The two most common ways to look at run scoring and run prevention is by run differential and through that the Pythagorean, or expected, win-loss record. The Twins are looking pretty good by both of those measures. They have a +6 run differential, which is the ninth-best mark in baseball, and an expected record of 8-6.
The Twins are losing games they should win isn’t exactly a news flash, but a problem with those stats at this point of the season is blowouts carry a ton of weight. The Twins beat the Tigers by nine runs in one game and beat the Mariners by eight runs in another.
Let’s look at scoring and prevention through a bit of a different lens. When MLB teams allow fewer than five runs, they win more often than not. This means when they score five or more they’re also more than likely to win. The Minnesota Twins are not following either formula so far in 2021.
All of the scoring information used in this article is from Baseball-Reference’s scoring and leads summary page.
Here’s a look at the numbers from every MLB game over the previous two seasons:
Allowing four runs or fewer: 2,616-899 (.744 winning %)
Allowing five runs or more: 711-2,428 (.227 winning %)
Five runs is the threshold in which winning percentage turns below .500. Here are the winning percentages over the previous two seasons by the number of runs allowed:
2019-20 Runs Allowed
One: 591-44 (.931)
Two: 640-171 (.789)
Three: 575-283 (.670)
Four: 442-401 (.524)
Five: 298-508 (.370)
Six: 178-440 (.288)
And here that information is in a graph:
So far this season, the Twins have already lost three games in which they allowed four runs and another in which they only allowed three. It’s very unusual to have such a poor record in games where you allow so few runs. Let’s take a look at how previous Twins teams have performed in those situations.
Record When Allowing Exactly Three or Four Runs
2021: 1-4 (.200)
2020: 10-8 (.556)
2019: 40-8 (.833)
2018: 26-17 (.605)
2017: 24-10 (.706)
2016: 21-24 (.467)
It’s pretty incredible the Twins lost as many of these games last year as they did the year before despite it being a shortened season. And they’re already halfway there this year! Add it up and over those five previous seasons the Twins had a .644 winning percentage in games where they allowed three or four runs.
This same concept can be applied to runs scored. The Twins have already lost games where they’ve scored five and six runs, which is also unusual.
Record When Scoring Exactly Five or Six Runs
2021: 0-2 (.000)
2020: 7-3 (.700)
2019: 28-11 (.737)
2018: 28-12 (.700)
2017: 22-13 (.629)
2016: 24-17 (.585)
This year’s team almost has as many losses in these situations as all of last season. Even the lowly 2016 Twins had a winning record when scoring five or six runs. Over the prior five seasons combined the Twins had a .661 winning percentage when they scored five or six runs.
To have this team not consistently scoring enough runs when they need them OR not preventing runs when they need to would be frustrating enough to watch on its own. The fact we’ve been treated to BOTH so far has been downright maddening. That's why the start has felt a lot worse than the 6-8 record.
A couple final notes: The seven-inning doubleheaders do throw a bit of a monkey wrench into this line of thinking. The Twins lost one of those games in which they gave up three runs this year. That’s roughly the equivalent of allowing four in a nine-inning game, so I still think it’s fair to count that as a game teams will win more often than not. Also, because I have a hunch someone might ask, here is the Twins record in one-run games over the same time frame we’ve been looking at:
Record In One-Run Games
2021: 2-4 (.333)
2020: 9-5 (.643)
2019: 23-12 (.657)
2018: 15-21 (.417)
2017: 15-18 (.455)
2016: 15-29 (.341)
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums