Twins: What a summer!

Torii Hunter

Torii Hunter wonders “WTF?”

Yesterday my Minnesota Twins played their 108th game, which means the season is now exactly 2/3 over. And I say “my” Twins, but given their performance since the All-Star break, many of us fans are about to disown them. When I last wrote about them, I said, “Now everything depends on what happens after the All-Star break.”

They’d surprised us with a Mighty May, had a rough June Swoon, but seemed to wake up again in July and ended the first half strong. Unfortunately, their second half has been pretty awful all around. Their batting struggles continue, but now the pitching is going downhill, too.

After a giddy rush of “post-season is possible” we’re back to our original ask: “Please just don’t suck again this year.”

And if one takes a step back and sobers up from the intoxication of May, we have had a much better season than we have in four years, and while I doubt there’s any post to their season, even the last third shouldn’t be horribly painful.

Glen Perkins

Even the Twins ace closer, Glen Perkins, has stumbled in the second half after a great first.

Famous last words, though, right? I probably shouldn’t have said anything.

Baseball players either are, or act like they are, very superstitious. Players often will keep any behavior (including wearing increasingly filthy clothes) that seemed to give them a hot streak. Given that baseball is extremely subtle and that psychology plays a huge role, even at a placebo level, there may be something to the practice.

Another aspect of this is the “jinx” — many, including announcers — will not mention a no-hitter (let alone a perfect game) out loud. Instead, they’ll show shots of the scoreboard (showing no hits) or will use phrases like, “minimum number of batters” faced by a pitcher having a perfect game.

The “jinx” seems like a silly thing, and for many it’s just a fun part of the game, but I’ve noticed an odd thing. Seems like every time our Play by Play (PxP) announcer, Dick Bremer, makes a point of mentioning how our pitcher rarely walks anyone, and hasn’t walked anyone in a long time… the pitcher walks the current batter.

Yes, I do know about self-selection bias. Like I said, it’s just part of the fun.

So how have things gone for them? Let me start by comparing the first third with the second third:

W-L R/G H/G AVG OBP SLG ERA WHIP
1st 32-22 4.50 8.52 .252 .304 .382 3.93 1.32
2nd 22-32 3.83 7.96 .241 .298 .405 4.21 1.33
Δ -10,+10 -0.67 -0.56 -.011 -.006 +.023 +0.19 +0.01

[For the uninitiated, ERA and WHIP should be as low as possible — zero would be awesome although virtual unachievable. All other stats, higher is better. The W-L stats (wins-losses) should be big on “W”s and low on “L”s. Baseball, ultimately, is all about the “W”.]

Miguel Sano

Miguel Sano

The only stat that’s improved is SLG (slugging), and that’s likely due to Miguel Sano, a power-hitting rookie who joined the team on July 2.

A real standout is the ten game W-L difference. (What’s weird is the mirror image reversal!)

The other noticeable one is the R/G (runs per game), which went from nicely above MLB average of 4.14 to sadly below.

The second third of the season began back on June 6, so it spans the All-Star break. Here’s a similar chart showing the “first half” and “second half” (to date). I quote “half” because the All-Star break doesn’t quite divide the season exactly in half.

W-L R/G H/G AVG OBP SLG ERA WHIP
1st 49-40 4.30 8.47 .254 .307 .400 3.81 1.31
2nd 5-14 3.53 7.16 .215 .272 .363 5.31 1.39
Δ -.288 -0.77 -1.31 -.039 -.035 -.037 +1.50 +0.08

The decline in performance is a lot more obvious here! (The W-L delta is shown here as a percentage difference, because you can’t just compare 89 games to 19. For the first table, it would be -.185.)

Eddie Rosario

Twins Rookie Eddie Rosario wonders where the Ws went.

There are other stats that are even more depressing. They had a run surplus in the first half of +23 after 89 games, but in the 19 games so far now have a run deficit of -39! And run differential does correlate fairly well with winning and losing teams.

Our last home series was against the Seattle Mariners, a team that’s been struggling and which we should have swept (considering how well the Twins had been doing at home). Instead, we went 2-2, slashed .176/.238/.346, averaged 3.50 runs per game, and posted a -3 run deficit. A batting average of .176 over four games (so it’s not like one pitcher beat us up) is seriously in the toilet.

Our pitching wasn’t awful in that series. Starters threw a 3.81 ERA, although our bullpen started to show decline with an ERA of 4.50.

Paul Molitor

So does manager Paul Molitor!

The most recent series, four games at Toronto Blue Jays was awful. Painful. Can’t watch bad. Granted, the Jays are a really hot team who just traded for some very good players (like Troy Tulowitzki, formerly of the Colorado Rockies, and pitcher David Price, a former Twins nemesis from the Detroit Tigers).

