Recapping 2018: Minnesota Twins Edition | The Process Report

Recapping 2018: Minnesota Twins Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each. The order will mirror the final team rankings running in reverse order so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get one to two of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts. Here’s a link to the report for this club from last offseason.

Past:

30 – 21: BAL CWS MIA TEX KCR SFG SDP DET MIN

The bipolar Minnesota Twins have long been a team that prides itself on building from within trading weaker stretches for stronger ones over long terms of time. Most of the aughts showcased a team that was a near-dynasty that averaged around 90 wins a year for most of the decade. That type of sustained run is the goal of every team, but it took a down period to get there and another soon followed. The 2010’s have shown a lot less to like until the 2017 season percolated into a wild card run that was snuffed out all too soon. This came at a time when the team had moved into a new stadium that generated significantly higher revenue, and the team was good enough to put that directly back into the on-field product. However, the team failed to be even a .500 team over any of the three year stretches in the decade. This past season was particularly rough as they spent the most money to date, adjusted to 2018 dollars, yet fell on their face mightily.

The offense was occasionally awful, but also showed some spikes into the land of prominence, however the bulk of their production came in at a below average rate. The core the team had built was supposed to carry them, while money spent on additions merely needed to hold the rope. The core proved to be more rotten than expected, and most of the acquisitions were yanked off their feet. Injury played a role, as it so often does, with this translating to missed time for middle of the order bat Miguel Sano, and even commending guys like Brian Dozier for playing through obvious knee issues provides little solace considering the slight production created. Some overhaul will be natural coming into 2019 with Eduardo Escobar and Dozier moved on, Joe Mauer retired, and Logan Morrison’s affordable option not picked up. The remaining cast leaves smaller shadows, but the team has found some contributors that look ready to step in with more on the way from AAA.

In Joe Mauer’s swansong season he continued to do the things that allowed him to be a wonderful hitter over his career. He didn’t strike out much, though that did scale upwards as the season went along. Noticeably, though, the walks did decline a good bit, but this was balanced somewhat by strong exit velocities that did not erode over the long, and final season. His ability to spray the ball around likely helped him avoid complete collapse due to all those low trajectories, but he did fall noticeably short of true production for much of the season. When both perspectives met later on it was less in the middle and more on the actual range. Probably a good call for Mauer to go out somewhat on top, and always nice to see the rare player that dons only one uniform for his career.

Joe Mauer

When the team took a chance on Logan Morrison in free agency there was a good sense of value, if not much upside, as they were buying LoMo at something like peak value. He was coming off easily the most productive season of his life after a 38-homer outburst in 2017. The number they should have paid attention to was the 601 PA, which were far and away a career high mostly due to a lengthy injury history. Alas, his season was again cut short, in this case due to necessary hip surgery. The injury shows up a bit as a strongish start eventually showed massive underperformance as the gap between actual and expected really started to balloon. Diminished exit velocity was a byproduct, which caused his fairly extreme flyball approach to fall flat. He could pay dividends on a minor league deal, but has to show health first.

Logan Morrison

This next group holds a couple of young outfielders that are likely to have a lock on a job next year. In right field will be Max Kepler who has been on the radar for several years despite his youth. He alternated around the average looking especially good or bad at the peaks and the troughs, but mostly living between them. His strikeout and walk look fine, though his exit velocity did tend to wear down over the year. The angles are rather ideal, but you can see his hardest contact was often beat into the ground. Less Mauer and more power would serve him well. When the New York Yankees knew they would be unable to protect Jake Cave they spun him off for practically nothing. Their loss was the Twins game as the player seems capable in centerfield, though I saw him get roasted a few times on balls directly over his head. The bat looks like it can play, though as his production was mostly above average even after he got around the league a bit. The strikeout problem is obvious, but it came with league average walk. You can see a solid cluster of no doubters in his spray, and also a good deal of liners at lower exit velocities that often go for hits. He should have a role next year, though Byron Buxton might complicate things a bit.

Max Kepler

Jake Cave

Another player the team will have to replace, and may already have a good option in Nick Gordon, is Eduardo Escobar who provided credibly play all around the infield and an ability to switch hit that shows up better from the left side. When things are going well he’s a well above average hitter, but there are down times, too. He was in a bit of a funk prior to the trade with radically diminished exit velocities a likely cause. This looks like a guy that was playing hurt, which the team probably appreciated that as reaped three players on his way out the door.

Eduardo Escobar

Now we get to the underperformers that were supposed to be the linchpin of the team. Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier are core players that the team counted upon to be the top to middle of a solid lineup. Rosario looked like a strong performer early on, but it was all downhill from there, and seems to mirror his falling exit velocity. The crossover in strikeouts and walks suggests a more patient approach, possibly due to not trying to exacerbate an injury, though things mostly went back to normal from there. The other two, however, never really seemed to get going. Sano has dealt with a rash of personal and injury issues over the past couple of years, and he showed this past season that striking out nearly 40% of the time makes it really, really hard to be a productive batter. Dozier managed to walk at a strong rate, but showed no semblance of the exit velocity that often drove his flyball production to be a worthwhile tradeoff. Flyballs that don’t leave the yard are fairly useless.

