Speaking of big strike outs, my Minnesota Twins continue to slog along at the bottom of the pack. Things actually got a bit exciting just before the All-Star Game break, but the last week or so suggests the Twins are reverting to the hapless form from the first few months.
The Twins played their 108th game of the season back on August 4th. That’s two-thirds of a season. As of their first third, things were looking uglier than ever in their history. Fortunately, the second third here was significantly better, and July was even kinda awesome.
The batting has definitely improved, but the pitching is just killing us.
As of today, after 118 games, the Twins are 47-71 (.398). The sad part is that it took 107 games for them to finally get above .400 for the first time. We’ve been hovering just above much of the month, but after a nasty home stretch, we’re below again.
The Twins spent most of the first half of the season vying with the Atlanta Braves for worst team in all of baseball. As of July 5th, it’s been strictly the Braves. In August, the Twins even got ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays on three separate days and weren’t the worst team in the American League.
Take a look at the Twins’ batting stats by month:
Pretty nice month of July! An actual run surplus and close to .800 OPS (and, sure enough, the Twins played .577 ball that month).
And while the batting looks even better in August (so far), and is showing some serious power (.879 OPS and .234 ISO), somehow the Twins are only playing .500 ball and have a run deficit (which is the big clue).
It makes complete sense when you look at the pitching stats:
July stands out for ironically good pitching, but the bottom falls out in August! (Not that it was very good in May or June.) Starting pitching imploded; the bullpen seems to be hanging in there.
And it’s not just bad starting pitching. Starters only faced 57.1% of batters in August, which means they’re not working deep into games. Having to work more innings puts stress on the bullpen.
Just to take another look, here is a comparison of the first and second thirds:
A very stark difference there! The played only .296 ball in the first third, but pulled off .500 in the second. The third? Who knows!
For the geekier baseball fans, here is some more batting data:
(The percentages are all in terms of PAs, not ABs.) The uptick in run percentage is awesome (as is the HR%). Additionally, walks are up while strikeouts are down. Major batting improvement in every category!
Meanwhile, the pitching (oy, the pitching)…
See the improvement? No? Well, that’s ’cause there ain’t any! Not much, anyway.
We can also look at the geekier percentage data, in terms of what pitchers are allowing opposing batters:
Compare with the matching chart above for our batters. Not good. Definitely not good! Twins pitchers are giving up the show.
There are a few series the Twins played so far that seem worthy of mention (mostly because of the stark contrasts involved)…
The Twins were essentially in free fall until they hosted our sister team, the Texas Rangers on July 1st. At that point, they were 25-53 (.321) — you’ve seen the stats for April–June. They’d won only six series, tied one, and lost 18!
We beat the Rangers two outta three, averaged 8.00 R/G, had a .856 OPS, and a 1.54 K/BB! Pitching was outstanding. Starters threw a 3.79 ERA, and the bullpen had a 2.00 ERA. We were up 12 runs in three games!
Twins visited the Rangers shortly thereafter on July 7 for a four-game series, and we won three in that one. Hitters averaged 9.50 R/G with an 1.039 OPS! They had a 5.52 HR% and a 1.09 K/BB.
Gosh, that was fun to watch!
Starting pitching was again wonderful, 3.68 ERA (but a 1.50 WHIP), but the bullpen struggled a bit with a 5.54 ERA.
We’d also done well with the Oakland Athletics between those two series, beating them two outta three. Starting pitching, with a 1.71 ERA (!!), was outstanding. The Twins averaged 5.33 R/G to the A’s measly 2.33 R/G.
Those three series turned the Twins around (and were a rush to see). Sadly, the All-Star Game break came right then, and we all wondered if the momentum would survive the time off.
They sort of did. At least, the batters are doing better than they did for the first three months. The slash line is .268/.324/.460 (.784 OPS) with a 4.90 R/G average. But the 18-run deficit hints that pitching is, as usual, the problem.
Starters since the break have a 5.67 ERA (1.45 WHIP), so there ya go. The bullpen has a 3.55 ERA (1.30 WHIP), which is much better. Starters give up home runs at a 4.10% rate (per BF), so things are, indeed, not good on the mound.
But that’s typical for the Minnesota Twins these past six years.
And, in contrast, perhaps a regression, they got slaughtered in the last home stand (facing Houston and Kansas City). The batting didn’t suck, but the pitching, especially starting, imploded.
Twins had a .269/.302/.463 slash line (.765 OPS) with a 4.14 R/G average (and 11 home runs!), so it wasn’t so much that as the 8.07 ERA (1.76 WHIP) thrown by the starters.
Who only faced 52.2% of opposing batters, so they got kicked out of games early and forced our bullpen to work. (At one point we even put a position player on the mound to give them some relief. That’s always a hoot to see.)
All in all, the Twins went 2-5 (.286) with a -25 run deficit. Lost some serious ground there, and the standard deviation of 1.552 on runs suggests an unwelcome consistency. Even worse, they averaged 1.71 errors per game!
So all that warm fuzzy feeling we had there in July seems to be evaporating with only a month-and-a-half of season left.
So, all told, it’s been a weird year. A lot of rookie players brought up from the Minors. Some of them, like Max Kepler, have been amazing. Others, like Byron Buxton, have been disappointing. Byungho Park, the Korean slugger we got is still down in the Minors.
Ricky Nolasco and Eduardo Nuñez were traded. We got Hector Santiago, who hasn’t pitched well in his three outings so far. Closer Glen Perkins and starter Phil Hughes are out on season-ending surgeries.
Also big news, the Twins released their General Manager, Terry Ryan. The weirdest part was how it happened mid-season.
There’s plenty of news coverage; I won’t go into it here.
(In large part because I’m not sure I really have an opinion on the matter; I don’t know enough about him.)
Bottom line, it’s been a hugely disappointing year for the Twins.
Combined with other things going on in the world, I have a bad case of the Trump & Twins giving me indigestion this summer!
At least it will all be over by November.