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Twins Have Managed Just Fine Without Sano in the Past

Baseball is a team game. No one position player can have that much of an impact on a game. I would never suggest that the Twins are somehow better without Miguel Sano than they would be with him. Still, there's no denying there are some interesting trends in how they've done without him in the lineup over the years.
Image courtesy of © Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Sano made his major league debut in 2015. From that season forward, the Twins have actually been much better in games he doesn't start than they have been in games where he's in the lineup. This is especially true of the past two seasons. Check out the year-by-year numbers:

28-42 (.400) in Sano starts
50-42 (.543) otherwise

56-54 (.509) in Sano starts
29-23 (.558) otherwise

43-71 (.377) in Sano starts
16-32 (.333) otherwise

40-38 (.513) in Sano starts
43-41 (.512) otherwise

The team was slightly better with Sano his first two seasons but has been significantly worse with him in the lineup over the most recent two years. By the way, the numbers above are all courtesy of Baseball-Reference, where you can find team record in appearances stats on a player's game logs.

Add it all up and the Twins have been an even .500 without Sano in the starting lineup, 138-138. Meanwhile, they've been 167-205 (.449 winning percentage) in games he's started. Even with this data in mind, I still refuse to believe the Twins are better off without Sano, but I do think we can confidently say this 2019 team can win without him. They've done it in the past.

What about how the Twins have fared with and without some of the other players over that same time frame? Check this out:

Twins 2015-19
230-243 (.486) in Eddie Rosario starts
75-100 (.429) otherwise

138-142 (.493) in Byron Buxton starts
167-201 (.454) otherwise

Twins since 2016-19
173-201 (.463) in Max Kepler starts
49-63 (.438) otherwise

131-134 (.494) in Jorge Polanco starts
91-130 (.412) otherwise

Again, baseball is a team game, but these are some pretty interesting numbers to look at. The Twins have been significantly better with Rosario, Buxton, Kepler and Polanco in the starting lineup but significantly worse with Sano. Here's all that data crammed into a tidy table:

Attached Image: SanoGraph.png

So what does this actually mean? If you can't tell by now, even I'm having a hard time really committing to this data being truly telling. At the same time, I do feel as though this should ease the minds of any Twins fans who may feel like the sky is falling just because Miguel Sano is injured again.

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Damn! This is not a small sample size. Do I like it? no.  There does seem to be something there.

*Heavy sigh*


Gosh, this guy...

Look at all those big chunks of time without him, year after year after year.How can anyone hope to hone their skills with big gaps in their opportunities? Yes, some of it's from freak occurences, but come on...


Yet another guy with all the God-given talent in the world, and letting it go to waste. The potential MLB lifetime is a fleetingly short window of an athlete's life. Not doing your utmost to be fit and ready for that long, physical grind is a crime.


For those of us with a deep and abiding love for the game, and probably realized way back in school years that pro ball was not a part of your future- it's just heartbreaking to watch. 



    • PDX Twin and Knuckleball9 like this

For all his potential, Sano has been an 'easy out' far too many times in his career. Other times, Sano has looked like he was getting his 3-2 count, then somehow getting himself out. Maybe this is the year he puts it all together at the plate and really begins to dominate. 


That's what he's supposed to do, right??

    • birdwatcher, mikelink45, DocBauer and 2 others like this

This was a fun exercise, I wonder how other players on other teams affect their teams' W-L ratios... time to go do some experiments of my own.

Austudillo should make the team and play 3B when they need to move Marwin around. I agree they should be able to withstand this injury. They have added plenty of right handed power and sounds like he should be back by June.

    • tarheeltwinsfan and caninatl04 like this
Mar 06 2019 12:33 AM

I see a few possibilities, besides the likely one that it's just an outlier:


1) Defense at third is worth WAY more than we suspect. I like the odds on this one, because I think we have poor metrics on defense, and a poor theory on how the metrics translate to run prevention and to wins.


2) Large numbers of strikeouts are more damaging than we suspect. I can think of a few examples of teams that outperform expectations by striking out less (recent Royals and Astros champions), but that is anecdotal.


3) Extra-base hits given too much weight in run-creation and win-creation models. RC, the basis of WAR, would seem to account for this. But maybe there are factors (e.g. opportunity cost of outs) that are not well-calculated


    • birdwatcher, LA VIkes Fan, mikelink45 and 5 others like this
Mar 06 2019 06:38 AM

well, Sano was not very good in 2017 and 2018, so that's not really a surprise. I don't like how his 2019 has started, that's for sure... Hopefully he's back in May and hitting quite well. 

    • nicksaviking likes this
Mar 06 2019 07:11 AM
Too many strikeouts, poor defense, and not bringing anything "extra" to the table means this is not surprising. It is enlightening though and maybe another brick in the house being built that is the Twins without Sano.
    • PDX Twin likes this
Mar 06 2019 07:33 AM

I don't think I've heard anyone concerned at all about the fate of the Twins' performance due to Sano missing time. That speaks a lot to how everyone already sort of knew he hasn't been a contributor to winning the last couple of years. I'm more concerned that now he's going to be rusty and ineffectual for a month or two upon return, while soaking up middle-of-the-order at-bats. A rusty Sano is usually a very ugly thing to watch.


