Sweep!

I have not found a good source of data on a team’s record in doubleheaders. I’m sure there must be a source out there that will tell you everything you want to know about twin bills, and will tell you when the last time the Twins swept a double header. But I did not find it. I should look a little harder, probably.

I figured the Twins had not swept a double header since, oh, 1991, maybe. Or maybe in the late 60’s. But no. I was wrong. A very reliable source — this very blog — tells me that the Twins swept a double header in 2013. And in 2014.

Being a Twins fan, I think it’s Highly Unlikely that they’ve swept a doubleheader since then. Twins fans usually go into doubleheaders with nervous trepidation, hoping for — best of all possible worlds — a split, with a win in the first game so we can relax a bit in the second. It would be interesting to know the Twins overall record in Doubleheaders. I would guess something like 5 sweeps, 17 splits, and 46 swepts. That’s what it feels like, anyway. Statistics be damned.

Back in 2013 and 2014 I don’t even mention the hapless team that we victimized. I was probably stunned. Perhaps I didn’t want to embarrass the other team in print. I’m all old-school, and I’m sure I would have said something like, good games, the breaks just happened to go our way today.

Not only did they sweep, yesterday, the Orioles, by the way, they also knocked the ball around quite a bit. Three players hit two home runs, Rosario, Cruz, Garver, and the boys hit 11 homers total, 8 in game two, as they took the first game 6-5 behind Berrios, and game two, 16-7, behind Perez. How often do three players hit 2 home runs in an away game doubleheader? Well, you can look it up, maybe. Or maybe this is a first. Either way, it’s fun.

And thusly we tie the Naps of Cleveland for first in the junior circuit mid-america division.

It was interesting looking back at those old blog posts. Hicks and Florimon and Doumit and Butera and Parmalee and the Great Colabello. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Time moves on. The players come and go. Young rookies turn into seasoned vets turn into, god forbid, managers. We fans, happily, stay the same age forever.

And I find it interesting to note that I had a blog category for “losing,” but not for “winning.” Very telling, I suppose.

And now, the return of…

 

Doubleheader

Two wins in one day!
Ha! Show me a better team!
That was yesterday.

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Twins Knock Phils

Twins are 5-2 now, after a nice 6-2 win against Philly, played under more baseball-like conditions. Kepler and la Tortuga led off the scoring with back to back homers in the third.

Buxton made a nice throw home in the sixth on a fly ball to nail Harper at the plate, keeping the game at 3-1. But I thought Astudillo was the key to that play, catching the ball and hanging on as he immediately tagged a flying Harper. I would not like to be the catcher waiting for the throw at home with Harper bearing down on me.

Astudillo focused and made the play.

La Tortuga comes through in the clutch.

Phils Clobber Twins!

Well, yesterday, when I started writing this up, the Twins were on a pace to win, like, 130 games this year. But then they lost yesterday, and we knew 130 games was crazy unrealistic anyway, so now we are back on to reality, and on pace to win 107.99 games, which is still pretty good, we’ll take that, thank you very much.

But, of course, It’s Early. And early trends do not reliably predict future performance. So we’ll play them one game at a time, see if we can get to 5 – 2 today. (And back on pace to win 115.714285714 games.)

I was just about to write about what a good start the Twins were off to, and I wondered when was the last time the boys got off to such a good start? Well, as you undoubtedly recall, the 2017 Twins — yes, all the way back to 2017. Remember those guys? Mauer and Dozier and Grossman and los dos Santanas and Colon and Kintzler? Remember those guys? — anyway, they started off the season 5-1, which is where we would have been if we would have won yesterday. 2002? Also a 5-1 start. In ’68 and ’65 the boys jumped off to a 6-1 start. I guess we’re not going to match any of those records, but 4-2 is better than 2-4, so we’re sufficiently happy.

Yesterday they lose to the Phillies, 10-4. Looking at the box score, what jumps out first is 3 errors. Well, those things happen. It was a very bad weather day in Philly, drizzly/rainy and cold, and both teams had to contend with that, but it seems like the weather or something else got in Odorizzi’s way: he only went 2/3rds of an inning, gave up 2 hits, 3 walks, 5 runs. Not a quality start. The boys narrowed it to 6-4 in the top of the 5th, but that was all she wrote. Perez gave up a couple more runs, and Mejia yielded a few, and game over.

The other thing that jumps out from the box score is the Polanco line: 5 1 5 1. Jorge goes 5 for 5, which is an awfully nice day at the plate. AND he hits for the cycle, which is the first time that’s happened for the Twins since Cuddyer did it in 2009. Hitting for the cycle is an odd thing. Nobody tries to hit the cycle. Nobody stops at second if that’s what they need to complete the cycle. It’s a somewhat meaningless event. But still: cool. But I think the cycle is overshadowed by a 5 for 5 day. To sum up: kudos to Polanco for 5 for 5 and the cycle. “Keep up the good work.”

