Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Bauer trade

The Twins did not make a trade Tuesday, the last full day before the trading deadline. Cleveland, now three games back of Minnesota, reportedly did -- a complex three-way deal that brought the Tribe bulk players and cost them Trevor Bauer, their most reliable starting pitcher. (Announcement expected today.)

Puig and Reyes are right-hand hitting outfielders, although calling Reyes an outfielder is apparently a bit generous; the expectation is that Reyes will be mostly a designated hitter for Cleveland. Allen  is a left-handed pitcher who has struggled in his minimal major league time to date but is seen as a potential piece of a starting rotation; it's quite possible he'll be asked to fill the vacated rotation slot. Nova and Moss are minor leaguers who are unlikely to matter this season for Cleveland, alhtough Moss is in Double A.

It's quite obvious what Cleveland did: They traded from their strength -- starting pitching -- to shore up an obvious weakness -- their outfield hasn't hit. Puig and Reyes have combined for 49 homers this season.

Puig is the bigger name, but Reyes is the bigger bat. Puig's OPS+ with Cincinnati this year is 98, meaning that he's been slightly below league average at the dish. Reyes's OPS+ is 121. A good bit of the difference is that Cincinnati is a far better place to hit than is San Diego. But Puig is a good defensive outfielder.

Cleveland deepened its lineup with this trade. The Indians also weakened their rotation. Unless and until Corey Kubler or Carlos Carrasco return to the rotation and to form, Cleveland now has Mike Clevenger and a collection of young (but talented) staters who have never made it through a full season.

Conclusion: Cleveland got more for Bauer than the Blue Jays did for Marcus Stroman. But because they traded from their major league core to get Reyes and Puig, I'm not sure they actually got better for 2019.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Loek van Mil and the mystery of super-tall pitchers

The news Monday that former Twins farmhand Loek van Mil had died awoke the usual sense of dismay when someone dies at an absurdly early age (van Mil was 34).

It also led me to ponder this connumdrum: As a general rule, the bigger the pitcher, the faster the pitches. But with the obvious exception of Randy Johnson, that advantage seems to vanish once the pitcher gets above 6-foot-8.

Van Mil is believed to the the tallest pitcher in the history of professional baseball at 7-foot-1. He never made it to the majors. He pitched in the Twins system from 2006 into 2010, when he was traded at the deadline to the Angels. From there he bounced to the Cleveland and Cincinnati organizations; he concluded his career in the States back with the Twins organization. He also pitched quite a bit in the Australian winter league and for the Dutch national team.

He was an easy guy to pick out during spring training on the Twins minor league side; he was the guy head-and-shoulders, and sometimes more, above everybody else. (Photos of him with Chris Cates, a 5-foor-3 shortstop who was frequently van Mil's teammate in the low minors, looked almost fake.)

Baseball America's coverage of van Mil generally used some variation of the thought that he needed "to pitch like a 7-footer" -- meaning he needed to rely on his fastball and use those long levers to generate greater velocity.

The thing is, other than Johnson, super-tall pitchers generally haven't been able to do that -- or if they could, to command that velocity.

Jon Rauch, 6-11, was a high velocity starting prospect with the White Sox system. An injury turned him into a reliever with diminished speed. He got 11 years in the majors, some of them with the Twins. He is probably the tallest player in major league history.

Chris Young, 6-10, was probably the most accomplished super-tall starter other than the Big Unit (also 6-10). He had four seasons of double-digit wins, and started and won a World Series game for Kansas City in 2015. He had a career-threatening arm injury in the middle of his major league career and never threw 200 innings in a season.

Mark Hendrickson was a 6-9 lefty who bounced around the majors for 10 seasons without notable success or a notable fastball. His career ERA was 5.03, although in fairness to him, it was generally with bad teams.

Eric Hillman, 6-10, ptiched in three seasons for the Mets, going 4-14 with a 4.85 ERA. He had very low walk and strikeout rates in his brief major league tenure.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that van Mil did indeed pitch like a 7-footer. It was Randy Johnson who didn't fit that mold.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Sergio Romo trade

The Twins on Saturday picked up veteran reliever Sergio Romo from the Miami Marlins in an odd prospect trade.

The Twins not only got Romo, the one established major leaguer in the deal, but a decent pitching prospect in Chris Vallimont and a player to be named later..

