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How to lose a division in April


The Twins season so far.

April 1 through May 20: 14-28 record

May 20 through August 15: 38-38 record

This is shaping up to be a fascinating season for reasons I doubt any of us imagined. Through some bad luck, bad play, and a seemingly indifferent attitude, the early season Twins floundered badly through 6-7 weeks of play. Since that point, the team has certainly scuffled and looked bad but overall, they've posted a .500 record through basically half a season.

It really goes to show how a team can tank an entire season by playing badly in the first few weeks.

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Kind of an anomaly going on here, though. The Twins have actually had a solidly losing record every single month…except August. It’s just that they had a very strong late May (mainly thanks to the Orioles)…and now a truly good stretch in August.

In fact, in the first 53 games of the season, the Twins were 22-31. Then, over the next 53 games, they were….you guessed it…22-31. 44-62 through 106 games. Tremendous consistency🙃. Now, in the last 12 games…10 of which featured division leaders…they’re 8-4. Go figure.

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2 hours ago, jkcarew said:

Kind of an anomaly going on here, though. The Twins have actually had a solidly losing record every single month…except August. It’s just that they had a very strong late May (mainly thanks to the Orioles)…and now a truly good stretch in August.

In fact, in the first 53 games of the season, the Twins were 22-31. Then, over the next 53 games, they were….you guessed it…22-31. 44-62 through 106 games. Tremendous consistency🙃. Now, in the last 12 games…10 of which featured division leaders…they’re 8-4. Go figure.

You're not wrong but calendar months really mean nothing, as they are an artificial start and end point that means little to the quality of play or the players on the field. Whether the team played over or under .500 in any specific month doesn't tell us more than the fact that, overall, they've played roughly .500 ball since they bottomed out to start the season. And when they hit that .333 winning percentage after seven weeks and had lost twice as many games as they had won, that's a pretty clear definition of bottoming out.

And maybe they bottom out again starting today. That may be the narrative moving forward, but whether they went 14-16 or 11-19 in June doesn't really matter if not put into the context of overall trends that don't include random start and end dates.

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12 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

The Twins season so far.

April 1 through May 20: 14-28 record

May 20 through August 15: 38-38 record

The Twins season so far, in terms of runs scored vs runs allowed.

April 1 through May 20: 186-224 (Pythagorean expected record of 17-25, or .408 -- a 66-96 pace)

May 20 through August 15: 360-396 (Pythag 34-42 or .452 -- a 73-89 pace)

The latter stretch of play is better than the first, but both contribute to "losing the division" -- perhaps roughly equally, considering the latter stretch is almost twice as long as the first (in other words, it may be roughly the same difficulty to come back after a really bad 42 games stretch as a bad-but-not-quite-so-bad 76 game stretch).

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Another way to look at it:

April 1 through May 20: 3 win underperformance compared to runs scored/allowed

May 20 through August 15: 4 win over-performance compared to runs scored/allowed

As "unlucky" as we were in the first stretch, we've been about as "lucky" since then. While the actual (poor) quality of play has remained fairly steady throughout.

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8 minutes ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

The Twins season so far, in terms of runs scored vs runs allowed.

April 1 through May 20: 186-224 (Pythagorean expected record of 17-25, or .408 -- a 66-96 pace)

May 20 through August 15: 360-396 (Pythag 34-42 or .452 -- a 73-89 pace)

The latter stretch of play is better than the first, but both contribute to "losing the division" -- perhaps roughly equally, considering the latter stretch is almost twice as long as the first (in other words, it may be roughly the same difficulty to come back after a really bad 42 games stretch as a bad-but-not-quite-so-bad 76 game stretch).

Ah, good point. The team underperformed their expected record and then overperformed it. That has ramped up quite a bit during this hot stretch, as the team continues to win one-run games.

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Winning 3 straight series, all against division leaders, at least gives reason to enjoy the rest of this season if, even in a so called spoilers role. Tampa has to be asking themselves, how to we give up 4 hits and all of those to only 2 players and yet lose 5-4? Look out Yankees, here we come.

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.500, sure, but a lot of this is because of the way they have played lately.  Over the past couple of weeks, the game manager started game managing.  

In any case, the stereotype is all teams go 60-60, and it's the other games that matter.  I'll one-up that.  Most teams in most months go .500, it's what they do in the months where they don't go .500 that matter.  Yes, teams have won the division in April or May, the Twins included.

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Conversely, there are several not-very-good teams that played very well in April & May, and they're still hanging on to playoff chances simply due to their early record. They've at least given themselves a chance to get hot and make a run, we've seen it before.

There are several folks out there that think April is essentially meaningless, but I've always thought it's a very important month (just behind August/September).

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16 minutes ago, bighat said:

Conversely, there are several not-very-good teams that played very well in April & May, and they're still hanging on to playoff chances simply due to their early record. They've at least given themselves a chance to get hot and make a run, we've seen it before.

There are several folks out there that think April is essentially meaningless, but I've always thought it's a very important month (just behind August/September).

Yes.  If management wants to experiment with players in different roles, the time for that is in spring training, not April and May.  I was a big fan of Baldelli until this year.  

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Regardless of how what the record "should have" been...the point remains, imo. You can't dig a massive hole and expect to get out of it (you can, but it is rare). And, they have won games. The bullpen improvement and the SP improvement have been the keys, imo.

No month/game is unimportant until you are out of it. 

