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  1. Brief Overview: The ride of the season has brought these two teams back to face off against each other in the penultimate regular season series between them. The Twins are riding high after climbing higher in their division lead while the Indians have scuffled recently. Ever since the Indians took over sole possession of the division for exactly one entire day, it has been rough sailing for them as they have gone 9-13 while losing a few key pieces to injury. What They Do Well: Hey, the Indians have great starting pitching, shocker, isn’t it? Despite Corey Kluber being out for most of the year, Carlos Carrasco being out after being diagnosed with leukemia (but he has since returned as a reliever, which is amazing to see), and Trevor Bauer being traded, the Indians have the fifth-best starting pitching in all of baseball by fWAR. The secret sauce’s ingredients has been the development of Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger into aces along with impacts from Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale. Although, peripherals suggest some regression for both of the latter arms. Nevertheless, the Indians’ starting rotation remains a force that will certainly test the Twins’ offense. They not only can pitch, but the lumber in Cleveland is well brought as well. Ever since August (basically when they acquired Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes), they have been the ninth-best offense by wRC+ with a respectable 105 mark. I’m sure you want a frame of reference for that, so be aware that Doug Mientkiewicz held a wRC+ of 104 when he was with the Twins. The Indians have cleaned up one of the aspects of their game that was once a negative and the result has been a well-rounded team that can hold its own. What They Do Not Do Well: For months, I said that I didn’t think the Indians’ bullpen was that good and for months, I looked like a crazy man yelling conspiracies with a megaphone in downtown Seattle (it happens). BUT, since the start of August, the Indians have the 20th best bullpen by fWAR and their 4.86 FIP is the 13th worst in baseball over that time period. What happened? Well, the once reliable Brad Hand has a ghastly 7.15 ERA over that time period as his peripherals have also went down the toilet. Both Nick Wittgren and Tyler Clippard have great ERAs but they also both have peripherals that would make anyone blush (that is, in a bad way). Really, beyond them, there isn’t much in the form of a quality reliever that can be trusted for an inning no matter who the batters are, Tyler Duffey might be the best reliever on the Indians if he were there (thank goodness he isn’t). This is going to be a strange one, but they really don’t play well against good teams at all. Take this stat from Andrew Simon: https://twitter.com/AndrewSimonMLB/status/1169705818578718722 Now, beating up on bad teams is pretty much the meta for the AL as a whole as there are many, many teams who would rather lose than win, but it is telling to see that they are bloated on the end of beating teams of poor caliber. The Indians are just 20-32 against teams at or above .500 which is the 19th best mark in baseball. The Twins are 28-32 under the same stipulation and the question for them is whether they can beat teams that are actually good, so the question remains even harsher on the Indians. Individuals Of Note: Mike Clevinger in 2019 so far has made the great decision to strike out more batters while walking a hair fewer, a pretty smart combo I must admit. The result has been an incredible 12.77 K/9 which would be the third-highest mark in MLB among qualified starters if he had the innings to qualify. On top of that (or more accurately, something that feeds into that), his average fastball velocity is up two ticks from 93.6 MPH to 95.8 MPH and his swinging strike % is in the stratosphere at a 15.5% rate. Basically, this is a long way of saying that he good, real good. Oh, and he is scheduled to start on Sunday. I previously mentioned the Puig and Reyes deal in which they dealt from a position of strength to help a part of the team that was very weak, but Puig and Reyes have been sufficiently meh since the deal. Since the start of August, Puig holds a below-average 92 wRC+ and Reyes is at 111. Reyes’ defense (or lack thereof) knocks his value down and both players have been worth just .1 fWAR over that time period which spans over 120 plate appearances for both players. Baseball is naturally a streaky sport, but it seems like the Indians didn’t get the boost they were hoping for from both guys when they acquired them. Recent History: The Twins and Indians last played at Target field in early August. The Indians won that 3-1 and the Indians hold the season series by a tally of 7-6. Recent Trajectories: The Twins are 11-5 over their last five series while the Indians are 7-9 over their last five series. Pitching Matchups: Friday: Pineda vs Plutko Saturday: Odorizzi vs Civale Sunday: TBD vs Clevinger Ending Thoughts: The magic number for the Twins is currently 16 and this series will be a great opportunity to knock that number down a few pegs as each win counts as two towards the magic number. The pitching match-ups fall pretty decently in the Twins’ favor as they get their ace against the Indians’ worst starter and they get their All-Star starter against a rookie as well. The Sunday game may be interesting but now is the chance to show the Indians why you are the top team in the division. I’m feeling a 2-1 series in favor of the Twins and my mojo may be slightly regained after correctly calling the previous series, so watch out if you are an aspiring fortune-teller out there.