The cost was Lewin Diaz, a left-left first baseman who is having a big 2019 season after a poor 2018. Miami must have really wanted Diaz, who has split this season between high A Fort Myers and Double A Pensacola,  to include two throw-ins.

Perhaps this trade will be known down the road as the Lewin Diaz trade, but the reality is that Diaz is Rule 5 eligible and the Twins were likely to have trouble finding a spot on the 40-man roster for him in the offseason. Yes, incumbent first baseman C.J. Cron is a free-agent-to-be, but the Twins have plenty of first base options who rank ahead of Diaz.

As I said in the Monday print column, Romo, 36, doesn't truly check my boxes for the Twins bullpen priorities. He's not left-handed, and he's not a power arm who can trade off long saves with Taylor Rogers.

But he helps. His high-grade slider makes him particularly tough on right-handed hitters, he has a track record of performing in a variety of relief roles, and he's not likely to be scared by pitching under pressure. The man picked up three saves in the 2012 World Series, after all.

The Twins DFA'd Carlos Torres, who never got into a game for the Twins, to make room for Romo.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Notes, quotes and comment

Sean Poppen popped back onto the Twins roster as the eighth bullpen arm and picked up the final two innings of Thursday's blowout win in Chicago.

A roster move of more significance: Byron Buxton was reactivated, with Jake Cave optioned out. Buxton started in center and hit a pair of doubles.

The Twins are now 49-23 this season when Buxton starts, 13-17 when he doesn't.


The Twins made an exceedingly minor deal on Thursday, shipping minor league catcher Brian Navaretto to the Yankees in a cash deal.

Navaretto is a good defensive catcher with a great arm who hasn't hit at any level. (He was hitting .177 in Double A this year, which ought to get one sent back to high-A.) The Yankees needed somebody to catch in Double A after the domino effect of putting Gary Sanchez on the injured list after their series in Minnesota, and the Twins wanted to open up the slot at Double A for Ryan Jeffers, their second-round pick last year.

I've noted this repeatedly, but I'll hit it one more time: The Twins in the 2013 draft took three catchers in the first nine rounds: Stuart Turner in the third, Navaretto in the sixth and Mitch Garver in the ninth. (Turner and Garver were collegians, Navaretto taken out of high school).

The Reds took Turner in the Rule 5 draft and carried him on their roster for the full 2017 season only to outright him the following spring, which made his Rule 5 season rather pointless. He not only hasn't been back in the majors since, he's played so little in Triple A that I suspect he's had injuries.

So two of the three are out of the organization. But I think Garver has more than made up for the misses on the two higher-drafted backstops.


Both Jeffers and Trevor Larnach, their first-rounder from 2018, are now at Penascola. They're moving up the ladder at a pretty rapid clip.

Jeffers' numbers at Fort Myers (the Twins high-A affiliate) aren't nearly as impressive as Larnach's, but he's a catcher. Presumably part of the promotion is that he's improving his play behind the dish, which was seen as a bit suspect at the time of the 2018 draft.

Larnach's promotion hints that the lefty-hitting outfielder might be used as a trade chip in a pitching trade over the next few days. I'm not automatically opposed, but of course, it depends on who the Twins get in said deal.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Good-bye, Parker

The Twins decision Wednesday to lop Blake Parker from the roster took me by surprise.

It's not that he was pitching well. He wasn't.

The Twins have jettisoned relievers with some frequency over the past week: Adalberto Mejia, Mike Morin, Matt Magill, now Parker. Parker is different because he had been a central piece of the bullpen from the get-go. When the season started, Parker was Rocco Baldelli's preferred end-game option. The other three were marginal relievers; Parker was supposed to be something more than that.

On June 1, Parker had a 1.86 ERA. His ERA today is 4.21. That's obviously going in the wrong direction, but Baldelli never really stopped trying to get important innings and outs from him.

The Twins replaced him on the roster with Carlos Torres, a 36-year-old who has bounced around. When he gets into a game for the Twins, it will be his seventh major league team in 10 seasons. He's spent much of this year, and 2018, in the minors. There's not a lot of reason, scouting the statline, to see him as an upgrade on Parker, and I would think Baldelli would be hesitant to try to use him in a key role.

There are, broadly speaking, two possibilities here:

  • The Twins don't think they can fix Parker, or can't take the time to fix him or
  • The front office panicked and overreacted to a slump.

