But as the MLB World Series begins today, and I’m pretty thrilled about both the long-suffering Cleveland Indians and the long-suffering Chicago Cubs being there (and hugely conflicted about who to root for), today seems the day to finally get this done.
I just wish it didn’t feel so much like an obituary.
A key aspect of baseball is that every day is a new day, a new game. No matter how badly you lost yesterday, today that’s behind you, the slate is clean. That philosophy agrees with me very much. I’ve never been one to look in the rear view mirror much. What’s in front is always more interesting.
So one can hope 2017 brings a better season. Perhaps the promise of 2015 — which utterly failed to appear in 2016 — will finally click. There will be (at least) two new people running the front office; perhaps there will be shakeups among the training and coaching staff.
And for all Paul Molitor’s vaulted ability as a baseball player, many (including myself) are beginning to wonder if he’s a very good manager.
There is talk he doesn’t relate well to the younger players (that perhaps none of the staff does), and managing is a rather different skill than playing.
There were decisions made during play that even I knew were a bad idea (and which, indeed, proved to be a bad idea).
A key question: Molitor had excellent bunting skills. How is it that his team pretty much sucks at it? It seems that’s a skill he’s been unable to pass on. Teaching is also a different skill than playing baseball well.
In any event, here are some team batting stats for the season:
The numbers speak for themselves, but just a few points:
¶ They lost 103 games! That’s a Twins franchise record. It beats the previous worst in 1982 when they lost 102. (The Cubs won 103 games, making them our mirror image. We lost the worst; they won the best.)
¶ Run differential (RΔ) is considered a fairly strong indicator of team success. The Twins ended 2016 with a run diff of -167. Only the Phillies, with -186, were worse. (For the record: Indians +101, Cubs +252!)
¶ Batting wasn’t really the thing that killed them. It was pretty ugly in April, started to improve, was pretty good in July, and then declined such that they both started and ended the season badly.
¶ But they hit 200 home runs! The Cubs hit 199, and the Indians only 185. The Twins definitely had some power in their bats. The pity was their inability to string hits together to leverage that power.
For those whose eyes glaze over tables of numbers, here is a more visual version:So it wasn’t so much the offense, which wasn’t utterly horrible, but the defense. A part of that was some bad fielding — issues in the outfield as well as short stop and catcher. And at third base with Miguel Sano (who wasn’t much better there than in right field).
A key stat here is the 126 errors committed by the defense. (I just spent a frustrating hour trying to find someone with a list of team errors by season. No luck! How is that possible? So all I can say is that it’s the most errors since I started tracking them in 2010.) The only team with more errors was the Brewers, with 136.
Before we move on to the real problem (the pitching, oh, the pitching), below is a chart that really surprised me. It’s a split of win percentage by day of the week:The bar on the far right is the overall percentage, and one would expect to see that on any given day, especially over time. And yet it seems the Twins play much better than average on the weekend (especially Saturday) and then decline as the week wears on. They really suck on Fridays for some reason. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.
For comparison, the day-night split, and the home-away split, shows them performing roughly the same as their overall (you’d actually expect the home-away split to show better performance at home, but the Twins sucked pretty much everywhere this year):
And, indeed, they are every so slightly better at home (and at night), but the difference is pretty small.
Which brings us to the glaring problem — a problem that’s been a problem for much of the six years I’ve been a hard-core fan: The Pitching.
Let’s start with the stats:
There’s really nothing there that’s very good. Pitching got good in July, but utterly collapsed in August, and didn’t really recover in September.
Let’s just talk a bit about the Twins starters… Oh, you know what? Let’s not. It’s too depressing.
Watching Twins games became so onerous that by the end of the season, it was mostly a case of having games on in the background while I did something less painful or, by late September, not even bothering to turn the game on in the first place.
I will mention Jose Berrios, a pitcher that was apparently killing it in the minors, and whom everyone raved about. The reality of Berrios is reflected in the ERA chart shown to the right.
(For reference, an ERA of 5.00 isn’t Major League pitching. Above that is plain awful.)
I’m no baseball expert, not even slightly, so I may be talking out my ass here, but I’ve decided that what a player does in the minors has no real connection with his performance in the majors.
The two seem that different.
Time after time I’ve heard people rave about how so-and-so is killing it in the minors, we just gotta bring him up! And finally we do. And he sucks. Time after time.
So I no longer care about performance in the minors, only in the majors. I utterly fail to be impressed about killing it in the minors.
As for the World Series: Who am I rooting for? The team whose logo is a capital ‘C’ of course!
Seriously, it’s a tough call. My big ask for post-season was that Toronto fail. I wish they’d failed against the Orioles, or with the Rangers, because I consider them our sister team.
(Both are former Washington Senators teams, and we’re the only two teams in the AL named after the state rather than the city. (Nope, the Yankees are named after the city.))
Usually my rooting order goes: Twins, AL-Central, AL, MLB, Earth teams (except for Cardinals or Yankees, I never root for them).
So I really ought to be rooting for Cleveland. But as so many do, I have a soft spot for the Cubbies (and many apparently have a hard spot for them, which just shows to go ya). And both teams are from the Central Division, which complicates my allegiance slightly (and I love Chicago).
I discovered, while watching the NLCS that, despite liking both the Dodgers (due to living in Los Angeles for 20 years) and the Cubs that I was actually very strongly rooting Cubs. I suspect that while watching the World Series I’ll discover that I really do prefer one team over the other.
But for now it feels like I’ll be happy regardless of who wins. I just hope the series goes all seven games. Two top teams, so it should be a blast!
Go Cubs, Go! Go Indians, Go!