Surprising Twins!

Twins jump for joyIf 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 125 (playing .706!), outscored their opponents 10363 (a run differential of +40!) and averaged 6.06 runs per game.

They went 83 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:

W-L R/G H/G AVG OBP SLG ERA WHIP
2015 18-14 4.72 8.91 .261 .316 .382 4.10 1.34
2014 70-92 4.41 8.72 .253 .323 .389 4.58 1.39
2013 66-96 3.79 8.31 .242 .312 .380 4.55 1.41
2012 66-96 4.33 8.94 .260 .325 .390 4.77 1.39
2011 63-99 3.82 8.38 .247 .306 .360 4.60 1.44
2010 94-69 4.79 9.37 .273 .340 .421 3.93 1.29

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:

W-L R/G H/G AVG OBP SLG ERA WHIP
Season 18-14 4.72 8.91 .261 .316 .382 4.10 1.34
May 8-2 6.50 10.30 .299 .350 .470 3.44 1.30
Last 17 12-5 6.06 10.12 .288 .342 .433 3.56 1.27
Home 8-3 6.64 10.64 .309 .354 .459 3.36 1.27
April 10-12 3.91 8.27 .243 .301 .342 4.41 1.36
1st 10 4-6 3.00 7.10 .216 .269 .310 5.17 1.52
1st 5 1-4 2.20 6.40 .195 .258 .256 5.71 1.63

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 32 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 7339 (+34) over that span.

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“And I think it’s going to rain… today”  [click for big]

The irony for me is that the one game I went to (May 5Cinco 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.

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Yep. It did. [click etc.]

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 (28) 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):

H% R% HR% K% BB% pR%
2015 23.73 12.57 2.00 21.15 7.08 +16 -10 11.72
2014 2.64 11.47 2.05 21.32 8.73 -62 -176 13.58
2013 21.68 9.91 2.44 22.99 8.58 -174 -244 14.13
2012 23.32 11.26 2.11 17.22 8.13 -131 -88 14.80
2011 22.54 10.28 1.71 17.41 7.31 -185 -207 13.19
2010 24.26 12.41 2.26 15.46 8.96 +109 +29 11.40

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:

H% R% HR% K% BB% pR%
Cardinals 24.38 11.77 1.91 17.74 8.54 +47 +38 9.68
Royals 26.35 12.89 1.96 15.09 5.55 +46 +87 12.02
Indians 22.26 11.74 2.63 16.48 9.11 -19 -28 14.25
Athletics 23.52 11.95 2.42 17.19 7.19 -3 +36 11.70
Phillies 20.74 7.83 1.46 19.19 6.45 -60 -54 13.68

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).

Brian Dozier

My favorite Twin: second baseman, Brian Dozier (#2).

Another important caveat here is that the Twins have done well against flawed opponents, but haven’t faced many strong teams yet.

They went 52 in games with the White Sox and 42 in games against Cleveland, two teams struggling our Division. They also went 31 against Oakland and 21 against Seattle, two teams struggling in the AL-West.

Compare that to going 15 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 33 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.)

Trevor Plouffe

My other favorite Twin: third baseman Trevor Plouffe (#24).

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).

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It’s even more beautiful at night! There’s something special being in an outdoor venue of any kind while enjoying the transition from day to night.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

8 responses to “Surprising Twins!

  • reocochran

    I am so excited for you and the Twins’ fans, too! Wow! I cannot believe it, W. S. The last time I was here you were in a funk over their poor playing skills.
    Target Field and the Loon Cafe chili sound outstanding. I am so glad you are seeing improvements, even if May 5th wasn’t the best game this season.
    Of course, you know who I would have to ‘root’ for, if the Indians were playing. Glad they did okay even if it meant an upset for the Twins. I am NOT gloating. I bet Detroit Tigers will beat us handily.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      We’re both in the same boat facing the Tigers. We’re both 1-5 (although as of tonight the Twins are now 1-6). Your Indians are really struggling this year, I’m afraid. At 11-20 you guys have one of the worst records in baseball this season. But at least all the Cleveland mothers were happy they won on Mother’s Day!

  • charmarie221

    Congrats on your recent success. My lil Rangers are still holding on, despite our DL lineup on the mound. We’ll see you guys in about a month…..

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Still holding on and maybe even showing some signs of improvement. You’re ahead of Oakland and catching up with Seattle. The Angels seem beatable, Mike Trout not withstanding. But we can’t call them the “Lastros” anymore, can we.

      As for our recent success, the fun just might be over. The last two series haven’t shown the same spark. (See my note below.)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Our last two series, against the Indians and then Tigers, might show some signs of potential collapse:

       |W-L| AVG| OBP| SLG| R/G| R/PA|sERA|bERA|
    --------------------------------------------
    Cle|2-1|.287|.330|.472|6.00|15.52|6.23|3.12|
    Det|1-2|.238|.217|.386|2.67| 7.48|2.65|8.68|
    --------------------------------------------
    tot|3-3|.263|.302|.431|4.33|11.66|4.46|6.00|

    Come on, Twins… right the ship!!

  • charmarie221

    I never know what to expect anymore. On paper we shouldn’t have done so well against the Royals, but we held our own, splitting the serious, and having a +5 for the run differential. Next comes Cleveland who has a worse record than the Rangers, and yet they shut out the Cardinals in one of their games, and they have the best record in all of baseball. So we’ll probably be swept, ha.

    I hope not we’re going to 2 of the games and we have a 2-0 record for attending games this year!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’ve come to realize that analytic stats — which consider past performance — are excellent and describing what happened. But predictive stats seem nearly useless, because baseball is so finely balanced that, as you mention about the Cards, sometimes the “worst” team walks all over the “best” team.

      Honestly, it’s part of what makes baseball so very cool in my eyes. Very complex and very unpredictable! (As they say, baseball is a metaphor for life.)

      How will the Twins (Rangers) do against the Rays (Indians) this weekend? Pfft! Who knows!

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