of the gates. He throws even harder than Magill, and looked dominant in two outings before getting blown up by the Angels on Thursday. His nightmare outing in Anaheim (0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 ER) will set his numbers back for a while. And it served as a reminder: As good as some of these relievers look at times, and as much as the Twins might be optimizing their repertoires and usage, these are still pitchers signed to minor-league contracts, drawing zero demand from the league at large. Him, Magill, Morin, Harper. And the next guy can more or less be placed in the same group. Tyler Duffey. He almost certainly would've been waived from the 40-man roster during the offseason, if not for holding an option that allowed the Twins to stash him at Triple-A. Now he's in the Minnesota bullpen and looking very much like the dominant reliever we all dreamed he could be. Duffey is finally showing some bite on his heater, and in combination with his ever-vexing curveball, it's piling up strikeouts. So after Parker and Rogers, you have May and then five guys that are more or less veteran Triple-A pitchers thrust into MLB action. With the exception of Adams' implosion, they've all handled it beautifully. All are awesome individual stories, and given the substance behind each of these performances, it isn't that hard to see any one of them sustaining. But... all of them? That feels like too tall an ask, even in this possibly enchanted season. Depth is of the essence. And that's where the pressing concerns emerge. The front office was planning around Trevor Hildenberger and Fernando Romero (and maybe Reed) as key late-inning contributors, but at present both are struggling as part of a GHASTLY bullpen at Rochester: https://twitter.com/NickNelsonMN/status/1130269630042451968 The Triple-A rotation hasn't been so hot either. There's no credible help at the highest level of the minors. Double-A is a little more interesting, and on Thursday, Brusdar Graterol's presence in Minneapolis raised considerable intrigue among the fan base. It sounds like Graterol was here for evaluation, but the idea of a call-up wasn't that far-fetched, which says quite a lot for 20-year-old pitcher (and for the Twins' underlying need). He's been absurdly dominant in Double-A. Alas, the right-hander recently dealt with a trapezius issue and the Twins will smartly place his welfare ahead of the team's. With that in mind, who's going to help this bullpen? The internal reinforcement slate at present is not inspiring. The MLB Draft is suddenly less than two weeks away, meaning that Craig Kimbrel is about to be freed from his burdensome compensation pick tether. That'll fire up the discussions around him again, which is fair. But I maintain that the trade market is a superior avenue. That's how the Astros acquired the best reliever in baseball (from the Twins, unfortunately) and it's a big part of how Tampa constructed its bullpen. The Twins are sneakily well positioned. Their relief corps has performed well, so no trade partner is going to be able to leverage it as an urgent weakness against them. At the same time, the Twins are more motivated to be proactive than other big-market contenders, who are largely flush with high-paid, established options. Will this press them to make a hard push for Kimbrel on the other side of the draft? Or to be aggressive early in the trade market and snatch a big arm? I'll be interested to find out. Most of all, I'm just giddy to be be in a position to think about such things.
  24. After three encouraging starts to open the season, Michael Pineda was pounded in his fourth start today. He gave up as many runs in the fourth inning as he had all season prior to today. Eddie Rosario provided some pop, hitting his fifth and sixth home runs of the season, but it wasn’t enough.Box Score Pineda: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 64.0% strikes (48 of 75 pitches) Home Runs: Rosario 2 (6) Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-for-4, 2 HR), Astudillo (2-for-4), Schoop (2-for-4) WPA of +0.1: Rosario .105, Harper .100 WPA of -0.1: Kepler -.144, Pineda -.472 Download attachment: Win418.png (chart via FanGraphs) The Twins did not pitch well in this series, but another reason why they dropped three out of four games to Toronto is they didn’t do an especially great job at scoring runs either. A grand total of 16 runs were scored by Minnesota, no more than five in any game. Not that you ever expect to win on a day your staff surrenders seven runs. While Pineda had an awful day, the much beleaguered Twins bullpen actually held things together despite the shorts start. Ryne Harper held the Blue Jays to one hit over 3 1/3 innings, Tyler Duffey gave up a solo home run but also had two more strikeouts and Trevor May pitched a perfect inning. Rosario was the big star at the plate, though it was too bad both his homers were of the solo variety. The three batters in front of him in the lineup combined to go 0-for-12, though Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco each drew a walk. Willians Astudillo and Jonathan Schoop, a couple of guys who had been ice cold heading into today, each recorded a pair of hits. Byron Buxton hit his eighth double, had an RBI ground out and stole his fourth base of the season. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Bullpen418.png Next Three Games Fri at BAL, 6:05 pm CT (Berrios-Cobb) Sat at BAL, 6:05 pm CT (Perez-TBD) Sun at BAL, 12:05 pm CT (Gibson-TBD) Last Game MIN 4, TOR 1: Pitching Staff Redemption Night Click here to view the article
  25. Box Score Pineda: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 64.0% strikes (48 of 75 pitches) Home Runs: Rosario 2 (6) Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-for-4, 2 HR), Astudillo (2-for-4), Schoop (2-for-4) WPA of +0.1: Rosario .105, Harper .100 WPA of -0.1: Kepler -.144, Pineda -.472 (chart via FanGraphs) The Twins did not pitch well in this series, but another reason why they dropped three out of four games to Toronto is they didn’t do an especially great job at scoring runs either. A grand total of 16 runs were scored by Minnesota, no more than five in any game. Not that you ever expect to win on a day your staff surrenders seven runs. While Pineda had an awful day, the much beleaguered Twins bullpen actually held things together despite the shorts start. Ryne Harper held the Blue Jays to one hit over 3 1/3 innings, Tyler Duffey gave up a solo home run but also had two more strikeouts and Trevor May pitched a perfect inning. Rosario was the big star at the plate, though it was too bad both his homers were of the solo variety. The three batters in front of him in the lineup combined to go 0-for-12, though Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco each drew a walk. Willians Astudillo and Jonathan Schoop, a couple of guys who had been ice cold heading into today, each recorded a pair of hits. Byron Buxton hit his eighth double, had an RBI ground out and stole his fourth base of the season. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Fri at BAL, 6:05 pm CT (Berrios-Cobb) Sat at BAL, 6:05 pm CT (Perez-TBD) Sun at BAL, 12:05 pm CT (Gibson-TBD) Last Game MIN 4, TOR 1: Pitching Staff Redemption Night
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