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MINNESOTA TWINS TOP 300 TWINS OF ALL TIME: ONE MAN’S OPINION THROUGH 2019 SEASON

It is year 8 of putting my pet project on the WGOM site, SBG put it on his old site a few years before that. For the first time ever on this site, I am updating with a new CENTRAL DIVISION CHAMP! A 101 win team means a lot of individual success and this year saw 11 new faces join the top300, by far the most I've ever added since I started making this list in 2005. This year's newcomers are Nelson Cruz, Jake Odorizzi, Luis Arraez, Ehire Adrianza, Michael Pineda, Marwin Gonzalez, CJ Cron, Trevor May, Jonathan Schoop, Tyler Duffey, and Martin Perez.

Cruz jumped all the way into the top100 at #91 based on his only year as a Twin (Currently the #2 best 1 year Twin on my list behind only Jack Morris). Joining him in the top100 are Eddie Rosario (up 16 spots to #60), Miguel Sano (up 31 spots right behind Eddie at #61), Jorge Polanco (up 83 spots to #65), Max Kepler (up 87 spots to #76), Kyle Gibson (up 5 spots to #81), Jose Berrios (up 49 spots to #83), and Byron Buxton (up 26 spots to #93).

Odorizzi wasn't a first year Twin but he jumped from non-ranked to #134 in his 2nd year as a Twin. He's joined in the 101-200 range by Taylor Rogers (up 123 spots to #115), Mitch Garver (up 139 spots to #130), rookie Luis Arraez (#192), and Jake Cave (up 84 spots to #196).

Newcomers in the 201-300 range include Adrianza (205), Pineda (218), Gonzalez (220), Cron (221), May (263), Schoop (272), Duffey (286), and Perez (292). Jason Castro also moved up 49 spots to #201.

Falling out of the top300 this year are Dave Edwards, Jim Nettles, Matt Garza, Joe Bonikowski, Freddie Toliver, Mark Portugal, Wayne Granger, Brian Buchanan, Willie Norwood, Pat Mahomes, and Chad Allen.

I stole the idea from when Aaron Gleeman started his top40 list over a decade ago, but just decided to expand to a nice big round 300. The below quote is his, and the rest is an excerpt from a book I put together at the 50 year mark. I’ve updated the list and stats through 2019.

“The rankings only include time spent playing for the Minnesota Twins. In other words, David Ortiz doesn’t get credit for turning into one of the best players in baseball after joining the Red Sox and Paul Molitor doesn’t get credit for being one of the best players in baseball for the Brewers and Blue Jays. The Twins began playing on April 11, 1961, and that’s when these rankings start as well.”

I used a variety of factors, including longevity and peak value. Longevity included how many years the player was a Twin as well as how many plate appearances or innings pitched that player had in those years. For peak value, I looked at their stats, honors, and awards in their best seasons, as well as how they compared to their teammates. Did they lead their team in OPS or home runs or ERA for starters or WPA? If so, that got some bonus points. I factored in postseason heroics, awards (gold gloves, silver sluggers, MVPs, Cy Youngs), statistical achievements (batting titles, home run leaders, ERA champs, etc), and honors (all star appearances), and I looked at team success as well. If you were the #1 starter on a division winning champ, that gave you more points than the #1 starter on a cellar dweller. I looked at some of the advanced stats like WPA, WAR (as calculated by fan graphs and baseball-reference.com), WARP (as calculated by Baseball Prospectus), and Win Shares (as calculated by Bill James). For hitters, I also looked at OPS and the old school triple crown statistics like batting average, home runs, stolen bases, and RBI (and not only where you finished within the AL in any given year, but where you appear on the top25 lists amongst all Twins in the last 59 years). For pitchers I looked at strikeouts, innings pitched, win/loss percentage, ERA as well as ERA+). If there was a metric that was used for all 58 years of Twins history, I tried to incorporate it. I tended to give more credit to guys who were starters instead of part time/platoon players, more credit to position players over pitchers (just slightly, but probably unfairly) and starters over relievers (and closers over middle relievers). There’s no formula to my magic, just looking at a lot of factors and in the end going with the gut in all tie-breakers. Up in the top10 I’m looking at All star appearances, Cy Young and MVP votes, batting average or ERA titles or top10 finishes, etc, and placement in the top25 hitting and pitching lists in Twins history as well. In the middle 100s, it’s more about who started a few more years or had 2 good seasons rather than 1 with possibly an occasional all-star berth or top10 finish in SB or strikeouts. Once you’re in the latter half of the 200s there are none of those on anyone’s resume, so its basically just looking at peak season in OPS+ or ERA+, WAR, Win Shares, and who started the most years, had the most at bats, or pitched the most innings. What the player did as a coach, manager, or broadcaster is not taken into consideration for this list, so Billy Martin, Tom Kelly or Billy Gardner weren’t able to make the top 300 since they were poor players and Frank Quilici and Paul Molitor didn’t improve his status due to his managing career.