  2. WHAT A THROW! Still very high off the end of that game, I, your humble writer and guide, will attempt to put together a sufficient preview laced with as much snark as I am feeling at the moment. I know it has been said about every series so far, but this series actually will be the biggest one (so far) of the year as the Twins get a shot at the team chasing them in the standings. The band this week is The Black Keys who are from Akron, not Cleveland, but all of Ohio is the same to me so I don’t care.Brief Overview: The ride of the season has brought these two teams back to face off against each other in the penultimate regular season series between them. The Twins are riding high after climbing higher in their division lead while the Indians have scuffled recently. Ever since the Indians took over sole possession of the division for exactly one entire day, it has been rough sailing for them as they have gone 9-13 while losing a few key pieces to injury. What They Do Well: Hey, the Indians have great starting pitching, shocker, isn’t it? Despite Corey Kluber being out for most of the year, Carlos Carrasco being out after being diagnosed with leukemia (but he has since returned as a reliever, which is amazing to see), and Trevor Bauer being traded, the Indians have the fifth-best starting pitching in all of baseball by fWAR. The secret sauce’s ingredients has been the development of Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger into aces along with impacts from Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale. Although, peripherals suggest some regression for both of the latter arms. Nevertheless, the Indians’ starting rotation remains a force that will certainly test the Twins’ offense. They not only can pitch, but the lumber in Cleveland is well brought as well. Ever since August (basically when they acquired Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes), they have been the ninth-best offense by wRC+ with a respectable 105 mark. I’m sure you want a frame of reference for that, so be aware that Doug Mientkiewicz held a wRC+ of 104 when he was with the Twins. The Indians have cleaned up one of the aspects of their game that was once a negative and the result has been a well-rounded team that can hold its own. What They Do Not Do Well: For months, I said that I didn’t think the Indians’ bullpen was that good and for months, I looked like a crazy man yelling conspiracies with a megaphone in downtown Seattle (it happens). BUT, since the start of August, the Indians have the 20th best bullpen by fWAR and their 4.86 FIP is the 13th worst in baseball over that time period. What happened? Well, the once reliable Brad Hand has a ghastly 7.15 ERA over that time period as his peripherals have also went down the toilet. Both Nick Wittgren and Tyler Clippard have great ERAs but they also both have peripherals that would make anyone blush (that is, in a bad way). Really, beyond them, there isn’t much in the form of a quality reliever that can be trusted for an inning no matter who the batters are, Tyler Duffey might be the best reliever on the Indians if he were there (thank goodness he isn’t). This is going to be a strange one, but they really don’t play well against good teams at all. Take this stat from Andrew Simon: Now, beating up on bad teams is pretty much the meta for the AL as a whole as there are many, many teams who would rather lose than win, but it is telling to see that they are bloated on the end of beating teams of poor caliber. The Indians are just 20-32 against teams at or above .500 which is the 19th best mark in baseball. The Twins are 28-32 under the same stipulation and the question for them is whether they can beat teams that are actually good, so the question remains even harsher on the Indians. Individuals Of Note: Mike Clevinger in 2019 so far has made the great decision to strike out more batters while walking a hair fewer, a pretty smart combo I must admit. The result has been an incredible 12.77 K/9 which would be the third-highest mark in MLB among qualified starters if he had the innings to qualify. On top of that (or more accurately, something that feeds into that), his average fastball velocity is up two ticks from 93.6 MPH to 95.8 MPH and his swinging strike % is in the stratosphere at a 15.5% rate. Basically, this is a long way of saying that he good, real good. Oh, and he is scheduled to start on Sunday. I previously mentioned the Puig and Reyes deal in which they dealt from a position of strength to help a part of the team that was very weak, but Puig and Reyes have been sufficiently meh since the deal. Since the start of August, Puig holds a below-average 92 wRC+ and Reyes is at 111. Reyes’ defense (or lack thereof) knocks his value down and both players have been worth just .1 fWAR over that time period which spans over 120 plate appearances for both players. Baseball is naturally a streaky sport, but it seems like the Indians didn’t get the boost they were hoping for from both guys when they acquired them. Recent History: The Twins and Indians last played at Target field in early August. The Indians won that 3-1 and the Indians hold the season series by a tally of 7-6. Recent Trajectories: The Twins are 11-5 over their last five series while the Indians are 7-9 over their last five series. Pitching Matchups: Friday: Pineda vs Plutko Saturday: Odorizzi vs Civale Sunday: TBD vs Clevinger Ending Thoughts: The magic number for the Twins is currently 16 and this series will be a great opportunity to knock that number down a few pegs as each win counts as two towards the magic number. The pitching match-ups fall pretty decently in the Twins’ favor as they get their ace against the Indians’ worst starter and they get their All-Star starter against a rookie as well. The Sunday game may be interesting but now is the chance to show the Indians why you are the top team in the division. I’m feeling a 2-1 series in favor of the Twins and my mojo may be slightly regained after correctly calling the previous series, so watch out if you are an aspiring fortune-teller out there. Click here to view the article
  3. Brief Overview: Last week I wrote that Detroit was a poor team and they were so offended by that statement that they decided to take the first game of that series and then subsequently lose every other game heading into this series. A perfect 0-5 sums up their season quite well as they have already been eliminated from playoff contention, have hit 92 losses, have had their awfulness quantified in a historical context, and their manager, Ron Gardenhire, has already said that he understands if the Tigers choose not to retain him next year. Again, it’s August and the Tigers’ grave has already been dug and the funeral procession has apparently already come and gone, this is now just the after-party. What They Do Well: No other business can say that they have single-handedly kept the flight from Toledo to Detroit alive and flourishing quite like Detroit can. A mean-spirited joke yes, but the Tigers have had 52 different players play for them at this year and all I can think about is the executives at Delta swimming in money. Although that was probably going to happen regardless of Detroit’s 40-man situation. Beyond my snark, Detroit still has an average starting rotation by fWAR as they rank 15th in baseball in that stat. Again, it’s mainly Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, and Daniel Norris carrying them in that stat, but for a team with this record, even mediocrity can feel like a miracle. Beyond them, it's a drop-off into the abyss (sans Jordan Zimmermann's actually decent peripherals) but the Tigers should have a fighting chance to win a game