TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.
On Tuesday night it was announced that Minnesota Twins’ second baseman, Brian Dozier, would be participating in the Home Run Derby.
Without question, it will be an honor for him to smack dingers at his home stadium, with his home crowd, and even his own brother pitching to him, no less. The event, where the game's most prolific home run hitters get to sit on the grass, some with their families, and admire the powerful swings while listening to ESPN’s Chris Berman say "back" five hundred and sixty-five million times is a unique experience.
(Quick aside: A little word of advice that I'm fairly certain his brother Clay is aware of, the Twins’ second baseman likes to hit his home runs up in the zone:
So throw the ball there Clay, and try not to think about the fact that you will be GIF'd into eternity so everyone can laugh if you accidentally throw a pitch like 50 Cent.)
No doubt, being added to the Home Run Derby is a wonderful thing to brag about on his Linkedin page but as a fixture on at the top of the order, Dozier is expected to be a table-setter, not a home run hitter. Unfortunately for the sputtering Twins offense, he has been more of the former and less of the latter recently.
Dozier’s 65 runs scored still tops the American League but he has been plated 14 times over his last 29 games -- admittedly a product of those hitting behind him and not by his own inability to get on-base (.311 on-base percentage in that time). While he has been a solid on-base catalyst, he has not been able to carry the team like he did in the beginning of the year when he was jacking the jobs that landed him in the Home Run Derby. The power surge that helped him to 11 home runs by the end of May -- the 11th most in the AL at that time -- has slowed. What is going on?
The biggest change is his results against fastballs. Dozier, who once feasted on fastballs, is now struggling to make contact and turn them into hits, let alone home runs. From April to June 5 he hit .331/.424/.622 and 9 HRs in 152 plate appearances versus fastballs. Since then he has batted just .115/.227/.250 with two home runs in 65 plate appearances.
According to ESPN/trumedia's In-Play Heat Maps, Dozier has not performed as well against fastballs up in the zone (where he once thrived) since June 6:
Reviewing the batted ball performance, Dozier, who had once elevated fastballs thrown his direction (58% fly ball rate from April 1 to June 5), is now driving those same pitches into the ground (48% ground ball rate since June 5).
There are no real significant changes in approach by the pitchers, either. He still sees a hefty amount of fastballs, plenty still left up in the zone. His mechanics are essentially the same -- there is no loss of the Tom Brunansky-inspired timing mechanism -- but there is an uptick in the number of times he has pulled the ball, a plausible explanation for why he is having issues on putting the ball in play on the inner-half while cheating and pulling pitches on the outer-half where pitchers are targeting him.
Dozier understands the importance of success against the fastball at the major league level.
"You don't succeed at this level by hitting breaking balls," Dozier told Sports On Earth’s Howard Megdal last month. "You succeed by not missing fastballs. And that's what I had to really come to terms with. Instead of trying to hit the hanger, you stick to your plan. Those guys are good on the mound, but they're not superhuman. They make mistakes."
For the sake of the Twins’ offense, Dozier needs to start capitalizing on those mistakes again.
More at TwinsDaily.com:
John Bonnes has a rundown on this weekend's All-Star activities.
Seth Stohs looks at Twins prospect Adam Walker's power potential.
If you are free on Monday, come down to Mason's prior to the Home Run Derby and hang out with Twins Daily and Fangraphs. It could be worth a free beer to you. Speaking of events, mark August 23 down on you calendar.
You can still grab a BULL DOZIER t-shirt at MinnCentric.com.
As the season progresses and the availability of real live center fielders decreases, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been lowering standards for center field qualifications -- such as "he smells like a center fielder" and "he reminds me of a young John Fogerty". Chris Parmelee has been the latest infielder to play the most defensively significant outfield role.
There is no question that Parmelee is swinging a burning hot bat right now -- having gone 16-for-35 over the last 10 games -- which calls for his inclusion somewhere in the lineup. After his performance in Texas, Gardenhire admitted that there may be more lineup cards submitted with Parmelee’s name next to CF. “He reads balls good and gets good jumps on them,” Gardenhire told reporters afterwards.