I don't think Falvine panics readily, so I'm going with option one.

So ... the current state of the Minnesota bullpen. I'll sort it into three groups:
  • The ace. Taylor Rogers, his blown save on Tuesday notwithstanding, is the clear top dog of the relief staff -- and the only lefty.
  • Trevor May, Tyler Duffey and Ryne Harper are the three right-handers Baldelli is most likely to use in high-leverage situations. 
  • The shuttle crew -- pitchers who move between the major league roster and Rochester. Some have options, some (Torres) don't. They're disposable. Right now that group includes Torres, Lewis Thorpe and Cody Stashak.
The Twins are demoting Delvin Smeltzer after his five-inning outing of Wednesday, so somebody is coming today to give the Twins eight bullpen arms. Whoever it is, will be part of the shuttle crew.

Duffey and Harper have risen from the shuttle crew to more prominent roles, but part of that has been the failure of other pitchers who had prominent roles, specifically Parker and Trevor Hildenberger, now on the injured list at Triple A.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A thrilla

You may be familiar with "The Thrilla in Manilla," the third and final -- and greatest and ugliest -- Ali-Frazier bout. It was back in 1975, but ESPN Classic apparently airs it in regular rotation.

I have no idea how either boxer survived that fight, and maybe neither would have had Frazier's corner not conceeded before the 15th round.

And that's what I harkened back to in the late innings of Tuesday night's Yankees-Twins game. There can't be much left to either bullpen after that 10-inning, five-hour brawl of a baseball game.

The postgame comments out of the Twins clubhouse were circumspect but clear: They believe they got jobbed in the eighth inning by the home plate umpire. And he probably did blow some calls. But the Twins relievers didn't exactly pound the strike zone either.

Let's note here in particular Blake Parker. He entered the game having allowed two runs in his previous 12 games, 13.1 innings -- an ERA of 1.35. He also had only two outings without at least one baserunner in that span, with 13 hits, five walks and a hit batter. The ERA was deceptive; he hasn't been pitching nearly as well as the ERA suggests.

It caught up to him Tuesday.

At least Cleveland lost too.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Small sample size theater: Harper vs Tauchman

On Monday morning I declared the bend-but-don't-break Twins bullpen cracked.

On Monday evening the Twins bullpen worked five innings and allowed one run agains the Yankees. Nope, not cracked.

I rather expect Lewis Thorpe to be rewarded for his eight outs with a return ticket to Rochester, New York. The bullpen remains hard-worked -- Rocco Baldelli went through four relievers to get those 15 outs -- and there isn't an off-day until next week.

The Twins are back up to eight arms in the 'pen. On Monday C.J. Cron returned to the injured list, his thumb still an issue. That and the optioning out of Zack Littell allowed the additions of Thorpe and Cody Stashak, who has yet to make his major league debut.

Let's talk a little about the shortest of the relief outings Tuesday. After Thorpe -- a lefty -- gave up a two-out double in the eighth, Baldelli brought in Ryne Harper -- a righty -- to face Mike Tauchman,  a lefty hitter who was 3-for-3 on the night. Two pitches later, the inning was over, and Harper was done for the day.

This move contradicts conventional platoon strategy, but Harper so far has a backwards righty -- one more effective against left-handed hitters than against right-handed hitters.

His slash line (apparently including the Tauchman at-bat) against lefties: .230/.269/.338, OPS .607. Slash line against righties: .228/.264/.380, OPS .644.

Harper hasn't yet faced 90 hitters from either side of the plate, but the numbers are closer than one would expect: RH hitters have 87 plate appearances against him, LH hitters 78. So 47% of the hitter Harper has faced are lefties, which seems pretty high but is actually in the same range as Blake Parker and a bit lower than Trevor May. So the Twins aren't, or at least haven't, treated Harper as if he's a lefty-killing specialist.

But they did last night for the Tauchman at-bat. And in his splits lie an interesting nugget:

Tauchman against righties (110 at-bats): .210/.307.430, OPS .737.

Tauchman against lefties (just 33 at-bats): .448/.515/.621, OPS 1.136

I wouldn't care to wager, over the long haul, on Tauchman contining to mash lefties. The Twins did wager for that one at-bat that they were better off with a righty. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

M-M-M sold

Three relievers. all with the last initial M, sold to other major league teams: Adalberto Mejia to the Angels. Mike Morin to the Phillies. Matt Magill to the Mariners.

