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  1. Dylan Bundy and the Twins seemed to gather themselves for the Saturday game, getting ahead of Arizona in the third inning and keeping the momentum going throughout the game. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K (107 pitches, 74 strikes (69%)) Home Runs: Gary Sanchez (8), Ryan Jeffers (5) Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.137), Luis Arraez (.108), Alex Kiriloff (.106) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The game started out a little slow, a battle of the pitching in which Bundy was very solid for eight innings. Nick Gordon and Luis Arraez got on base to start the third inning followed by an RBI Single when Carlos Correa poked a ball into right field,. Max Kepler, who was 0-for-1 to start the night, followed Correa to the plate and hit the ball into the gap, scoring Arraez on an RBI double. The third inning was exciting to say the least as the players continued to carry the momentum, Alex Kirilloff worked a 3-2 count and ripped a ball into right field scoring both Correa and Kepler on a beautiful double. Gary Sanchez joined in on the fun as he hit his eighth home run, giving the Twins a 6-0 lead as pitcher Luke Weaver struggled throwing 52 pitches in the first three innings, most of those in the third. Bundy looked the best he has all season with finding the strike zone, keeping the pitch count low, and moving quickly through each inning with three-up three-down until the fourth when Alek Thomas got on first base, breaking up Bundy's no-hitter. Bundy struggled to get through the end of the inning but managed to get out of it without anyone coming home. Bundy only allowed one run in his eight innings. His impressive mound appearance allowed the Twins to capitalize on offensive opportunities. Bundy going eight innings shows that Manager Rocco Baldelli certainly wants to see his pitching staff go as long as they can, and that Wes Johnson is getting them there. Bundy had outstanding command and control. The Twins have a long two weeks against division rivals Cleveland Guardians and Chicago White Sox, so preserving the bullpen can prove very important. Bundy left the game with his fourth win of the season, his best outing of the season, and his 50th career win. He truly looked great. The Diamondbacks left Weaver in to start the fourth inning and the Twins lineup for the third time. The Twins took advantage of every ball over the plate and blew open the lead 9-0 before Weaver was pulled from the game and replaced by Arizona’s Joe Smith. With the exception of Sanchez and Jeffers home runs, the rest of the Twins hits were all singles and doubles. The Twins three seasons ago were known for hitting “bombas” all over the parks and small ball was not even a thought. This season, there seems to be almost a focus on getting the bat on the ball and putting it into play and it’s worked out for them more than it hasn’t. Their dominant offense tonight allowed Gilbert Celestino to replace Arraez in the fifth inning, giving the All-Star a chance to rest. The Twins were up 9-0 and there was no need to leave Arraez in against a lefty when Celestino could get some at-bats in and improve. Gordon moved up to cover second base and Celestino took over in centerfield. Trevor Larnach broke up his small slump of going 0-for-17 in his last few appearances and the best feelings of the night: Ryan Jeffers, who has been struggling at the plate, hit a fantastic home run into left field to start out the seventh inning. Jeffers was the only Twin tonight in the starting lineup without a hit before his two-run homer. Even if Jeffers is struggling at the plate, he is certainly not struggling behind it. Dick Bremer mentioned during the broadcast that this is the 21st game for the Twins where they have had two or fewer runs and of those 21, Jeffers caught 15 of those games. The Twins offense and defense were both on fire. They kept the same energy all the way through the ninth inning for reliever Jharel Cotton. Correa showed off his defensive moves as Alek Thomas hit a line drive to the shortstop, who spun his body around with a solid throw to first base getting the out, A fly ball to Larnach ended the game. The energy of the team was constant all night long, ending in a Twins win. What’s Next? The Twins finish out their series this weekend with Arizona and the west coast tour. Pitching matchups for the series finale: Sunday 1:05: Chris Archer (1-2, 3.35 ERA) vs RHP Merrill Kelly (5-4, 3.68 ERA) Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet View full article
