First of a New Series: Twins Back Page News: 4/6/2017

This is a somewhat new feature in this blog.  In the past, during the off-season and the trading deadline, I have done news and rumors posts, like this,  and five years ago or so, I did the weekly Random Tuesday Twins' Thoughts, like this, which were very popular.  With the tenth year of this blog, I decided to bring their evolution back as a (hopefully) weekly feature, called Twins Back Page News.  In 2017, unlike in 2007 when this blog started, there is a myriad of ways to get information about what is happening with the Twins.  I suspect that there are about Fifteen daily writeups of each Twins game.  Nobody wants a sixteenth.  And those reports are better left to people with access, so we all get the nice quotes.  

The Twins Back Page News are all about things that are either important enough, but have slipped between the cracks, or interestingly enough (like news regarding former Twins) but nobody cares to cover them or analyze them.  Also expect things out of the left field and less serious.  My goal is for this to be a unique compilation of Twins' things, and I would love your feedback about how it works (or not) and what else you would like to see here.  You can find the complete series in reverse chronological order here.  This is the piece for 4/6/2017.

  • The Twins have won 2 games and clinched their first series.  This included victories by SP Ervin Santana and  Hector Santiago.  Santiago started the 2016 season with the Angels, but Santana who started the season with the Twins got his first victory in 2016 in game 34,  on May 14th at Cleveland.  Progress.
  • Might have been lost in the light of the Twins first Opening Day win for a while, but Jorge Polanco's defense at SS was very good; he participated in a couple of double plays and made a few non-routine plays as well.  
  • Statcast classifies catches made with less than 25% probability to be made, as "5 star catches".   Twins CF Byron Buxton, had the first one of the 2017 season on Opening Day.
  • Apparently  the reason that there were not so many changes this off-season for the Twins, was because manager Paul Molitor convinced the new Chief of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey and new GM Thad Levine that the team was not that bad.  Feel free to be convinced by that article that this was the case.  Or not. 
  • Twins' LHP Stephen Gonsalves who is in AA DL because of shoulder issues, is healthy.  He is being stretched out in Fort Myers before returns to Lookouts rotation.
  • The Twins have signed 24 year old middle infielder Bradley Strong and assigned him to EST. Formerly in the White Sox' organization, played last season with the full A South Atlantic League Kannapolis Intimidators.  Was singed as a SS from Western Carolina, but has played exclusively at second base in the pros.
  • The Twins have also signed 24 year old RHP Chris Anderson who was released by the Dodgers.  He was the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2013 draft from Jacksonville.  He is a Minnesota native who started his pro career as a starter but was mostly a swingman in 2016.  He reached AA last season and pitched in the Arizona Fall League with not very good results.
  • The Twins have released the following minor leaguers: IF Tom Belza,  C Dominic Blanco, OF Leandro Castro,  OF Austin Diemer, OF Jorge Fernandez, RHP Tyler Fox,  OF Roberto Gonzalez, LHP Bo Hellquist, IF Chris Ibarra (signed with Independent American Association League Lincoln Saltdogs), RHP Garrett Kelly RHP Confesor Lara, RHP Jim Miller, RHP Brandon Peterson (signed with the Angels), C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Reynaldo Rodriguez, RHP Seth Rosin, RHP Zach Strecker, LHP Austin Tribby
  • Baseball America published their opinion on the 2016 Twins' International Free Agent class (pay link.)  The Twins signed 24 players with their top signing being Dominican 3B Wander Valdez.  In addition to Valdez, RHP Prelander Berroa (Dominican), SS Jesus Felix (Dominican), RHP Yeremi Garcia (Venezuela), C Victor Heredia (Venezuela), OF Fransisco Martinez (Dominican), RHP Junior Navas (Venezuela), CF Felix Reyes (Dominican), and SS Estamy Urena  (Dominican), are highlighted in the BA Article.  
  • Still early but according to Baseball America's "industry sources", the Twins are concentrating in 9 players for the first overall pick of the 2017 Draft: College: LHP/1B Brendan McKay (Louisville), RHPs JB Bukauskas (North Carolina), Alex Faedo (Florida) and Kyle Wright (Vanderbilt), OF Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt), 1B Pavin Smith (Virginia); Prep RHP/SS Hunter Greene (CA), and OFs Austin Beck (NC) and Royce Lewis (CA).
  • Former Senators'  four time All-Star 1B/OF Roy Sievers has died; he was 90
  • It looks like former Twins' OF Drew Stubbs will sign with the Giants as a potential replacement for injured former Twins' OF Denard Span.
  • The following former Twins were released by their teams recently and are free agents:   RHP Blaine Boyer (Braves),  LHP Sean Burnett (Phillies), RHP Kevin Jepsen (Diamondbacks), RHP Joe Nathan (Nationals), RHP Mike Pelfrey (Tigers, discussions to sign with the White Sox), OF Jason Pridie (Diamondbacks),  LHP Caleb Thielbar (Marlins), RHP Blayne Weller (Angels)
  • The MLB commissioner might want to fasten the pace of baseball games, however the "slow pace of the game makes it perfect for blind fans".  I admit I never thought about that. 
  • Cooper Tires is sponsoring the Twins (and 9 more MLB teams) and it is featuring an interesting promotion that they call “Buy Four and Score!” where if someone buys four Cooper tires in May, they receive a voucher for home game tickets.  
  • The four pitchers who preceded closer Santiago Casilla for the Athletics' on Opening Day were:  Graveman, Dull, Doolittle, and Madson.  Despite their names, they beat former Twin Ricky Nolasco and the Angels.


