Last year, the Twins were terrible in nearly all facets of the game. However, one lone bright spot was the offense, as the Twins actually generated the 7th most runs in the majors, partially thanks to taking more walks than all but one team (Athletics) last year. They mixed in some league-average power and above-average batting average to get the carousel running each game.
This year, the Twins are not drawing walks (21st in the league). They are not hitting for power (23rd in ISO, tied for 19th in SLG). Their batting average is admittedly good (10th) but the all-encompassing offensive stats wOBA and wRC+ (both weight different batting events based on the number of runs they generate or eliminate) have the Twins rated at 21st and 19th, respectively. If you want something a little less stat-heavy, OPS puts the Twins at 18th. Excluding the batting average, this is not a good offensive team.
And yet the Twins have scored the 8th most runs in the league.
We've seen plenty of high-scoring games ever since the Twins got over their 1-6 hangover to start the season. So, what gives? How can a team that's roughly below-average in every other offensive stat be so good? Well, it turns out that the team has one huge gulf between their performance with the bases empty and when there are runners on base.
I suppose you could argue about how clutch the team is, but this extends beyond runners in scoring position. Simply put, the team has trouble getting runners on base. But, once they get aboard, the team finds another gear and they do not stop until they are content.
First, they have been putrid with nobody on base. Doing some digging netted me these numbers: .239/.283/.359, or a .643 OPS that rates at 23rd in MLB. The current league average is .241/.302/.384 with a .685 OPS, so it's plain to see that the offense has trouble getting started.
But when it gets started, watch out. Once a man occupies a base, the team has generated a .288/.356/.411 triple-slash with a 12th-ranked OPS of .767. Admittedly, twelfth doesn't sound all that impressive, but then you can factor in how often the team has hit with runners on base. When it comes to at-bats (unfortunately ESPN doesn't list plate appearances), the Twins have had the 7th-most when a runner is on base.
If you look at performance with runners in scoring position, the offense becomes even better. In these situations, the Twins have been putting up a .308/.386/.443 clip that gives them an .829 OPS, good for 5th in the league. As for at-bats with runners in scoring position, the team has had the fifth-most. So, combining many opportunities with success is a good formula to generating runs.
Whether the team can keep this up for the whole season has yet to be seen. Typically teams do perform better when runners are on base and with runners in scoring position, but I don't think they usually improve as significantly as the Twins have in these situations. I figure that everything will even out a bit, but even if they do, I think the inevitable addition of Miguel Sano sometime this summer will keep the offense on track.