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Twins’ hot start fueled by balanced effort

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The Twins have been one of baseball’s best on both sides of the ball

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins
Eddie Rosario has been one of the steadier offensive contributors for the Twins thus far.
Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Through Saturday’s games, the Minnesota Twins’ .750 winning percentage is tied for the Chicago Cubs for second-best in baseball, trailing only the New York Yankees, who have played in one less game.

Their run differential of +20 is second-best in the league as well, behind just the Los Angeles Dodgers’ mark of +27.

But the Twins haven’t won in just one way. Their last five games, four of which the Twins won, have all finished with a margin of three runs or less. Last weekend in Chicago, however, the games weren’t nearly as close: wins with scores of 10-5 and 14-2 and a 10-3 loss.

With the season just over a week old, the Twins sit near the top of the league in a few categories. What was perhaps not to be expected, however, is that the pitching numbers are actually far more impressive than the offense.

  • Runs allowed per game: 2.88 (4th in MLB)
  • ERA: 2.92 (5th)
  • Strikeouts per 9 innings: 9.3 (9th)
  • WHIP: 1.113 (9th)
  • WAR by pitchers: 0.5 (5th)

Twins pitchers have been solid yet not dominant; the walk rate and strikeout-to-walk ratios are okay but not as impressive as the overall run prevention. In part, this is in line with the observation by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel (ESPN Plus subscription required) that the Twins haven’t exactly improved their pitching staff through ramping up their velocity — although this is hardly Gardy’s motley pitch-to-contact crew of a decade ago. In fact, it’s another example of the diversity of the Twins’ attack on both sides of the ball.

While Jose Berrios is the only starting pitcher with a significantly above-average fastball in terms of velocity, healthy versions of Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda will eventually bump the team’s average velocity up slightly. Homer Bailey and Randy Dobnak will balance that out a bit.

In the bullpen, McDaniel conveniently mentions relative soft-tossers Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard but leaves out the likes of Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, and Taylor Rogers, who will all increase the team’s average fastball delivery as they are used more frequently in higher-leverage situations.

Again, the Twins have a balanced pitching attack with hurlers of varying skillsets and approaches. Thus far, it’s been largely effective.

Offensively, the numbers aren’t overwhelming, but they are solid.

  • Runs per game: 5.38 (8th)
  • Home runs: 15 (T-1st)
  • Slugging percentage: .440 (8th)
  • OPS: .746 (10th)
  • OPS+: 109 (11th)

The Twins are right at league-average in batting average and slightly below in on-base percentage, but their slugging has elevated their offense into the league’s top-10 nonetheless.

In fact, most of the Twins’ individual hitters have OPS marks under .700. Only Marwin Gonzalez, Alex Avila, Eddie Rosario, and Nelson Cruz have had above-average individual seasons so far, and Gonzalez (five starts) and Avila (three starts) have been part-time players. Miguel Sano and Max Kepler have combined for eight total hits between them, and five of them have been solo home runs.

In other words, the Twins offense has far from reached it’s peak, yet it’s decidedly above-average with plenty of upside yet untapped. Coupled with a revamped and diverse pitching attack and an improved defense, the Twins have hardly scratched the surface of their true potential, yet they’re one of the best three teams in the majors.

The sky truly is the limit for this year’s edition of the Minnesota Twins.