Mejia was a waiver claim, Morin and Magill traded for "cash considerations." All had been DFA'd. What is really going on: the Twins decided the roster spots were more valuable than the pitchers.

Another "M," Trevor May, threw 49 pitches Sunday. He was not particularly good either -- 49 pitches, the most since he became a reliever, of which only 25 were strikes -- and he has now allowed six runs in his last 3.2 innings.

Bottom line: The Minnesota bullpen, which spent much of the first half of the seasons bending but not breaking, has cracked.

As of this morning -- with Zach Littell optioned out after Sunday's game but no corresponding move announced -- the Twins have the following relievers:

  • Taylor Rogers
  • Blake Parker
  • Trevor May (who, I guarantee, is not available today or tomorrow)
  • Tyler Duffey
  • Ryne Harper
  • Kohl Stewart
The word on Twitter late Sunday was that Cody Stashak, 25-year-old righty, was getting the call. Adding him to the 40 is clearly no issue after three DFA's. He has a string of solid strikeout rates in the minors since the Twins drafted him in 2015 (13th round) and this season has been no exception.

I'm not counting on him as a savior. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Bomba. bomba, bomba

Thursday night was a rather stereotypical 2019 Twins win: Three homers, a sneaky good start, and two innings from Taylor Rogers.

Kyle Gibson went seven innings against Oakland -- six hits, no walks, seven strikeouts and 73 strikes out of 106 pitches. The three runs allowed were the least impressive part of his stat line. Sneaky good.

I made this point. or tried to, earlier this week during a segment on KMSU radio: The Twins interest in a trade for a starting pitcher should be limited to a starter capable of moving Gibson down a rung in the playoff rotation. I'm not sure that starter is going to be on the market, and if he is, at a price the Twins will be willing to pay.

The Twins don't need the kind of starter who has moved so far (Andrew Cashner and Homer Bailey). Those are back-of-the-rotation guys, and the Twins have Martin Perez and Michael Pineda. And Gibson is now 9-4, 4.02 with more strikeouts than innings pitched. That ain't shabby.

Another point I made Monday that probably bears repeating: I said the Twins were likely to see their lead, then 6.5 games, shrink a bit in July. The Twins have a rougher schedule than Cleveland the rest of this month. But that reverses in August.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Three losses in a row

The Twins now have their first three-game losing streak of 2019. It was bound to happen.

It's especially bound to happen when a team becomes as addicted to giving up unearned runs as this one has since the All-Star break.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Implications of a roster shuffle.

Eddie Rosario and C.J. Cron came off the injured list on Tuesday, which is good. Byron Buxton went on the seven-day concussion list, which is neither surprising nor good. And. in a bit of a surprise, veteran reliever Mike Morin was designated for assignment.
Morin is the least significant player of those four. But his deletion -- not only from the 25-man roster but the 40-man roster -- carries some implications, should it stand.

  • It drops Minnesota's 40-man roster down to 37, giving the Twins room to add as many as three major leaguers in deadline deals over the next two weeks.
  • It drops, if only temporarily, the Twins bullpen to seven relievers.
  • It signals a roster commitment of sorts to Zach Littell.

Compare Morin and Littell's ERAs, and this decision is baffling. Morin leaves with an ERA with the Twins of 3.18; Littell's scoreless inning Tuesday night lowered his ERA for the season to 4.41.

But it's a bit more complicated than that. Morin's FIP -- fielding independent pitching, a metric that attempts to remove the effects of ballparks and fielding from a pitcher's results -- is 4.49, a pretty good match for Littell's actual ERA. Littell's FIP, 3.67 entering Tuesday, is closer to Morin's actual ERA.

Morin had 11 strikeouts and just two walks allowed in 22 innings with Minnesota; Littell now has 13 strikeouts and six walks in 16.1 innings.

And Littell had moved ahead of Morin in the bullpen pecking order. Morin had pitched just twice this month, last working on July 4 at Oakland. The A's dinged him for four runs, inflating his ERA from 1.66 to 3.18 in the process. Tuesday was Littell's sixth appearance of July, and he hasn't allowed a run since May 30.