How far reaching is the Terry Ryan curse for the Twins?

Tonight the Minnesota Twins won on Opening Day for the first time since 2008.

As a reminder, 2008 was the first season for the Twins after Terry Ryan "retired" and left the team.

2017 is the first season for the Twins after they fired Terry Ryan (for good, I hope.)

Few more monsters and few more curses to conquer, including abandoning the Metrodome...

Annual Prediction: How many games will the Twins win in 2017?

Every season after Spring Training I make my annual prediction on how many games the Twins will win in the coming season, based on observations about how the team looked in Spring Training and sometimes math.  Earlier on in this blog, it was much more about math.  Interesting to look at those earlier projections now.

In 2008 I had them win the division with and 89-73 record.  That would have done it, but won 88 games, tied with the White Sox and lost the tie breaker.
In 2009, I had them winning the division with 90 games. They won the division with 87 games.
In 2010. I had them winning the division without predicting wins; and they did, but did not go far.
In 2011, I had them win the Central with 87 wins.  Then the wheels fell off and finished with 99 losses.
In 2012 for some reason, I did not bother to predict a record despite having an 3 part series analysis called "Can the Twins Rebound?  Part I, Part II, and Part III, but had them wining the Division. Yes, right :)
In 2013, I had them with an 83-79 record.  They went 66-96 and finished 4th in the Division.
In 2014, I had them in the 5th place with a 70-92 record.  I should had played the lottery or Vegas, because that was their exact record.
In 2015, I got some interesting vibes in Spring Training after Gardenhire was fired.  Here is what I wrote:  "This will not be another 90 loss team, unless something weird happens.  80-82 is the baseline.  Another factor:  I did get some 1987-like excitement there, like this might be a magic year (like that one.)  But I think that they are one year away.  So my prediction for 2015 is that the Twins will have the same record as their Pythagorean in 1987: 79-83.  But, yes, this year feels a lot like 1987, and you never know what is going to happen..."  I should had taken the over, since they finished second in the division with an 83-79 record (and not that far from the 85-77 record of the '87 team)
In 2016, I was enthusiastic and predicted an 87-75 record, but stressed that "The 2016 Twins will go as far as their pen lets them go", and that was not very far.

This in the tenth prediction in the 10 years of this blog, and goes like this:

Two particular things, as far as results go, killed the Twins in 2016:

a. Their record against their division rivals, 26-52
b. Their record in games that were decided with 2 or fewer runs, 26-47

The 2017 Twins will improve in both.  I feel that the division weakened considerably compared to 2016.  Also, during Spring Training there was an intensity and enthusiasm and motion in the dugout, including a lot of discussion, that bodes well for this team.   No more Miguel Sano at Right Field and similar nonsense.  Jorge Polanco has finally been freed, and the youngsters are a year older and hopefully better.  The bullpen and the rotation look better and part of it is addition by subtraction.  I expect big seasons from both Duffey in the pen and Mejia in the rotation.  Santana and Gibson will be solid, and Hughes and Santiago will be ok, with Berrios waiting in the wings.

How many games will they win?

In 2016 they went 4-15 against Detroit and Kansas City and 7-12 against the White Sox.  Also 9-10 against Cleveland, but the Indians are not the weak link here.

If they go 10-9 against each Division team not named Cleveland and repeat against Cleveland, this will be a +15 wins from 2016.    This will take them to 74 wins

Their 26-47 record in games decided by 2 or fewer runs were against the whole league.  If we exclude the AL Central teams, the Twins were 15-27 in games decided by 2 or fewer runs.  If they go .500 in those games, 21-21, (and all it might take is a better framing catcher) this will be a +6 wins from 2016.  This will take them to 80 wins.

One additional factor:   The Falvey Levine factor.  If the season goes the way I predict it, esp with the Twins playing a whole lot of games against the division early,  I feel that unlike their predecessor, Farvey and Levine will be players in the deadline and before, helping the team win another 4 games.

My prediction for the 2017 Minnesota Twins:   84-78, second in the AL Central and in the battle for the second AL Wild Card.  Run to get those post-season tickets.