A Surprising Best?

If you had to guess which team in baseball had played the best overall game so far this season, who would you guess? The Yankees? The Rays? The surprising Padres? How many teams do you guess before the Twins?

The Twins host the Mariners this weekend for a three game set and while previewing that series over at a local Mariner blog, I took notice of just how good the Twins were ranked across the four team categories –hitting, defense, starting pitcher, relief pitching—that I break teams down by. By my rankings, I have the Twins as the second best offense, sixth best defense (rated by UZR) and fourth best in both starting and relief pitching. The WAR rankings here at FanGraphs agree exactly on the position players but differ slightly, to third in starting and 11th in relieving, on the pitchers. Even still, both of our rankings agree, there has been no better team in baseball this season than the Minnesota Twins.

So how come they are only 56-46 and currently out of the playoff picture? Partly they have been unlucky in allowing runs. Despite a very good defense and a home park that, while too early to tell, seems to be leaning toward pitcher friendly, the Twins have an ERA that is 17 points higher than their FIP.

On the hitting side, Minnesota has also been hurt by some unclutch performances at the plate. Their team -1.40 clutch rating is 11th worst in baseball. They have also been unlucky when it comes to turning runs into wins. According to BaseRuns, the Twins should be expected to have about a .586 winning percentage to date worth between three and four extra wins over their current record. That would put them on par with the Rangers and just a few games behind Tampa and New York, which is more in line with where they belong.

The Twins were a preseason favorite for a reason and even with the loss of Joe Nathan they have played up to the level expected of them. All that is left is for the wins and losses to catch up to the individual at bats performances.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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Bronnt
Member
Bronnt

And the loss of Joe Nathan is a great example of how relief pitchers are overvalued. The job of Joe Nathan, one of the game’s best closers, falls to Jon Rauch, who is slightly less valuable, and the whole group moves up one slot. Finding pitchers to record the last three outs of a ballgame is much less mystical than most teams and baseball announcers make it out to be.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

Only because 70% of all innings are scoreless.

Now, in a situation of 1-run lead facing a good opponent’s 2-3-4, and the situation changes. Then, you want someone with outstanding stuff and composure.

Many save opportunites just don’t require such a pitcher. Ex: Go out and shut down the 6-7-8 hitters, or the 8-9-1, with a 1-3 run lead.

IMO, elite closers are worth their stuff. But, Ryan Franklin can notch 40 saves. But can he come in and shut down the 2-3-4, with little to no margin for error.

I wonder what % of saves in this modern era could have still been recorded as saves, even if a solo home run were allowed?

Just thinking out loud, I know this can be a heavy issue. Don;t want to hijack the thread.

To the main point of the post, everything you are saying is why the regular season is so dang long. If after 162 games, the “breaks” haven’t balanced out, one has to wonder how many games it would take.

I remember some sentiment by Whitey Herzog (and I’m sure other managers) commenting on how to hang in there when things ain’t going your way, and it basically came down to “never lose more than 3 straight”. I haven’t followed the Twins closely, but they haven’t needed a 25-5 type run to be right there.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

Sorry, “half-innings”, not “innings”.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B

CC – “If after 162 games, the “breaks” haven’t balanced out, one has to wonder how many games it would take.”

“breaks” don’t balance out; if you take a balanced coin and throw 7 heads in a series of ten tosses, you shouldn’t expect to throw 7 tails in the next series of ten so that it comes back to an even 50/50 split. Over long series of tosses, one outcome or the other tends to take an early lead and stay ahead over the vast majority of the series, even though you would expect a 50/50 split over the entire series or any single trial. Same as in baseball – rotten luck early in the season doesn’t portend better luck late in the year to “make up for” the crummy luck in April and May.