It’s officially fall, the season named after what the leaves are doing now (at least in places where they came up with the word, “fall”). Did you ever notice how the two seasons of transition both are named after action verbs? Or how appropriate those verbs are to the cycle of life happening in those transitions? Life springs forth to sunny summer and falls asleep to weather winter.
The autumnal equinox was at 08:21 UTC. Here in middle America, by a standard we call “Central,” summer fell at 3:21 AM. I slept through it, so I didn’t hear any noise it might have made. (Sometimes you can hear a distant thud, but that might be a whole bunch of leaves coincidentally all falling at once.)
Today also marks the final dozen (exciting!) games for my Minnesota Twins!
The truly amazing thing is that the Twins, with the season almost over, are still relevant — still very much in the hunt. After the last four years of crap, it’s the same feeling you get when the antacids kick in and finally let your stomach unclench from that souring indigestion.
With only twelve more games to play, the fall of fall seems a fitting time for a review of the field. After all, the whole season culminates in “the Fall Classic” — The World Serious.
At this point, the National League seems to have shaken out. The LA Dodgers (85-65) and the NY Mets (85-66) have all but clinched the West and East divisions. In the Central, the Cardinals (95-56) have the Pirates (91-60) only four games behind with the Cubs (89-62) six games back.
Given those winning records, the Giants (79-71) and Nationals (78-72) both have a chance, but just a slim one. It requires these teams surge while apparent winners collapse. A straight flush would give the Giants 91 wins and the Nats 90, so grabbing a division pennant or a wildcard is mathematically possible.
Here’s the really cool bottom line: The Mets and the Cubs are (almost certainly) going to post-season. For fans of those clubs that pretty wonderful. I was born in NYC and lived in LA a significant time in my life, so I’m delighted.
The American League has been a lot more exciting. Both the West and East divisions are close races, the West especially so — three teams there have the pennant within reach. The KC Royals (87-63) seem to have the Central sewn up, but the Twins (77-73, ten games back) aren’t mathematically eliminated.
Neither are the Indians (74-75), for that matter, although the best they could do is tie the Royals. (That requires they win every game while the Royals lose every game.) The Twins beat them last night, and if we beat them again tonight or tomorrow night, that will pretty much be it for Cleveland.
In the West Division, the Rangers (81-69) finally got ahead of the Astros (80-72) who led the division most of the year. The third-place Angels (77-74) are breathing down their necks. (Also down the necks of the Twins in the wildcard race!)
In the East Division, the Blue Jays (86-65) have come from last place (as recently as late July) to take first place away from the Yankees (83-67), who — regrettably — still seem headed for post-season (boo, hiss).
Currently the Bronx Bums hold the top wildcard slot. The Astros, four games back, hold the second. The Twins are two games behind that second slot with the Angels just a half-game behind us.
The American League is still very much up for grabs! Every game these teams play is significant and — therefore — a nail-biter for fans. The Indians, hosted by the Twins for two more games, are fighting for their (post-season) lives.
And so are the Twins. And the Angels. And the Astros. Even the Yankees could lose it all. Fall brings with it some gonna be awesome baseball!
I know what you’re thinking now: “Stats! Show us the stats! We wanna see the numbers!” I know exactly what you mean, and I don’t blame you a bit! Let’s start with the season split before and after the All-Star Game:
It seems to me that run differential (RΔ) — the difference between your team’s runs and the runs they allow to opponents — has one of the strongest correlations with winning (for a non-composite stat). In the first half, the Twins were up 23 runs; in the second, they’re down 25!
The batting is definitely down in the second half while the ERA is up. A higher home run percentage in the second half (3.02% vs 2.33%) accounts for the slight bump in slugging (SLG).
Breaking the season into thirds (by game count — 54 games per third) highlights the Twins’ mid-season fade:
Clearly our pitching has been in slight decline as the season has progressed (with the Twins, it’s always the pitching). But after a bit of a slump, our batting is better than ever! (The home run percentage, again, accounts for the rising SLG: 2.16%, 2.61%, 3.25%, respectively.)
Lastly, here’s how the Twins look over the last 12 games (along with the season stats for reference):
If they can keep up the same pace for the final dozen, the Twins may very well end up with a wildcard slot. And if the baseball gods were to seriously favor the Twins, the Royals will utterly collapse while the Twins go on to win all the eggs in the carton. That would be one hell of a gift!
Regardless, it’s been a good season, a fun season, even an exciting season! Even after the rough bits mid-season, the Twins (and their fans!) are enjoying a winning season. After living below the line, in the red zone, for four years, the green is as sweet as summer grass.
There may be darkness ahead, but before we get there, the forecast is for some really interesting fall baseball!
Happy Equinox & a very merry Fall!