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.
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.