2019 First Half Wrap

The 2019 Twins are officially half-baked. No, literally.

The Twins played their last game of the first half yesterday. It was another ugly end to a pretty solid game, which is hopefully sufficient signal to the front office to turn the pan & lower the heat. With the loss, the 2019 club fell from a tie with the 2001 Twins for the third-best winning percentage over the first half of a season since the franchise moved to Minnesota.

TeamW%Rank
1970.6591st
1965.6462nd
2001.6323rd
2019.6294th
1969.6155th
1992.6096th

I've included the top six for two reasons. First, those are all the clubs with a .600 or above winning percentage in the first half. Second, those teams were not too bad: one pennant, two excellent division champs, a squad motivated by the owner's collusive attempt to contract the team, and the follow-up squad to the 1991 World Champions. The 1991 Twins were, in fact, the next team on the first-half leaderboard, at .566. So, how did these squads fare in the second half?

TeamW%Rank
1965.6135th
1991.6087th
1969.57612th
1970.55016th
1992.49327th
2001.40051st

Here we see the challenge ahead. Each of these teams cooled off in the second half — it's pretty hard to continue winning nearly two-thirds of the games you play. The 1991 Twins make their appearance here, and it makes sense that the top four teams all won their divisions or better. The second half swoon that sunk the '92 Twins is modest compared to the bottom that fell out of the young League of Nations/Soul Patrol team. The 2019 Twins’ postseason odds — 99.3% at the end of the first half — are as encouraging as we’ve seen in years, behind one of the most impressive half-seasons in franchise history. (It beats 2011–2017, that’s for sure.) Oddly enough, their World Series odds increased after the loss yesterday, up to 14.2%.

Even with the bats of ass they've been swinging over the last couple weeks, the Bomba Squad has obliterated the ‘64 Twins’ first half record home run record by 41 bombas. The 166 homers of the first half equals the club's full-season total last year. Not bad. When healthy, there aren't many holes in this lineup. The injury bug has stretched the team thin, but the excellent depth of this roster has helped maintain altitude throughout the turbulence.

The most notable hole appears to be a solid, three-position reserve outfielder. Depending on who is available, Gonzalez, Astudillo, Adrianza, and Arraez have been able to plug holes in the corners, but none of them are natural outfielders. Jake Cave has been beyond mediocre — .176/.299/.243 (49 OPS+) — despite a slightly lower SO% and nearly double BB% over last season. His line drive rate is down from 31% to 24%, and his HR% has dropped 75% from last year. That all adds up to a BABIP .101 lower than 2018. His numbers at Rochester are actually significantly better this year than last season — .327/.370/.536 vs. .269/.352/.403 — which probably explains why he's continuing to be in the mix as guys cycle through the injured list. With three center field-capable starting outfielders, the Twins are in a much better position than they could be, were Cave their only alternative to Buxton.

Meanwhile, Luis Arraez has had an incredible first half. Even though his average finally fell below .400, he's still had one of the best starts to a rookie season in Twins history:

YearPlayerAgeOPS+
2019Arraez22162
1963Hall25160
2004Mauer21146
1976Wynegar20140
1967Carew21137

Here's a list of Twins who have equaled or exceeded Arraez' 1.0 rWAR in 200 or fewer PA:

YearPlayerAgerWARPA
2004Mauer211.4122
1971J. Nettles241.2190
2019Adrianza291.1143
2010Casilla251.1170
2019Arraez221.095
1970Ratliff261.0171
1962Mincher241.0157

Arraez' hot start has been fueled by a .413 BABIP, which is higher than he's ever managed in the minors. He had a .376 BABIP through 164 PA at Pensacola this year, up from .315 over 195 PA in Chattanooga in 2018. His highest BABIP — .382 over 514 PA — came at Cedar Rapids in 2016. So, a high BABIP seems to be a repeatable skill for Arraez, even if it's a bit overinflated right now.

Finally, depth has been a sore spot in our conversations about the pitching staff. I'll admit that my mind has been shifting from bolstering the rotation to stacking the bullpen in recent weeks. Berríos has been awesome. Kyle Gibson is, at this point, Kyle Gibson. I'm holding my breath that Pineda's improvements hold, Odorizzi's blister heals, and Pérez stays in his May/June form. Two of those guys won't be starting games after September, assuming the season maintains the present course. Much as I hate paying through the nose for relievers — this was a very addressable problem between November and February — bullpen arms are what will allow the starters to stay fresh the rest of the way, and what will shut down strong opponents' lineups after the fifth inning in the postseason.

So, let's finish with a few questions:

  • Who has been the most pleasant surprise for you in 2019?
  • Who are you really done watching? What is next for that player, if you were GM?
  • What patches do you feel the roster most needs?
  • Who is on your trade deadline wishlist?
  • Who are you willing to part with to bring in talent you hope to acquire?
  • What position player will have the best second half?

8 thoughts on “2019 First Half Wrap”

  1. Who has been the most pleasant surprise for you in 2019? Tie between Polanco and Buxton.
    Who are you really done watching? What is next for that player, if you were GM? Cave, minors. Mejia, address via reliever infusion
    What patches do you feel the roster most needs? Relief pitching. I think that the rotation will get us to the playoffs, and the depth is there to win. It would be nice to have someone other than Rogers to shoulder high leverage situations, though.
    Who is on your trade deadline wishlist? Will Smith or Kirby Yates
    Who are you willing to part with to bring in talent you hope to acquire? Nick Gordon tops the list, but basically everyone not on the top 100 could be parted with. The big 3 seem a bit steep of a price for a reliever rental

    What position player will have the best second half? Sano

    1. Seconded on improving the bullpen. The rotation is good enough, assuming the blister problems don't doom Odorizzi or Berríos. Pérez's ERA splits are trending the wrong way, but his worst month by ERA (June) was also his best month by OPS. Pineda meanwhile is trending in the right way. Plus, there is depth in the minors with Smeltzer, Thorpe, and Stewart getting starts this season.

      Or the batters need to get back to scoring six runs a game and it won't matter at all.

  2. I don't know - the Reed (et al) pickups of the past have soured me. Say the FO had picked up one/two relievers off season -- who were those probable relievers, and are they actually doing well this season so far? Or is it better to pay more for one who is doing well now? I like Will Smith, but is he someone that would have been pursued last off season?

    1. Relievers are so volitile. We need to remember, Ian Kennedy is having a much, much better season than Edwin Diaz. Anyone who says they saw that coming might not be telling the truth.

    2. The thing is, even if the relievers the FO could have picked up in the offseason weren’t doing great, all it would have cost them to find that out is money. If it costs them a couple of prospects who are close to helping prop the window of contention open further, that’s expending resources well above, and likely less immediately replaceable, than up-front money in January.

  3. Who has been the most pleasant surprise for you in 2019? Tyler Rogers.

    Who are you really done watching? What is next for that player, if you were GM? Blake Parker.

    What patches do you feel the roster most needs? Get healthy.

    Who is on your trade deadline wishlist? Another reliable bullpen arm. I have reasonable confidence in Harper-May-Rogers for 7-8-9. But there is nobody for long relief in sight.

    Who are you willing to part with to bring in talent you hope to acquire? I am not hot to trade anyone marketable from the 25-man. But I would be willing to deal Nick Gordon for the right pitcher.

    What position player will have the best second half? Buxton is a second-half guy. Keep him healthy and watch him play like an All Star.

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