The poor Twins went 0-4, slashed .160/.215/.312 (and we thought .176 sucked), averaged only 3.00 R/G, and posted a -14 run deficit. On top of that, our starters threw a 9.82 ERA (which is a “take them out behind the barn and shoot them” level of badness), although the bullpen managed a 3.95 ERA (above 4.00 is bad, above 5.00 is crap, above 6.00 is “get rid of this guy”).

There’s no good way to spin it. The Twins are 6-14 on their last twenty, 2-8 on their last ten, and 0-5 (!!) on their last five (with 2.60 R/G and a starter ERA of 6.84). This is a team in serious trouble.

At this point, broken and bloody, the Twins are back to the .500 mark for the first time since they got above it on May 2. If they lose more than they win, they’ll fall below. They’ve squandered their 11-game lead, lost possession of a wildcard slot, and are very close to falling out of second place in the AL-C.

Twins W-L

Even if this is the end of all that lovely above .500 green, it’s a hell of a lot more green than we’ve seen in a very long time.

Twins W-L 2014

Case in point, last year (2014). Or the year before that (2013) or the two before that (2012 and 2011). Too much red!

Serious suckage.

Starting tonight we have three away games at  Cleveland Indians. Then we host our sister team, the Texas Rangers for three followed by three with Cleveland again. The Rangers have struggled all season, but have shown improvement recently. They’ve won their last four and are 7-3 on their last ten. How we’ll do against them, even with home advantage is a crap shoot (likely emphasis on crap).

The Indians have struggled all season and are currently in last place in the division. Hopefully we can make up some ground against them, but I thought that of Seattle. It may turn out we’ll help the Indians improve their standings.

AL-C

We were actually in first place a couple of times! (The Twins are the gold line. The KC Royals are the purple winners, damn their bats.)

Many are beginning to feel the problem may be due to mismanagement by GM Terry Ryan, or even owner Jim Pohlad. Given the chance to make some trades for better players, nothing useful happened for the Twins.  Ryan brought in a relief pitcher (who sucked) and a rookie starter (who sucked and has already been sent down to the minors).

Either Ryan is making some very poor choices, or he’s been hand-cuffed by an owner who doesn’t care about winning, just revenue.

So the trick is for us fans to hit’m where it hurts. Stop going to Target Field. If you do go, bring your own snacks. Stop buying Twins merchandise. So long as they think we don’t care — and will spend money anyway — they won’t care either!

Target Field 2010-2015

Each year fewer people went to Target Field. 2015 is the red line — very close to 2014 (purple). Previous years (except 2011) had big declines.

Target Field attendance has declined every year since it opened in 2010 (because the team has sucked every year since then). This year the attendance was very close to last year, I’m sure because the team seemed to be doing better. It’ll be interesting to see how it tracks for the rest of the season as the fans realize it’s another losing year for the Twins.

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

11 responses to “Twins: What a summer!

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Wow! After a six-run top of the third inning the Twins are leading Cleveland 6-0 (and the poor Indians’ struggles continue). Of course, the third inning isn’t over, and the ball game is way not over.

    But wow, what a half-inning! Breath of fresh air after the oppression of the last couple of weeks.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Oh, hell. I forgot who we have on the mound tonight. Mike “lead? what lead” Pelfrey. Twins give him a 6-0 lead and he gives four back to the Indians in the bottom of the very same inning.

      Way to take the joy out of an evening, Mike, so thanks for that.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Oh, fuck! Twins get one back in the top fourth, Pelfrey gives up three more in the bottom of the inning, finally gets booted, and the next guy (Achter) gives up another two, so the Twins lead of 6-0 is now 7-9 after just four innings.

      Un-fucking-believable.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Twins manage to pick one in the fifth and one in the sixth, so it’s all knotted up at 9 as we head into the ninth…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      A Torii Hunter homer puts the Twins up 10-9 in the top nine. Glen Perkins will come in to save (or blow) the game…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      …and with two on and two outs, Perkins strikes out the last batter. Twins win 10-9. Whew!

      The Twins end their second five-game losing streak and manage to avoid their first six-game losing streak.

      Anyone who says “baseball is boring” has absolutely no clue about the game! That was nerve wracking!

  • siriusbizinus

    Are you sure it’s not the field that sucks? With how the Twins were doing in May, there should have been a boost in attendance. I’m only commenting about this because when I lived in Orlando, Tampa had the closest MLB field. They put theirs in a terrible location.

    I like the Twins, and I’ve been hoping for a postseason team, but I think I’ll have to just settle for hoping they don’t suck. Again.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “Are you sure it’s not the field that sucks?”

      I’m not quite sure what you mean. I do know that lots of folks in Florida complain about the Rays ballpark being in St. Pete and there have been a lot of attempts to move it.

      If that’s what you mean, then I’m pretty sure not. Target Field is in downtown Minneapolis, and is very convenient for freeway access as well as our light rail (I often park in the ‘burbs and take the LRT in).