  2. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K (107 pitches, 74 strikes (69%)) Home Runs: Gary Sanchez (8), Ryan Jeffers (5) Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.137), Luis Arraez (.108), Alex Kiriloff (.106) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The game started out a little slow, a battle of the pitching in which Bundy was very solid for eight innings. Nick Gordon and Luis Arraez got on base to start the third inning followed by an RBI Single when Carlos Correa poked a ball into right field,. Max Kepler, who was 0-for-1 to start the night, followed Correa to the plate and hit the ball into the gap, scoring Arraez on an RBI double. The third inning was exciting to say the least as the players continued to carry the momentum, Alex Kirilloff worked a 3-2 count and ripped a ball into right field scoring both Correa and Kepler on a beautiful double. Gary Sanchez joined in on the fun as he hit his eighth home run, giving the Twins a 6-0 lead as pitcher Luke Weaver struggled throwing 52 pitches in the first three innings, most of those in the third. Bundy looked the best he has all season with finding the strike zone, keeping the pitch count low, and moving quickly through each inning with three-up three-down until the fourth when Alek Thomas got on first base, breaking up Bundy's no-hitter. Bundy struggled to get through the end of the inning but managed to get out of it without anyone coming home. Bundy only allowed one run in his eight innings. His impressive mound appearance allowed the Twins to capitalize on offensive opportunities. Bundy going eight innings shows that Manager Rocco Baldelli certainly wants to see his pitching staff go as long as they can, and that Wes Johnson is getting them there. Bundy had outstanding command and control. The Twins have a long two weeks against division rivals Cleveland Guardians and Chicago White Sox, so preserving the bullpen can prove very important. Bundy left the game with his fourth win of the season, his best outing of the season, and his 50th career win. He truly looked great. The Diamondbacks left Weaver in to start the fourth inning and the Twins lineup for the third time. The Twins took advantage of every ball over the plate and blew open the lead 9-0 before Weaver was pulled from the game and replaced by Arizona’s Joe Smith. With the exception of Sanchez and Jeffers home runs, the rest of the Twins hits were all singles and doubles. The Twins three seasons ago were known for hitting “bombas” all over the parks and small ball was not even a thought. This season, there seems to be almost a focus on getting the bat on the ball and putting it into play and it’s worked out for them more than it hasn’t. Their dominant offense tonight allowed Gilbert Celestino to replace Arraez in the fifth inning, giving the All-Star a chance to rest. The Twins were up 9-0 and there was no need to leave Arraez in against a lefty when Celestino could get some at-bats in and improve. Gordon moved up to cover second base and Celestino took over in centerfield. Trevor Larnach broke up his small slump of going 0-for-17 in his last few appearances and the best feelings of the night: Ryan Jeffers, who has been struggling at the plate, hit a fantastic home run into left field to start out the seventh inning. Jeffers was the only Twin tonight in the starting lineup without a hit before his two-run homer. Even if Jeffers is struggling at the plate, he is certainly not struggling behind it. Dick Bremer mentioned during the broadcast that this is the 21st game for the Twins where they have had two or fewer runs and of those 21, Jeffers caught 15 of those games. The Twins offense and defense were both on fire. They kept the same energy all the way through the ninth inning for reliever Jharel Cotton. Correa showed off his defensive moves as Alek Thomas hit a line drive to the shortstop, who spun his body around with a solid throw to first base getting the out, A fly ball to Larnach ended the game. The energy of the team was constant all night long, ending in a Twins win. What’s Next? The Twins finish out their series this weekend with Arizona and the west coast tour. Pitching matchups for the series finale: Sunday 1:05: Chris Archer (1-2, 3.35 ERA) vs RHP Merrill Kelly (5-4, 3.68 ERA) Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
  3. I am struck by some comments about Gibson and Mejia and Littell in the July 13 recap and it makes me wonder how we would rank our own pitchers right now. I would certainly have Rogers first and Blake Parker does not rate high on my faith index. Here is my attempt at ranking them all. Taylor Rogers - two inning saves are great. 41 innings in 34 games, 1.73 ERA and for what it is worth 13 saves. Jose Berrios - He is our Ace Jake Odorizzi - I hope he can keep this going all year. Ryne Harper - who would have thought this. I still do not like the fact that 50% of his inherited runners score, but he seems to have gotten the faith of the manager and pitching coach. Michael Pineda - I am finally coming around on Pineda - his last month has been excellent and I hope that trend continues. Trevor May - he has not become the relief stud we hoped for, but he has stopped inherited runs and not given up runs, what more can we ask for. Martin Perez - Loved his first two months, has he turned things around again? We could use that stud who dominated April/May Kyle Gibson - 4.03 era better that Perez and Pineda, but last year's Gibson has not shown up and he does not look like a playoff pitcher. His average inning pitched per game is 5.1 Blake Parker - I am not a believer, but he has pitched 31 innings in 32 games and despite giving us acid reflux during his innings, he has maintained a 3.77 ERA Devin Smeltzer - currently off the roster, but he seems to have the sixth starter position. Lewis Thorpe - good audition, may also rotate for sixth starter and next year he and Smeltzer could be in the rotation. Tyler Duffey - He does not seem to be putting batters away, but at least his era is under 4. Kohl Stewart - not sure what his role will be but we keep seeing him pop up - currently off the MLB roster. Mike Morin - His whip is under 1 which none of the relievers I have already listed come close to, but his usage seems to indicate that he has not yet gained the faith of his manager. Zack Littell - The good innings are really good, but Adalberto Mejia - has had many roles and a few years and still does not have it. Matt Magill - 4.67 era, 1.481 WHIP, 2 WP, 2 HBP, So what do you think? Rearrange and give me your input.
  4. The Twins went into Spring Training with one of the more interesting positional battles on their hands as they had three back-of-the-rotation starters -- Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Duffey, and Tommy Milone -- one of the top pitching prospects with a shot of making the majors this season in Jose Berrios, and just two spots in the rotation. The cost savings of starting him in the minors made if fairly likely that Berrios wasn’t going to break camp with the team, but he made the decision an easy one (and removed any chance of filing a grievance over service time the way Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant did last year) by looking fairly pedestrian during his time in big league camp and getting sent down well before last cuts. On the other end of the spectrum, Milone looked strong in his spring outings, solidifying his spot early, and leaving Duffey and Nolasco in a race for the last spot. Nolasco got the nod for a litany of reasons, but it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that strictly on merit the spot could easily have easily gone to Duffey. Fast forward a month from Berrios’ demotion and two weeks from the end of spring training: How do the Twins’ decisions look? It would be an understatement to say simply that Nolasco has been better than expected. Outside of one bad inning against the Angels, which the Twins managed to work around, Nolasco has given up just two runs in his 20.1 innings of work. His groundball rate is over 50 percent, which would be a career best by a substantial margin if he could keep it up, and he’s dropped his walk rate by nearly a full walk per nine. It’s a bit worrisome that his strikeout rate is well down from his career average -- which wasn’t particularly high to begin with -- but if that’s the tradeoff for his career best soft-contact rate and the improvements in his walk and home run rates, the Twins will take it. He’s not yet to the point of being obvious trade bait, but the Twins don’t need him to be. By the time the team needs his roster spot more than they need his production, a destination may reveal itself. The terrible weather in upstate New York has jumbled the Rochester Red Wings’ schedule, but both Duffey and Berrios have gotten in three starts, though both were cut short in their first two outings. Duffey has been largely the same pitcher for the Red Wings so far that he was for the Twins last year: allowing more baserunners than one might like, but preventing them from scoring. By results, he still seems like a pitcher the Twins have tentatively penciled into their long term plan and are glad to have ready in case of injury, but he’s not forcing their hand yet. Berrios, on the other hand, is getting sharp. He’s racked up 20 strikeouts in his 17 innings so far, allowed less than a baserunner per inning, and hasn’t allowed more than a run in any of his three starts. The Super Two deadline likely having already passed, Berrios could be called up at any point without the Twins risking an extra year of arbitration, especially since it will be another week or so until he’s ready to start again following his seven-inning lockdown of the Pawsox on Thursday. The Twins weren’t just playing a service time game with Berrios, however, these starts were important for him to show that he was ready. He’ll need to look good again in his next outing, but assuming he does, he’s making a compelling case that he’s ready to help the major league team crawl back into contention. The question is: Is there a spot for him in the rotation? Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes aren’t going anywhere, which leaves just two theoretical spots, Kyle Gibson’s and Milone’s. Neither pitcher is sporting a positive fWAR so far this season, but it’s something of a blunt tool without a bit more data behind it. Gibson’s numbers don’t look great through three starts, but the Twins believe in him with good reason and while his first start was indeed a bomb, but the subsequent two have been much better. His spot’s safe unless he hits the All-Star break with about an 8.90 ERA and a WHIP that looks like a respectable high school GPA. So the timing of Berrios’ appearance in the majors likely depends on Milone. Though he earned his spot in camp before Nolasco did, Milone seems as though he may be pulled back into the fray if he can’t right his ship in the next few starts. The optics are admittedly bad: He’s made it out of the fifth inning just once, he has allowed four runs in each of his starts, and he has given up 17 hits in just 15.1 innings pitched despite a BABIP almost precisely at his career average. His lines would look a bit better if he had been pulled after six innings in his start against the Angels instead of allowed to face Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun, who took him deep, but the core issues would still be there: He’s giving up way too much contact and when 35 percent of it is classified as hard contact, it’s not hard to see why he keeps ending up in trouble. Working against Milone is the fact that, even at his best, he’s something of a marginal starter. His lowest ERA in a season is 3.74, he doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters or generate a ton of groundballs; he gets by with timely outs and the occasional double play. He’s a survivor, an innings eater in the best of cases. It’s a profile the Twins have seen before in any number of other back-end-of-the-rotation guys, but their aspirations are higher this year than they’ve been in the recent past, making simply surviving a less desirable outcome, particularly when instead of eating innings, Milone is making extra work for the bullpen. Nick Nelson caught a quirk from Milone this year that’s worth mentioning: http://i.imgur.com/ZShbmL3.png His velocity isn’t changing much the second or third time he’s seeing hitters and his release point is dropping fractionally, but not enough to explain a 900 point increase in opponents’ OPS. Absent those things, which would point to either fatigue or injury, the easiest explanation is that hitters are simply getting a good sense of how his pitches look and/or how he wants to sequence them (Alternatively, Milone could be tipping his pitches, but there aren’t any other symptoms of that). If they know what to expect, they can prepare and punish even decently executed offerings. If it is the case that Milone is simply predictable, it’s liable to get worse before it gets better as advance scouts figure out how best to prepare their players for his patterns. If the Twins didn’t have Berrios in the minors and it was just Duffey that presented a serious threat to Milone’s spot, his leash would probably be longer than it is, but with the pitching staff needing a jumpstart and Berrios seemingly ready to provide it, Milone’s general malaise surely hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s good news for Berrios that it’s Milone who is struggling rather than Nolasco, as there are simply fewer ties that bind Milone to the majors. The Twins may not be looking for a reason to change Milone’s usage, but given how his season has gone, they’re also not keen to keep the status quo in place. All things considered, the date to circle is May 23. A month away, it gives the Twins a chance to see if there’s something fixable with Milone, be sure that Berrios is ready, and utilize off days for Rochester to line up the rotation they way they want to slot Berrios in with the big club when necessary. The 23rd is also the first time -- assuming the Twins’ rotation doesn’t change -- Milone will face a team for the second time this year. If the Royals show preternatural familiarity with Milone and beat him up, it may force the front office to make a change whether they had planned on it or not.
  5. I looked at how the Twins' pitching has improved in recent games. You can read the rest of Minnesota Twins Showing Improvement in Pitching at Yahoo! Sports. Is this a SSS fluke or a real improvement?
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