Twins vs. Yankees

As usual, I got online to do a little digging about the Yankees’ next opponent and found a ton of cool stuff, some of which I was tangentially aware, and some I was not.  But none of the tidbits I saw made me want to analyze and write about one particular aspect of the Twins and Yankees series.  So instead of 1,000 words of analyzation, I’ll keep it informal today and throw multiple fun things at you randomly

In no particular order:

Paging Brian Cashman.  Mr. Cashman, you may want to see this:

Both Minnesota’s Mitch Garver and the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez are below average at trying to fool umpires.  The kids call that “pitch framing”, I think.  Unless Joe West’s crew is there it would behoove batters on both teams to be patient at the plate over the next few days.

Where the catchers differ however is in their pop times.  Sanchez is tied for the American League lead in catcher’s pop time while Garver is below league average.  That in itself isn’t surprising, but what you may find interesting is with whom Sanchez is tied for the fastest pop time in the AL:

Kyle Higashioka.

Kyle Higashioka, who in addition to throwing the ball to 2nd base on a very high level, is currently posting a .342 OBP and .586 SLG in AAA, for a 127 wRC+.  For some perspective, the Twins’ Garver is the only big-league catcher with those numbers or better, and among the 46 MLB catchers with a minimum of 120 PA, Austin Romine’s wRC+ of 49 is 43rd out of 48.

So Romine can’t hit – but defense!” Romine’s pop time is 46th among 64 MLB catchers with enough throws to qualify.

Paging Brian Cashman.  Mr. Cashman, feel free to address this at any point.  I’m pretty sure eight seasons of below-average offense, below-average defense and negative WAR from a player are enough of an incentive for you to act.  It’s very likely that Kyle Higashioka is a good major player.  It’s obvious Austin Romine is not.

I was wrong.

I used to think Nelson Cruz was overrated.  First impressions go a long way and that silly “run like a deer” hand gesture he and his simple Texas teammates used back in the day when mediocre teams made it to the World Series every season, rubbed me the wrong way.  And who the hell can’t hit HR in Baltimore – am I right?

But one day recently, I woke up and realized this dude has been an elite offensive player for over a decade:

American Leaguers this century with better adjusted OPS than Cruz (minimum 5,000 PA):  Cabrera, Ortiz, A-Rod.  That’s it.

And he’s not slowing down.  This season, Trout, Judge, and Springer are the only AL players with a better xwOBA.  Short version about xwOBA: it measures a players skill at not chasing balls, swinging at strikes, and destroying the strikes swung at.  That’s all a batter can control and Cruz’ skill level is elite in that regard.

The Twins are going to get caught.

It wasn’t that long ago they seemed like a lock to run away with the AL Central, but the Indians have been on fire.  On June 2nd, the Indians were a game under .500 and 11.5 games behind the Twins.  Today they’re 16 games over .500 and 3 out.  Cleveland’s pitching is no joke – only the Rays have been better at preventing runs, and they’re getting Kluber back.  If they add a bat or two over the next week, it’s going to be a problem for the Twins.

Let’s hope we get to see Byron Buxton.

Buxton’s been on the IL with concussion-like symptoms, but may be back in the lineup tomorrow for the Twins.  For those of you who are unaware, Buxton isn’t just one of the fastest players in baseball, but he’s one of the best base-runners (those things don’t always go hand in hand) and he’s an elite defensive outfielder.  What Statcast refers to as a 5-star play – a play that has less than a 25% chance of being made – Buxton has caught 4 of the 11 balls in his area against those odds.  Here’s hoping we see him because he is something to see.

Did I miss something?  Let me know.

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