Littell to this point has been part of the Rochester shuttle. Unlike Morin, he was optionable. Indeed, both Littell and Tyler Duffey opened the season at Triple A, got called up, got sent back, got called up again -- and now appear to have risen to a more permanent bullpen status ("permanent" being a tricky concept for relievers).

If -- when -- the Twins decide they need a fresh reliever, it's more likely that they'll get the roster spot out of the position player.

Which leads to the "should it stand" caveat of the second paragraph of this post. Jonathan Schoop left Tuesday's game in the ninth inning with an apparent injury. He was downplaying it after the game, but as I understand the DFA rules, the Twins still have the opportunity to restore Morin to the roster if Schoop (or somebody else) goes on the IL before Morin's contract is disposed of.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Ballplayers as roster fluid

One aspect of Rocco Baldelli's managerial style that intrigues me has been his eagerness to move players all over the field.

Four Twins -- Ehire Adrianza, Luiz Arraez, Willians Astudillo and Marwin Gonzalez -- have started games at at least four different positions, excluding designated hitter.

Gonzalez has started 32 games at third base, 11 in left field, 11 in right field, nine at first base, two at second base and one at shortstop.

Astudillo (currently on the injured list) has 13 starts at catcher, eight at third base, four at first base, three in right field, one in left field and one at second base.

Adrianza has 11 starts at shortstop, 11 at third base, seven at second base, three at first base and two in right field.

Arraez has eight at second base, seven at third base, five in left field and two at shortstop.

The surprise here is Arraez. Adrianza, Astudillo and Gonzalez came to Minnesota from other organizations with versatility as a key component of their value. Arraez, the one home-grown player of the group, was primarily a second baseman in the minors, with little exposure to the left side of the infield and even less time in the outfield.

There are certain players Baldelli doesn't shuffle around. If Jorge Polanco's in the lineup, he's at short. If Byron Buxton is in the lineup, he's playing center. C.J. Cron, first base. Jonathan Schoop, second base. Jason Castro, catcher.

Of note: Baldelli has yet to start Mitch Garver, who has in the past played some at first base and corner outfield, other than at catcher or designated hitter.

But Baldelli treats much of the rest of the roster as fluids, flowing them around those foundation rocks. Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario and Jake Cave have all started games in center field. With Cron on the injured list, Baldelli started three different first basemen in the three games in Cleveland after the break -- Adrianza, Gonzalez and Miguel Sano.

When the Twins signed Gonzalez, people asked me: What position is he going to play? My response was: All of them. The same applies to the three A's -- Adrianza, Arraez and Astudillo. They all have more than 100 plate appearances despite stints on the injured list and time in the minors.

They've hit. They've fielded. And Baldelli finds them playing time.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Back at it

Time to end the blog vacation. Some comments about the past week:

* The Twins, needing a spot on the 25-man roster to restore Jake Odorizzi from the injured list, designated Adalberto Mejia for assignment.

This not only took Mejia off the active roster but off the 40-man roster as well. The Twins are down to 38, so they now have room for two newcomers in (a) prospect(s)-for-veteran(s) trade(s).

Before I took my break, I suggested that Mejia was on thin ice. That wasn't any great insight. Mejia has, in the three years since the Twins got him from the Giants in a July trade, pitched his way out of the rotation plans and now out of the bullpen, with 12 walks in 15.1 innings this year.

It's certainly possible that he'll clear waivers and remain in the Minnesota organization. I don't hold out much hope that the Twins will get anything out of him or for him.

* The Twins got what they needed, if not what they wanted, out of the Cleveland series coming out of the break, taking two of three from the Tribe and adding a game to their divisional lead.

A sweep would have been nice, and I suspect Trevor May has been kicking himself for the lousy curve he threw Carlos Santana for the go-ahead homer Sunday, but two-of-three in a series of close contests is acecptable -- and a dent in Cleveland's lingering divisional aspirations.

* Of note in that series: The Minnesota bullpen, widely considered weaker than the rotation, pitched better. The Twins deployed their top three starters in Cleveland (Kyle Gibson, Odorizzi and Jose Berrios), and none of them got into the sixth inning. The Twins bullpen combined for two runs allowed in more than 12 innings over the three games.

* To that end, manager Rocco Baldelli continued his aggressive use of Taylor Rogers. The lefty bullpen ace threw two innings on Friday for the save, then worked another inning Saturday to protect a four-run lead (no save there).

