If they completely collapsed right now, fans of the Minnesota Twins would still have seen a better season than they have since 2010. If they could somehow continue playing at their current level, they could win 90+ games rather than losing that many as they have every season since then.
If they just win every other game (playing .500 ball), they’ll win 83 games and still end up with a much better record than they’ve seen in four years. They’re currently four games above the .500 mark — something fans haven’t seen since the end of 2010!
Whatever the case, the last few weeks have us jumping for joy!
A lot of that joy comes from the 17-game no-break stretch they completed yesterday. Sadly, that last game was a bit of a rout (I’ll come back to that), but over those 17 games they went 12–5 (playing .706!), outscored their opponents 103–63 (a run differential of +40!) and averaged 6.06 runs per game.
They went 8–3 in home games, which was wonderful for the hometown crowd. (The bummer for me is that one of those three games they lost was the game I went to. Plus it rained on us. I’ll come back to that, too.)
Here’s their record over the last six years:
Obviously, this year is just underway. At 32 games, we’ve played just a hair under 20% of the season and still have 130 games left to play.
Their season so far indicates a decent performance at the plate as well as on the mound. The ERA is the lowest since 2010, and the Runs/Game is nearly at 2010 level. And these stats include a pretty awful first week.
To see why Twins fans are buzzing, consider these stats:
There’s all kinds of tasty goodness there!
The first ten games were painful — the first five even more so. April was not a happy month for Twins fans, although they were showing signs of life even at the end of that month (going 3–2 in last five games).
The eleven-game Home stretch from April 27 to May 7 was an eye-opener. The Twins seemed to come alive, turning 17.63% of their plate appearances into runs (2.66% of them homers). They outscored opponents 73–39 (+34) over that span.The irony for me is that the one game I went to (May 5 — Cinco de Twins Game) was one of the three losses and featured their lowest runs and hits count (1, 5) in that home stretch. They scored one run against the Chi-Sox, but got seven hits, May 1. And they got only five hits, but six runs, against the A’s on May 7.
But the one-run, five-hit game? That’s the one I saw. About the only thing you can is we gave up only two to the A’s. Plus it rained. Not enough to stop the game, but enough for fans to seek shelter for a couple of innings.
On the other hand, the Loon Cafe chili was tasty and bone-warming, and the tickets were free. (And I brought my rain jacket and dressed warm, so no harm done.) It was also the first night game I’ve seen at Target Field, and it was gorgeous! We really do have a beautiful ball park.The 17-game stretch from April 24 to May 10 shows a dip compared to the home stretch, but still shows pretty stellar numbers. Watching Twins games has been a lot of fun in the last few weeks.
That stretch ended yesterday on “pink bat” day, May 10, when we closed out a three-game series against the Indians. It didn’t go well for the Twins. They took their worst loss (2–8) since April 20. It was nearly a one-run, one-hit game (due to Brian Dozier’s lead-off homer in the first inning).
They picked up one more run in the ninth, but that was peanuts compared to the eight runs (and 13 hits) by the Indians. Hopefully it was just one of those things — all the pieces falling out of place rather than into.
It could be due to some fatigue. Seventeen games without a day off is a grind. Hopefully they’ll rest up today and do well against the mighty Tigers starting tomorrow.
Here’s another way to look at their evolution from 2010 (percentages are in terms of plate appearances, not at-bats; the last column is the run percentage given up by our pitchers):
Granted, they’re being somewhat out-hit, but they’re ahead in runs and in run percentage. The huge question on everyone’s mind: Can they keep this up — at any level — for an entire season.
The Magic 8-Ball says: Don’t hold your breath. (But maybe.)
There are some definite caveats. They are being out-hit, for one thing. Opponents average 9.22 H/G to the Twins’ 8.91 (or, percentage-wise: 24.52% of PAs versus 23.73% for the Twins). And the run differential isn’t outstanding by any means.
The Twins also strike out a lot. Their K% hit a peak in 2013 (22.99%) and hasn’t come down very far since. (They struck out at a rate of 19.57% over that wonderful home stretch. A slight improvement, but still pretty bad.)
As reference points:
The Cardinals (damn them) are the top team in the MLB right now. The Royals and Indians (sorry Cleveland) are respectively the top and bottom teams in our (AL-Central) Division. The Royals are also currently the best AL team while the Athletics are the worst AL team. The poor Phillies are the worst team in baseball right now.
You can see why our strikeout rate is a concern. We’re better at that than any of the teams above (and that’s not good).
Another important caveat here is that the Twins have done well against flawed opponents, but haven’t faced many strong teams yet.
They went 5–2 in games with the White Sox and 4–2 in games against Cleveland, two teams struggling our Division. They also went 3–1 against Oakland and 2–1 against Seattle, two teams struggling in the AL-West.
Compare that to going 1–5 against Detroit which has been very strong until just recently. (Which is a ray of hope for the Twins — we face them in three games starting tomorrow.) On the other hand, we managed to go 3–3 with the Royals who’ve been strong all season.
But still, it’s been a hell of a ride recently, and after four seasons of utter dreck, about all I really ask for is that watching Twins games not be heartbreaking. (There’s nothing like loading the bases with no outs and still not scoring to really take the light out of the day.)
Fans have wondered what effect the “changing of the guard” (bad pun, I know) might have on the team.
With Ron “Gardy” Gardenhire out (and perhaps more importantly, pitching coach Rick Anderson out), and Hall of Fame former Twins player Paul “Moli” Molitor in, early results seem to indicate a successful change.
Many experts feel a manager doesn’t have a huge impact any more (I’ve heard estimates of plus or minus ten games at best). The front office controls the team makeup and, often, a general style of play. The players themselves, of course, are the primary ingredient.
But a manager can be a leader and source of inspiration. Or he can be the opposite. Baseball is a finely balanced game with so many factors operating that almost anything can happen. “Worst” teams beat “best” teams all the time. (It’s one reason a season consists of 162 games.)
The psychological aspect of the game is both crucial and impossible to quantify. A manager can be instrumental in the team’s psychology, so it’s possible that Moli — even if just in virtue of being new — is having a significant effect.
Something sure seems to be! Twins fans just hope it stays around for a while (or at least doesn’t completely vanish — I’ll settle for that).