It’s not often that I allow someone in my mentions to get me so wound up that I devote an entire, stand-alone article to a single person, but here we are.
The tweet in question — feel free to click and read the mind-bending thread in all its glory — appears as follows:
NOTE: This person has since blocked me for reasons that don’t entirely make sense. He has also deleted the tweets, so I have saved this screenshot to remember his weird rant, which also included alluding to the Twins not going after Shohei Otani because of how poorly ByungHo Park and Tsuyoshi Nishioka panned out. Bad takes all around!
It’s not often that baseball provides irrefutable evidence in a discussion. Nobody can rationally debate that the Houston Astros won the World Series or who won the Gold Glove awards which were handed out on Tuesday night. Those are set in stone.
But in debates, there can always be varying levels of certainty, different angles being pursued by those involved and a number of other situations at play. In this case, the general debate is that the Twins front office messed up at the trade deadline.
And quite frankly, there is no evidence to back that up.
The back story to the debate centers around the Twins having the second-most available in their July 2 pool to sign international free agents. This looms especially large this offseason with Japanese phenom Shohei Otani petitioning to come over.
Part of the reason the Twins have that much money is that they received some back from the Washington Nationals in the Brandon Kintzler trade.
This is where that debate begins, as the party in question says the Twins “had no business trading legitimate major-league pitching at the deadline last year.”
The simplest — and possibly laziest — form of logical fallacy is revisionism. In other words, looking at a situation and how it plays out, then saying “Well I wouldn’t have done THAT” without offering anything in the way of a solution.
Even that isn’t in Mr. Papas’ favor. Why?
First of all, the Twins were something like 4-5% to make the postseason at the deadline. They were more or less dead in the water and had the lowest chance to make the playoffs of any contending team in the Wild Card Game era. As best as I can recall from my cracked research, only one other team has ever even been in the single digits, and I want to say it was the Texas Rangers.
Postseason odds at places like Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus and FiveThirtyEight are relatively new concepts, but we can reasonably assume that the Twins are in rarefied air here. If we go back before the Wild Card Game era, we’re subtracting playoff teams, and in other words, reducing chances for low-probability teams to make the postseason.
At the very least, the Twins are an absurd anomaly.
It takes a heck of a lot of revisionist thinking to say “I still believed in the Twins!” but there are die-hard fans who stuck with teams through thick and thin, so these people exist. Kudos to them.
But Thad Levine and Derek Falvey can’t operate within that realm. They have to be realistic about their team’s chances. Their jobs are at stake, as is the sustainability of the team’s success.
And it’s not likely they sold off completely. They peeled off a pair of assets who were impending free agents — a good, but not great starter in Jaime Garcia and a reliever of the same ilk — but kept their two most tradeable commodities in Brian Dozier and Ervin Santana.
It wasn’t a fire sale.
The upshot is that even if they’d kept Kintzler and Garcia, both of those guys would be right where they are right now — unsigned free agents.
Back that up a little further, and think of it this way: the Twins got where they were going without those two players. From the trade deadline on, the Twins went 35-23, a .603 winning percentage exceeded by just two teams in the AL. They were 50-54 to that point, a .481 winning percentage that was better than just five AL teams.
If that can’t convey how completely opposite those two marks are, how about how many wins each of those would be worth over a full season. The Twins played like a 78-win team until the deadline and a 98-win team after it.
Predicting a team to play at a pace 20 wins better than it had up to the deadline is absolutely bananas. They played like a 78-win team with Kintzler and one start from Garcia. They played like a 98-win team without those two players.
Doesn’t that sort of lend itself to asking “so….just how valuable are those guys?”
Again, it’s a back-end starter and a decent reliever. This is not by any means trying to denigrate either pitcher as they seek financial stability this offseason. They just…are who they are.
But that didn’t stop fans from clamoring how much the Twins “could have used Kintzler” in the rare occasions Matt Belisle blew a save, as if Kintzler had become someone he wasn’t with the Twins when he moved to the Nationals.
- Kintzler in 2017 with Twins: 2.78 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 2.5 K/BB, 1.15 WHIP, 3.69 FIP
- Kintzler in 2017 with Nationals: 3.46 ERA, 4.2 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 1.15 WHIP, 3.93 FIP
By comparison, from Aug. 1 on, Belisle had a 2.55 ERA, 19-3 K/BB ratio in 17.2 innings and an opponents’ slash line from .164/.203/.328. He was better than Kintzler over that stretch by a large margin.
Now, this is me being willfully obtuse to prove a point. Nobody’s arguing that Kintzler and Belisle couldn’t have harmoniously operated in their roles for the rest of the season. They did for a six-week stretch once Belisle got out of his early-season funk. Any below-average bullpen can use even an average reliever, and Kintzler is clearly a cut above that.
But again, the Twins got where they were headed without Kintzler and Garcia.
Those two clearly weren’t getting the Twins past the Cleveland Indians in the division. Cleveland won the most games in the AL (102), and finished 17 games clear of the Twins. Cleveland led the Twins by 6.5 games at the trade deadline — in fact, the Royals were in second, two games back — and only added to that the rest of the way.
In fact, the Indians gained 10.5 games on the Twins after the trade deadline, in spite of the fact that the Twins played at nearly a 100-win pace. Like nobody could have known the Twins would have played at that pace, the Indians took it a step further, playing at a 128-win pace from Aug. 1 on.
And even ignoring the division, it all came down to that fateful night in the Bronx. Garcia isn’t starting that game for the Twins no matter if he’s still on the team or not. Kintzler isn’t coming in to save the team after Ervin Santana dug that hole.
The mental gymnastics of trying to convince yourself the Twins made a mistake at the trade deadline in the moment were mind-boggling. Now, they’re flat-out impossible.
You’re lying to yourself if you still think this.