with any of those guys pitching. What They Do Not Do Well: This could literally end up being a masters thesis if I were so inclined but I’ll try to cut to the chase here. The Tigers were able to BABIP themselves into a decent offensive showing against the Twins last weekend, but the mirage did not last long and the numbers for the year as a whole remain ugly. A league-low 77 wRC+ paired with a bottom three ISO of .149 reflects an offense without many threats. The ISO especially is indicative of the kind of offense the Tigers possess as in a day and age of power, the Tigers’ need for extra-base potential is greater than the Indians’ thirst for actually having people come to their games. Can I quantify that? Yes, actually. The Tigers’ leader in ISO (Ronny Rodriguez) holds a mark of .222 while the Twins as a team hold a mark of .230. Can they at least pitch? Well, not really. The Tigers have the third highest team ERA in baseball and it hasn’t gotten better recently. In the month of August, the Tigers’ pitching staff has a lower fWAR total than Trevor Hildenberger has earned in 2019 (.3 to .4). Hildenberger has thrown 14 innings in the majors this year, you do not really need me to tell you that that isn’t ideal, but finding fun ways to slant stats is half of the point of these articles so allow me to continue. Individuals Of Note: Unfortunately, I mentioned Niko Goodrum here last week because he was having a solid year, but he then suffered an injury and will most likely not return this year, sorry for that one, Niko. After Niko, the next best position player by fWAR is Victor Reyes whom the Tigers picked up in the Rule 5 draft last year and somewhat stashed in their savings account in order to get full team control over him. Reyes has responded by BABIP-ing his way to .4 fWAR season over 41 games. Most of his value has been earned through his great defensive metrics as his 85 wRC+ is incredibly whelming, and that’s even with a massive .359 BABIP. Beyond that, this is a vast wasteland of lost hope as no other position player really deserves notoriety in this sprawling array of sadness. The Tigers’ position player fWAR leaders list would be the perfect place to hide secret government codes or laundered money. Maybe “Mikie Mahtook” is actually code for one of those things, maybe I’ll get back to that later. Let’s talk about Daniel Norris, because why not. Norris was part of the return when the Tigers dealt David Price to the Blue Jays, which is a very old-fashioned statement, but a true one nonetheless. Norris struggles with staying healthy and has gone through the general wringer that most young starters are subject to as they adjust to major league hitters. This year has been a step in the right direction for him as he has already set a new high for MLB innings in a year with 126 1/3 and he may hit the 2.0 fWAR mark if the last month of the season goes well for him. He’s no longer a young gun at 26 but there is still a good chance that he turns into a quality big league pitcher. Recent History: The Twins and Tigers have played a handful of times this year and the Twins are 8-4. The most recent series was won by the Twins as they took two games and the Twins also took two games the last time they were in Comerica (which was in early June). Recent Trajectories: The Twins are 11-4 over their last five series while the Tigers are 4-10 over their last five series. Pitching Matchups: Friday: Gibson vs Jackson Saturday: Pérez vs Boyd Sunday: Pineda vs Turnbull Monday: Odorizzi vs Zimmermann Ending Thoughts: This is one of those weird series where they play four straight games against each other but it’s technically a three game series with the fourth game being a makeup game from an earlier rain out. Anyway, the Twins are coming into the series hot while the Tigers are literally the farthest from hot as a team can be. Taking three games will be the absolute minimum expected from the Twins and taking four should not be out of reach at all. Granted, I am now on a three-series losing streak, but I will call that the Twins will take three games exactly, so who knows what actually will end up happening here.
  4. The first three-game losing streak of the Twins’ season sets them up for a four-game series against one of the hottest teams in baseball; the Oakland Athletics. The Twins have played some uninspiring ball recently and as the Indians continue to win, the Twins will need to put something together sooner rather than later if they want to continue to hold onto the division crown.Brief Overview: The A’s came into the season fresh off a wild card loss and as usual, had a somewhat quiet off-season that was more shuffling cards than anything. Because they play in the AL West with the Astros, many wrote off a division title as impossible, but they currently are in striking distance of first place and now actually have a better run differential than the Astros (this could change if the Astros blow out the Angels this Wednesday night but you get the point). They are hot and they are ready to play any team in baseball. What They Do Well: This is an offense that refuses to strike out as their team K% is the third lowest in baseball at 20.0%. Legendary tweeter, Trevor Plouffe, struck out 20.0% of the time with the Twins for reference. As a whole, their offense is ninth in baseball with a Shannon Stewart wRC+ of 105 that has been a Michael Cuddyer 110 since the beginning of June. So this is an offense that does not strike out easily and will hit well. They also hold the second-best bullpen fWAR in baseball with a 4.4 mark. This comes from a 3.93 FIP that suggest that everything is fine but a 4.82 xFIP says otherwise. The difference is that xFIP is adjusted for home run per fly ball rate and Oakland’s bullpen’s HR/FB rate is at an astonishing low 9.3% (which is also Scott Baker’s HR/FB %). No other team in baseball has a number lower than 12.2% so either the Oakland relievers have found the secret for not giving up homers (unlikely) or there should be some regression coming in that field (oh, hell yes). What They Do Not Do Well: In an era of strikeouts, the Oakland A’s have been hipsters as their starting rotation holds the lowest team K/9 at a hilariously low 6.85 K/9. Freaking Jose Mijares had a higher K/9, what in the world. They also lost their best starter and strikeout artist in Frankie Montas thanks to an 80-game PED suspension, so expect their starting pitchers to be a rarely used frozen yogurt card and not punch out much. This also comes with the second lowest starting rotation BABIP and a FIP higher than their ERA, so there could be some regression ready for the Twins offense to take advantage of. That’s actually pretty much it, their rotation is a bit sketchy but they have a great offense and a (currently) pretty damn good bullpen, a well-rounded team indeed. Individuals Of Note: The best star who is not talked about enough, Matt Chapman, is on his way to having another elite season. Dating back to the beginning of 2018, only one 3rd baseman has more fWAR (Alex Bregman) and he ranks fifth in all of baseball with a 10.7 mark. This year, he has improved even more as he has struck out less, walked more, hit for a higher average, raised his OBP, and is hitting for a higher slugging %. Oh, and he still has elite defense, good lord what a player. Marcus Semien has quietly been one of the best shortstops in all of baseball this year as his 3.5 fWAR mark is only behind Xander Bogaerts for all full-time shortstops in baseball. Much like Chapman, Semien has improved in basically every facet of his offensive game while also putting up great defensive numbers, making the left side of Oakland’s infield pretty good. Now, you know there