With the Twins competing for a wildcard spot for the second time in the last three seasons, it appears the team is finally climbing out of that seemingly never-ending hell hole of rebuilding. It's been a long time coming, but with the right moves from the front office and continuous good play from the players, the club has a core that could be competitive for years to come.
I thought it might be fun to take a look at how far the Twins have come in their roller coaster road to relevance. So, I made some graphs to see how the club has been trending in various statistical areas to hopefully see where the team has been improving or not improving throughout the last few years of the rebuild. All stats are through play on August 31, 2017.
What I did was make a whole bunch of line graphs of statistics from the last five seasons to chart the teams progress in those statistics game by game. I picked five seasons because showing too many seasons makes the lines too garbled to actually see anything. It would be much easier to just look at season totals and be like "Yep. That there 2016 team threw way more walks than the 2015 team," but with the line graphs you can see when the team was hot/cold throughout each individual season and stuff.
To start, here's three graphs showing the most integral parts of what makes a team successful: wins, runs scored, and runs allowed. Obviously, as a baseball team you want lots of wins. What gets you those wins is scoring lots of runs and allowing not lots of runs. It's basic third grade calculus.
The Twins were improving in wins per season each season until last year's dreadful campaign, but this year the squad is right in line with the 2015 win total, which shows just how much of an outlier last year was. Runs scored has also been trending up for the most part each season since 2013. The team is on pace for the most runs scored in the last five years too. This is good.
The runs allowed chart really shows why the Twins plummeted so much in 2016. The pitching staff allowed fewer runs each season from 2013-2015, then surrendered nearly TWO HUNDRED more runs in 2016. The team was actually following right along last year's line, but has been moving more towards the 2013/2014 runs allowed total, especially over the last few games.
For the batting and pitching stats I decided to look at the three true outcomes: home runs, strikeouts, and walks. These three statistics are least influenced by things like opposing defenses, defensive shifts, and the like.
One thing that should be noted is that the league as a whole has been trending towards things like more home runs hit and more strikeouts thrown, and as such that could definitely explain the team's movement in some of these statistics. Nonetheless, it would still be good to see the team trending upwards in these stats. Not all teams have. The Tigers, for example, hit fewer home runs in 2016 than they did in 2015 despite everyone hitting home runs like it’s the 90's again.
The Twins have seen a steady trend upwards of home runs hit since 2014 and are on pace to hit the most home runs of the last five seasons. The team struck out less in each season between 2013 and 2015, but skyrocketed back to 2013 levels last year. The 2017 total is juuust a bit under last year's line, but could easily go back up to meet it.
The walks chart only shows a recent trend of walks in a season since 2015, but the most patient teams were in 2013 and 2014. Fortunately, the team not only looks to eclipse last year's walk total within a week, they also are on pace to easily have the most walks of the last five seasons.
Now it's time to get sad about pitching again. The team gave up around 150 home runs each season from 2013-2015, but then surrendered 221 last year. The team has actually been on pace for MORE home runs given up for most of this season, but now the lines have converged like two long lost lovers who ran into each other at a Starbucks after having just kind of fell out of touch.
The strikeouts graph is the most consistent. The Twins have always been terrible about striking other players out, but they've actually improved every season since 2013 and just recently passed 2016's pace. Walks have kind of been all over the place in recent years, but the team has been easily outpacing the last four seasons all year long.
So as to be expected by the team's record and just watching the team, the Twins have been playing their best baseball in recent memory this season. They're trending upwards in key statistics and if they can keep it going should definitely be a competitive team that will be a ton of fun to watch for years to come.