Here’s what you need to know about the surprising Twin Cities team:
Currently the Twins are 78-71, which puts them two games ahead of the LA Trouts for the 2nd Wild Card spot. They were four games under .500 on August 5th but have gone a red hot 26-15 since. Baseball Reference, according to their Pythagorean measurements and the strength of schedule agrees with me: The Twins are playing a little over their heads right now – they’re closer to a .500 team than they are to a team 7 over.
With Miguel Sano on the DL, the bulk of their offense comes from three guys – Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario, all of whom have OPS+ ratings of 117 or better. Bryon Buxton has been fantastic in the outfield and on the bases, but his offense hasn’t caught up quite yet…
As a team, on offense they take a lot pitches, draw a lot of walks, stay out of double plays and run the bases well (see specifics below)*. By every other offensive measure they’re pretty mundane. Combine the information from those two sentences and you end up with a team that’s 5th out of 15 in the American League in runs scored. Good, but not scary – especially without Sano.
In the run prevention department, they pitch to contact – both they’re strikeouts and walks are relatively low, but they do allow fly balls. In today’s game pitching to contact and allowing fly balls is a bad combination. The fact they don’t walk many is what keeps them from being awful – currently they’ve allowed the 6th most runs in the AL.
As a somewhat relevant aside, Paul Molitor likes to manage. The Twins are 3rd in the AL in bunts, 5th in stolen bases and only 9th in caught stealing. As I said, they run the bases well and stay out of double plays.
Here’s the bottom line on the Twins:
They’re an average team – slightly above offensively, slightly below in run prevention – who’ve played over their head for the past six weeks. Their best two pitchers – Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios – are going tonight and tomorrow night, with the 78 year old Bartolo Colon starting the Wednesday matinee. Look for the Yankees to split the 1st two and win the rubber match on Wednesday.
*Twins Offense AL rankings: 5th in runs, 3rd in BB%, 9th in K%, 4th in OBP, 7th in SLG, 1st in BsR, 2nd fewest swings outside the strike zone.
Thanks as always to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.