is a giant elephant in the room as I move to the pitching side of things. I don’t want to talk about it as much as you don’t want to read about it but they pay me the big bucks here at Twins Daily to deliver what needs to be heard. So with a heavy heart, I must talk about the fact that Liam “literally Liam Hendriks” Hendriks is having a great season where he participated in the All-Star game. He is second in all of baseball in reliever fWAR and his average fastball velocity is 95.8 (it never was above 92 for the Twins). He has been the best reliever in the Oakland pen which can only prove that we all know nothing and are frauds (but you already knew this). If you held a gun to my head and asked me to name three or more starters from the A’s, well first I would wonder why you are demanding such a specific thing from me, but ultimately I would probably accidentally say “Mark Mulder” and then not survive. So to aid you, the reader, in case you find yourself in this situation, let’s get to know Chris Bassitt. Bassitt is currently throwing harder than ever with an average fastball velo of 93.4 MPH and the result has been almost a full jump in K/9 (7.74 in 2018, 8.71 in 2019). His 3.98 ERA reflects his other positive movements but his FIP of 4.42 does suggest some regression. Bassitt is set to start one of the games this series so you can use this knowledge when he is on the mound. Recent History: The Twins played a three-game series in Oakland starting on July 2 and lost two of three. The lone win came in extra innings and Oakland solidly outplayed them then. Recent Trajectories: The Twins are just 6-8 over their last five series while the A’s are 12-3 over their last five series. Ending Thoughts: The Twins haven’t played well recently which I’m going to assume is something that everyone here knows, while the A’s have been absolutely on fire. Throw in the recent hot streak from the Indians, and this now becomes an important and difficult series for the Twins. They’ll need a split at the very worst to tread water and anything worse will put them in immediate danger of dropping out of first. I predict that they will split the series and I have been a perfect 4-for-4 in my predictions so far so you can take this to the bank. Click here to view the article
  5. Brief Overview: The A’s came into the season fresh off a wild card loss and as usual, had a somewhat quiet off-season that was more shuffling cards than anything. Because they play in the AL West with the Astros, many wrote off a division title as impossible, but they currently are in striking distance of first place and now actually have a better run differential than the Astros (this could change if the Astros blow out the Angels this Wednesday night but you get the point). They are hot and they are ready to play any team in baseball. What They Do Well: This is an offense that refuses to strike out as their team K% is the third lowest in baseball at 20.0%. Legendary tweeter, Trevor Plouffe, struck out 20.0% of the time with the Twins for reference. As a whole, their offense is ninth in baseball with a Shannon Stewart wRC+ of 105 that has been a Michael Cuddyer 110 since the beginning of June. So this is an offense that does not strike out easily and will hit well. They also hold the second-best bullpen fWAR in baseball with a 4.4 mark. This comes from a 3.93 FIP that suggest that everything is fine but a 4.82 xFIP says otherwise. The difference is that xFIP is adjusted for home run per fly ball rate and Oakland’s bullpen’s HR/FB rate is at an astonishing low 9.3% (which is also Scott Baker’s HR/FB %). No other team in baseball has a number lower than 12.2% so either the Oakland relievers have found the secret for not giving up homers (unlikely) or there should be some regression coming in that field (oh, hell yes). What They Do Not Do Well: In an era of strikeouts, the Oakland A’s have been hipsters as their starting rotation holds the lowest team K/9 at a hilariously low 6.85 K/9. Freaking Jose Mijares had a higher K/9, what in the world. They also lost their best starter and strikeout artist in Frankie Montas thanks to an 80-game PED suspension, so expect their starting pitchers to be a rarely used frozen yogurt card and not punch out much. This also comes with the second lowest starting rotation BABIP and a FIP higher than their ERA, so there could be some regression ready for the Twins offense to take advantage of. That’s actually pretty much it, their rotation is a bit sketchy but they have a great offense and a (currently) pretty damn good bullpen, a well-rounded team indeed. Individuals Of Note: The best star who is not talked about enough, Matt Chapman, is on his way to having another elite season. Dating back to the beginning of 2018, only one 3rd baseman has more fWAR (Alex Bregman) and he ranks fifth in all of baseball with a 10.7 mark. This year, he has improved even more as he has struck out less, walked more, hit for a higher average, raised his OBP, and is hitting for a higher slugging %. Oh, and he still has elite defense, good lord what a player. Marcus Semien has quietly been one of the best shortstops in all of baseball this year as his 3.5 fWAR mark is only behind Xander Bogaerts for all full-time shortstops in baseball. Much like Chapman, Semien has improved in basically every facet of his offensive game while also putting up great defensive numbers, making the left side of Oakland’s infield pretty good. Now, you know there is a giant elephant in the room as I move to the pitching side of things. I don’t want to talk about it as much as you don’t want to read about it but they pay me the big bucks here at Twins Daily to deliver what needs to be heard. So with a heavy heart, I must talk about the fact that Liam “literally Liam Hendriks” Hendriks is having a great season where he participated in the All-Star game. He is second in all of baseball in reliever fWAR and his average fastball velocity is 95.8 (it never was above 92 for the Twins). He has been the best reliever in the Oakland pen which can only prove that we all know nothing and are frauds (but you already knew this). If you held a gun to my head and asked me to name three or more starters from the A’s, well first I would wonder why you are demanding such a specific thing from me, but ultimately I would probably accidentally say “Mark Mulder” and then not survive. So to aid you, the reader, in case you find yourself in this situation, let’s get to know Chris Bassitt. Bassitt is currently throwing harder than ever with an average fastball velo of 93.4 MPH and the result has been almost a full jump in K/9 (7.74 in 2018, 8.71 in 2019). His 3.98 ERA reflects his other positive movements but his FIP of 4.42 does suggest some regression. Bassitt is set to start one of the games this series so you can use this knowledge when he is on the mound. Recent History: The Twins played a three-game series in Oakland starting on July 2 and lost two of three. The lone win came in extra innings and Oakland solidly outplayed them then. Recent Trajectories: The Twins are just 6-8 over their last five series while the A’s are 12-3 over their last five series. Ending Thoughts: The Twins haven’t played well recently which I’m going to assume is something that everyone here knows, while the A’s have been absolutely on fire. Throw in the recent hot streak from the Indians, and this now becomes an important and difficult series for the Twins. They’ll need a split at the very worst to tread water and anything worse will put them in immediate danger of dropping out of first. I predict that they will split the series and I have been a perfect 4-for-4 in my predictions so far so you can take this to the bank.