Now with Joe Mauer suffering the dreaded oblique injury during Tuesday night's game, the Twins’ manager could find a new infielder to use in center, however, Chris Colabello was recalled from Rochester -- a likely substitute for Mauer at first -- leaving Parmelee free to roam the outfield.
Is Parmelee’s bat really worth the head- and heart-ache of playing center field?
Parmelee has proven to be a streaky hitter in his tenure with the Twins. No sooner did I hit "publish" on a post that highlighted the mechanical changes he implemented that were going to increase his power levels three times over, he went into a slump of epic proportions. After going 8-for-25 with two home runs over his first six games back with Minnesota, he went 7-for-48 over the next 19 games (but, hey, two more home runs!).
In many ways, Parmelee is the inverse of Brian Dozier. Dozier has been creaming pitches left up in the zone. Parmelee, just the opposite. The heat map below provided by ESPN/trumedia shows the location of the hitters' extra base hits:
Polar opposites, right?
Parmelee’s swing is also very susceptible to being pitched up and out over the plate where he swings and misses the most regularly (and where Brian Dozier would deposit the pitch into the left field bleachers):
Parmelee showed a tendency to swing (but not necessarily chase anything above the zone) at pitches left up in the zone during his cold spell. Teams attacked those spots to great success.
Last night’s first plate appearance demonstrated well Parmelee’s success on pitches down in the zone. Here he takes a James Shields’ off-speed pitch located down in the zone, keeps his weight back and drives the ball into the left-center field gap for a double:
Part of the reason why he does so well on low balls is that his swing path follows a golf-swing pattern which allows him to hit that zone better. While certainly not textbook, his back shoulder drops (as seen in the example below) and his bat head tilts in his swing which makes it more difficult for contact at pitches up in the zone.
It is because of this swing that Parmelee has the sixth highest fly ball rate (52%) which is well above his career norm (43%).
Teams are not stupid; they see the same data and video on Chris Parmelee. Pitchers will continue to attack at Parmelee’s weaknesses and avoid his strengths. Parmelee, to avoid falling into another valley, needs to focus on his strength -- drive the pitch down in the zone when it is there -- and try to lay off those pitches up in the zone.
When Chris Colabello's season off to an insanely hot start, I remember multiple people commenting to me excitedly about how he was on pace for something like 200 RBI.
Some folks just love to extrapolate those grandiose "on pace" figures when a guy has a great first couple weeks. It's fun early season fodder, but of course, it's all utterly meaningless.
Projecting hypothetical full-season totals at the halfway point is a bit more sensible, because at this point we've got 50 percent of a season as our sample. That's not enough to preclude fluky performances, but 81 games is 81 games.
I thought I'd examine some of the crazier first-half stats on the Twins, in the context of what the numbers will look like at year's end if the player replicates his first three months.
Joe Mauer is on pace for four home runs and 52 RBI.
And he hasn't even missed much time. He played in 75 of the team's 81 first-half games, piled up 336 plate appearances, and managed a total of two home runs and 26 RBI.
Many people hoped, perhaps misguidedly, that the transition to first base would yield more prototypical power numbers. Others would have been satisfied with the usual Mauer, whose production would have been good -- not spectacular -- at an offense-oriented position.
Instead, Mauer is on pace to play a career-high 150 games and drive in 52 runs. Part of that is on his teammates. Part is bad luck. But… man.
Brian Dozier is on pace for 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases.
Dozier has been pretty cold lately, so it might be a little difficult to envision him reaching this heralded milestone combo at the moment, but he's proven over the last two years that he's capable of catching fire at any time.
Here's a list of players that have joined the 30/30 club since 2010: Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun (twice), Ian Kinsler, Mike Trout. That's it.
Dozier's growth continues to amaze. In the minors, he topped out at nine home runs and 24 steals in a season.
Eduardo Escobar is on pace for 46 doubles.
OK, this really came out of nowhere. I have long wondered if the young infielder might have hidden offensive upside, to the extent that he might be a superior option to Pedro Florimon, but there was little in Escobar's track record to suggest this kind of two-bagger tear was possible.
The 25-year-old entered this season with a .228/.280/.307 MLB hitting line. In eight minor-league seasons, he slugged .358 and topped out with 26 doubles in a campaign.
