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The Twins always shock us in years ending in one

Robert Hanashiro, USAT via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Minnesota Twins do wild, unexpected things in years ending in 1. Crazy, right? But it's true. I hatched this theory based on this year's disappointment, harsh memories of 2011, and of course the magnificence of 1991. Once I researched it a little, I was very surprised to find how consistent it is. In addition to the anecdotal evidence, I will back it up with truly shocking numbers.

In 1961 they went from being the Washington Senators to being the Minnesota Twins. Going from non-existence to existence is a pretty big transition.

Coming off back to back division championships, the 1971 Twins had averaged 89 wins a year, peaking at 102 in 1965 and making a World Series appearance. They won the brand new American League West division in both 1969 and 1970. 1971 seemed to be the year they would win their third division championship in a row and move forward in the playoffs, which will become a recurring motif.

Even with Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and should-be Hall of Famer Tony Oliva returning to a powerful lineup, they shed 24 wins from the previous season to go 74-86. They finished 5th in a division of 6 teams.

Several years of futility and injuries followed. No one expected the team to be great or even good in 1981, but this season was arguably the Twins' worst. The 1981 squad officially became the worst when they won (lost?) the very enjoyable, simulated, worst Twins team ever contest last year at this very site. (link: https://www.twinkietown.com/2020/12/24/22195637/worst-all-time-twins-tournament-nishioka-round-game-7-mickey-haefner-good-time-tonight-sammy-meeks)

Also, there was the strike, which made 1981 a weird, outlier year, but that was for all teams, not just the Twins. I will concede that the 1981 Twins being mediocre was not a particularly surprising result and this particular year ending in 1 is more in the "exception that proves the rule" category. However…

1991! What else do I have to say? Jack Morris and Kirby Puckett led the Twins to victory in the greatest World Series of all time. The Twins confounded expectations by adding 21 wins compared to 1990. Atlanta, their opponent in the series, had added 29 wins compared to 1990. Is there any other World Series where the teams had added a combined 50 wins from the previous season? I daresay probably not.

Several years of futility and injuries followed, but in 2001 the Twins once again turned things around. They had their first winning record since 1992, adding 16 wins over Y2K, and we got our first good, long look at the "Get to know 'em" core of Hunter, Cuddyer, Radke, Guardado, etc. that would help take the Twins through 6 AL Central Championships in 10 years.

In 2011, coming off back to back division championships, no one expected the wheels to fall off the Mauer-Morneau-Thome train but goodness, did they ever. The economics of Target Field were supposed to take the perennial AL Central contenders deeper into the playoffs, but instead they did not truly contend again until 2019.

In 2021, coming off back to back division championships (which should set off alarm bells in your head if you've read this far) no one expected the wheels to fall off, but this year's shambling, injury-riddled mess could prove to be one of the most surprising and disappointing squads ever.

Holy smokes, you're just as surprised as I was, but yes! Years ending in 1 are highly transitional, confounding, and surprising for the Minnesota Twins. And I just used an Oxford comma at a sportsball website!

So here's hoping the Twins stink up 2030 so they can confound expectations and finally make it back to a World Series Championship in 2031!

Oh, right! I promised numbers. This is a long road down a rabbit hole, but I’ve enjoyed some of those on this website. Here’s the briefest possible explanation of what I did.

I compared the change in win percentage from each year in Twins history to the next (excluding 1961, since 0 to .438 would skew the numbers, and excluding 2021, since it’s not technically over yet). I added up the absolute values of the win percentage changes based on the final digit of each year and divided by the number of years with that final digit. Even given the anecdotal evidence above, I was shocked to find these rather extreme numbers:

Years ending in 1 have nearly twice as large of an average change in winning percentage than the next largest change of winning percentage for years ending in any other digit. The average winning percentage change in a year ending in 1 is .133, or about 22 games in a 162 game season. The next largest, years ending in 6, has an average change of .081, or around 13 games in a 162 game season.

This seems insane! Yet there it is. What possible explanation can there be for this? Does Twins baseball just go in a ten year cycle of decades that turn down, down, up, up, down, down? If so, like I said, bring on 2031!