  6. After a winning series (and technically homestand) against the Rays that unfortunately ended with an absolutely brutal 18 inning loss, the tired Twins will head over to Chicago for a three-game series. Somehow this is the first time all year that they will play in Chicago and just the second time they will play the White Sox this year despite being, you know, in the same division and all.Brief Overview Out of the triforce of tanking AL Central teams, the White Sox have pulled ahead of the dreadful Royals and the atrocious Tigers as a solidly below-average team, somehow a step up over the aforementioned squads. Despite ultimately coming up short in the Machado sweepstakes and being relatively quiet over the offseason except for signing Kelvin Herrera, the White Sox have taken a small step forward thanks to a few internal players realizing their potential along with the help of a breakout from a familiar but unlikely catcher. With a record of 37-41 and a pythag W/L of 33-45, the White Sox will look to be an annoyance to a Twins franchise that is all too familiar with scrappiness. What They Do Well In digging through their team numbers, it became obvious that there really is not one thing that this team excels at but there are not many things that they do horribly, just a constant below-average squad by most major metrics that I could find. They are very good at running the bases as Fangraphs has their team baserunning as the sixth best in all of baseball, somehow above the pesky Royals that just gave the Twins some fits not too long ago. They have the 11th-most steals in baseball which isn’t ridiculously high, so most of their quality baserunning can probably be attributed to them taking extra bases on balls in play while not running themselves into outs. That’s it, honestly. I could not actually find much that was notable as far as what this team does notably well. They have the second highest offensive batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in baseball at a .320 mark (Denard Span’s Twins BABIP was .320) which is certainly interesting but I don’t know how much of a skill that is. I guess just keep in mind that they might have some better “luck” on balls being put into play than the Twins. What They Do Not Do Well Everything? Again, they aren’t truly horrendous in a lot of categories, but often they fall in the 20th-25th range when being compared to the rest of baseball. Their team wRC+ of 92 is 20th in all of baseball and just 2 points lower than Luis Castillo’s Twins wRC+. Their team FIP is 25th in baseball at 4.91 which is slightly worse than Tommy Milone’s Twins FIP of 4.85. Their pitching staff as a whole hold the second worst BB/9 in baseball at 3.85 which is just a hair better than what Kohl Stewart has done in his Twins career so far (3.93 BB/9 for Stewart). Their defense ranks as the eighth worst in baseball which when combined with their pitching staff’s walk rate could mean that the White Sox might beat themselves more often than the Twins beat them as they will most likely shoot themselves in the foot quite a few times. Individuals Of Note I mentioned before that the White Sox have had a few players from the inside who have broken out this year and that remains true even after about a page and a half of typing. Yoan Moncada has hit to the tune of a 130 wRC+ and has already put up a career high 2.5 fWAR (this does come with a sky high .387 BABIP). Tim Anderson has a career high 120 wRC+ and is knocking on the door of a new career-high in fWAR (1.8 now, 2.1 in his rookie year) but this also comes with a high BABIP of .373. Longtime Tigers catcher and All-Star starter voting finalist James McCann has almost doubled his career wRC+ as he currently sits at a 143 mark thanks to a few mechanical changes in his swing. But, and stop me if you have heard this, this comes with a frankly insane .413 BABIP (gee, I wonder why their team BABIP is so high…). Unfortunately for the White Sox, both Anderson and Moncada suffered injuries recently and their status for the series is up in the air. On the pitching side, the big story has been the breakout of Lucas Giolito who has put aside a terrible 2018 season and has dropped his ERA by over half (6.13 in 2018, 2.87 in 2019) with the peripherals to support it. So far he has been the ninth most valuable starting pitcher in baseball by fWAR with the same 2.8 mark that José Berríos currently holds on the year. There have been a number of changes that Giolito made thanks to winter spent with his high school pitching coach, but most notable has been an arm action that hides the ball better and an increased emphasis on his changeup. Right now it looks like he will pitch the Sunday game so be prepared for a much better Giolito than we all saw last year. Recent History Since this is only the second time these teams have matched up this year, there is not much recent history to go off of. The Twins and White Sox faced off at Target Field in a series that started on May 24th and the Twins were ruthlessly efficient in beating them by seven runs in each game. Ending Thoughts As I said in my last write-up, road divisional series are never anything to take for granted, the other team will also be looking to play spoiler and weird stuff tends to happen. The White Sox are a passable squad (less so if Moncada and Anderson miss time) and I can absolutely see them giving the Twins a good fight especially in the Sunday game with Giolito on the mound. I expect the Twins to take two but I also would not be shocked if the White Sox took two instead, especially depending on the roster moves after that 18-inning nightmare the Twins just played and the injuries they are currently nursing. But however it goes, I just pray for everyone’s sanity that no game goes into extras. Click here to view the article