I doubt Rogers was available Sunday. He certainly did his part earlier in the weekend. Friday's two-inning save was his seventh outing of six or more outs this season. Joe Nathan had 14 such outings in his entire Twins career.

Baldelli, in this limited regard, reminds me a bit of Leo Durocher, Hall of Fame manager, who said something like: "Don't save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it might rain." When Baldelli sees a chance to win today's game, he'll go for it, and deal with any bullpen shortages the next day.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

RIP, Jim Bouton

I return to the blog ahead of schedule to acknowledge the profound debt my baseball fandom owes to Jim Bouton and Ball Four.

Bouton died Wednesday, age 80. Ball Four, his diary book of the 1969 season, lives on.

Bouton was a significant pitcher at the end of the 1950-60s Yankee dynasty, a max-effort power pitcher who won 18 games in in 1963 and 21 in 1964. The Yankees lost both World Series; Bouton himself lost his only Series start in '63 but won twice in '64 against the Cardinals.

But in 1965 his fortunes, and those of the Yankees, collapsed. He sustained an arm injury that essentially robbed him of his fastball. By 1969 he was hanging on a knuckleballer -- and was part of the collection of has-beens and never-weres assembled to be the expansion Seattle Pilots.

"Ball Four" was published the next year. Crafted by New York newspaper man Leonard Shecter out of Bouton's notes and tape-recorded musings, the book was a sensation -- a then-unheard of glimpse of ballplayers as flawed men crawling around on hotel roofs trying to peek into windows. Bouton's commentary on former teammate Mickey Mantle outraged almost everybody in baseball at the time, but it holds up pretty well a half-century after Mantle's 1969 retirement.

Indeed, the book itself holds up well. When I first read it in 1970, almost every name in the book was relevant to a fan. Forty-nine years later, many of the names and issues are obscure -- but many are not. Bouton and Shecter wrote in a time of turmoil in and out of the game, and Ball Four is an outstanding foundation for understanding where the game was then.

Bouton includes a great deal of commentary on the rise of the players union and its then-relatively new executive director, Marvin Miller -- this virtually on the eve of the Curt Flood case and five years before the arbitration ruling that created free agency. The use of amphetamines  -- "greenies" -- is described as routine.

And all this is in the context of a fallen star trying to regain his stature with a new pitch, an athlete with concerns outside the arena, a teammate at once uncomfortable with and participating in the unruly behavior, a parent and husband gone too much from his family. Bowie Kuhn, then the commissioner of baseball, thought this depiction of reality damaged the sport by disillusioning its fans.

For this bookish boy, it did the opposite. I can't imagine my baseball fandom without Ball Four as a foundation piece. It came at the right time for me.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Thoughts from the weekend

I considered late Sunday afternoon revising the Monday print column to put more emphasis on strengthening the bullpen, and to excoriate Adalberto Mejia in particular. I decided to keep the focus on the rotation in general and the notion of a Madison Bumgarner trade in particular.

But Mejia's outing, while certainly not the only reason the Twins lost Sunday, was damaging to his own future. He made the team out of spring training largely because he's out of options. But he has pitched, when not on the injured list, horribly. Sunday gave him 12 walks allowed in 15.1 innings, and that's not tolerable.

The Twins have largely been without a second left-hander in the bullpen. That's supposed to be Mejia's role. They have already dropped Gabriel Moya and Andrew Vasquez from the 40-man roster. The only other left-handed pitchers on the 40 are bullpen ace Taylor Rogers and starters Martin Perez, Lewis Thorpe, Delvin Smeltzer and Stephen Gonsalves. So if there's going to be a second lefty in the bullpen, it will be via trade.

Vasquez was outrighted during the weekend without a corresponding addition to the 40, presumably to open space for a trade for a veteran. If they need two spaces, Mejia is in jeopardy. He may be regardless.


Sunday's game turned, in a very real sense, on a play in which Byron Buxton was thrown out trying for third base on a fly to center. His out came before Jonathan Schoop reached the plate and ended the inning.

I was listening to the radio broadcast at that point, Tim Laudner being unlistenable as the TV analyst, and Dan Gladden declined to criticize Buxton's try for third.

