Where did all those runs go?

Following last night's loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Minnesota Twins have now scored 582 runs on the season, the second worst mark in the American League and 104 runs (or 15%) behind the league average. At 3.8 runs per game, the Twins are on pace to score 616 runs in 2011, or 165 runs fewer than they scored in 2010.

Obviously the Twins offense is not the only culprit behind our miserable season: even if the Twins offense were scoring runs at the league average rate, they'd still likely have a sub-.500 record (more specifically, they'd have a .445 winning percentage according to their Pythagorean expectation). That being said, we all know that the Twins can't hope to compete in 2012 without a substantially better offense.

We'll be spending countless hours discussing and debating potential solutions to the Twins offensive woes in the coming months, but I thought we could start out with some simple accounting. If, in fact, the Twins offense in scoring runs 15% below the league average, where are we losing those runs? We'll dive in after the jump:

What I want to do is break down position-by-position the Twins offense, and compare it to the average American League offense. In order to make these comparisons, we won't be dealing with actual runs scored anymore; we'll be using Bill James' Runs Created (RC) formula to estimate how many runs were created by players at each position on the team.

Catcher

Catcher

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

RC

TWINS

0.180

0.241

0.253

0.494

29.49

AL AVG

0.239

0.306

0.392

0.698

64.08

Runs Created Above (Below) Average:

(34.59)

First, let me explain the chart. The first line shows what Twins catcher produced this season. As you can see, Twins catchers "hit" .180/.241/.253 this season, good for an astonishingly bad .494 OPS and roughly 30 "runs created." Across the American League, catchers hit .239/.306/.392, creating just over 64 runs. This means that Twins catchers produced nearly 35 runs below the league average.

Anyone who has watched the Twins this season wouldn't be surprised to see how poorly Twins catchers fared in this analysis: the combination of Drew Butera, Steve Holm and Rene Rivera have accounted for 70% of the playing time at this position. This is easily the Twins worst position this season, but (fingers crossed) also the one that will prove to be the easiest fix if Joe Mauer takes over the position full-time again next season.

First Base

First Base

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

RC

TWINS

0.301

0.355

0.443

0.798

89.47

AL AVG

0.272

0.341

0.452

0.793

88.6452

Runs Created Above (Below) Average:

0.83

Despite the absence of Justin Morneau, first base has been the Twins strongest offensive position this season. In fact, it's the only position the Twins posted better than league-average production.

While this is good news, it doesn't necessarily mean good things for 2012. The vast majority of the Twins production at first came from Michael Cuddyer, who posted a .979 OPS in 170 PAs at first. Cuddyer, of course, is set to become a free agent in a matter of weeks. The rest of the positive production came from Joe Mauer and Chris Parmelee, names that no Twins fan would be happy to see as a full-time first baseman in 2012.

Second Base

Second Base

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

RC

TWINS

0.232

0.282

0.341

0.623

56.91

AL AVG

0.261

0.319

0.395

0.715

75.84

Runs Created Above (Below) Average:

(18.93)

Shortstop

Shortstop

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

RC

TWINS

0.232

0.286

0.308

0.595

50.15

AL AVG

0.265

0.321

0.385

0.706

72.84

Runs Created Above (Below) Average:

(22.69)

I combined these two positions to make a point: the Twins middle infield produced roughly 40 runs below average this season. In other words, ff the Twins were just able to field a second baseman and shortstop that could post a .700 OPS, their offense would improve by 40 runs. For the record, Orlando Hudson is currently sporting a .682 OPS playing in Petco, and JJ Hardy is sitting at .785.

Third Base

Third Base

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

RC

TWINS

0.247

0.301

0.379

0.680

60.69

AL AVG

0.245

0.313

0.391

0.704

68.67

Runs Created Above (Below) Average:

(7.97)

Despite his disappointing season, Danny Valencia has very nearly been a league-average third baseman in 2011.

Left Field

Left Field

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

RC

TWINS

0.240

0.292

0.318

0.610

51.84

AL AVG

0.252

0.314

0.393

0.707

74.04

Runs Created Above (Below) Average:

(22.20)

Eight different players have spent time in left this season, with Delmon Young and Rene Tosoni getting the vast majority (72%) of the playing time. Those eight players, combined, have failed to get on base 30% of the time, and have only hit 5 homeruns.

Center Field

Center Field

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

RC

TWINS

0.270

0.327

0.330

0.657

72.59

AL AVG

0.261

0.319

0.411

0.730

79.30

Runs Created Above (Below) Average:

(6.71)

While neither Denard Span nor Ben Revere have had monster offensive seasons, their decent on-base skills and great defense have made center field perhaps the Twins strongest position in 2011. Now we just need cross our fingers that Span comes back fully healed from his concussion.

Right Field

Right Field

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

RC

TWINS

0.267

0.333

0.424

0.757

79.45

AL AVG

0.267

0.338

0.431

0.769

85.88

Runs Created Above (Below) Average:

(6.43)

Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel have accounted for nearly 80% of the playing time in right field his season, combining to create a nearly exactly league-average right fielder. However, neither Kubel or Cuddyer have much defensive range in the outfield, limiting their overall value.

Designated Hitter

DH

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

RC

TWINS

0.237

0.327

0.419

0.746

73.59

AL AVG

0.266

0.341

0.431

0.772

81.40

Runs Created Above (Below) Average:

(7.81)

Four different players received at least 50 PAs as the Twins designated hitter this season: Jim Thome (230 PAs), Jason Kubel (160 PAs), Joe Mauer (57 PAs), and Justin Morneau (54 PAs). Of those, Thome is gone, Kubel is a free agent, Mauer will (hopefully) field a position next season, and Morneau...well, no one really knows what Morneau's role will be in 2012.

Conclusion

There is no question that the Twins offense has been terrible this season. Using this accounting, the major holes are clear:

Catcher - 35 runs below average

Middle Infield - 41 runs below average

Left Field - 22 runs below average

And, if the Twins fail to bring back Cuddyer and Kubel, you can add the other corner outfield spot to that list.

Simply finding league average talent to fill these position is critical to repairing this broken offense. Before we can get stronger, first we need to close the gaping holes at these positions. One of the Twins secrets in 2010 was finding at least league-average talent to fill long-time holes at third, short, and second. As we enter a critical off-season with the difficult challenge of rebounding from a 100-loss season, our first priority is clear: stop the bleeding.

Well, that and pray for good health.

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