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Championship Window Update: What can 2019 tell us about 2020?

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Photo by JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, I looked at some peripheral stats that seemed to add up to a pennant winner, and found the 2019 Twins short in multiple categories. In this article, I’ll be looking at some things that teams had in common the year before they won the pennant, and see what the 2019 Twins indicate about the 2020 Twins.

This article will focus on five categories, all from the year prior to winning the pennant: Wins, 5-WAR players, 3-WAR players, 125 ERA+ starting pitchers, and 150 ERA+ relievers. You can find the full chart, with thirteen categories and twenty-two teams to draw data from, here, as well as some graphs derived from the data here. I’ll again give you the total average, an average from 2009-2015, and an average from 2016-2019, as the averages in some categories have dramatically changed since tanking became popular.

Wins (Prior Year)

AVG: 87.62

Pre-2015 AVG: 85.71

Post-2015 AVG: 91.43

2020 Twins: 101

From this category, we can draw a pretty solid conclusion that pennant winners are likely to have been solidly above .500 in the year prior. Only three of the teams I studied were below .500 in the previous season, and only one of them fell below 75 wins. This is an area where there has been a marked jump between the two averages, as the increase in tanking teams has made for less parity. The Twins, however, are in excellent position as far as this criteria is concerned.

5-WAR Players (Year Prior)

AVG: 1.62

Pre-2015 AVG: 1.43

Post-2015 AVG: 2.00

2020 Twins: 1

The roster construction categories across the board have basically seen a rise in quality talent, and this category is no different. The Twins fall in a little bit below average on this one, although they do have plenty of room for growth with a young roster. They also had a few players come close to the benchmark aside from Polanco, who cracked it.

3-WAR Players (Year Prior)

AVG: 4.90

Pre-2015 AVG: 4.86

Post-2015 AVG: 5.00

2020 Twins: 8

The Twins had one of the deepest lineups in the league in 2019, and with most of the same players returning, they should be able to have excellent depth once again in 2020. They measure up excellently against the other recent pennant winners in this category.

125 ERA+ Starting Pitchers (Year Prior)

AVG: 1.38

Pre-2015 AVG: 1.21

Post-2015 AVG: 1.71

2020 Twins: 1

This is an interesting category, as the post-2015 average jumps from 1.71 all the way to 3.00 between year-prior and year-of for pennant winners. This is a direct result of teams going “all-in” and signing or trading for top-of-the-line starters for the playoff push. The Twins fall a little short of the average here, but considering that Berrios was thisclose to the mark in 2019, they measure up well enough.

150 ERA+ Relief Pitchers (Year Prior)

AVG: 2.38

Pre-2015 AVG: 2.50

Post-2015 AVG: 2.14

2020 Twins: 3

Everyone knows that you need some elite relievers to succeed in 2019. Everyone also gripes about the Twins bullpen (generally). However, the Twins bullpen had an above-average number of excellent arms in 2019, and if they add to that they’ll have quite an imposing presence in the late innings.

In conclusion, the Twins look to be in an excellent position to crank open their championship window in 2020. They check off all the prior-year criteria (I’m counting near-misses in 2 categories), and the front office has indicated that they will be aggressive in adding to the current roster this off-season. I’m excited to see what next year has in store.

I’ll likely take an updated look at the 2020 squad’s chances once the roster is set and Opening Day is near, so keep an eye out for that!