Pythagorean Winning Percentage
One aspect that shows how the Twins have been unlucky is their Pythagorean winning percentage. For those unfamiliar, Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. For example, the Twins scored 269 runs in 2020 and allowed 215 runs, which results in a Pythagorean W-L record of 36-24. That also turned out to be the club’s overall record for the year.
There are flaws with Pythagorean W-L record, especially if teams score a lot of runs in their wins and lose a lot of close games. Entering play on Monday, the Twins had scored 175 runs and allowed 195 runs. Based on those totals, their projected Pythagorean W-L record is 17-21 which is a four-win improvement compared to the team’s actual record. This points to the team being a little bit unlucky.
Minnesota’s struggles with runners in scoring position have been well documented this year, but how much of this can be tied to bad luck in clutch situations? Only one AL team, Tampa Bay (3.81 runners/game), has left more runners in scoring position per game than the Twins (3.76 runners/game). Obviously, some injuries have impacted the line-up (see below), but it’s hard for a team to recover if runs aren’t being scored because players are being left in scoring position.
What’s most disturbing is the drop Minnesota took from 2020 to 2021. Last year, the Twins ranked as the best in all of baseball by averaging 2.60 runners left on per game. The closest team to the Twins last season was Pittsburgh and they finished 20 points behind Minnesota by season’s end. There can be some expected regression, but this is a big drop for a team from one season to the next.
BAbip is another statistic that can point to luck impacting batters and pitchers. For those unfamiliar, BAbip measures how frequently non-home run batted balls fall for hits. League average is around .300 in a typical year. So far in 2021, Twins hitters have posted a .287 BAbip, which ranks 16th in all of baseball. Only eight clubs have posted a BAbip above .300 for the year as offense has been down for most of the league.
On the pitching side, Minnesota’s hurlers have also posted a BAbip in the middle of the pack. For the year, the Twins rank 15th with a .286 BAbip. In all of baseball, seven teams have a BAbip total above .300. Two teams in the AL Central, Kansas City (2nd) and Detroit (11th), rank higher than the Twins in pitching BAbip. Sometimes bloop hits fall in, sometimes a dribbler gets by a fielder, and other times a fielder is positioned perfectly to make a catch on a hard hit ball. All those things can impact a team’s BAbip and a little luck ties into all of it.
Injuries have been up across baseball and the Twins have seen some key players missing time. Byron Buxton was playing at an MVP level before his recent hip injury put him on the shelf. Alex Kirilloff was hitting the ball with authority to all parts of the field before suffering a wrist injury from sliding into second base. Both players were playing at a high level and taking them out of the middle of the line-up has certain had an effect.
Over the weekend, there was even more injury news. Max Kepler (hamstring), Kenta Maeda (groin), and Willians Astudillo (hand) all left Sunday’s game with different ailments. This is on top of Jake Cave already being on the IL and Kyle Garlick playing through a groin injury. The injuries continue to mount, and health looks like it might impact the team throughout the 2021 campaign. Having a little more luck on the team’s side might get those players back and preforming at their highest level.
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