You want to know what’s fun when a team unexpectedly starts winning? People start to notice. With their come-from-behind victory last night over Cleveland, the Twins now have reduced their magic number to a single game, meaning that their worst-case scenario now involves a Game 163 before potentially advancing to the Wild Card game. It’s getting to the point where we’re wondering what we should think if they win the World Series. I mean, of course us Twins fans would be beyond pumped if the Twins managed to bring home trophy #3, but how would the rest of MLB fans feel if the Twins went from utterly terrible last season to world champions the next? (Hint: They should be happy for us.)
How did the Twins suddenly become good again? Well, that’s both easy and difficult to explain. Of course the team is better in all facets of the game, but here I’m going to focus on just the offense. Last year’s offense wasn’t great as its 95 wRC+ ranked 19th. This year, the Twins are currently tied with four other teams in 5th place with a wRC+ of 102. Improvement is always good.
When we talk about a team’s makeup, there’s often two methods we discuss: Stars and Scrubs, and the Balanced roster. The names are pretty self-explanatory in that the former has just a couple top-level players while everyone else is underwhelming, while the latter means that no one excels but there aren’t any holes in the lineup, either. The 2016 Twins were the Stars and Scrubs model. Well, more like Star and Scrubs, as Brian Dozier had a 5.8 fWAR and everyone else was at or below 1.7 fWAR.
2016 Twins Position Players (Min. 300 PAs)
Meanwhile, the 2017 Twins are a completely different team. Quite a few names in the table above struggled last year, but there has been a collective improvement across the board. While Dozier did regress a bit, the rest of the team has more than made up the difference as the team has evolved into the Balanced squad.
2017 Twins Position Players (Min. 300 PAs)
Even with some of those low wRC+ values this season, it’s important to note that just about everyone on the team has been hitting better in the second half of the season. While no player necessarily strikes fear in the way that Aaron Judge, Jose Ramirez, or Cody Bellinger does, there aren’t many weaknesses, either (beyond Kepler facing a lefthanded pitcher). That could possibly be an explanation as to why the Twins have put together a winning ballclub even though numbers such as Pythagorean Win Expectancy see the Twins are being closer to a .500 team; perhaps they’ve just been successful at sequencing and stringing together baserunners thanks to the lack of a significant hole anywhere in the lineup.
This Twins team has been fun to watch and we know they’re guaranteed at least one additional game after Sunday. Hopefully they’ll be able to string some walks and hits together when they go to New York so they advance to the Divisional Round against Cleveland.