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5 Jarring Numbers to Describe the 2021 Minnesota Twins


Twins fans are watching the 2021 season slip away before it really even gets started. Here are five numbers that help describe the spiral. 

 

1. 9

The Twins’ offense has a 25 wRC+ (75% below average) in the ninth inning and beyond. That’s the lowest mark in baseball, by far. And while the bats have been colder than ice in these spots, the pitching staff has been equally as bad. The Twins have an A.L. worst 4.70 ERA to boot, and that number may not include the overwhelming number of crippling errors committed in the field. 

2. .660

The Twins are hitting .180/.265/.295 in situations that FanGraphs deems as “high leverage.” That’s good for a .660 OPS, the lowest in the American League when the at-bats matter most. Your eyes have not deceived you: the Twins have been awful this year in situations where they desperately need a hit to break open or get back into a game. 

3. 105

That’s the win-pace the Twins have played at when Byron Buxton is on the field since 2019. The Twins are 97-53 when Buxton plays and 64-68 when he doesn’t. Undeniably, Buxton’s lack of durability has hurt the team. It’s also true that the team is infinitely better with him in the lineup and roaming centerfield. He single-handedly changes games. 

4. 48

Through Tuesday, the Twins have hit at least one home run in 48 of their 60 games this year. Stunningly, they’ve won only 21 of those games. A major factor in that: 53 of the Twins’ 83 homers this year have come with the bases empty. That ranks first in the majors. 

5. 10.16

Conversely to their offense, Twins pitchers are getting blasted in high leverage situations with runners on base. The pitching staff owns a 10.16 ERA in those spots, the highest mark in the American League. 

 

For as bad as J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker have been, with additional poor results from Kenta Maeda, It’s always more than one thing. The Twins are floundering to score and prevent runs in high-leverage situations. Had they gotten just a few more hits, homers and outs in important spots, the script of this season may be different. For now, they just continue to find ways to lose.


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And, through all of the malaise, Derek Falvey has been virtually invisible. Certainly Rudy Hernandez and Edgar Varella should have been shown the door, and quite possibly Wes Johnson. And now Rocco’s seat has to be warmer than Mike Zimmer’s. No way this team can keep Cruz, Simmons, Pineda, Colome, Donaldson, Kepler, Happ, Robles, Shoemaker, or Rogers beyond the trade deadline. It’s a full on rebuild, and I can’t see this group being competitive again for several years. Too much bubblegum and not enough tobacco juice in the Twins dugout. Nice guys always finish last.

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Like all of you, I am a passionate Twins fan. I am watching the Twins this year with as keen an interest as always, but for a different reason. It is fascinating (and depressing) to watch a team of proud, talented athletes implode.  The confusion, the doubt, the lack of energy, the lack of clutch anything...this is weird and intriguing simultaneously. Btw, I am pleased I found this site, as I enjoy and benefit from reading the thoughtful and informed contributors posting here.

 

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The frustrating part about it all is if they just had a few more hits in key situations and a little better pitching late in games we would be in way different season.  I kept having hope they would turn it around, but at this point I am convinced they will not turn it around.  They will keep losing all the close games. 

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Part of what has been so frustrating this year has been that things have repeatedly gone wrong at exactly the wrong moment, and conversely have gone right at exactly the right moment.

A guy will get up to the plate with the bases loaded and strike out, only to step up to the plate and homer later in the game. A pitcher will be excellent when it doesn't matter and collapse when it does. Maybe some of that is players not having that added gear for big moments, and some of that is just injuries to key players, but there's an element of it which can only be described as an incredible amount of bad luck.

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Thanks for this. It really exposes a number of troubling aspects.

The stats about Buxton, however, don't really fly for this season. He may be a powerful presence, but it hasn't been a winning combination this year; the Twins are 9-15 when he has played. That's not meant to denigrate his play; it just points to the impact of the other points you've made.

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15 hours ago, Nash Walker said:

1. 9

The Twins’ offense has a 25 wRC+ (75% below average) in the ninth inning and beyond. That’s the lowest mark in baseball, by far. And while the bats have been colder than ice in these spots, the pitching staff has been equally as bad. The Twins have an A.L. worst 4.70 ERA to boot, and that number may not include the overwhelming number of crippling errors committed in the field. 

It appears that our 9th inning outburst against Yankees legend Brooks Kriske yesterday has boosted that wRC+ all the way to 40. :)

FYI, if you use the Fangraphs Splits Leaderboard, you can click the "MLB" split and set the filter so you get the Twins opponents collective batting line in particular situations. That way, you can compare the Twins and their opponents on the same scale.

So in this case, the Twins now have a 40 wRC+ in the 9th inning and beyond -- but the Twins have allowed a 141 wRC+ in those innings!

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders/splits-leaderboards?splitArr=139,52,53&splitArrPitch=&position=B&autoPt=false&splitTeams=false&statType=mlb&statgroup=2&startDate=2021-03-01&endDate=2021-11-01&players=&filter=&groupBy=season&sort=-1,1

15 hours ago, Nash Walker said:

2. .660

The Twins are hitting .180/.265/.295 in situations that FanGraphs deems as “high leverage.” That’s good for a .660 OPS, the lowest in the American League when the at-bats matter most. Your eyes have not deceived you: the Twins have been awful this year in situations where they desperately need a hit to break open or get back into a game. 

