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Twins Week in Review: 6/21-27
Welcome to The Minnesota Twins Week in Review. Every Monday, we’ll take a deep dive into the week that was for your Twins. We will post on Mondays, and look back from the previous Monday to Sunday since that’s how MLB lines up its schedule.
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And now, let’s talk to it:
Record: 3-2, .600 (t-14th) — 3-2 at home, 0-0 on the road
Current Fangraphs Record Projection: 78-84, .474 (3rd place, no change)
Current Fangraphs Division Chances: 2.1 percent (+0.5 percent)
Current Fangraphs Playoff Chances: 2.9 percent (+0.4 percent)
Baseball Prospectus PECOTA Record Projection: 82-80 (3rd place, -1 win)
Baseball Prospectus Division Chances: 10.5 percent (-2.4 percent)
Baseball Prospectus Playoff Chances: 12.5 percent (-3.7 percent)
Baseball Prospectus Adjusted Playoff Chances: 11.3 percent (-3.2 percent)
FiveThirtyEight Record Projection: 76-86 (3rd place, +1 win)
FiveThirtyEight Division Chances: 2.0 percent (no change)
FiveThirtyEight Playoff Chances: 3.0 percent (+1.0 percent)
What more is there to say? Even with a decent week, the Twins are running out of time. They won’t play another game against a non-divisional foe until July 22, so a blazing hot stretch can make up a lot of ground. But…is there any reason to believe such a stretch can occur?
Hitting (with rankings)
Batting Average: .271 (6th)
On-Base Percentage: .347 (8th)
Slugging Percentage: .486 (2nd)
OPS: .833 (4th)
wOBA: .352 (6th)
wRC+: 124 (6th)
K%: 20.7 percent (6th)
BB%: 9.9 percent (15th)
Runs Per Game: 6.20 (1st)
Batting Average (w/ RISP): .262 (12th)
Average Exit Velocity: 90.2 mph (4th)
FINALLY. Finally, the offense looks like I thought it could — and has done so even without Byron Buxton. The Twins don’t really strike out, have hit the ball hard and are taking enough walks to make pitchers pay when they aren’t finding the strike zone.
This is what the Twins are going to have to do week in and week out to return to relevance by the end of the summer. It won’t be easy, but they’ve done it in short bursts without Buxton — so things should be on the upswing once he eventually returns, which is hopefully out of the All-Star break.
A handful of Twins had really, really nice offensive weeks. Here are the players who had at least 15 plate appearances and a wRC+ of 100 or better:
Josh Donaldson - 188
Nelson Cruz - 162
Luis Arraez - 161
Alex Kirilloff - 137
Jorge Polanco - 104
Ryan Jeffers - 100
Ideally, the lineup will be adding Mitch Garver again sometime in the (somewhat) near future, and again, adding Buxton hopefully after the break should give the Twins a chance to remain relevant into the deadline.
That’s still quite a bit to ask, but the offense is built to do that — and having Cruz and Donaldson lead the way is exactly what they’re paid to do.
Starting Pitching (with rankings)
IP: 23.0 (27th)
IP/GS: 4.60 (23rd)
Pitches/Start: 83.2 (19th)
ERA: 4.30 (21st)
FIP: 5.62 (27th)
xFIP: 4.52 (20th)
SIERA: 4.29 (15th)
K/9: 9.39 (13th)
K%: 24.0 percent (16th)
BB/9: 3.52 (17th)
BB%: 9.0 percent (16th)
K-BB%: 15.0 percent (15th)
WHIP: 1.39 (26th)
Groundball Rate: 36.4 percent (25th)
Opponent Batting Average: .253 (23rd)
Opponent On-Base Percentage: .320 (22nd)
Opponent Slugging Percentage: .484 (26th)
Opponent OPS: .804 (25th)
Average Exit Velocity Allowed: 88.8 mph (17th)
How one views this week will likely hinge on which ERA estimator they like. SIERA? Not bad. xFIP? A little worse. FIP? Well, better cover your eyes on that one.
Drawing any meaningful conclusion from five games is a fool’s errand, but it’s at least worth noting the Twins have gotten better with the strikeouts. They’re not allowing insanely hard contact, nor are they walking a ton of batters, but they’re still toeing the line of how much a great offense can help over-balance a rough starting rotation.
Bailey Ober’s strikeout prowess in place of Matt Shoemaker has certainly helped, but it’s also hard to know how much longer that can go on.
The Twins are a fly-balling group who allow too many baserunners and too high of a slugging percentage. Worse yet, there isn’t much of a path to improve the pitching staff outside of overpaying on what’s bound to be a scant, but competitive trade market.
Relief Pitching (with rankings)
IP: 25.0 (9th)
Innings Per Game: 5.00 (2nd)
Pitches Per Game: 79.8 (5th)
ERA: 4.32 (18th)
FIP: 4.99 (28th)
xFIP: 4.06 (13th)
SIERA: 4.80 (27th)
K/9: 5.76 (30th)
K%: 15.5 percent (30th)
BB/9: 3.96 (18th)
BB%: 10.7 percent (23rd)
K-BB%: 4.9 percent (30th)
WHIP: 1.24 (12th)
Groundball Rate: 57.5 percent (1st)
Opponent Batting Average: .222 (12th)
Opponent On-Base Percentage: .311 (11th)
Opponent Slugging Percentage: .333 (t-11th)
Opponent OPS: .644 (12th)
Inherited Runners: 8 (14th)
Inherited Runners Scored: 4 (t-25th)
Inherited Runners Scored Percentage: 50.0 percent (t-26th)
Average Exit Velocity Allowed: 88.3 mph (21st)
So…none of this really makes sense, right? First of all, it’s probably not good to have more innings from your bullpen than rotation, I don’t think.
Second of all, none of the batted-ball stuff matches up with the paucity of strikeouts paired with subpar strikeout rates, right?
So how did Twins relievers allow just a line of .222/.311/.333 last week, then? They didn’t exactly have a lot of soft contact.
My thoughts are that first of all, they started inducing grounders like crazy (No. 1 rate in baseball) and paired it with just a .236 BABIP. Donaldson, Simmons and Polanco have been playing some pretty strong infield defense, and Kirilloff seems to do a fairly strong job at first base as well.
Will the Twins continue to get grounders out of their bullpen? I’m not sure.
When we look at groundball rates for the relief corps last week, they’re absolutely off-the-charts bonkers:
Matt Shoemaker - 100 percent GB rate in 3.0 IP
Tyler Duffey - 100 percent GB rate in 1.2 IP
Alex Colome - 90.0 percent GB rate in 2.2 IP
Taylor Rogers - 55.6 percent GB rate in 2.1 IP
Hansel Robles - 55.6 percent GB rate in 2.0 IP
Griffin Jax - 50.0 percent GB rate in 4.1 IP
Now obviously we’re dealing with small sample sizes and numbers that are obscenely high, but if the bullpen can continue to skate by with higher groundball rates than the rotation has, there could be room for marked improvement in their performance moving forward — again, especially with the infield defense shaping up as it has.
All research is done via Sportradar’s r360, Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs unless otherwise noted.
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