Eddie Rosario

Miguel Sano

Brian Dozier

While the team’s plan to mash fell well short, there should have been no such expectations with a staff that lost their nominal ace to a finger issue until well past mattering. Beyond that there was hope that Jose Berrios could take another step forward, and that trade import Jake Odorizzi would be able to continue looking like a mid-rotation guy. Lance Lynn was signed for his first season back from Tommy John surgery, and Kyle Gibson was the guy you could count on for a lot of whatever he had that year. You can see above that they spent a good deal of time oscillating around the average, though spikes tended to go in the wrong direction. The team moved Lynn at the deadline, which probably contributed to the poor close to the season, but it’s difficult to say they were good for any sustained stretch. A little better than average, sure, and they even sustained a good deal of that in the middle of the season between the outbursts, but work remains to be done here.

Making good on strong pedigree seems like it should be the expectation, but with how many highly regarded pitchers get hurt or fail to translate it’s a pleasure to see Jose Berrios continue to increase workload without losing anything on his effectiveness. He’ll walk a little more than average, but make that up with above average punchouts. He really shines in limiting production on balls in play with expected results confirming that the actual goodness was genuine. You can see below that he often matches up both perspectives quite well outside of a couple of blips in either direction. He was consistently better than average, though rarely exceptionally so. He looks like a steady performer that can pitch at the top of most rotations.

Jose Berrios

The bullpen was a strength with several performers looking useful, but Taylor Rogers really separated himself from the pack. He does everything well with oodles of strikeouts coming with few walks and limiting hard contact exceptionally well. Despite a heavy workload he continued to improve over the course of the season. The other three were eventually traded so will have no impact next year. Ryan Pressly underperformed for a good stretch and made a name for himself down the stretch by sitting down guys left and right for the Astros. Zach Duke and Fernando Rodney got a little worse as the season wore on taking them from guys you’d love to use in any leverage to maybe wanting to shield them when it mattered most. Another guy with a much smaller sample was Trevor May who astounded in a relief role, for which he should be earmarked next year to help offset some of the lost arms.

Taylor Rogers

Ryan Pressly

Zach Duke

Fernando Rodney

The next two starters provided similar production despite much different opportunity, and they couldn’t be more dissimilar as Kyle Gibson represents the old guard and Fernando Romero is the young bull coming in on tottering legs, but man can he get going. Gibson had a fairly productive first half of the season that showed more good than bad, but the second half was mostly the bad. His strikeouts dried up a touch during this period though the walks stayed a little high for the most part. Late in the season he was also keeping the ball down more often, which may suggest him moving away from the slider that helped with the strikeouts, and toward the sinker that put the ball in play more often. That would be a fine tradeoff if he didn’t also see a pickup in exit velocity making those grounders that much more likely to get through. Romero was pretty good at the outset, but as batters stopped chasing he showed that there is a bit of work left to do for the youth

Kyle Gibson

Fernando Romero

When the team signed Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi they were hoping to get some guys that could soak up innings without hurting the team too badly. Lynn took some time to get it going after the long layoff following Tommy John surgery. He saw a strong run in the middle before closing rather poorly again prior to his trade to New York. He struggled with the walk, but showed acceptable strikeout rates that paired nicely once he was able to get the exit velocity down a touch. While you see some balls on the fringes of the nitro zone he did well to avoid the heart of it. Odorizzi, on the other hand, was mostly pretty bad before being less bad down the stretch where his actual results looked a whole lot better. He walked a little less, but still rather poorly, than Lynn with stronger runs of strikeout performance, but he puts so many balls in the air that the harder hit ones proved to be a problem. That manifested for much of the season, but the stronger second half did show a dip that makes those flies relatively more harmless.

Lance Lynn

Jake Odorizzi

Below you will find the rest of the prominent players from this past season and how they broke out in four different ways. I will save the commentary here as the charts speak for themselves once you’ve got an idea of what you’re looking at, and by cutting down on the verbiage it allows for looks at more players. Each chart looks at a rolling 100-plate appearance (or ball in play) average with the top left showing each player’s true and actual wOBA* over the course of the season. Top right shows the rolling strikeout and walk plus hit by pitch rates, and the bottom left shows the exit velocity and launch angle combinations for every ball in play. Lastly, the bottom right quadrant shows each player’s exit velocity and launch angle over the course of the season. Feel free to start a conversation on twitter if you have any questions or want to talk about any of these players. More than happy to have those chats.

Kohl Stewart

 

 

 

 

Addison Reed

 

Jorge Polanco

 

Gabriel Moya

 

 

Matt Magill

 

 

Trevor Hildenberger

Robbie Grossman

 

Mitch Garver

Logan Forsythe

 

 

 

 

 

Ehire Adrianza



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