Who Are the Twins Best 60 Game Sprinters?
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsAs with virtually all things baseball, Fangraphs has us covered (if you can help them out during this time, you should.) Recently they put out 60 game rolling leaderboards for every season dating back to 1975. As you can imagine, the best players are represented often no matter what piece of the pie you slice. For example, Mike Trout has had the best 60 game stretch in five of the eight seasons in which he’s played at the big-league level.
For Minnesota, it’s obvious they’d have a handful of strong performers given the 101-win total put up in 2019. Max Kepler, for example, posted the 22nd best 60-game stretch in baseball last year when he generated a 3.2 fWAR from a .990 OPS and 21 dingers from the end of May to early August. Right behind him at 23 is new teammate Josh Donaldson. His stretch included a truly nutty 1.063 OPS and 22 dingers. Nelson Cruz posted a 1.129 OPS (35th) during his hot streak, while both Jorge Polanco (42nd) and Mitch Garver (43rd) generated 2.7 fWAR.
Now, they key in any season and especially in a 60-game sprint, is to have as many of these snapshots overlap as possible. The team that can generate the highest level of production, the quickest, and with the greatest number of players on that same stage is going to come out ahead this season. Obviously, we’re also dealing with a global pandemic, so good health and avoiding the COVID-related injured list is a must as well.
We could take a look back at 2018 and the Twins would have a different group of contributors. With just 78 wins under their belts, it’s not surprising there would be less Minnesota names at the top. Eddie Rosario posted a 3.3 fWAR during his tear which was the 14th best stretch during that season, but the next highest contributor was Nelson Cruz at 57th overall. Beyond that, you’d need to go all the way down to 137th overall for Max Kepler’s contributions.
On the pitching side of things Rocco Baldelli’s club placed two guys within the top 25. Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios are both tied at 2.5 fWAR. Odorizzi ran off a 12-start sample that included a 1.96 ERA and a 72/16 K/BB. Berrios posted a 2.86 ERA with a 69/12 K/BB during his hot streak. Both of those would have drawn significant Cy Young attention had the season ended at that point.
Once again dropping back to 2018 tells a logical and different story. Berrios checks in at 26th overall, but the next best Twins pitcher doesn’t show up until 80th overall in the form of since-departed Kyle Gibson. No other Minnesota pitcher appeared in the top 154 results on the rolling leaderboards. That rotation included only Odorizzi as the lone holdover with Berrios.
So, what can we glean from all of this given the volatility of sample sizes and year over year changes? This is probably a situation where repetition becomes the narrative. Obviously, a player like Mitch Garver isn’t going to have anything to substantiate what he did in 2019. Regression is likely in store, but the ability to produce at this high level also remains within his wheelhouse. On the flip side, elite talents such as Donaldson, Berrios, and Cruz have consistently found themselves in similar spots on a yearly basis.
What the ideal scenario would be is to have as many of the consistent performers as possible. The additions of Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill add to that notion, albeit to a lesser extent. With the decked stacked in their favor Minnesota is playing a probability game with better odds. You aren’t going to find players that produce over the entirety of this 60-game slate, but if you can generate five to ten guys on the roster all peaking for a similar 25 games, that could be enough to distance yourselves from the pack.
Fangraphs has shown us that the Twins have plenty of talent capable of producing at elite levels even in small samples. Now it’ll be up to those individuals to generate as much as they can, as quickly as they can, and as much in conjunction with one another as they can. That’s the goal for every organization in what will be a truly goofy year, but as far as the Twins are concerned, they have a leg up.
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