FanPost

Disappointing start compared to past Twins starts?

 

The 2011 Major League Baseball season is just over a week old. I started writing but had to stop myself from ranting about the Twins’ poor start. Minnesota’s record after three series is 3-6. I know. They’ve only played nine games of a 162-game season. However, I think I’m justified in my anger. The Twins are batting .214 as a team and have only hit three homeruns, while allowing thirteen. And most Twins’ fans are anxious to see what this lineup can really do. Again, I try to remind myself that the first few games aren’t going to weigh much after 162 games have been completed, but obviously these games do factor into the final win and loss totals. To better understand the impact that Twins’ season starts have on their finish, I decided to compile their records after three series since Gardenhire took over as manager and compare those to the final record. I also threw in the two World Series seasons. This is what I came up with:

Season

First Three Opponents

Record After 3 Series

Final Record

Division Finish

1987

OAK, SEA, OAK

7-2 (.778)

85-77 (.525)

Champions

1991

OAK, CAL, SEA

2-7 (.222)

95-67 (.586)

Champions

2002

KC, TOR, CLE

5-5 (.500)

94-67 (.584)

Champions

2003

DET, TOR, NYY

3-6 (.333)

90-72 (.556)

Champions

2004

CLE, DET, CLE

5-4 (.556)

92-70 (.568)

Champions

2005

SEA, CWS, DET

6-3 (.667)

83-79 (.512)

Third Place

2006

TOR, CLE, OAK

4-5 (.444)

96-66 (.593)

Champions

2007

BAL, CWS, NYY

5-3 (.625)

79-83 (.488)

Third Place

2008

LAA, KC, CWS

4-5 (.444)

88-75 (.540)

Second Place

2009

SEA, CWS, TOR

4-7 (.364)

87-76 (.537)

Champions

2010

LAA, CWS, BOS

7-3 (.700)

94-68 (.580)

Champions

2011

TOR, NYY, OAK

3-6 (.333)

?

?

 

What do these numbers show? The two seasons where the Twins went on to win the World Series started in different ways. One of them had seven wins in nine games; the other, seven losses in nine games. Oddly, the season with the good start ended with ten less wins than the season with the poor start. When we fast forward to the Gardy Regime, we see that the only year the Twins’ winning percentage after three series prefigured their final percentage—relatively—was in 2004. The last time the Twins were off to as bad a start as this year, in 2003, they went on to win their division anyway. (Interestingly, their record at that point is identical to their 2011 record so far. These two years are the only seasons in this period that they played both the Blue Jays and the Yankees as two of their first three series. In fact, Minnesota has not been able to go over .500 in any season where they face Toronto as one of their first three opponents. However, each time the Blue Jays are one of the first three, the Twins have won their division.) They have been over .600 after three series just three times since Gardy took over. Two of those times, the Twins ended in third place in the AL Central, their worst finishes in this span. One of those times, the season ended with a record below .500, the only losing season in the Gardenhire era. From 2002 through 2010, they have been .500 or worse after three series on five different occasions. They have ended as division champions at the end of each of these seasons, with one exception: 2008. This is the year they were tied with the White Sox after 162 games, only to lose 1-0 in the one game playoff.

I'm adding a graph with the team batting average and average runs scored per game (because not all of the series were three games, so it'll be easier to compare). 

 

After First Three Series

At Season’s End

Season

Team Batting Average

Average Runs Scored per Game

Record

Team Batting Average

Average Runs Scored per Game

Record

2002

.274

4.8

5-5 (.500)

.272

4.8

94-67 (.584)

2003

.218

2.7

3-6 (.333)

.277

4.9

90-72 (.556)

2004

.305

6.7

5-4 (.556)

.266

4.8

92-70 (.568)

2005

.286

5.2

6-3 (.667)

.259

4.2

83-79 (.512)

2006

.267

5.3

4-5 (.444)

.287

4.9

96-66 (.593)

2007

.244

3.5

5-3 (.625)

.264

4.4

79-83 (.488)

2008

.270

3.9

4-5 (.444)

.279

5.1

88-75 (.540)

2009

.241

3.5

4-7 (.364)

.274

5

87-76 (.537)

2010

.273

4.8

7-3 (.700)

.273

4.8

94-68 (.580)

2011

.214

2.7

3-6 (.333)

?

?

?

Notice how similar the Twins' 2003 start is to this year's. That 2003 team really turned things around and ended up having one of the best seasons under Gardenhire. Although it's uncommon, sometimes a start does reflect the finish. For example, look at last year's numbers.

What does all this prove? Well, the point really is that there is no point. Even though the beginning and the end are often the most memorable parts of a season, the first few games are too small a window to be able to foreshadow the remainder of the season. A baseball season consists of ups and downs for every team, a constant roller coaster. Furthermore, even what the 2002 through 2010 seasons show are most likely nothing but coincidences. We can appreciate that when we look at the contrary starts to the two World Series years. As we all understand, the first nine games of April tell little about what the final outcome will be in September. So Twins’ fans, rest assured. Your team will start to come together sooner or later.

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