This seems like a math-heavy post, so we’ll just touch briefly on the Pythagorean Theory of Baseball. You all know Pythagoras, of course, who was a geometry guy, I think, his real life job was as a geometrist. You could make good money at that, back in the day. But his true love was baseball, or rather, the early Greek form of baseball, which was called something else back then, but was basically a form of baseball, an early Greek-style form of baseball, so we’ll just call it baseball. When he was young he played a little ball with the Samos club, you could look it up, and after that he took up geometry in a big way, and kind of became known for that more than for his early days with Philosophers. (Good glove, no hit. Tended to overthink things out there at the plate.)

Pyth was obviously good with numbers, (or what they used for numbers, back then. This was before actual “numbers.”) and he paid attention to numbers, and he was, like the first early Greek-form-of-baseball sabermetrist. And he noticed or worked out that he could get a pretty good estimate of a team’s winning percentage by comparing the number of runs they scored to the number of runs they allowed. That simple. Like I said, it was an early form of sabermetrisity. They didn’t have a lot of data to work with but they did have runs and wins and losses. (They were not called runs back then. They were called ducats. I don’t know why. Basically the same thing, though.)

We move ahead, then, years later, many many years later to the famous American psychologist, writer and philosopher William James. James “rediscovered” this Pythagorean formula, back in the 1880s, I believe, while following the fortunes of the Beaneaters in Boston. I think he wrote a paper about it, using a slightly updated version, removing the ducats.

Ever since then, countless others have tinkered with the basic formula, trying to improve its accuracy and get their name on a formula.

The”general use” version of the Pythagorean formula currently is:

I’m sure there are other versions that factor in lefty righty splits during rain delays in day games during July before a road trip to the east coast. And probably more complicated versions than that.

But, using this very simple, very basic, very very old formula, you are generally able to make a pretty darn good estimate as to a teams winning percentage. The trick, of course, is to know how many runs they will score in the season, and how many runs they will give up. At this point Pythagoras threw up his hands and said, “that’s why we play the games!” And he was so right about that.

You’ll find a team’s Pythagorean Results listed in some of the more detailed standings sheets that you might see in the sports pages, and maybe even online, telling you, based on how many runs they’ve scored and given up, what their record should be. Teams will often be a few games above or below their Pythagorean record. Seems like the Twins are usually a few games below. Chalk it up to weather conditions or luck or bad base running or whatever. Maybe the boys ease up when they have a big lead, so as not to rub it in. That would affect their Pythagorean standings. But Pythagorean standings don’t win pennants.

That’s why we play the games.

First Place!

Well, yes, it’s good to be in first place.

Long-time Twins fans know that it is a rare occurrence for the boys to come out of the gate at 1-0. We know that a jump-start like that is something to be embraced and celebrated. 1-0! Undefeated! First Place!

First Place, thanks to Jose Berrios 7.2 innings of 2-hit 10-k ball, and Marvelous Marwin Gonzalez 2-rbi double in the bottom of the 7th. The Cleveland club’s pitcher, Kluber, was nearly as good, four hits over seven innings. But no, he could not match Berrios on this opening day, and the Twins emerged triumphant from a game played in mid-season form.

The Twins now stand 26-34 on opening day. 2-9 in the last 11 years. Those have not been good years. They’re 11-12 in home openers. It’s always a struggle. We are a northern team, and so, after spring training down there in Florida, it takes us a few games to get acclimated to the Great North Woods again.

After a day off to rest on laurels, we take on the Spiders again, Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Day games! Let’s play two!

Quick Twins Trivia question: Which Twins pitcher started the most season openers?

Jackie and Pee Wee, and the Latest One-year Free-agent Haul

Reading an article about Chadwick Boseman in the New York Times, I followed a link to this article on the NBC Sports website, The Embrace, by Joe Posnanski. Nice article. Did it happen? Sounds like yes to me. 

Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, the Twins have added their annual batch of budget free agent gambles:

  • Jonathan Schoop, 2b, age 27: Hit .293 – 32 – 105 with Baltimore in 2017. Then, last year, .233 – 21 – 61 with Baltimore/Milwaukee. 2019: ??? One year deal.
  • C.J. Cron, 1b, age 28: Hit .253 – 30 – 74 with Tampa Bay last year, which was a pretty big jump up for him. One year deal.
  • Nelson Cruz, DH, age 38: .256 – 37 – 97 last season with Seattle, which are low water marks for him over the past five seasons. One year deal.

After the Logan Morrison signing of last off-season, (along with the rest of that season’s crop) well, we have our doubts. As you undoubtedly recall, LogMor hit .246 – 38 – 85 with Tampa in 2017. With the Twins in 2018 (one year deal) he went .186 – 15 – 39. What happened there? Well he had hip surgery late in the season. Perhaps that was a problem all year long? It’s a mystery. Good luck in the free agent market this year, LogMor.

Also last off-season brought the free agent signings of Fernando Rodney, Lance Lynn, and Zach Duke. All traded during the course of the season.