Feel free to pick it apart and decide in your opinion, who was slighted, and who's overrated. I will update once awards are handed out after the World Series. Cruz is a lock for Silver Slugger and a top10 MVP finish. Polanco and Kepler have a chance at some MVP votes and Garver has a shot at the silver slugger as well. Fingers crossed that there will be some postseason heroics and awards to tack on to some of these 2019 Twins as well.

Continue reading MINNESOTA TWINS TOP 300 TWINS OF ALL TIME: ONE MAN’S OPINION THROUGH 2019 SEASON

Bob-omb!

I figured I should write at least something on my obsession with the Twins home run record chase, but before I do, I would like to point out that the Twins staff has only allowed 195 homers this year. That's second in the AL behind Tampa, who just allowed one to the Yanks in two games.  In fact, let's look at the AL playoff teams (as of Wednesday):

Rays: 177
Twins: 195
A's: 200
Indians: 200
Astros: 226
Yankees: 244

So the Yankees have barely scored more than the Twins, give up way more homers, and have a worse ERA+.  So why have the Yankees been better?  The Yankees have given up 45 unearned runs. The Twins, 74.  Eeeg.  If the Twins lose in the playoffs because of their atrocious defense...

Anyway, back to bombas.

The Twins are up two homers with three games to go. Neither team is really playing for anything. For the Yankees to get home field, they'd have to sweep while the Astros get swept. Not likely. So it's reasonable to think both teams will be resting players. The Twins will be matching up Astudillo and Miller and Torreyes with the likes of Romine and Estrada and Wade.  And, honestly, probably Giancarlo Stanton, who needs some reps before the playoffs.  The Twins will likely play Schoop a lot, who if he can do anything it's hit bombs in low-pressure situations.

The Yanks are playing the Rangers, who have given up 17 more homers than the Royals.  The Rangers also play in a more homer friendly park.

Let's look at projected starters and their HR/9:

Rangers: Palumbo (2.6), TBD (?), Lynn (0.9)
Royals: Skoglund (1.5), Sparkman (2.1), Lopez (1.8)

I think I've finally come to the point where I'll be okay if the Twins don't get this record. Clinching the division has helped for sure. Though no promises if the Twins are leading by three homers on Sunday and the Yankees hit four.

Every time I've bitched to nibbish about the Yankees hitting homers, he has replied with "Don't worry, they've got this."

Om.

Parentgood: Golden

Today is Aquinas's golden birthday. He's 10. As cliche as it is, I still cannot believe how fast the time has flown by.

Aquinas is the person who brings me closest to understanding the mind of God. I suppose that's what parenthood is, really. Their joy is your joy, their pain your pain. You want for them so much more than you want for yourself. You both see the person they could be and love the person they are. It has been a decade, and the effect this kid has on me continues to grow.