  7. Brief Overview Out of the triforce of tanking AL Central teams, the White Sox have pulled ahead of the dreadful Royals and the atrocious Tigers as a solidly below-average team, somehow a step up over the aforementioned squads. Despite ultimately coming up short in the Machado sweepstakes and being relatively quiet over the offseason except for signing Kelvin Herrera, the White Sox have taken a small step forward thanks to a few internal players realizing their potential along with the help of a breakout from a familiar but unlikely catcher. With a record of 37-41 and a pythag W/L of 33-45, the White Sox will look to be an annoyance to a Twins franchise that is all too familiar with scrappiness. What They Do Well In digging through their team numbers, it became obvious that there really is not one thing that this team excels at but there are not many things that they do horribly, just a constant below-average squad by most major metrics that I could find. They are very good at running the bases as Fangraphs has their team baserunning as the sixth best in all of baseball, somehow above the pesky Royals that just gave the Twins some fits not too long ago. They have the 11th-most steals in baseball which isn’t ridiculously high, so most of their quality baserunning can probably be attributed to them taking extra bases on balls in play while not running themselves into outs. That’s it, honestly. I could not actually find much that was notable as far as what this team does notably well. They have the second highest offensive batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in baseball at a .320 mark (Denard Span’s Twins BABIP was .320) which is certainly interesting but I don’t know how much of a skill that is. I guess just keep in mind that they might have some better “luck” on balls being put into play than the Twins. What They Do Not Do Well Everything? Again, they aren’t truly horrendous in a lot of categories, but often they fall in the 20th-25th range when being compared to the rest of baseball. Their team wRC+ of 92 is 20th in all of baseball and just 2 points lower than Luis Castillo’s Twins wRC+. Their team FIP is 25th in baseball at 4.91 which is slightly worse than Tommy Milone’s Twins FIP of 4.85. Their pitching staff as a whole hold the second worst BB/9 in baseball at 3.85 which is just a hair better than what Kohl Stewart has done in his Twins career so far (3.93 BB/9 for Stewart). Their defense ranks as the eighth worst in baseball which when combined with their pitching staff’s walk rate could mean that the White Sox might beat themselves more often than the Twins beat them as they will most likely shoot themselves in the foot quite a few times. Individuals Of Note I mentioned before that the White Sox have had a few players from the inside who have broken out this year and that remains true even after about a page and a half of typing. Yoan Moncada has hit to the tune of a 130 wRC+ and has already put up a career high 2.5 fWAR (this does come with a sky high .387 BABIP). Tim Anderson has a career high 120 wRC+ and is knocking on the door of a new career-high in fWAR (1.8 now, 2.1 in his rookie year) but this also comes with a high BABIP of .373. Longtime Tigers catcher and All-Star starter voting finalist James McCann has almost doubled his career wRC+ as he currently sits at a 143 mark thanks to a few mechanical changes in his swing. But, and stop me if you have heard this, this comes with a frankly insane .413 BABIP (gee, I wonder why their team BABIP is so high…). Unfortunately for the White Sox, both Anderson and Moncada suffered injuries recently and their status for the series is up in the air. On the pitching side, the big story has been the breakout of Lucas Giolito who has put aside a terrible 2018 season and has dropped his ERA by over half (6.13 in 2018, 2.87 in 2019) with the peripherals to support it. So far he has been the ninth most valuable starting pitcher in baseball by fWAR with the same 2.8 mark that José Berríos currently holds on the year. There have been a number of changes that Giolito made thanks to winter spent with his high school pitching coach, but most notable has been an arm action that hides the ball better and an increased emphasis on his changeup. Right now it looks like he will pitch the Sunday game so be prepared for a much better Giolito than we all saw last year. Recent History Since this is only the second time these teams have matched up this year, there is not much recent history to go off of. The Twins and White Sox faced off at Target Field in a series that started on May 24th and the Twins were ruthlessly efficient in beating them by seven runs in each game. Ending Thoughts As I said in my last write-up, road divisional series are never anything to take for granted, the other team will also be looking to play spoiler and weird stuff tends to happen. The White Sox are a passable squad (less so if Moncada and Anderson miss time) and I can absolutely see them giving the Twins a good fight especially in the Sunday game with Giolito on the mound. I expect the Twins to take two but I also would not be shocked if the White Sox took two instead, especially depending on the roster moves after that 18-inning nightmare the Twins just played and the injuries they are currently nursing. But however it goes, I just pray for everyone’s sanity that no game goes into extras.