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11 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

You're not wrong but calendar months really mean nothing, as they are an artificial start and end point that means little to the quality of play or the players on the field. Whether the team played over or under .500 in any specific month doesn't tell us more than the fact that, overall, they've played roughly .500 ball since they bottomed out to start the season. And when they hit that .333 winning percentage after seven weeks and had lost twice as many games as they had won, that's a pretty clear definition of bottoming out.

And maybe they bottom out again starting today. That may be the narrative moving forward, but whether they went 14-16 or 11-19 in June doesn't really matter if not put into the context of overall trends that don't include random start and end dates.

By definition, any dates that aren't the first or last day of the season are random.  They are selected for an express purpose, and there is no reason to think that the day before or after would tell a vastly different story (absent significant changes in roster makeup/availability).  The dates you chose are just as random as the 1st and 30th.

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1 minute ago, Mike Sixel said:

Regardless of how what the record "should have" been...the point remains, imo. You can't dig a massive hole and expect to get out of it (you can, but it is rare). And, they have won games. The bullpen improvement and the SP improvement have been the keys, imo.

No month/game is unimportant until you are out of it. 

"You can't win the division in April, but you sure can lose it".

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This isn't a .500 team but there are some reasons for optimism - especially offensively - for next year. I think the pitching we're seeing is a bit of smoke and mirrors but I hope I'm wrong. I'd be really worried if the FO looks at this team and says "well, we started bad but the team that finished the year was basically a .500 team and that team just needs a few small moves to make it a 90+ win team."

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One problem with the Twins finishing the last few months of the season at .500 or a bit above is that during the offseason and next year we will have a lot of posters posting that the Twins got a lot better as the year went on based on the improved W-L record.

The stories for baseball teams rarely discuss management miscues, but that really should be the story for this year.  Let's not forget what our eyeballs showed us this year.  This is less a story about a team getting better, and more of a story of management giving the team a chance to succeed, begrudgingly.  

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5 minutes ago, gunnarthor said:

This isn't a .500 team but there are some reasons for optimism - especially offensively - for next year. I think the pitching we're seeing is a bit of smoke and mirrors but I hope I'm wrong. I'd be really worried if the FO looks at this team and says "well, we started bad but the team that finished the year was basically a .500 team and that team just needs a few small moves to make it a 90+ win team."

Any pitching staff that’s performing well and is fronted by the likes of Barnes, Jax, and Ober should not be trusted very much. 

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18 minutes ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

By definition, any dates that aren't the first or last day of the season are random.  They are selected for an express purpose, and there is no reason to think that the day before or after would tell a vastly different story (absent significant changes in roster makeup/availability).  The dates you chose are just as random as the 1st and 30th.

No, the dates I selected aren’t random because the cutoff point is when the Twins had the lowest winning percentage they’ve had all year, indicating they were playing very, very badly. Had that bottoming out happened a week earlier or later, I would have chosen that date instead. I selected the date based on team performance.

Whereas a month is just a random collection of days that a Roman dude decided held significance around, what, 1900 years ago? Not really the same thing. 

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35 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

No, the dates I selected aren’t random because the cutoff point is when the Twins had the lowest winning percentage they’ve had all year, indicating they were playing very, very badly. Had that bottoming out happened a week earlier or later, I would have chosen that date instead. I selected the date based on team performance.

Whereas a month is just a random collection of days that a Roman dude decided held significance around, what, 1900 years ago? Not really the same thing. 

You can say your dates have meaning, and I don't necessarily disagree with that, I'm just saying you did choose a random end date, simply because it coincided with the Twins worst winning percentage.  As I mentioned in my first post, the Twins were not a materially better team the day after the end date you choose; they just happened to win that day.  Nor were they a materially worse team the day before your end date.  Unless you're going to explain why the Twins (or at least their record) improved after the date you choose, your dates are also random.

Also, for what it's worth, in the US we use the Gregorian calendar, which was not finalized and adopted in Europe until 1582 at the urging of Pope Gregory XIII.  So in one sense, yes, he was a Roman, but in a more accurate sense, he was Bolognese.

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24 minutes ago, gunnarthor said:

It's also so very Twins that they'll move themselves from a top 5 pick to out of the top 10.

Which is huge.....if you read the data on the top of the draft, the value is on a very, very, steep curve.

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16 hours ago, RonCoomersOPS said:

I blame Andrelton Simmons.

In April I can’t think of a bigger detriment to the team than Colomé and his 8.31 ERA. Of course now he’s corrected course and looks like the reliever we thought we were getting last winter. 

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3 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

No, the dates I selected aren’t random because the cutoff point is when the Twins had the lowest winning percentage they’ve had all year, indicating they were playing very, very badly. Had that bottoming out happened a week earlier or later, I would have chosen that date instead. I selected the date based on team performance.

Perhaps "random" isn't right word -- "arbitrary" might be better, because you are choosing the criteria. It's selective endpoints. Take any player and the date that their batting average was at its lowest point, and they'll have a higher batting average after that point, by definition. I'm not sure what it tells us, though, if the only reason for picking that date was the fact that their batting average was low.

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If I ran the Twins FO, the odd lesson from 2021 seems to be: sign free agents very, very sparingly.

It almost seems like this team felt stuck - obligated to keep veterans in roles for which they were signed regardless of the outcome. Happ and Shoemaker got far too many chances here. Colome too, though I do actually appreciate that the Twins are helping him rebuild his confidence and his value for a 2022 signing (probably elsewhere, but who knows).

This may be true with other teams, but it certainly seems true for the Twins: when they see themselves as "contenders," they come in slow, overconfident and passive. When they see themselves as upstarts and underdogs, they play with a bit more hunger, more urgency and their roster moves are a bit more nimble.

I can easily tell you which type of team I like watching more.

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