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Article: Do the Twins Have the Best Bottom of the Order Ever?

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#1 Andrew Thares

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:08 AM

The other day one of my friends, who is a Yankees fan, asked me how the Twins were such a good team with their roster. This wasn’t some attempt to say the Twins aren’t actually good, he just didn’t realize how many good players the Twins actually have, specifically within their lineup. That same thing is probably going through the minds of many other casual baseball fans of other MLB teams. When you look at the lineup, the only guy most people probably recognize as a star is Nelson Cruz, and he hasn’t really been the biggest of factors so far given that he’s only played in a little over half of the Twins games. This is probably why many national media members didn’t peg the Twins to be this good offensively, and why their preseason over/under win total of 84.5 now seems like it would have been an easy money bet.So, how does this lineup, with such little star power, lead Major League Baseball in so many important statistical categories like runs scored, home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, wOBA and wRC+? The answer to that is they can hit at every spot up and down the lineup. The table below shows the Twins OPS from every spot in the order so far in 2019, and how they rank in the MLB after play on Tuesday.

Download attachment: Bottom of the order OPS.PNG

The first thing that sticks out to me in this chart is how much worse the Twins have been in the three spot in the order, relative to the rest of the order. A lot of this could be explained by all the games Cruz has missed this year, but now that Cruz is back and healthy, this number will be on the rise.

The other thing that strikes me is how well the Twins bottom of the lineup has been doing. I knew they were getting great production from guys like Jonathan Schoop, Jason Castro and Byron Buxton down there, but these numbers are off the charts for the bottom of the lineup. Overall, the bottom of the order (spots seven through nine) have an OPS of .868. The rest of the spots in the Twins lineup combine for an .851 OPS, which itself is the second-best lineup in baseball one through six.

To get a little better context on how well the Twins bottom of the lineup has been hitting I decided to compare their bottom of the lineup to how the bottom of the lineup has been performing for every other team in baseball this season. Unsurprisingly, the bottom of the Twins lineup had the best OPS in Major League Baseball. What is surprising is just how far ahead the Twins are above everyone else. The next closest teams are the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, who each have a bottom of the order OPS of .776. Overall, there are just four teams with an OPS above .750 from the bottom of their order, which is roughly the league average OPS.

With this big of a gap on everyone else, it got my curiosity going. How long has it been since an MLB team had an OPS above the .868 mark that the Twins have so far. I started by running a search query on the Fangraphs Splits Leaderboard. Unfortunately, their data for this category only goes back to the 2002 season, but since that time the next closest team to the 2019 Twins is the 2003 Boston Red Sox, who had an .838 OPS from the bottom of their order. After that, just two more teams had an OPS above .800, the 2017 Houston Astros and 2008 Texas Rangers, who both had an OPS of .802.

It was cool to see that over the past 18 seasons, no team’s bottom of the order was better than the Twins has been so far this year, and only one other team was even remotely close. However, I was not content, I still wanted to see when the last time a team had a better OPS from the bottom of the order than the 2019 Twins. Luckily, I knew just where I could find that answer, the Baseball-Reference Play Index.

Using the Play Index, I was able to view results dating back to 1908, and guess what, the 2019 Twins have the best OPS from any bottom of the order in MLB history. Another benefit of using the Play Index is it excluded plate appearances by pitchers, which would have skewed the results against National League teams along with all MLB teams prior to 1973. This also removes seven plate appearances made by Twins pitchers this year, and raises their bottom of the order OPS up to .875. After the Twins, the next closet team on the list is the 1930 St. Louis Cardinals, whose bottom of the order produced an .851 OPS. Overall, there have been just 22 teams with a bottom of the order OPS above .800, which is less than one percent of the time.

I also thought it would be fun to compare the bottom of the order of this year’s Twins team to those of Twins teams in years prior. The team that currently holds the Twins record is the 1963 Minnesota Twins, whose bottom of the order had an OPS of .777. After that, six of the next nine (including each of the next three) teams were the Twins teams from 1999 through 2004. All six of those teams had a bottom of the order OPS between .732 and .756. Now that is consistency. Additionally, both the 2017 and 2018 Twins teams did pretty well from the bottom of the order, as they had a .739 and .732 OPS respectively.