  8. The Royals current record is 25-48, albeit with a pythag W/L of 31-42 that suggests some bad luck, but they still find themselves in the basement of a poor AL Central. What They Do Well The Royals have stolen the most bases in baseball and it isn’t even really particularly close (70 swipes, second place is 61). The main culprit has been Adalberto Mondesi whose 27 swipes is more than the entirety of 10 teams so far. After that, both Billy Hamilton and Whit Merrifield clock in with more than 10 steals. None of the three catchers who the Twins have employed rank notably well in pop time or arm strength according to Statcast so the Royals will certainly look to cause some havoc on the base paths against them. Defensively, the Royals rank as the fifth-best defensive team in baseball according to Fangraphs thanks in large part to their excellent range that FanGraphs has as the fourth best in MLB. Their defense is cemented by two great defensive catchers in Cam Gallagher and Martin Maldonado, great up-the-middle defense thanks to shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and second baseman Nicky Lopez, and the speedster Billy Hamilton in center who can make Twins fans understand what other fans feel whenever Byron Buxton robs someone of a hit. A great defense can be frustrating to play against both as a fan watching and as a team playing against said defense so I assume the Royals figured they might as well be annoying if they aren’t going to be good. What They Do Not Do Well Generally, when you compliment a team and the only two things you can come up with are speed and defense, that's a sign that you aren’t talking about a good team. The Royals have the eighth-worst wRC+ at 87 (as well as Danny Valencia hit with the Twins), their team FIP is the 12th worst in baseball at 4.56 (Grant Balfour’s Twins FIP was 4.54), their offense walks at a 7.7% clip (Denny Hocking or Matthew LeCroy, take your pick), and their pitchers strike out eight guys per nine (Matt Belisle’s Twins run has them beat at 8.04). To put it simply, this team is below average to bad in most offensive and pitching categories. Individuals Of Note Not to be incredibly down, the Royals do have a few interesting players of note. Hunter Dozier has accumulated 2.3 fWAR over 216 plate appearances this year (but he is currently on the IL and his status for the weekend makes it seem like he is unlikely to play), Adalberto Mondesi has continued to do well with his interesting combo of power (.172 ISO, 11th best among qualified SS) and speed (the aforementioned 27 steals), and Whit Merrifield is still the quality player at the bat and in the field that Twins fans have come to expect. On the pitching side of things, Homer Bailey is enjoying a strange renaissance as he sits at a 4.09 FIP on the year, a good .73 points below his ERA, and Ian Kennedy has had a resurgence as a reliever and he currently holds a 2.06 FIP thanks in part to a 30.4 K%. Recent History The last time these two teams played was … last series! The Twins took two of three at home with all three games being decided by two runs or fewer. The last time the Twins played Kansas City in Kansas City was the quick two-game series all the way back on April 2 and 3. The Twins took both games thanks to late heroics in both matches but would probably like to avoid needing that this time around. Ending Thoughts The Royals are tanking, yes, but divisional games on the road are never a given no matter the talent difference and a split series (in my opinion) would not be all too surprising. But as long as the Twins play like the Twins we know and love, they should be able to win some games against a Royals team that has no desire, nor much ability, to win this year.
  9. Series at a Glance *Win Odds from FiveThirtyEight Minnesota Twins Logan Morrison is still looking to get his season going, after going 0-for-11 in Baltimore. Unfortunately for Morrison, the Twins will not have the luxury of the designated hitter in Pittsburgh. With the offday between the two games in the series, he might only get a chance as a pinch-hitter during the series. Probable Starting Pitchers RHP Lance Lynn Lance Lynn will be making his Twins debut on Monday in Pittsburgh. Last year was a strong year for him, coming back from Tommy John surgery, with a 3.43 ERA over 186.1 innings. In terms of pitching style, Lynn works a lot like Bartolo Colon, in that 90% of his pitches last year were either a two-seam, four-seam or cut fastball. RHP Jake Odorizzi Jake Odorizzi shined in his first Twins start on Opening Day, going six shutout innings, with seven strikeouts and just two walks. Odorizzi featured a healthy mix of fastballs up in the zone and splitters low in the zone to keep the Oriole hitters off balance. Pittsburgh Pirates It is a new era in Pittsburgh this season, after the Pirates traded away both Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole in the offseason. The Pirates are a team that doesn’t have high aspirations for a postseason run this year, as they are in one of the best divisions in baseball. However, this doesn’t mean that they are a team that can be overlooked. Probable Starting Pitchers RHP Jameson Taillon *2017 Stats The Pittsburgh Pirates are very excited about the future of Jameson Taillon in their rotation. The tall righty features a power fastball, along with a solid curve and an okay changeup. Taillon didn’t have as strong a season last year as he did his rookie year, in 2016. A big reason for this was Taillon got “BABIPed” to death, as his .352 BABIP was the highest of any pitcher with at least 120 innings pitched last season. RHP Ivan Nova *2017 Stats Ivan Nova’s 2017 season was a tale of two halves. In the first three months of the season, Nova was the leader of the Pirates rotation with a 3.08 ERA over 108 innings. However, from July on Nova’s ERA ballooned up to 5.58. Nova struggled with his command in his first start of 2018, giving up 3 walks and 6 hits over 5 innings against Detroit. Players to Watch Starling Marte, CF Last season was a rough year for Starling Marte. First, he was suspended for 80-games after testing positive for PEDs. After he came back, Marte wasn’t the same hitter that he had been in years past. His 91 wRC+ was a career low, and he slugged just .379, after never having slugged below .437 in his career. Corey Dickerson, RF Corey Dickerson got off to a blazing start in 2017, earning himself his first career All-Star appearance. However, Dickerson struggled down the stretch and was inevitably designated for assignment by Tampa in a move to save money on their payroll. Dickerson was eventually traded to Pittsburgh in exchange for two minor leaguers and cash. Josh Bell, 1B Josh Bell is one of the promising young players in the Pirates