      It’s also widely acknowledged as one of the nicest ballparks in the MLB (although I think we rate in the top three for high-priced beer).

      I’m pretty sure it’s not the venue. I’m equally sure the Twins suck. Hugely.

      “I like the Twins”

      There’s a lot to like on a personal level. They never seem to play the “accidentally” hit batter revenge game, and I’ve never seen them in a bench-clearing brouhaha. They’re a nice team. Maybe too nice.

      It would be nice to see a bit more grit and “gonna getcha” from them sometimes. Relief pitcher Casey Fein has some of that. He’s fun to watch on the mound. Our starters? Almost never. Our starters have a look of panic in their eyes and stance way too much for my taste.

      • siriusbizinus

        I meant venue. It’s great that the field isn’t bad, but maybe it’s also the higher priced beer. The last time I saw the Twins play in Minnesota I was really little, and I didn’t even understand the game yet.

        At any rate, I think it’s a good thing that the Twins are a nice team. It makes them a great team to get behind in the post-season. I have to be honest, though, I haven’t followed baseball as closely as I did before the strike in the 90’s.

        The Twins are a great team, though. I hope they can finish out the season with a good showing.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Heh, yeah, it could be the beer; you never know. My guess (and it is just a guess) is it’s mainly correlated to the success of the Twins. Attendance the first year (2010) was capacity crowds (see chart in post). The park was novel and the Twins were pretty good that year. We won the Division, although the damn Yankees then shut us down 1-2-3 in the ALDS. Ironically, the last ten games seemed to presage the coming years. We went 2-8 after clinching the Division.

        2011 came very close to also having capacity crowds, and you really can’t see any different in the curves until the end of the season where the curves do separate a little (the darker blue is 2011). That was a losing season (63-99), but the Twins got as high as .470 in late July, so it wasn’t clear they couldn’t save the season. But after that local max, they began to lose almost constantly, so it’s not surprising the attendance shows that drop near the end of the year.

        In both 2012 and 2013 the Twins went 66-93. 2012 was especially bad, the Twins were never above .500 (nor had they been in 2011, so it was another year of serious suckage). The green curve for 2012 shows constantly below cap crowds all season.

        The gold curve for 2013 shows attendance down another notch compared to 2012. That season the Twins managed to flirt with .500 (closely above and below) until a 10-game losing streak that began in mid-May. They never recovered and just sank after that.

        2014 (purple) was largely a repeat of 2013. Flirted with .500 until mid-May or so and then declined. We did manage to go 70-92 that year. But you can see 2014 was yet another notch down in attendance. Fans were getting pretty fed up, and by 2014 a lot of voices were demanding change in the organization. They let manager Gardy, and much of his coaching staff, go after the 2014 season.

        The curve this year (red) has been much closer — although just under — to the previous year, and the team has been doing much better this year. Pre-season, all analysts expected the Twins to suck again this year, so their performance has been a (nice) surprise.

        Honestly, I’ve been expecting attendance to surpass (at least) 2014, so it’s possible a growing discontent with the park itself is responsible for the yearly decline. (2010 and 2011 can be explained by the novelty of the new ball park.) But I think the curve for 2015 shows the team’s performance has some effect. It is just my guess, though.

        I think it’s a good thing that the Twins are a nice team.

        I quite agree. I don’t like bench-clearing (or any other kinds of) brawls, and I very much like the fact that, as the Great George Carlin put it, “Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.” I have a lot of respect for how the Twins behave as a team. They are a great team.

        I just wish they could pitch.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Man, the Twins took a shellacking tonight! Cleveland kicked our ass 4-17 in a very, very ugly game. Second time in a row our starter had to be pulled early, and tonight we went through five bullpen pitchers and even put a position player on the mound!

    In the Cleveland series so far (two games, one more tomorrow), our starters threw 22.50 ERA and 3.83 WHIP (atrocious), and the bullpen threw 9.00 ERA and 1.91 WHIP (only slightly less atrocious). The irony is the Twins tried to make up for it at the plate. They slashed .324/.367/.649 and averaged 7.00 R/G, but that was small potatoes to what our pitchers gave up. The Indians slashed .423/.478/.641 and averaged 13.00 R/G. It’s our second 13-run loss since the ASG break (see July 19 game @ Oakland).

    In the road series (Toronto + Cleveland), our starters threw 12.95 ERA, 2.38 WHIP, and our bullpen 6.20 ERA, 1.62 WHIP. Twins slashed .221/.271/.437 (compared to opps .335/.408/.569) and averaged 4.33 R/G (compared to opps 8.67).

    Executive Summery: WE SUCK!

    If this team doesn’t turn this shit around in a hurry, their season is over. Detroit (Detroit!) is only one game behind us, and we’re now 10.5 games behind the first place Royals. And our wildcard slot is long gone. I’m to the point where anything else I say would be completely unprintable.

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