We still have a long way to go before the 2019 Minnesota Twins can lay claim to being the best bottom of the order ever, but if they continue to hit at the pace they have been, I think they can make a real run at taking down this 89-year-old record.

Addition:

Another way to look at this is by using OPS+. This is a metric that compares a team’s OPS relative to the league wide OPS in that season. This helps us control for things like the “steroid” and “juiced ball” eras, as it only looks how much better, or worse, you were than everyone else that season. Currently, the Twins bottom of the order has an OPS+ of 147, which means their bottom of the order OPS is 47 percent better than the 2019 league wide OPS as a whole. This is the third best mark all-time, behind only the 1908 Cubs and the 1965 Reds, who both had a 148 OPS+.

Another thing that is worth pointing out, is neither of those teams played with a DH. This gives non-DH teams a slight advantage as they only needed two hitters at the bottom of the order to perform as opposed to three hitters. When looking at other teams with a DH, the two closest teams to the 2019 Twins are the 2003 Red Sox (141 OPS+) and the 1977 White Sox (137 OPS+).

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#2 rdehring

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:34 AM

Don't know, ever is a long time.Could have been some great lineups back in the sixties, or twenties or late in the 19th century.

 

Do know that their bottom third is awesome.And what makes the team even stronger is the three guys they have hitting down at Rochester, Cave, Arraez and La Tortuga, itching to get back to Minnesota.  

 

Gotta love this team.Who ever thunk they would be this good last winter when the front office was putting this team together.To be honest, I doubt the FO expected they would be this good.

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#3 Tomj14

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 08:36 AM

 

Don't know, ever is a long time.Could have been some great lineups back in the sixties, or twenties or late in the 19th century.

 

Gotta love this team.Who ever thunk they would be this good last winter when the front office was putting this team together.To be honest, I doubt the FO expected they would be this good.

I expect the Front Office didn't think they would be this good either, or they would have solidified their bullpen better.

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#4 LA_NorthStar

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 08:45 AM

"Do the Twins have the best bottom of the order ever?"

 

Well, an MVP candidate hits 9th, so...

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#5 JLease

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 08:53 AM

some of this will depend on how much longer Buxton hits at the bottom of the order. will they decide to move him up so he can get more ABs, or will they decide it's not as important as keeping him in a comfortable rhythm?

 

 

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#6 rdehring

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 08:59 AM

The more I think of your question, Andrew, it is a bit unfair. 

 

The National League and both leagues prior to whenever the AL got the DH had their pitcher usually batting in the 9 spot.Except back when Babe Ruth was on the mound, that spot would normally destroy the OPS for the last three spots in the linuep.To be fair, you probably should be looking at only the 7-8 spots.

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#7 Blake

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:00 AM

 

some of this will depend on how much longer Buxton hits at the bottom of the order. will they decide to move him up so he can get more ABs, or will they decide it's not as important as keeping him in a comfortable rhythm?

I'm not sure I move Mr. Buxton until the current lineup is no longer producing.

 

Over the years, the number 9 hitter has been a rally killer, but, this year, it's not.

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#8 Tomj14

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:21 AM

 

some of this will depend on how much longer Buxton hits at the bottom of the order. will they decide to move him up so he can get more ABs, or will they decide it's not as important as keeping him in a comfortable rhythm?

I see no reason to move Buxton out of the 9th spot. His OBP is only .322. Now if that got higher and he was stealing every time he got on 1st I could see it. Also who do you move down or around to get him higher up? Maybe Schoop or Gonzalez but that does that do anything?

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#9 TheMatt

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:24 AM

Nice article. I feel that in the article you addressed the problems mentioned in the comments, ie going back far enough and taking out the pitching stats
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#10 rdehring

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:47 AM

 

Nice article. I feel that in the article you addressed the problems mentioned in the comments, ie going back far enough and taking out the pitching stats

Sorry, missed that and had to go back and reread the article.


#11 jkcarew

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:12 AM

Interesting article. But, IMO...with balls flying out of parks at ridiculous historical rates, you'd want to look at OPS+ (or wRC+)...not OPS. But, it's enough for me that they are the best in baseball so far in 2019.

 

The offensive over-performance is due to almost all players having performed toward the top of their reasonable expectation/projection. Kepler, Polanco, Rosario, Cruz, Cron, Schoop, Garver, Castro, Buxton. That's 9 names. That just doesn't happen. Then you consider that the others...Gonzalez, Adrianza, Sano, Astudillo, etc...have all ranged between decent and good. Most experts thought the offense would be good...above league average overall...but, then this happened.