And so forgive me if I look skeptically at this latest crop of one-year deals. I hope these guys are still around in September, when the games count, but it will not be too surprising if they are dangling trade bait at that time.

first win of 2018: check

Always nice to get that first one done. Always feels good. And somewhat a relief.

(That shadow lurking in the background is the memory of the 2016 season.)

 

Yesterday the Twins knocked the Orioles, 6-2. Sano hit his first of the season, a solo shot in the first. Six nothing till the ninth, and the boys were working on a no-hitter with two-outs in the 8th. Gibson tossed six hit-free innings, striking out 6 (while also walking 5.) Pressly worked the 7th and 8th, and gave up the hit. Gabriel Moya gave up a two run homer in the ninth. Moya was acquired from the Diamond Backs for catcher John Ryan Murphy and rocked double A ball last year, earning a late season call up.

Berrios pitches for the Twins today, and I rate our chances with him on the mound as good.

I wonder what happened to John Ryan Murphy? The Twins traded Aaron Hicks for him, after a season where he batted .277 in 155 at bats with the Yankees. He was a second round pick by the Yankees, made steady progress through their minors, hit .270 and  then .246 at AAA. Then .146 for the Twins, followed by .236 and .222 at triple A. Then to Arizona, and I see he’s up in the bigs to start the season. Curious.

 

2018 Forecast

I’ve taken a pensive scan through the 2018 edition of the Twins, and at last come up with my 2018 prediction.

The positives I see:

  • Starting pitching – reinforcements have arrived, and Odorizzi and Lynn are, I think,  upgrades. And perhaps Berrios will continue to improve: (+2)
  • Third base – where maybe young Sano can somehow stay healthy this season: (+2)
  • Center field – where we hope to see continued Buxton improvement (+1.5)
  • DH – Where Logan Morrison brings some consistency and a substantial upgrade from last year’s rotating cast: (+2)

This puts the Twins 7.5 games up from last season. Let’s call it eight. That puts them at 93-69 at year’s end.

On the downside:

  • I’m not convinced yet that the bullpen has been improved.
  • Is Mauer really back?
  • Who’s out there at short?

So there’s a few questions heading into the season, but I counterbalance these with

  • Brian Dozier seems to be headed to free agency: will he up his game?
  • Our pitch-framing catcher is back
  • Can Eddie Rosario take his game even higher?

All together, I see all these questions as a break-even proposition. And that still leaves as at 93-69 at year’s end.

But wait. There’s the Hubris penalty.

  • I rounded up from 7.5, I might just as well have rounded down. Philosophically, it’s always better to assume the worst. (-1)
  • And then there’s just my general historic and well-documented over-confidence about the Twins. (-1)

And so this puts the Twins at 6 games up from last season, and 91 – 71 at season’s end.

Sound reasonable?

Unfortunately, Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections say today that the Twins will finish at 82 -80 this season, scoring 789 runs, and giving up 784. Last year the Twins scored 815, and gave up 788. I’m not sure how they figure this club is going to score less runs than last year, but I’m sure they’ve put in all the numbers, the pitchers, the health factors, wind direction, economic conditions, seismic activity, global warming, bird migration patterns, oil prices, and bat velocities, and so 789 is probably a pretty good guess. Perhaps they know some things I don’t.

Still, I’ll be surprised if this team doesn’t score more, and give up less. There may be other factors that they’ve overlooked and that I took into account. Time will tell who’s right about this.

The hometown StarTribune stable of baseball mavens are just slightly more optimistic than the Prospectus stat-machine:

  • Pat Reusse: 89-73
  • Jim Souhan: 89-73
  • Chip Scoggins: 87-75
  • La Velle E. Neal III: 86-76
  • Sid Hartman: 85-77
  • Phil Miller: 83-79

Again, they probably are blessed with a wealth of arcane “inside” knowledge, drawn from deep within the inner sanctum of the clubhouse, that mere mortals not able to access. But I still think that they are being overly cautious. Probably because they have professional reputations at stake, and, as baseball writers, well there’s always a lot to criticize and they are happy to do so. And that, my friends, leads to a warped perspective, and a life of unhappiness.

I wonder if they write articles at the end of the season, talking about their forecast and the final outcome? Well, we shall see, gentlemen. We shall see.

 

By the way, here it is, baseball season, game 3, and it’s 26 degrees here, and there’s icy snow on the sidewalks, and there’s more snow predicted in the next couple of days.

I Protest!

Play Ball, 2018

The Twins have opened their season in Baltimore, losing the opener, as tradition would have it, by a 3-2 score. They tied it up in the 9th, then dropped it in the 11th on a walk-off homer. Fernando Rodney served it up. Adam Jones took it out. So it goes.

Zach Duke had an unusual debut inning for the twins, throwing two wild pitches while striking out 4 and giving up a couple of earned runs.

Anyway: 0-1. We get a day off to lick our wounds.

I’ve got my prediction made up for the season, and so far the Twins are on track.