The Twins have exceeded expectations for the season. A team that lost 103 games last season and finished 35.5 behind the Central Division Champs Cleveland Indians is suddenly in a playoff hunt.
The Twins have exceeded expectations for the season. A team that lost 103 games last season and finished 35.5 behind the Central Division Champs Cleveland Indians is suddenly in a playoff hunt. The Twins flaunt a 72-67 record in the final month of the 162 game season. Although they currently sit 11 games behind Cleveland for the division lead, Minnesota leads the Los Angeles Angels for the second place wild card by half a game. Looking at the numbers, the Twins probably have a better chance of making the postseason than the pessimists think.
If you are confused as to why the Twins are in this position, you are not alone. The Twins are ninth in the league in batting average at .257. Their pitching, which includes the ancient Bartolo Colon sits around the back of the pack at 11th in the American League with a team ERA of 4.66.
The one thing keeping them in this pennant race is the fact that they score runs. Minnesota scores the fifth most runs of any team in the AL and ninth in all of baseball.
The Twins’ production comes mainly comes from the power of Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano who have hit 29 and 28 home runs respectively. Eddie Rosario has totaled 20 long balls and Byron Buxton provides some pop in the bat along with incredible speed. Joe Mauer contributes as well, but the power is not there any more despite Mauer leading the team in batting average with .302.
Not to be overlooked, the Twins own the third best fielding percentage in the American League.
The Twins definitely do not struggle to score runs. The problem lies with runs surrendered. The Twins give up more runs than they score with a run differential of negative four.
Explosive games in which 10-plus runs cross the plate serves as an exciting experience for the fans, but in the long run, the inability to consistently score can hurt a team.
In the AL wild card standings, there are the Yankees leading the pack with a 2.5 game lead above the Twins who are in the second spot. After the Twins, there are six teams all within three games of each other. In all honesty, the Yankees will probably earn the first spot and host the one game playoff. There are a few reasons why the Twins cannot be in that one game playoff, but perhaps not enough to keep them out of October baseball for the first time since 2010.
Take a look at all the teams chasing Minnesota. First is the Angels half a game behind the Twins. The Angels are an interesting case because every year on paper, they look as if they will steamroll to the playoffs. But it just never happens for them. The last time the Angels made the playoffs was in 2015 where they were demolished by the eventual AL Champs, Kansas City Royals.
This season, the Angels are 12th in the league in hitting. The only reason they have a chance at the postseason is because their team ERA is sixth. They do also have a player by the name of Mike Trout and their run differential scores slightly above the Twins at plus-10.
Next are the surging Orioles one game behind Minnesota. Baltimore was on the outside looking in for most of the season until a seven game winning streak at the end of August put them right in the mix.
A run differential of negative-25 should be a cause for concern especially for a team that ranks 12th in the American League in ERA. The Orioles hit the second most home runs in all of baseball only two behind the Texas Rangers. But home runs come in streaks and when they stop, so will the Orioles’ runs.
The team the Twins should worry the most about catching them comes from the deep south , the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers trail Minnesota by two games and represent a booming plus-42 run differential. As previously mentioned, they hit more homers than any other team in baseball which can explain why they score the third most runs in baseball. Texas’ team ERA of 4.48 only puts them in seventh in the AL.
The Rangers owned the best record in the AL last season before being swept by Toronto in the ALDS. With Houston taking that crown this season, the only hope Texas has of making the postseason is the wild card.
The Rangers are comprised of a number of players who are familiar with the experience of a playoff push. Whereas with the Twins, the experience does not match up with the exception of Mauer.
Keep in mind though, the Rangers are without their star Adrian Beltre for most likely the rest of the season. This puts a gaping hole in a team only one game over .500.
After Texas comes the Kansas City Royals, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Seattle Mariners at 2.5, three and 3.5 games behind the Twins. Despite being within striking distance, I have essentially issued the dagger to these clubs.
Kansas City gives up 70 more runs than they scored and that just does not equal a playoff team.
The Rays’ run differential is technically better than Minnesota’s at zero, but if a team is still struggling to be .500 this late in the season, they more times than not do not make October.
The biggest threats to the Twins missing the playoffs this year are the Angels and the Rangers. The Angels because they managed to hold their own without Mike Trout earlier this season and now he is back repping a .324 batting average and a ..463 on base percentage. The Rangers could do it because of the amount of runs they score, but continuing that surge without one of their best bats could prove to be difficult.
The best thing the Twins can do now is get their record to 10 games above .500. No team since the second wild card was introduced in 2012 has earned the second spot with a record worse than 10 games over .500. Right now, the Twins are five games above the mark. The Yankees are 10 over and appear to be in the driver’s seat.
For those waiting for Minnesota to collapse, it might be best to lose that mentality. If a collapse were to happen, it would have happened already as there are 23 games left in a six month season.
Then there comes the crowd that claims if the Twins were to make the playoffs, they would lose immediately, getting all the fans’ hopes up for nothing.
Anybody can win one game against any team. The one game playoff, although too reliant on luck for a sport based on long term success, gives anyone a chance to advance further in the postseason. Ervin Santana starting a one game playoff creates a very favorable scenario.
For those that say the road would end in the ALDS due to the lackluster starting rotation, remember, the Indians were one run away from a World Series crown with practically one starting pitcher and a number of injuries.
Just because the Twins front office gave up on the season when they traded All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler and starting pitcher Jaime Garcia after making one start does not mean the fans have to.