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The Twins are above .500 through 15 games. That's good! They are getting a ton of unexpected contributions on offense (Chris Colabello and Jason Kubel leading that charge), their starting pitching has been at least contributing in a lot of games lately and they have been aggressive on the bases in key situations.
But despite dispatching Ryan Doumit in the offseason, who was one of the worst pitch-framers in MLB from 2008-2013, the Twins are still lagging seriously behind in that department.
BP tracks this with what it calls a "Regressed Probabilistic Model" of framing (RPM for short). In brief, RPM works by calculating the combined probability (and associated run value) that each pitch will be called a strike; summing those probabilities (and run values) across opportunities; attributing those values to a player (catcher or pitcher); and regressing "career" values to the mean.
So far this season, Twins catchers -- primarily Kurt Suzuki -- are the worst in MLB at essentially stealing strikes ... or, if you prefer, getting borderline pitches called strikes instead of balls. The calculations from BP say this has cost the Twins at least four runs already this year.
The Yankees, by contrast, are at the top of the food chain when it comes to gaining "extra" strikes on borderline calls. That has gained the Yankees more than six runs, per the site.
That sounds like a lot of runs so early in the season, but it is conceivable when you think about it. Let's say a 2-1 borderline pitch is called a ball instead of a strike. Using the larger sample size of 2013, Twins pitchers had a whopping 1.093 OPS against them after a count went to 3-1. But they had an OPS of just .659 against them after a count went to 2-2. Not every borderline call matters. But we can see how enough of them matter to add up to a significant number of runs.
In between, it might get as warm as 40.
We were over at Target Field for an announcement this morning on members of the Twins organization being named ambassadors for the All-Star Game, which is being held in a few months at Target Field when it will hopefully be a few dozen degrees warmer.
We went outside near field level right afterwards, around 10 a.m., and not long after manager Ron Gardenhire popped into the dugout, looked around and simply mouthed the word, "wow." Pitching coach Rick Anderson did the same thing. The field itself looked great; at that point, though, there was snow on top of both dugouts and plenty of wet spots along the edges and warning track.
It's somewhere between impressive and crazy that the Twins will likely pull this off today and get both games in. The unbalanced schedule means this is Toronto's only visit to Minnesota this year, so the Blue Jays clearly have an interest in getting in all three games and not having to wedge in an extra game somewhere later in the year. But we have to imagine actual butts in seats will be hard to find.
The 13 position players? Well, as we've discussed at length, this is where the real problem begins. And now that the team has pretty much decided on the 13 it will keep, apathy is reaching record levels.
Granted, the battles for spots were not between Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Any 13 they would have kept probably would have generated this very same post.
But a typical starting lineup of Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia, Trevor Plouffe, Aaron Hicks, Kurt Suzuki and Pedro Florimon (or something like that), with Josmil Pinto, Chris Colabello, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Escobar off the bench ... well, we really have no idea how that lineup is going to score runs. No clue. And neither, do we imagine. does Ron Gardenhire know what to do with them.
This is perhaps the most pessimism we have detected over a recent Twins team, which is hard to do when you lose 95 games three years in a row. At the very least, it's the most apathy.
There will still be nice crowds on warm summer nights. But there will be many long, gray days at Target Field as well.
This started as a weird little back-and-forth on Twitter between us and RandBallsStu. It ended as a full-blown parody. We stole a couple lines from Stu's tweets, but otherwise the inspiration is all ours (and the Twins). Here is Pavement's "Cut Your Hair" re-imagined as a song about the Twins' offense. This is from the CD "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain," which is much better thought of as "Crooked Numbers, Crooked Numbers?" Also, the original song and video are at the top for inspiration. Here we go:
Darlin’ go ahead and cut your roster
Do you think it’s gonna make things change?
You’re just a team with the same lineup,
And that’s a pretty bad lineup.
Scoring is a puzzle, offense getting muzzled, batter missed a sign
Look on deck, pinch hit, it’s 3-1 in the sixth
The bullpen phone is found.
Baseball scene's crazy, guys sent down each and every day
I saw another one just the other day
A special new call-up
I remember scoring
I don't remember why
I don't remember where
But I don't care, I care, I really don't care
Did you see the second baseman’s hair?
High OBPs and some pop a must.
Runs mean a lot
When runs are bought
Or so, I’ve heard
Rob, run down to the office phone
Deal some pitching for some bats.
Correia, Correia, Correia, Correia, Correia, Correia!
Twins assistant GM Rob Antony has offered variations on this quote to multiple outlets, but here is the one he gave to MLB.com regarding roster battles at several positions: "Nobody's really stepped up to try to earn the spots, and that's a bad feeling when you're looking at giving spots away."
As we tweeted, this makes about as much sense as us being disappointed that our pug can't read our blog. Because there is a difference between genuine disappointment in underperforming and expecting a human (or dog) to do something that they simply are not equipped to do.
Antony has lamented that neither Aaron Hicks nor Alex Presley has grabbed hold of the center field job. Either conceivably could perform well this year. But neither has a track record suggesting they should be able to do that, and a few extra hits this spring shouldn't have convinced the Twins otherwise.
Jason Bartlett is a 34-year-old who hasn't played a regular-season game since May of 2012. Jason Kubel had a nice 2012, but he was awful in 2013. It would be great if he could return to peak form, but he'll be 32 soon and sometimes that just isn't in the cards.
As we've been saying all offseason, the Twins made reasonable upgrades to their starting rotation -- spending money that should translate into better performances. They did absolutely nothing -- short of adding light-hitting catcher Kurt Suzuki (OPS of .605 and .627 each of the last two seasons) -- to address their offense except hope and wish. Justin Morneau is gone. Ryan Doumit is gone. They weren't great, but they did have the second- and fifth-highest OPS among regulars, respectively, on a bad offensive team in 2013. The offense will need a breakout season from Oswaldo Arcia or a rebound season from Josh Willingham to avoid being historically bad in 2014.
To a certain extent, it's up to players to produce. It's also very much up to decision makers to put them in a position to succeed. If we're doling out blame for why it's not happening this spring, we're pretty sure we know where to start.
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