3 Rules the Twins' Offense Followed in 2020
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports1. Score early and don’t score again
In innings one through four, the Twins hit a strong .261/.329/.481 with a 118 wRC+, the second highest in the American League. The Twins also posted an A.L. leading .934 OPS with runners in scoring position over their first four innings. The team’s OPS dropped a staggering 252 points in innings five through nine with the fourth lowest wRC+ in the A.L. (85). The Twins scored nearly 45% of their runs in the first three innings during the 2020 campaign.
Part of this is the growing number of fire-breathing relievers in baseball. More guys than ever are throwing 100 with devastating sliders. Stringing hits together and creating rallies in the late innings has become nearly impossible. The Twins aren’t exempt from that reality. Still, compared to the rest of the league, the Twins were great early and terrible late.
2. Refuse to hit left-handed pitching
After posting the highest single-season OPS against lefties since the 1998 Rangers, the Twins fell flat in 2020. Losing C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, two lefty mashers, certainly hurt. The Twins certainly expected better health from Josh Donaldson, who ranks fourth in OPS (.972) against LHP since 2013 (min. 1,000 PA). Mitch Garver still crushed the platoon despite his overall ineffectiveness. Miguel Sanó was inconsistent, Jorge Polanco is a much better left-handed hitter, and Max Kepler struggled mightily after mashing lefties in 2019. This all added up to a severe disadvantage.
Nelson Cruz was an exception to just about every Twins offensive trend in 2020. He was consistently dominant and crushed lefties. Cruz slugged .907 with a 283 wRC+ against southpaws, ranking second to only Tim Anderson (300). Pretty scary to think about where the bats would’ve been if Cruz wasn’t a Twin, isn’t it?
3. Dial back the aggression that worked so well in 2019
There were a few keys to the Twins’ 2019 offensive breakout:
- Hit the ball in the air
- Be uber aggressive
- Crush fastballs
The team still hit the ball in the air at a high rate but saw less of them leave the park. They ranked 5th in home run-per-flyball in 2019 (17.7%) and tied for 9th in 2020 (16.6%). Perhaps most alarming, they stopped crushing fastballs. A Fangraphs metric that measures pitch value (wFB/C) says the Twins hit fastballs better than any team in 2019 (0.93). In 2020, 16 other teams hit fastballs better than the Twins (0.02).
These offensive trends all contributed to a sharp decline in production in 2020. Recognizing these is vital to figuring out how to bounce back in 2021.
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
- dbminn, nclahammer and ToddlerHarmon like this