lineup. With the Andrew McCutchen era over in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are looking for a new face of their franchise and Josh Bell has the ability to become it. There isn't much for pop in the Pirates lineup, but Bell is a hitter who has the potential to become a perennial 30 homer guy. Bullpen Comparison (2017 Stats) *Reflects Minor League Stats Paul Molitor wasted no time seeing what he has with the three new relievers in the bullpen, throwing all three on the opening day. Even though they gave up all three runs in the Twins loss, they still looked pretty good. Zach Duke gave up two runs, though of the six batters he faced he struck out four, and another reached on an intentional walk. Addison Reed pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts, and Fernando Rodney did an excellent job getting the Twins out of a jam in the 10th before being brought out for a second inning and surrendering a walk-off home run. The Pirates bullpen features one of the best relievers in the game in Felipe Rivero, whom they acquired in a trade that sent Mark Melancon to the Nationals at the 2016 trade deadline. However, after Rivero, the Pittsburgh bullpen leaves a little to be desired. If the Twins can get the Pirates starters out of the game early, they will have a chance to take advantage of perhaps the weakest spot on the Pirates team. Zone Charts courtesy of baseballsavant.com More From Twins Daily Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher Predicting Minnesota's Early Season Schedule Twins Starting Pitcher Projections for 2018
  10. After an ice-cold start with the bats through the first 26 outs of the season, the Twins turned it on for the rest of the series, hitting seven home runs over the last two games of the series. The Twins now shift their focus to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This will be the Twins first trip to Pittsburgh since 2016, when they swept a two-game series.Series at a Glance Download attachment: Glance.PNG *Win Odds from FiveThirtyEight Minnesota Twins Logan Morrison is still looking to get his season going, after going 0-for-11 in Baltimore. Unfortunately for Morrison, the Twins will not have the luxury of the designated hitter in Pittsburgh. With the offday between the two games in the series, he might only get a chance as a pinch-hitter during the series. Probable Starting Pitchers RHP Lance Lynn Lance Lynn will be making his Twins debut on Monday in Pittsburgh. Last year was a strong year for him, coming back from Tommy John surgery, with a 3.43 ERA over 186.1 innings. In terms of pitching style, Lynn works a lot like Bartolo Colon, in that 90% of his pitches last year were either a two-seam, four-seam or cut fastball. RHP Jake Odorizzi Jake Odorizzi shined in his first Twins start on Opening Day, going six shutout innings, with seven strikeouts and just two walks. Odorizzi featured a healthy mix of fastballs up in the zone and splitters low in the zone to keep the Oriole hitters off balance. Pittsburgh Pirates It is a new era in Pittsburgh this season, after the Pirates traded away both Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole in the offseason. The Pirates are a team that doesn’t have high aspirations for a postseason run this year, as they are in one of the best divisions in baseball. However, this doesn’t mean that they are a team that can be overlooked. Probable Starting Pitchers RHP Jameson Taillon Download attachment: Taillon.PNG *2017 Stats The Pittsburgh Pirates are very excited about the future of Jameson Taillon in their rotation. The tall righty features a power fastball, along with a solid curve and an okay changeup. Taillon didn’t have as strong a season last year as he did his rookie year, in 2016. A big reason for this was Taillon got “BABIPed” to death, as his .352 BABIP was the highest of any pitcher with at least 120 innings pitched last season. RHP Ivan Nova Download attachment: Nova.PNG *2017 Stats Ivan Nova’s 2017 season was a tale of two halves. In the first three months of the season, Nova was the leader of the Pirates rotation with a 3.08 ERA over 108 innings. However, from July on Nova’s ERA ballooned up to 5.58. Nova struggled with his command in his first start of 2018, giving up 3 walks and 6 hits over 5 innings against Detroit. Players to Watch Starling Marte, CF Last season was a rough year for Starling Marte. First, he was suspended for 80-games after testing positive for PEDs. After he came back, Marte wasn’t the same hitter that he had been in years past. His 91 wRC+ was a career low, and he slugged just .379, after never having slugged below .437 in his career. Corey Dickerson, RF Corey Dickerson got off to a blazing start in 2017, earning himself his first career All-Star appearance. However, Dickerson struggled down the stretch and was inevitably designated for assignment by Tampa in a move to save money on their payroll. Dickerson was eventually traded to Pittsburgh in exchange for two minor leaguers and cash. Josh Bell, 1B Josh Bell is one of the promising young players in the Pirates lineup. With the Andrew McCutchen era over in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are looking for a new face of their franchise and Josh Bell has the ability to become it. There isn't much for pop in the Pirates lineup, but Bell is a hitter who has the potential to become a perennial 30 homer guy. Bullpen Comparison Download attachment: Bullpen.PNG (2017 Stats) *Reflects Minor League Stats Paul Molitor wasted no time seeing what he has with the three new relievers in the bullpen, throwing all three on the opening day. Even though they gave up all three runs in the Twins loss, they still looked pretty good. Zach Duke gave up two runs, though of the six batters he faced he struck out four, and another reached on an intentional walk. Addison Reed pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts, and Fernando Rodney did an excellent job getting the Twins out of a jam in the 10th before being brought out for a second inning and surrendering a walk-off home run. The Pirates bullpen features one of the best relievers in the game in Felipe Rivero, whom they acquired in a trade that sent Mark Melancon to the Nationals at the 2016 trade deadline. However, after Rivero, the Pittsburgh bullpen leaves a little to be desired. If the Twins can get the Pirates starters out of the game early, they will have a chance to take advantage of perhaps the weakest spot on the Pirates team. Zone Charts courtesy of baseballsavant.com More From Twins Daily Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher Predicting Minnesota's Early Season Schedule Twins Starting Pitcher Projections for 2018 Click here to view the article
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