Using Splits to Spin a Narrative for the 2020 Minnesota Twins
Image courtesy of © David Berding - USA TODAY SportsNow that we know the season will be 60 games (barring a Covid-related disaster), it’s possible to begin speculating potential outcomes by using the career split stats of Twins players. We can roughly use a player’s March/April stats to predict first month production, then use May for the second month, and finally June for the postseason. It’s not exactly apples to apples as the weather will be different and players have never played through a pandemic before, but it could help to identify players who traditionally get off to hot starts or have trouble shaking off the rust.
Rusty apples or not, a few themes do emerge after sifting through the splits.
Theme 1: April Flowers Bring May Showers
So much for the rust. Several members of the Bomba Squad actually do their best work out of the gate. Interestingly, Eddie Rosario, who hit 11 home runs in March/April last season, isn’t one of them with just a .709 career OPS for the first month. However, Max Kepler (.882), Nelson Cruz (.905), Miguel Sano (.869), newcomer Josh Donaldson (.875), and Mitch Garver (1.036) all have their highest OPS of any month occur in Mar./Apr. Although not his best month, Jorge Polanco has also historically gotten off to a good start with an OPS of .835. Add that all together and it seems the Twins are destined for a great start offensively.
Our twisted proverb has May bringing showers for a reason. Of the aforementioned group, both Polanco and Sano have continued to hit well into May, but the rest of our group takes a significant hit. Kepler’s May OPS drops to .748, Cruz’s to .858, Donaldson’s to .832, and Garver’s to .768. Not terrible by any stretch, but definitely a cool down from their red-hot starts. Marwin Gonzalez (.675) and Byron Buxton (.567) traditionally start very cold and haven’t faired well in May either (Gonzalez – .717/Buxton – .669). Look for a second-half cool down.
Theme 2: All is Well in the Rotation
For the most part the rotation has pretty neutral early season splits, but there are a few pitchers who fare better in the early goings. Jose Berrios’ late-season struggles are well documented so one would expect good early-season results from Berrios and that’s generally the case. Berrios has a 3.69 ERA for the first month and then a pretty good 4.03 ERA for May. Newcomer Kenta Maeda is a similar case as his Mar./Apr. ERA is at 3.92 while he’s been a bit better in the second month with an ERA of 3.67. Jake Odorizzi has also been good early with a 3.34 and excellent 0.94 ERA for the first two months.
Theme 3: Postseason Mixed Bag
The third month of the season corresponds with this year’s postseason and it presents a mixed bag for the Twins. If May represented a slight downturn for the offense, June (the third month) looks like an utter disaster. Kepler (.712), Cruz (.837), Polanco (.680), Garver (.680), Sano (.728), and Donaldson (.818) all take a turn for the worse. Don’t look for Buxton’s .621 to save the team either. There is a little hope as Gonzalez (.763), Rosario (.875), and Ehire Adrianza (.798) all traditionally heat up in June. Carry the team Eddie!
The picture is much brighter when we turn our focus to pitching. Both Kenta Maeda (2.83 ERA) and Jose Berrios (2.83) are at their best and could theoretically anchor the postseason rotation. Jake Odorizzi has also been solid in the season’s third month with a 3.95 ERA. And if you’re looking for late inning shutdown reliever, look no further than Taylor Rogers, who has a 1.90 career ERA for June.
So if our splits-based narrative is to be believed (it probably shouldn’t be), look for Minnesota to get off to a quick start and cool down a bit in the shortened season’s second-half. The hot start combined with a relatively weak AL Central should still get the Twins into the postseason where the rotation and Eddie Rosario will lead Minnesota to their first World Series title since 1991. Book it!
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