Friday, July 11, 2008

Numbers don't add up for Twins

A few times each year, I present a team summary for the Tigers showing where they rank in lots of different statistical categories. This generally gives us a fairly clear picture of team weaknesses and strengths. It works for most teams in most seasons. So let's take a look at the Twins. First their offense (among American League teams):

7th in on base base percentage
8th in slugging
8th in OPS
13th in homers
8th in stolen bases
13th in Stolen base percentage
11th in walks

So they don't get on base that much or hit for much power and they don't steal a lot of bases. But they are third in runs scored! That's because they are batting an incredible .311 with runners in scoring position (the league average is .268).

What about their pitching? The Twins always have a good bullpen. Right? Here are the numbers (among American League teams):

10th in Starting pitchers ERA
8th in bullpen ERA.

So, they aren't doing it with pitching. The Twins are not stealing bases but they are a fast team and they always stress defense so they must be doing well there. Here are the ranks (among Major League teams):

26th in Revised Zone Rating
24th on the +/- stat

Thus, they aren't fielding well either. The numbers say they have no team strengths. They are average to below average in offense, pitching and defense. But they are fifth in the league in the stat that counts: 52 wins. They are pretty good at winning close games (27-21) but not extraordinarily so. The big reason for their success seems to be their high batting average with runners in scoring position. This is something that is very difficult to maintain over a full season even for a strong offensive team. It doesn't add up. You keep thinking it can't last.

It looked like they might be finally running out of gas when they got swept by the Red Sox this week. They then went on the the road to face the Tigers, a team on a three game win streak and coming off a dramatic come back win over the Indians. But so far the magic or witchcraft continues for the long time Tigers nemesis.

The Twins came from four runs down to beat the Tigers 7-6 in 11 innings yesterday afternoon. Tonight, they edged the Tigers 3-2. They haven't even even had such great situational hitting in the series - leaving 11 on base with 6 in scoring position on Thursday and 12 on base with 6 in scoring position tonight. They just keep winning though. In a series the Tigers really needed to win, they now need to win the last two games just to split.


  1. AnonymousJuly 12, 2008

    Okay, so hopefully the Twins will come back down to earth pretty soon. I'm sick of seeing them nickel and dime their way past the Tigers.

  2. AnonymousJuly 12, 2008

    OK I'm a die hard Twins fan and here's why they've been winning: a lot of the Twins stats are dragged down by the fact that they sucked really hard forthe first month. And they are a much different team now than they were then.

    For example, Liriano and Bonser started 15 games at the beginning of the season and had like a combined 7 ERA. And we've got Hernandez who likes to be nice to opposing hitters and give them lots of very hittable stuff in the zone. The other four we have starting are pretty good right now and the Twins are able to count on them to keep them in most games.

    Nathan is a stud and the rest of the bullpen is usually good enough, though they have a tendency to implode.(See the whole Boston series and the last game the Tigers won in the Dome.)

    With the hitters, we have more dead weight from the beginning of the season. Casilla and Buscher have effectively replaced two sucking black holes in Lamb and Everett. Kubel and Young started slow, but both have been quite good since the middle of May. Strange as it is to say, Span and Punto have been on tears recently. Add that two the two constants of the M&M boys and you now have a decent lineup.

    The Twins are far from perfect, but the Tigers are old and lack pitching, the Indians are injured, the Royals are the Royals. Which leaves the Sox as the only real competition. All that adds up to a team with a legitimate chance to win the division again.

  3. Joe, Thanks for your input. Any team that is 1 1/2 out on July 12 is a legit contender. I don't think they can keep up their very high BA with RISP. I don't think they are the third best offense in the league. However, they do have some good young pitching and that should show up in the final stats by the end of the season.

    And you don't have to convince me that the Tigers are not a great team They have been a disappointment this year.


  4. AnonymousJuly 13, 2008

    In regards to the high RISP BA, I certainly don't either. I do think there is a decent chance of a lot of the improvement being permanent enough to make up for it though. We definitely need to make some moves though.

  5. AnonymousJuly 14, 2008

    The Twins have outperformed their Pythagorean record by four games.

    The team is actually in a very good situation to significantly improve in the second half, if the front office is willing to take on some salary and make some trades. Brendan Harris and Mike Lamb are HUGE offensive and defensive liabilities -- both are among the worst ten players in the majors. Trading for Mark Ellis and Adrian Beltre would provide a TEN WIN increase over a full season. And when the team finally thinks Francisco Liriano is ready, even just a 3.50 ERA from him is one to two wins better over the second half the year than what Livan Hernandez is providing.

  6. I agree that adding two players like Beltre and Ellis would help the Twins substantially. I do think they have to make some moves if they want to keep up their current pace.

  7. AnonymousJuly 14, 2008

    Also, it's not like the offense is worse than average -- you noted they're 7/8th in OBP and SLG.

    And the bullpen, while not sporting an above-average ERA, is being used quite well. The two big ERA sinks, Rincon and Bass, have LIs of .75 and .56 respectively. The two best ERAs, Nathan and Reyes, have LIs of 2.0 and 1.35 respectively. Having 2-3 guys who are lights out is WAY more important to winning than having competent 4-6th relievers.

  8. The Twins record should be behind the Tigers and we know the ChiSox collapse each second half. I really think we're in decent shape to make the playoffs. Jeez can you imagine that with the year we've had (Awful start, no Bondo, no Zumaya/Rodney 'till recently, Mags injury, Willis and Renteria becoming busts, Sheffield's hitting, and the defensive struggles from Guillen and Cabrera)?

  9. You write very well.



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