I'm not so hesitant. Yes, Joey Gallo had to make a Grade A throw to get him, and yes, Joey Gallo had not played a good center field in the series. But even if there's only a 15 percent chance that Gallo makes a good-enough throw, the gain from advancing Buxton to third with two outs wasn't worth the risk.

If Buxton sticks to second, Schoop's run gives the Twins the lead. Theoretically, that would have been enough to win.


The Futures Game on Sunday evening featured two Twins prospects. Royce Lewis went 1-for-2 (and committed an error in the field as a substitute (Wander Franco of the Rays system was, deservedly, the starter at short for the American League team), and Jordan Balazovic threw a hitless inning.

I love the Futures Game, even shortened as it was to seven innings (eight with extras; it ended in a tie). It's a niche product, I know, but I rather prefer it to the All-Star Game itself.


Unless the Twins make a trade during the break, I'll probably go silent here until the season resumes.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Fourth

On this Independence Day morning, the Twins, having won a 12-inning affair in Oakland on Wednesday night:

  • are 54-31, a .635 winning percentage, which translates to 102 wins over the course of the season
  • still have not lost three games in a row
  • lead Cleveland by seven games in the AL Central
  • have the second-best run differential in MLB and the best in the American League.

They feel like they've been in a malase since Memorial Day, and the Yankees have overtaken them for best record in the AL, but that's still a pretty solid position to be in on July 4.


Jake Odorizzi went on the disabled list with a blister after his awkward start on Tuesday, with Zack Littell coming back up. This also takes Odorizzi out of the All-Star Game, but he was scheduled to start Sunday anyway, so he was going to be sidelined for the big exhibition regardless. Jose Berrios was named to the roster.

So the Twins have three All-Stars. Happy now?


And he had two key hits Wednesday too.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

RIP Tyler Skaggs

Twenty-seven is too young to die, but 27-year-olds die anyway. One such, on Monday, was Tyler Skaggs, starting pitcher for the Angels.

That's Skaggs in the upper left of the photo, with teammate Mike Trout, and Tony Oliva and Nelson Cruz of the Twins, during a visit this spring to a children's hospital in Orange County. There was some sort of reciprocal visit arrangement this season, with Angels accompanying Twins on a similar visit in the Twin Cities, and Skaggs was part of that too.

Looking at Skaggs' stat lines was a bit surprising. There's not as much there as I expected. I had, from a distance, sort of accepted the notion that he was the best starter in the Anaheim rotation, and indeed he was, at least this year. But that's a low bar to clear. The Angels have not been known in recent years to keep starters healthy or effective, and his stat line reflects a year lost to Tommy John surgery. His career high in innings pitched was just 125.

The best that can be said for Skaggs as a pitcher was that he was developing, that he was figuring it out. He had the talent to be a quality starter, but he really had not established himself as one. And now he never will.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Thoughts from the weekend

Dick-n-Bert were so busy being outraged Sunday by the "snub" of various Twins for All-Star designation that they almost missed the outcome of the game in front of them.

I'm not disturbed at all. The All-Star Game, particularly in this era of constant interleague play, is about marketing and player bonuses. I can give that a big yawn with a clear conscience.

Mitch Garver isn't an All-Star because he's not even this team's primary catcher. Jason Castro has started 39 games behind the plate, Garver 31, Willians Astudillo 13. This has been, I think, beneficial to the team, but its sufficient to keep Garver off the All-Star roster.

If there's a legitimate snub to whine about, it's on the pitching staff, with neither Jose Berrios nor Taylor Rogers getting named.  But given that the Orioles, Tigers and Blue Jays had to have somebody on the roster, it's not surprising that they ran out of room.

Rocco Baldelli has handled this lineup all year with an eye to limiting fatigue. Giving pretty much everybody four days of July vacation plays into that well.


A nice start Sunday from Lewis Thorpe, who got the ball because Kyle Gibson pitched a little in that 18-inning game earlier in the week.

Thorpe was returned to Triple A after the game, which is not surprising. He's got a future. I'm not sure that it's with the Twins -- I can see him being the major chip in a trade for a controllable established starter -- but he's going to be in a major league rotation, probably as early as next season.

No accompanying move was immediately announced, but I expect it will be a pitcher.

It almost certainly won't be Gabriel Moya, the lefty who spent much of 2018 on the big league roster and was a frequent "opener" down the stretch. He was outrighted off the 40 man roster with a Triple A ERA in the sevens. Ouch.