I think the .295 is a typo here -- should be .395? Technically Fangraphs has the line at .179/.264/.393 for a .657 OPS and 79 wRC+. (And they had zero high-leverage PAs last night, so it doesn't matter that you published this article before the game.)

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders/splits-leaderboards?splitArr=72,203&splitArrPitch=&position=B&autoPt=false&splitTeams=false&statType=mlb&statgroup=2&startDate=2021-03-01&endDate=2021-11-01&players=&filter=&groupBy=season&sort=-1,1

Looking at the same split for Twins opponents, we've allowed a .283/.324/.416, .741 OPS, 102 wRC+ line in high leverage situations.

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This was an excellent and very depressing essay.  Where is the hope?  Where is the good Stat?  It is hard to believe that we have so much professionalism on the team and that it all shut down at once.  Buxton cannot carry the team - we were bad when he was great this year.  Berrios and for the most part Pineda have been good starters, but nothing else has worked.  The BP is a cause to turn off the video and go do something else.  How many games have we been ahead after five innings?  I don't know, but would love to see that stat.  W - L after 5 innings.  

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16 hours ago, Nash Walker said:

3. 105

That’s the win-pace the Twins have played at when Byron Buxton is on the field since 2019. The Twins are 97-53 when Buxton plays and 64-68 when he doesn’t. Undeniably, Buxton’s lack of durability has hurt the team. It’s also true that the team is infinitely better with him in the lineup and roaming centerfield. He single-handedly changes games. 

This is interesting to think about. There is some selection bias in these numbers.

First of all, like another poster said, Buxton has the "good fortune" of not playing many games with the 2021 team so far, which weighs this sample toward our far better seasons of 2019 and 2020. But there is no Buxton W-L magic in 2021 thus far.

Another factor is when Buxton comes off the bench. In 2019-2020, the Twins were 13-0 when Buxton entered a game off the bench! But when you think about it, it makes sense -- if Buxton is getting a day off from the starting lineup, they're probably not going to bring him in except to protect a lead. (The streak ended in 2021, of course -- we're 0-1 with Buxton coming off the bench this year.) Probably even more so for Buxton compared to other players because of his excellence as a defensive replacement.

Buxton also misses more time than other players, so his sample of games started is smaller and thus more prone to variance, I suspect? The guy more likely to have IL stints is more likely to have missed any given stretch of games -- could be hot streaks, could be cold streaks, but the smaller the sample, the less likely any imbalance is going to even out.

Here's our 2019-2020 win-pace when various players were in the starting lineup:

Buxton 107.5
Garver 105.7
Gonzalez 102.9
Rosario 102.2
Polanco 100.6
Cave 99.5
Arraez 98.9
Kepler 98.3
Cruz 97.5
Sano 94.9

No doubt Buxton is a good player and an important part of the team, and I'd definitely like our chances with him in our lineup over Sano, but our team had a 100.0 win pace over those two seasons, so I'm not sure if these numbers really represent much other than mostly random variation around that number?

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29 minutes ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

53

Our Twins are on a season-long 53-win pace in games started by someone other than Berrios. That amounts to a 53-109 record, six games worse than the 2016 team. 

To add a further twist: our 2016 team could have finished with 2.3 more wins, if we replaced Berrios' 14 starts with the team's non-Berrios record. :)

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Excellent data points and reinforces what we think we have seen this year.    The high-leverage stats also mirrors our performance in playoff games.  A question I don't know if we can answer but do we have issues of clenching up in high-leverage situations or is it the fact maybe we keep the same approach no matter the situation and the opposition is sharper in those critical situations and we are just not adjusting.         

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17 hours ago, Jack Dupp said:

And, through all of the malaise, Derek Falvey has been virtually invisible. Certainly Rudy Hernandez and Edgar Varella should have been shown the door, and quite possibly Wes Johnson. And now Rocco’s seat has to be warmer than Mike Zimmer’s. No way this team can keep Cruz, Simmons, Pineda, Colome, Donaldson, Kepler, Happ, Robles, Shoemaker, or Rogers beyond the trade deadline. It’s a full on rebuild, and I can’t see this group being competitive again for several years. Too much bubblegum and not enough tobacco juice in the Twins dugout. Nice guys always finish last.

I would trade any and all of the players that you mentioned except I would try to resign Michael Pineda so as not to further weaken a weak pitching staff and I’d like to keep Trevor Rogers. I think the Twins would be surprised at how little Kepler returns but they should find out his value.

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I also agree with your list of who to trade, except that I would try to keep Pineda and Rogers. I think Kepler will wind up staying because of his "team friendly" contract and the hope that there just is another gear in there somewhere, but I think he is destined to be a quality 4th outfielder on a contending team, not a starter. The rest of those guys have 0 value to the Twins after this year so trade them for what you can get and play the younger talent. It just doesn't make sense to keep these veteran guys in the hope that we could win 75 games instead of 68 games (and that probably overstates the impact). Time to retool/rebuild. Let's start today

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