The Twins as the Orioles

In recent weeks, Dave Cameron and Jeff Sullivan have written about why the Minnesota Twins are unlikely to be the first-place Minnesota Twins much longer. Paul Molitor’s team is 31-21 (pending the outcome of today’s game), but for reasons outlined in the articles, a descent in the standings – possibly a steep one – is imminent.

Unless it isn’t. What if they continue to outperform their expectations and their peripherals? What if the Twins are this year’s Orioles?

There are similarities. Baltimore has made an art form out of winning close games and confounding skeptics, and that’s what Minnesota has been doing. Neither team is star-laden or in possession of an ace. Each has a manager whose attention to detail is borderline obsessive.

I brought up the Orioles comp to Molitor before today’s game, expecting him to pooh-pooh it. Instead, he lent credence to the idea that his team is somewhat akin to last season’s surprise AL East champs.

“I haven’t tried to compare how our club has been constructed, or how it’s playing, to other teams,” said Molitor. “But if I reflect on Baltimore last year, and the success they had, along with some really good players they match up well and aren’t a team that beats themselves. Buck is obviously one of the brighter managers in the game.”

Showalter shrewdly melds old-school and new-school, and Molitor is cut from the same cloth. The Twins skipper “believes in the gut now and then,” but stresses it is “foolish to ignore” analytic data. The team began shifting more last year when he joined the coaching stuff, and this season has seen an increase in both total shifts and effectiveness.

As for the Twins having won 11 one-run games and six two-run games, both Molitor and his stat-geek closer see reasons that sustainability could be plausible.

“Part of it is giving yourself a chance to win by having the right people in the right place,” said Molitor. “That’s whether it’s defensive metrics or the right pitchers at the right time. There is also the intangible of the makeup of your players and them knowing how to respond when games are on the line.”

“I know that our numbers don’t match our record, but every season there is a team that does something out of the ordinary,” said Glen Perkins, who leads the AL with 20 saves. “An example is the Cardinals when they set the record for (batting average) with runners in scoring position. They were probably a 90-win team and ended up being close to a 100-win team because they got hits when they needed to get hits. The regression didn’t happen as fast as it maybe could have, should have, would have, whatever. Actually, they didn’t regress.”

The 2015 Twins? Yes, they are likely to regress. Until they do, they’re a little like the Orioles, with a splash of Cardinals thrown in, and a fan base that can’t help but dream.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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8 years ago

I like how smart Perkins is.

8 years ago
Reply to  frivoflava29

He’s smart, but he’s also informed. It’s especially fun because he’s a closer, who can’t gameplan like a starting pitcher and has to expect to come in to face some arbitrary point in the order. I’d love to know what he studies about the players on the opposing team at the start of each series, and what he reviews about his own performance.