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Scoring Early and Scoring Often

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The Twins seem to love jumping out to big leads early and then coasting to victory. Do the numbers actually support that theory, though?

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

The Twins have been surprisingly good this season in spite of their inability to excel in any facet of the game. They're 8th in the majors in runs even though the majority of their offensive stats are in the bottom half of the league. Their pitching staff is slightly below average. Their fielding isn't great, and nevertheless we're watching one of the hottest teams in the majors.

Something that's been interesting this season has not just how the Twins have been scoring so many runs, but also when they've been scored. A friend pointed out to me that the Twins seemingly score early and then coast all the way to the end. It doesn't seem like a preferred method of scoring and winning, but the team has made it work.

Now, major league teams do typically score the most runs in the very first inning. This makes some sense, as your lineup is supposed to be optimized for the start of the game. You have some speedy and/or high OBP hitters at the top. You put some power hitters as the heart. The bottom is where you stick your worst hitters and the other spare parts that didn't fit elsewhere. In the first inning, your lineup operates in the exact order that you want, whereas you have no guarantee of that happening in any other inning. So, theoretically it makes sense and the data confirms this as well.

Inning 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th

MLB Runs per inning

(% of total)

731

(12.89%)

563

(9.93%)

642

(11.32%)

697

(12.29%)

677

(11.94%)

659

(11.62%)

648

(11.43%)

564

(9.95%)

399

(7.04%)

Source: Cleanup Hitter

You'll notice that there is a dip in the 2nd inning, but the runs scored are fairly consistent from the 3rd through 7th innings. Also, roughly 34% of all runs are scored in the first three innings, about 36% in the middle three, and about 28% in the final three.* As for the Twins... well, this is interesting.

* Numbers do not sum to 100% because of unaccounted runs scored in extra innings.

Inning 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th

MLB Runs per inning

(% of total)

23

(11.27%)

37

(18.14%)

38

(18.63%)

20

(9.8%)

16

(7.84%)

26

(12.75%)

19

(9.31%)

14

(6.86%)

7

(3.43%)

The first thing that jumped out to me was the volume of runs scored in the 2nd and 3rd innings. With the second inning in particular, the Twins are scoring nearly twice as many runs as the major league average. Also, if we cut the game into thirds, the percentages are vastly different. Remember the MLB averages for the thirds of the game were 34%, 36%, and 28%. Well, the Twins score 48% of their runs in the first third of the game, 30% in the middle third, and a mere 20% in the final third.

Explaining the outburst in the early innings isn't too difficult as the Twins lineup is extremely top-heavy. The top four regulars on the roster (in order) are Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier, Torii Hunter, and Joe Mauer. Coincidentally, the first four hitters in the lineup on a regular basis right now are Dozier, Hunter, Mauer, and Plouffe. Paul Molitor has been gifted with three above-average hitters (Mauer admittedly is merely league average right now) and he's made the right decision to give those hitters as many plate appearances as possible.

Now, I have no idea if the team will be able to keep this up. The return of Oswaldo Arcia, the hopeful return of Kennys Vargas and/or Josmil Pinto, and some resurgence from the others on the roster would theoretically even out the run scoring from this squad. But then again, maybe it won't because absolutely nothing else about this team has made sense thus far this season.