For the first time since I became a dedicated fan in 2010, my Minnesota Twins are in postseason! They did win a Wildcard spot in 2017, and then lost to the Yankees in the single Wildcard game (damn Yankees). That was after having their worst season in franchise history in 2016. (They lost 103 games and finished last in the MLB.)
But now, as in 2010, they’re going to first official postseason round, the ALDS. And, also as in 2010, they’ll face their arch nemesis, those damned Yankees. Nine years ago the “Bronx Bummers” took us out 1-2-3. Those bummers also took us out of postseason in 2003, 2004, & 2009.
So I’m thinking it’s high time we turn that around!
And there is some hope we might do just that.
In regular season play we beat them in hitting home runs (307–306). Which are both considerably ahead of the third-place team, the Houston Astros, who hit 288. In fourth place are the Los Angeles Dodgers, who hit just 279. (Note that both those latter teams are the respective League top teams in terms of wins.)
The Twins also beat the Yankees in hits (1547–1493), doubles (318–290), triples (23–17), and RBIs (906–904). They also had fewer strikeouts (1334–1437).
On the other hand, the Bummers had more runs (943–939), more walks (569–525), and many more stolen bases (55–28).
That last stat hints at something that’s bugged me a little this season.
Due to the baseballs having less drag this year, home runs have been absolutely insane.That’s all nice for the casual viewer, but many fans with a deeper interest and knowledge of the sport prefer more “small ball” — the art of moving players along the bases using hits, steals, and the occasional bunt.
The Twins, bless their hearts and postseason chances, seem to have concentrated on the long ball, the crowd-pleasing home run.
It’s even factored in to their marketing and fan engagement program: The Bomba Squad.
(Which is a reference to both “the bomb” (home run) and the prevalence of Hispanic players.)
There’s no question they’ve been pounding them out, and some of those bombs have been instrumental in winning games.
But I wished all season they would have focused more on small ball, and there were a number of games where having that ability sure would have helped.
I can’t count the times they’ve had runners on base and been unable to move them along. It’s especially aggravating with they manage to have a runner at third base with no outs and still can’t bring him home.
But it’s hard to argue with winning the Division.
(By eight games due to Cleveland losing all five of their last games. That first loss clinched the Division for the Twins, and it seemed to take the wind from Cleveland’s sails after that.)
And while the Bummers may have gotten slightly more runs during the regular season, the Twins generated more runs, by quite a margin, than they have since 2007:
There is also that, with a win-loss record of 101–61 (.623) they very nearly tied their record for best year in franchise history, 1965, when their win-loss record was 102–60 (.630):
So there’s a chance they could beat the Yankees, is what I’m suggesting.
But wait, there’s more…
Their run differential is looking better than it has in over a decade:
The got 185 more runs than they gave. (The bad news is that the Bummers have a run-diff of +204.)
FWIW, run-diff is considered a fairly reliable predictor, so this stat is definitely a “well, there’s good news and bad news” deal.
Here’s a similar chart for the home run differential:
Note that, whereas the run-diff chart above is actual runs, the home run chart (and those below) are in terms of percentages (per plate appearance).
The hit differential chart shows considerable improvement in the last twelve years, but this year isn’t all that much to brag about:
And while they did get more hits than the Bummers, their differential of +93 isn’t quite a patch on that of their nemesis, who have a hit-diff of +119.
In fact, their hitting has been a minor concern of mine, and it ties into the whole “not playing small ball” thing to me. They seem a bit too focused on the “three true outcomes” (home runs, walks, strikeouts — outcomes that don’t put the ball in play defensively).
Speaking of which, their strikeout differential isn’t great, but is certainly better than it has been the last few years:
And their walk differential does make them better than their opponents, but could definitely use some improvement:
Seems the batters need to work a little on plate discipline!
The scariest part of this is the pitching.
With the Twins, it’s often the pitching that gets us. We lost that last game of the season due to our pitching. We’ve lost a number of games that way.
That said, the pitching has been a bit better than recently:
At the very least, it’s been more consistent between starters and the bullpen.
Generally the Twins seem to have a better bullpen than they do starting rotation — that was seriously the case from 2012-2014. And you can see how bad things were in 2016 (the year from hell).
It’s much worse when it’s the other way around and you dread the part in the game when the bullpen takes over.
The bottom line is like that old gag with the line, “So you’re saying there’s a chance!”
Yep. I’m saying there’s a chance.
Maybe not a great one, but perhaps a fair one. Or at least a one, anyway.
And regardless of what happens, this season made it fun to watch the Twins again. That really hasn’t been the case for me since I started following them avidly in 2010.
So many of these charts from previous years were much more disappointing.
But this year they’ve done themselves proud and ended up leaders of the pack:
They didn’t just win their Division (by eight games), or just have the second best season in franchise history.
They ended the regular season in third place in the American League, just six games behind the top team (Astros, who won 107 games), and only two games behind the second-place Yankees (who won 103).
And they ended the fourth place team in the MLB. (The Dodgers won 106 and placed second.)
That is a pretty damn good season!
Finally, since, due to a number of factors, I’ve decided I’m going to stop using the Python suite I wrote to do all this stat tracking and chart generating, it’s a good season to wrap all that up on.
(For one thing, it’s a lot of work, both generating the daily reports and updating my personal website. For another, parts of that website have so many pages that it’s getting unwieldy.)
I think from here on out, I’m just going to enjoy baseball and get what stats I crave from various far more professional websites that specialize in that sort of thing.
(The downside is that I really like some of the reports I generate a lot better, and some of them are unlike anything anyone does.)
I dunno,… maybe I’ll find a compromise next year and just generate the reports and charts I really like and can’t find anywhere else.
Stay slugging, my friends!