I've documented on the site some of our hard times - his struggles to fit in with kids who aren't much like him, how a small town makes those problems seem bigger, some bullying, etc. I want so very much to take away all of the pain and hardship he faces, or be able to gift him the tools to expertly overcome those problems. But I can't do that. So instead I wanted to take a chance to document just a few good developments too, because there are so many of them, and they feel like they're very much parenting related.

Aquinas was born in D.C., and as his birthday gift Philosofette and I flew out there with him for a trip over Labor Day Weekend. It simply could not have been more perfect. The museums were a tremendous hit. We saw a play at the Kennedy Center. We hung out on the Mall at night ("This is exactly what I pictured!" he exclaimed). He met old friends of ours and their kids, and saw our beautiful old neighborhood. And most important, especially coming from a small town, he was able to broaden his perspective on the world. We know how important this is for him - especially for him, as opposed to some of his other siblings, given his experiences and personality - and being able to deliver... it feels like a real accomplishment.

Aquinas seems to have some genuine creative ability. It's a big reason why we've enrolled him in piano lessons (finally). He's somewhat hesitant towards the lessons themselves, but just in the past couple months he has started tinkering around on his own, and I think it's really growing on him. The idea that we were able to nudge him into something he could be very good at - and enjoy - is incredibly rewarding. Always the balance between pushing too hard and not pushing enough. This feels like an area - at least for now - where we're succeeding in helping him to be the person he could be.

We started Lego League recently. Basically, you build a robot out of legos, and program it to complete tasks. I specifically started this league because our community members need something other than sports, and because Aquinas specifically is one of those community members. This is one of those parenting areas where I'm modelling my Dad. He was my baseball coach, and I remember him staying up late at night after work to watch videos about how to coach, and what drills to run, and things like that. I learned a ton listening to him discuss coaching philosophy, not just about coaching or baseball, but I learned about priorities. What was important wasn't winning or losing. That probably wasn't even secondary. And so when the Lego League opportunity popped up, I jumped. Aquinas can learn those things too, I hope. And hopefully find some other kids, and an activity, that he enjoys in the process.

Anyway... I'm kind of rambling, I realize. This isn't a well-thought out post with a point, other than that it seemed like a good time to share. He's our oldest - our golden child - and it's his golden birthday. What better time to celebrate?

My wish for Aquinas is to be the best person he can be, with all the success, happiness, and virtue that come from so being.

First Monday-ish Book Day – Good Intentions

I didn't feel like hassling our normal stable of Book Day authors, so here's a halfassed post:

I put this book on hold at the library after hearing an interview with the author while in traffic. Sounded interesting to me. My turn came, I picked it up, placed it on the table, racked up about $3 in late fines (and we have low per day rates), and then brought it back unread because that's just kinda what I do.

Anything you managed to crack the cover on?

2019-20 EPL Prediction Contests

Ok, I'll set this up again. Congrats to hungry joe for winning last season! Your choices:

AFC Bournemouth
Arsenal
Aston Villa
Brighton & Hove Albion
Burnley
Chelsea
Crystal Palace
Everton
Leicester City
Liverpool
Manchester City
Manchester United
Newcastle United
Norwich City
Sheffield United
Southampton
Tottenham Hotspur
Watford
West Ham United
Wolves

Comment with SPOILERS below and I'll get it all compiled. (Or maybe I'll outsource it.) You got till next August 18 to get it in.

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?

Poetry & Nonfiction

I've been reading memoir in verse recently. In June I read Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson and immediately after that picked up This Is the Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy, both of which were excellent.

I don't always think poetry is a great fit for nonfiction topics--poetry is often works well to distill a topic to its essence and prompt readers to see something from a fresh perspective. I don't think poetry is typically good at conveying background information and putting events in a larger context, which is often what I want from nonfiction. But in the case of memoir, poetry can get to the heart of a story and keep things moving along--because even a really interesting life surely contains plenty of mundane details that readers won't really care about.

The latest books I have from the library are not poetry, and every time I look at them, I think about how very many words are on each page. I should probably start one of those books soon, though.

What have you been reading? Have you encountered books that you thought you wouldn't like that surprised you?

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