Stop Throwing the Twins Fastballs
Image courtesy of © Tim Heitman-USA TODAY SportsIsn’t Every Team Good Against Fastballs?
Minnesota is head and shoulders above the crowd when it comes to fastballs and looking at pitch type linear weights in relation to that pitch (wFB). According to FanGraphs, this linear weight “attempts to answer the question, ‘How well has a batter/pitcher performed against/using a certain pitch?’” Over the course of a season, this allows us to see which pitch a hitter performed best against.
As a team, the Twins have the highest wFB in all of baseball and it isn’t even close. The Dodgers and the Yankees are in a close battle for second place but Minnesota’s 100.6 wFB is almost 30 points higher. Since Target Field opened in 2010, the Twins wFB is the tenth highest compiled by a club and there are still 30+ games to add to their total.
When looking at the players responsible for Minnesota’s wFB production, there are some of the usual suspects. Nelson Cruz (23.7 wFB), Mitch Garver (16.4), Max Kepler (13.9), and Miguel Sano (13.1) all sit at the top of the team’s leaderboard. Jason Castro and Jorge Polanco are tied for fifth with 9.4 wFB. One surprise might be Luis Arraez and his 7.1 wFB since he has under 250 plate appearances at the big-league level.
Facing Big Time Heat
Minnesota also isn’t just getting away with hitting mediocre fastballs from subpar teams in the American League, because they have some of the best numbers among clubs when facing 97+ mph this year. The Twins have the best batting average, slugging percentage, and AB per XBH.
Make sure not to pass on the message but opposing pitchers and coaching staffs must not have caught on to Minnesota’s fastball tendencies. Through this weekend’s games, the Twins have seen fastballs in 26.4% of their at-bats while the MLB average is 22.0%. Mitch Garver (34.2 FB%), Miguel Sano (32.6%), Jason Castro (31.1%), Eddie Rosario (30.4%) and Max Kepler (30.1%) are all seeing fastballs at least a third of the time. The Twins also have five other regular players with a FB% above the league average.
In the Zone
Since Minnesota continues to see fastballs, it’s important that players don’t go out of the zone to chase pitches. The Twins have the fourth best Z-Swing% in all of baseball which takes the swings a team has inside the zone and divides it by pitches inside the zone. Besides swinging at pitches in the zone, Minnesota is also making a high rate of contact on those same pitches. So far this year, the Twins rank eighth in Z-Contact% with only a couple playoff-caliber teams ranked higher than them.
Statcast also gives a glimpse into how successful Twins batters have been at making consistent contact. Among players with at least 100 batted ball events, Minnesota has four players in the top-8 for barrels per plate appearance percentage (Brls/PA %). Nelson Cruz leads all of baseball with a 13.8 Brls/PA % and Jason Castro also sits in the top-5 (11.2%). Castro entered play on Monday higher on the leaderboard than Mike Trout. Miguel Sano and CJ Cron round out the top-8.
Many of the hitters mentioned above are having their best professional season and credit needs to be given to the coaching staff. Keeping James Rowson as hitting coach has certainly been one of Minnesota’s most important off-season moves. However, a hitting coach can only do so much.
To be successful in October, Minnesota’s offense is going to have to pick up some of the slack from the pitching staff. If opposing pitchers continue to relay on their fastball, Twins’ hitters are going to make them pay.
Why do you think the Twins are so successful against the fastball? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.