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#12 spanman2

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:15 AM

Certainly a great question...what I know is this.So far this season there isn't a layup out in the lineup when we put our best 9 out there.Everyone of those boys can step up!Let us keep enjoying the ride!WIN TWINS.

I WAS TOLD I WOULD NEVER MAKE IT BECAUSE I AM TOO SHORT. WELL, I'M STILL TOO SHORT. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOUR HEIGHT IS. IT'S WHAT'S IN YOUR HEART.

KIRBY PUCKETT

#13 Andrew Thares

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:24 AM

 

Interesting article. But, IMO...with balls flying out of parks at ridiculous historical rates, you'd want to look at OPS+ (or wRC+)...not OPS. But, it's enough for me that they are the best in baseball so far in 2019.

 

The offensive over-performance is due to almost all players having performed toward the top of their reasonable expectation/projection. Kepler, Polanco, Rosario, Cruz, Cron, Schoop, Garver, Castro, Buxton. That's 9 names. That just doesn't happen. Then you consider that the others...Gonzalez, Adrianza, Sano, Astudillo, etc...have all ranged between decent and good. Most experts thought the offense would be good...above league average overall...but, then this happened.

This is a very fair point. I went back to check and the Twins OPS+ is 147. The 1908 Cubs and the 1965 Reds are the only two teams ahead of them, each having a 148 OPS+. However, both lineups had pitchers, which were excluded from this, meaning they had an advantage as they only needed 2 hitters to preform at the bottom of the lineup instead of 3.

 

This plays out in the results, as the only other teams in the Top 15 that had a DH are the 2003 Red Sox (141 OPS+) and the 1977 White Sox (137 OPS+).

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#14 HrbieFan

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:33 AM

Hard to compare anything during the juiced ball era to days of the past. Good to know that we are raking this year and I hope it continues

#15 ToddlerHarmon

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:37 AM

Not to turn this into a bad thing, but doesn't this indicate that MarGo should be hitting near the bottom of the order, instead of his usual 3rd or 6th?

 


#16 Dman

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:43 AM

The one thing I like about this lineup is any player in the lineup can step up and get an extra base hit or a home run 1-9.You don't look at the 7th, or 8th inning and hope for the top of the lineup to come up in the 9th to have a chance to win.That is a real nice feeling to have.

Edited by Dman, 12 June 2019 - 10:54 AM.

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#17 Don Walcott

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:49 AM

 

I see no reason to move Buxton out of the 9th spot. His OBP is only .322. Now if that got higher and he was stealing every time he got on 1st I could see it. Also who do you move down or around to get him higher up? Maybe Schoop or Gonzalez but that does that do anything?

I think Buxton should lead off against lefties, and Max should lead off against righties. They can swap the #9 spot when they're both in the lineup.

 

Buxton has a .400 OBP vs. lefties.

Kepler has a .351 OBP vs. righties.

Edited by Don Walcott, 12 June 2019 - 10:51 AM.

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#18 Brandon

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:55 AM

I like that last night I saw the Twins down by 1 with 6 outs to go and I felt confident that we would get a run or two. We got 3 .....
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#19 Tomj14

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 11:04 AM

 

I think Buxton should lead off against lefties, and Max should lead off against righties. They can swap the #9 spot when they're both in the lineup.

 

Buxton has a .400 OBP vs. lefties.

Kepler has a .351 OBP vs. righties.

Doesn't Garver or Polanco usually lead off against Lefties? With Kepler hitting 6th?

So moving Buxton would results in another move as well.

I love that the offensive is so good we are talking about small tweaks in the lineup and not replacing holes in the lineup.

 

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#20 MNT1996

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 12:00 PM

 

I think Buxton should lead off against lefties, and Max should lead off against righties. They can swap the #9 spot when they're both in the lineup.

 

Buxton has a .400 OBP vs. lefties.

Kepler has a .351 OBP vs. righties.

 

This is pure speculation, but I think Buxton enjoys not having the pressure on him when batting leadoff. Buxton seems as comfortable as he's ever been in that 9 spot and I don't think the Twins really need to mess with his mojo by changing his spot if it is a lefty or a righty on the mound.

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