Hello friends, after getting called to the carpet last week for breaking one of the rules held dear by this column, today we will NOT be checking the A.L. Central standings. Not for another month.
Today we’re merely pointing out that the Twins have won 9 of their past 10 games, while the White Sox have lost 11 of 13.
And remember, the Twins began the year 4-8 before rubber-banding back to 9-1 over the next 10, so there’s a pretty decent reminder that baseball seasons aren’t decided in the first two weeks. Nor are they settled in Weeks 3-4.
Big thank you to new subscribers Ronald E, Jammen, Kyle M, and W.D. And my continued gratitude goes to Ron S for the continued support!
And since none of our 5 Thoughts center on Byron Buxton today, I thought you might enjoy this bit of trivia before we get started.
This column presents 5 Thoughts on the Twins at the start of May.
#1 Jose Miranda gets the call, set to make MLB debut
The Twins have optioned reliever Cole Sands and catcher José Godoy to get down from 28 players to the 26-man roster limit that goes into effect today.
They’re also putting Miguel Sanó and Kyle Garlick on the injured list, and calling up reliever Jovani Moran and one of their top hitting prospects, Jose Miranda.
We saw Moran a bit last year and he’s an intriguing relief prospect in his own right. Miranda is the big name, though. Miranda is reportedly in the starting lineup and will make his MLB debut in Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In 21 games with Triple-A Saint Paul, he’s batting .256/.295/.442.
Miranda burst onto the prospect scene last year, after mostly not hitting in 2019 at High-A Fort Myers, then sitting out 2020 like most minor leaguers during the early peak of the pandemic. Here’s what I wrote about Miranda when going over preseason computer-model projections (ZiPS):
One thing I found particularly impressive about his breakout 2021 campaign in the minors was the reason behind it. He didn’t just wake up and start hitting … The truth is that he always could hit. Or rather, he always could make contact. In sort of a Willians Astudillo way, if you threw a pitch within the confines of either batter’s box, Miranda had the coordination to put a piece of his bat to that baseball. That’s a great starting skill. But once your opponents know that you can do that — and they understand that you’ll have a tough time putting any power behind pitches way off the plate — without the discipline to take those pitches you become an easy out.
Miranda heard that scouting report about him from his coaches or others in the Twins organization, and to his credit he internalized it and got better. A lot better. The former free swinger narrowed his sights and shrunk his Swing Zone, according to what I’ve heard. This summer, he came out swinging, only this time it was mostly at pitches he could punish. He hit .345/.408/.588 over 47 games in his first real taste of Double-A, which earned him that promotion to the Saints. On his 23rd birthday, he played his first game at Triple-A and it went all right for him. In six trips to the plate, he had 5 hits, three of them went over the fence, he scored four times and drove in 6 runs in a 15-4 Saints win in Lowertown St. Paul. Tidy little debut. [From then on he hit .343/.397/.563 the rest of the way with the Saints.]
Welcome to The Show, Jose Miranda.
#2 Josh Winder’s fascinating company with great debut.
Josh Winder made his starting debut with the Twins on Sunday, keeping Rays hitters eating from his hand for 6 scoreless innings. He struck out 7 of them and walked only 1, for a total “Game Score” of 74. For the curious, Game Score is a metric originally devised by Bill James to measure a starter’s effectiveness in a given outing. Here’s the explanation from Baseball Reference:
“Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded, (or 3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk.”
Justin Morneau said during Sunday’s TV broadcast that Winder’s debut is “right up there” for best starting pitching debuts with the Twins. That got me wondering.
Using Game Score, I asked Baseball Reference how many Twins pitchers making their debut outperformed Winder’s 6-inning outing Sunday. The answer? One.
Only Andrew Albers’ legendary opening outing went more favorably than Winders’, although I will note that technically Sunday wasn’t Winder’s debut, so there could be other former Twins starters we’ve missed here because they began their career as relievers. Albers started against the Royals in August of 2013, and the Canadian lefty pitched 8 ⅓ innings of shutout ball, with four hits, two strikeouts and a walk for a Game Score of 76. (Devin Smeltzer came close with his intro outing: 6 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 7 punchouts and no walks; Game Score 73.)
Next on the list in Twins history, naturally, is Bert Blyleven’s debut: 7 innings, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 7 punchies, 1 walk and a solo homer. Game Score, 69. How about other notable Twins starters?
Johan Santana first appeared in relief in 2000. He started in his 2nd big league game four days later: 5 innings, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 2 strikeouts, 2 walks and a solo homer. Game Score, 53.
Francisco Liriano debuted in relief for two outings before he was slotted into the rotation in mid-September 2005. His starting debut: 5 innings, 2 hits, 2 earned runs, 6 strikeouts, a walk, and a 2-run homer. Game Score, 60.
Brad Radke pitched an outing in relief in April 1995 and then was inserted into the rotation. His first start: 5 ⅔ innings, 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 strikeouts and no walks. Game Score, 51.
And just for fun, here are the Twins starters who earned a higher Game Score than Winder’s 74 within their first four outings, dating back to 1987 when the Twins won their first World Series: Paul Abbott (1990), Albers (twice in his first two outings in 2013), and Joe Ryan (2021).
So congratulations Josh Winder on an impressive first start. Any great starting pitching debuts that I may have missed?