Just one season ago, the Minnesota Twins lost more than 100 games. Those lowly Twins started the season 0-9, lost 13 in a row to end August and tallied just one winning month on the season with a 15-11 July. So, what’s so different for the Twins a season later? Let’s have a look.
Ace starter Ervin Santana started 30 games in 2016 and was a standout on the pitching staff with a 3.38 ERA, but finished the season with a record of 7-11 (lucky!). Offensively, those Twins finished in the bottom third of the MLB in batting average and top six in strikeouts, which leads to a lot of unproductive outs and runners left on base when they do eventually get there.
The 23-18, first-place Twins of 2017 are patient and a completely different team at the plate as a result. Strikeouts are way down, walks are way up and on-base percentage is up as a result. However, Minnesota isn’t scoring as many runs as you would think, sitting in the bottom six in the league in runs scored. So how are the Twins winning games?
Pitching and defense win games, and pitching is definitely getting the job done in Minnesota. The pitching staff isn’t giving up any hits, sitting top three in the bigs, but the guys who do get on base are scoring. The Twins’ pitching staff is exactly average by ERA standards at 4.21. Santana is still leading the way for Minnesota, coming off a strong preseason performance in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic. Through nine starts, Santana has been lights out with a 2.07 ERA and allowing just 4.3 hits per nine innings pitched.
Despite an overall dismal 2016 season, the Twins showed flashes of potential throughout the season. Those Twins played superior competition tough with a record of 9-10 against the American League Champion Cleveland Indians and 3-4 against the Boston Red Sox. The pieces were there, but Minnesota was lacking production.
As far as the start to this season goes, it’s still early, we’re just about a quarter of the way through the season. But the Twins have made tremendous strides toward contending for the AL Central crown in just one season if they can avoid a late-season meltdown.
Photo by Brigham Berthold