Last year, only nine major leaguers hit more than 40 doubles, so if Escobar comes anywhere near the projected total it'd be wild. This has the makings of one of those half-season flukes, but if Escobar can keep it up, a doubles-machine shortstop with a decent glove is a quality asset.
Phil Hughes is on pace to issue 20 walks.
… In 32 starts and 206 innings. Wow. That would be less than half the walks that Hughes allowed in 145 innings last year with New York, and even then his total wasn't bad.
Ricky Nolasco is on pace to allow 250 hits.
The Twins have had some hittable, contact-heavy staffs over the years -- they've given up the most hits of any team in the majors since 2011, in fact -- but in the past decade only one Minnesota starter has allowed 250-plus hits in a season: Carl Pavano (262). Ironically, that was in 2012, right after he'd signed what was at the time the most expensive free agent contract for a starting pitcher in franchise history.
I don't actually think Nolasco is going to give up 250 hits. I expect big improvement in the second half, and hopefully we saw the beginning of that on Tuesday night. But if he keeps getting knocked around, the Twins aren't going to have much choice but to keep trotting him out.
Glen Perkins is on pace to save 40 games with a 90-to-12 K/BB ratio.
Saturday night was Minnesota Twins night at Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids. The rains came, but there was an excitement because Twins great Rod Carew made the trek to Iowa. Before the game, he was briefly in the Kernels locker room. He then spent over an hour signing autographs and shaking hands with fans that lined up, around several corners, trying to meet the Hall of Famer. He joined Morgan Hawk, the Kernels radio man who was also on TV locally on that night, for the first two innings.
At that time, he was made available to the media. He spent 15 minutes talking about all kinds of topics with the small group. Here is Part 1 of that interview, a look at his career. In the next two days, two more parts of the interview will be posted at TwinsDaily.com.
Of course, the first question he was asked was if he had been to Cedar Rapids previously, he said that he had. “It was in the dead of winter and it was cold.”
Carew never played in Cedar Rapids. The 68-year-old spent just over two years in the minor leagues before he advanced to the big leagues. He made us aware of an interesting rule from a previous era. “Back then, they could take 28 guys north, and at the end of the month they cut down to 25 man rosters.”
The Twins history is rich. He played his first big league game with the Twins on April 11, 1967. Carew talked about debuting with the Twins, with some great teammates. “As a 20-year-old kid coming up and being on the same club as Harmon Killebrew, and Tony Oliva, and Jim Kaat, and Mudcat Grant, and Earl Battey. Those are guys that I learned a lot from, especially Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew, and we remained friends until his death.”
He said that he continues to think about Killebrew frequently since he passed away a couple of years ago. “It’s still hard. We know we’re not going to live forever, but when you get close to someone. He was my mentor. I learned so much from him, and then to lose him. I still think about him. My wife and I were just talking about Harmon a couple of days ago, about his passing, so he’s always here, he’s always in my heart.”
He continued, “One thing I learned from Harmon is that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice. And so, when he told me that, I thought to myself that I would go through the rest of my life, no matter what happens, I’m always going to be nice.”
Last week marked 50 years since the Minnesota Twins signed Carew out of high school in New York City. Asked to reflect on that time, he said, “You know, I never thought that I would accomplish the things I accomplished in baseball. As a young kid, you hope that you do well, but I never thought I would go on and do the things that I did. But I was fortunate, I had people around me that worked with me and talked to me, so that helped. I was blessed with God-given talent, but having God-given talent is not all that it is. You also have to work. You have to continue honing those skills or trying to get better."
And to be an all-time great, Carew had to have a competitive edge. “I was greedy. I was never satisfied. If I had three hits one day, I wanted four. If I had four hits one day, I wanted five.” He continued, “That was my mentality. I learned that from being Tony Oliva’s roommate for ten years. He always used to tell me, ‘Rookie, get as many base hits as you can.’ So I was very fortunate.”
Carew's numbers are remarkable. In 19 years, he hit .328/.393/.429 (.822). He finished his career with 3,053 hits. He was an 18-time All Star. He won seven batting champions. He had six Top 10 finishes in MVP voting and won the 1977 award. That season was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in Twins history. He hit .388/.449/.570 (1.059). His OPS+ was 178! He had 239 hits including 38 doubles, 16 triples, 14 homer runs, drove in 100 and scored 128 runs.