Sounds to me like the conversation is a lot more about frustration that:

  1. It's always something with Sano, whether it's his fault or not. Every year.
  2. The details around how the injury occurred are murky.
  3. We just want to know what a healthy and engaged full-year Sano looks like. Can he flip the narrative and perform as a solid middle-of-the-order bat that stays on the field and plays passable D? If he performs great all year then this concern mostly goes away. If he flounders until August and then turns it on for 6 weeks then we've punted at least another year on that evaluation and we still don't know what we have in a critical piece of the roster.
    • birdwatcher, Blackjack and Heiny like this

If we get the 2018 version of Sano... we will be better off without him. 


If we get the 2015 version of Sano... We will be worse off without him. 


    • Puckett34, Mike Frasier Law, wavedog and 4 others like this

You have to feel sorry for the kid, not being able to harness all that talent, but somehow he always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.   



I do believe the quality of the pitching staffs from 2015-2018 needs to be taken into account when judging a individual's impact on Win-Loss record.


A study on the record with Polanco, Kepler, Buxton and Sano in the lineup vs one or more of them out of the lineup would be more telling of the impact of the 'core'.

Here's a brain migraine for you as you twist this data - We were better off the year when Sano was in RF!Try to get you mind to buy into that!  

Mar 06 2019 08:26 AM

These numbers don't do much for me, but I have this nagging feeling that if BOTH Sano and Buxton fail to give us the 4-5 WAR production their obscene talent tells us we should expect, then we're not going to like the team numbers very much at all.

    • beckmt, Vanimal46 and jkcarew like this

This team, as constructed, needs a healthy, productive Sano in the lineup. They don't have that right now which is bad, anyway you slice it.

    • USAFChief, birdwatcher, beckmt and 5 others like this

I can't say I'm surprised at this finding. My nickname for him is "The Big Whiff." I have a feeling that I'm not going to enjoy watching this year's Twins very much: K, K, BB, HR, K ... in a good inning.


well, Sano was not very good in 2017 and 2018, so that's not really a surprise. I don't like how his 2019 has started, that's for sure... Hopefully he's back in May and hitting quite well. 


Incorrect. Sano was excellent the first half of 2017, a very deserving all-star. he struggled in the 2nd half and got hurt.

Don Walcott
Mar 06 2019 09:40 AM

I'd be more interested in seeing how many runs they score with him vs. without him in the lineup. He has very little to do with how many runs we give up.

These numbers make sense, because Sano hasn't been that good yet. Here are his bWAR totals:


2015: 2.3

2016: 0.7

2017: 2.5

2018: -0.5


Granted, those are all partial seasons, to some extent, but they are all within a range where they can easily be wiped out by other factors on the roster, and they won't be readily apparent in our overall W-L records.


Where it hurts the Twins is that Sano has more *potential* for a 4-5 WAR season than a lot of other guys on the roster, so we're losing some of our upside odds. But we can absolutely stay in the range of our 83 win median projection in 2019, with or without Sano (I think Fangraphs projected Sano at 2.4 WAR for a full season at 3B).

    • Han Joelo and LA VIkes Fan like this
Mar 06 2019 09:44 AM
It's quite, quite interesting to see the numbers and in particular the bar graph. It does make us all breathe a little easier I hope. Still, and not intending to toss a wrench into the gears here, I also think it's tough to draw definitive conclusions due to the truncated samples for both Sano and Buxton (i.e., how much can those records be attributed to those players' absence/presence in the lineup and what other factors may have contributed to the wins and losses).
Mar 06 2019 09:48 AM

I like Sano's chances of rebounding this year, but I did not like the narrative that this team was hoping that Buxton and Sano would finally emerge and carry this team to glory.


They can find other ways to win than through Buxton and Sano. I hate to see anyone injured, but this is OK, I really want the team forced to build an entire team, not just a group of guys on top of two pillars which we have to cross our fingers that they can hold the weight.


Then when Sano comes back and starts crushing the leftfield seats, that's just bonus.

    • Hosken Bombo Disco likes this
Mar 06 2019 09:52 AM

I kinda get the feeling Sano is just waiting to be on a different team.

David HK wrote:

"Yet another guy with all the God-given talent in the world, and letting it go to waste."




Stop picking on me!




Andrew Wiggins

    • Taildragger8791 likes this

I'm not too concerned about the temporary loss of Sanó. Marwin Gonzalez will see a lot of time at third base in the early going. In fact, I can envision a scenario where Marwin spends a lot of time at third base later in the season too, as I don't think it's out of the question that Sanó will start to spend some more time at first as the season progresses.

Who knows, maybe this will get Willians Astudillo on the OD roster after all!

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