[Free post] By The Numbers look at a terrible Twins road trip that turned into a nightmare
The Twins had a chance to get back to winning ways and it slipped away in agonizing fashion Wednesday
As usual, my 5 Thoughts column for the week will be out Monday, sent to members of this newsletter. For now, though, there are a few things that need to go down on paper as the Twins limp home from the west coast for a much-needed off day.
Yesterday’s game officially puts 10% of the regular season in the books.
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Here’s a quick By The Numbers snapshot of the Twins-Oakland A’s series
0 – players left on the taxi squad by the end of the 4-game* trip.
*Scheduled to be 6 games but initially 3 were postponed during the COVID testing/ shuffling/ quarantining, and only 1 of those games was able to be made up this week.
That group is supposed to be loaded with extra parts in case something goes sideways on a road trip and, for example, you need to pull up an infielder but don’t want to risk commercial travel and extra exposure and quarantine requirements to activate someone from St. Paul. The taxi squad is not exactly designed to be a full hockey-style line change with the active roster, but that’s where the Twins found themselves out in California. When a shortstop had to be put on the COVID IL, they called up a backup-emergency catcher.
I think that clearly there is a point in which you’d be so short-handed that you’d talk to the league about the competitive imbalance and look to further reschedule games, right? So I wonder when that point is and how close the Twins came to it.
1 – Sensational catch from Byron Buxton.
I read somewhere that this catch was rated 4 stars (out of 5) and had a 35% catch probability, according to Statcast, which is all the evidence in the world I need to say this. Let’s stop taking Statcast defensive numbers as our basis for what’s impressive. Can we, please? Unless or until it improves at this task, we can’t just take this assessment at face value.
(You’re telling me that 35 out of 100 times that ball gets caught by a dead-average centerfielder? Absolutely not, get outta here.)
Oh, and Buxton also hit what should have been the game-winning home run in extra innings, only to have its memory diminished by the eventual come-from-ahead loss.
1 – Bit of bad luck when a ground ball stuck in Josh Donaldson’s glove.
Mark Canha hit a hot grounder that ended up in Donaldson’s glove, and as he went to pull it out with his right hand to fire across to first base for a routine out, he double-clutched. Then, he triple-clutched, which is rare for rare for such a sure fielder like Donaldson. He glanced down, now rushing in a panic was the clock was almost out, and he had saw something unexpected in the webbing of his glove. The baseball was lodged between the opening of the web, and he had to knock it back through the other way, into the pocket of his glove before he could get a clean grip on the ball, unobstructed by the pesky glove.
It looked like something out of a Peanuts cartoon. Unfortunately for the Twins, it does look like they could have gotten out of the inning unscathed if Donaldson’s webbing had cooperated. Instead, the A’s got an extra out to play with and scored twice when Jed Lowrie’s 2-RBI double plated two runners, including Canha.
2 – Nelson Cruz homers smashed before a slow trot around the bases in visible pain.
Cruz also had his right lower leg wrapped in the dugout between his plate appearances, and later was lifted for a pinch hitter.
3 – Stars with injury concerns that are carrying this club right now: Buxton, Donaldson and Cruz.
Where would the Twins be without those contributions? Oh, and another number worth noting to that end: 1. That’s the number of games that the trio has started and finished a game together this season. (In part due to National League rules, multiple hamstring injuries and an unspecified leg issue.)
Cruz was lifted twice in Oakland, probably with the same leg issue that was obviously bothering him Wednesday.
Fair to say that the Twins will hope to have a higher ratio of games played by all three of those stars in the remaining 90% of the schedule.
4 – Twins losing streak.
More importantly, they’ve lost 9 of their past 10 games.
[57-105 – Twins’ record if they continue this win rate, at 6-11.]
5 – Players on the COVID Injured List
Andrelton Simmons, Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick reportedly had positive COVID tests, while Caleb Thielbar and J.T. Riddle were placed on the COVID IL, reportedly due to contact tracing. We’ll continue to wait to see what that means for those five players going forward, but for the Twins it means that they essentially played shorthanded in all four games they managed on the road trip.
Wednesday’s game featured four ‘catchers’ on the active roster, because the Twins had to empty their taxi squad to even fill out a 26-man active roster. Catcher Tomás Telis was the final activation, joining Ryan Jeffers, Mitch Garver and Willians Astudillo on the Twins’ active roster.
11 – Oakland A’s win streak.
Similar to the Red Sox earlier in this month, the Twins ran into a winning team at the wrong time. For what it’s worth, the A’s had lost 6 in a row to start the season.
27 – Number of pitches for Taylor Rogers, who had not thrown in a game since last Thursday.
With the combination of rest, Thursday’s off day and desperately wanting a win, I’m sure the Twins pre-scripted some extra work for their great lefty. He pitched 2 1/3 innings, though he did allow Hansel Robles’ base runners to score in his first frame.
49 – Number of pitches for Alexander Colomé, who blew his third save chance of the season.
It was part a showing of confidence from the manager and part necessity that had Colomé out there to protect a 2-run lead in the 10th inning after he’d just allowed Oakland to tie it up in the 9th.
Of course it must be said that the 10th inning can’t really be considered his fault. He got a relatively routine ground ball that newcomer Travis Blankenhorn couldn’t handle at second base. Then he got another ground ball that Luis Arraez fielded at third base and inexplicably threw it three counties wide of Willians Astudillo at first base – and the A’s found another way to win a ballgame and the Twins found another way to lose.
I’m not writing this to excuse Colomé for his body of work in 2021. I’m guessing that league-wide we’ll see more blown saves this year than ever before. Simply because it’s easier to score runs in extra innings with a runner on second base to start the inning. We can check in on this prediction in September, if you’d like!