He played his final game on October 5, 1985, and in 1991, he was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame.
What does it mean to be a Hall of Famer to Rod Carew? “HOF means you’re at the top of your profession. And to be in the same place with Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Christy Matthewson, and Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson and all those great players. As a young kid, you don’t think about that. You don’t think about playing to get to the HOF. You’re thinking about playing and surviving and hoping you stay healthy to do good things. I was fortunate to do that. It’s one of the greatest fraternities in the world. When we get together Hall of fame weekend, we have a good time. Pitchers talk about how they used to get you out, and hitters talk about how many HR they used to hit off of you. It’s just a great time that we have together.”
Over the next couple of days, I'll continue to post Mr. Carew's comments regarding several topics including what he tells young players and how the game is different today than in his era.
Be sure to head over to TwinsDaily.com the next few days for the rest of the Rod Carew interview and much more.
Aaron and John talk about the starting pitching (and podcast hosts) falling apart, Jorge Polanco's rushed arrival, Alex Meyer and Trevor May having issues in the minors, Chris Parmelee as a center fielder, puking in cabs, throwing out backs, Joe Mauer turning things around, Eduardo Escobar returning to earth, Aaron Hicks going back to Double-A, and Clayton Kershaw vs. Johan Santana. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
Meanwhile, at Twins Daily:
The rosters for the MLB Futures Game were announced on Tuesday. Representing the Twins organization will be Single-A pitcher Jose Berrios and Double-A slugger Kennys Vargas.
None of Minnesota's "Big Three" will be participating. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano obviously have been injured, and Alex Meyer -- the team's top pitching prospect and its greatest hope for a top-of-the-rotation starter -- simply isn't having a very good season.
That's fairly worrisome, especially when you look at his recent performance.
Back in late April, it appeared that Meyer had turned a corner after reportedly learning a new changeup grip from his teammates. In his fourth and fifth starts of the season for Class-AAA Rochester, the lanky right-hander was as dominant as could be, striking out a combined 22 hitters over 12 2/3 innings while allowing no runs on five hits.
At that point, Meyer was perhaps one or two more strong starts away from joining the big-league rotation and making a major impact. Yet, since that high point in his season, he has largely been a mess.
In 10 starts since the beginning of May, Meyer has a 4.43 ERA and 1.54 WHIP, and has completed six innings in an outing only twice. He continues to miss bats with his high-end stuff (he ranks second in the International League with 83 strikeouts) but that's really the only aspect of his game that you could point at as being close to MLB-ready.
The short outings are the biggest red flag. As a 24-year-old top prospect, Meyer is at a point where you'd like to see him facing some big-league competition, but the Twins aren't going to call up a guy who is routinely unable to complete five or six innings at Triple-A. Granted, his pitch counts are being watched closely, but he hasn't been effective. In his last three starts, the righty has failed to even reach the fifth.
This raises an uncomfortable question: Is everything OK physically?
It's hard not to wonder, considering that Meyer missed two months last year with shoulder soreness. Right now, he's laboring through short outings, struggling to throw strikes and uncharacteristically giving up bunches of hits. In his latest start for Rochester, he coughed up multiple home runs for just the second time in his pro career.
This is just strange to see from a player of his caliber. If his problems are mechanical, the coaching staff has got to find a way to get him straightened out. If there's an injury at play, well, that's just beyond depressing considering the way things have already played out this year with Sano and Buxton.
On the bright side, the Twins have had plenty of positive developments down on the farm. Berrios, who has been absolutely inhuman down in Ft. Myers (2.05 ERA, 10/6 K/9), ranks highly among them. Trevor May also continues to pitch well in Triple-A, providing another MLB-ready option with upside and making Meyer's setbacks a little easier to stomach.
But, as I've often stated, I believe that Meyer is the single most important prospect in the organization, so as long as he continues to scuffle through short outings, it's going to be tough to get excited about the Twins' short-term outlook.
They need more front-end talent in the rotation and nobody fits that profile better than a healthy, effective Alex Meyer. Despite some flashes, we simply haven't seen that guy consistently.
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