by JACK KEWITSCH
Remember last week when I said the Minnesota Twins were the epitome of being consistently inconsistent? Well, I do not know what to think of this team anymore. After writing about their rollercoaster of a season so far, they managed to tear apart one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, sweeping their division rival in Cleveland over the weekend.
Whether it was getting clutch hitting from bats not known for their production to hitting 11 home runs and pitching above average, this team did it all, looking like the world beating Bomba Squad we saw in 2019. Yet while this is the team, we all expected coming into the season, is this truly who they are? Especially with less than two weeks until the playoffs?
Yes, this is the team we have anticipated. That may make me sound hypocritical after knocking them for a lack of trades and urgency on the diamond, yet they just beat up on a great playoff team and are in the middle of facing off against the leaders of the division in the Chicago White Sox. But let us look at this from an analytical perspective as a nice 10-game stretch does not always equate to long-term success. Just ask any Twins playoff team of the last two decades.
As it stands as I am writing this, the Twins are pretty much a middling offensive team in the American League. Sure, they have hit 74 home runs, second only to the White Sox’s 78, but outside that they need to continue this hot streak. They are ranking below league average in runs per game (4.62), doubles (58), triples (2), walks (148), and on-base percentage (.319), yet are above average everywhere else. That is not too concerning when considering the pitching staff has the fourth-best ERA (3.67) and are above average in surrendering runs while striking out opponents at the third highest rate (428 Ks). But they are still in for a challenge.
While that is far from doom and gloom, this offense has been carried by only a handful of players, namely Kenta Maeda and Nelson Cruz, the latter of the two being in the running to become the first sole-designated hitter to win MVP ever. Thankfully, the winds appear to be shifting with players beginning to become healthy and getting their feet under them. However, to predict the future in baseball is a fool’s errand.
As mentioned, the Twins’ current surge is how good this team can, and should, be. But to build off that, what will it truly take to push for the top seed in the American League and make a deep postseason run? The simplest answer is consistency as mentioned last week. The in-depth answer is run support. In games where they have scored first, they are 23-9. Compare that to scoring second where they are 7-9 and it is night and day.
Now, that does not factor in how early they are scoring, just whether they score first or not. But it still shows a sharp contrast in this team’s play when they have a lead to work with. Often, they will go up first and it is a major reason this team was ideally built for a 162-game season. Yet even with that out of the picture, the Twins need to be the aggressors on offense early because it is working.
In their weekend series against the Indians, all but one of their 18 runs scored came in an at-bat where the hitter saw more than two pitches. Let me say that again. Two. Pitches. Their assertiveness this past weekend is what they did most of 2019 to great success and it seems they are back to those ways. Will they continue to do it? Who knows? But if they continue to try and get out on the front foot early and often, this team can go from consistently inconsistent to straight up consistent and title contenders. Buckle up, because these last two weeks are about to get interesting.