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  • The Twins Are Breaking Run Scoring and Prevention Expectations


    Tom Froemming

    The Twins’ 6-8 start isn’t disastrous at face value, but with each loss it feels like they invented a new (and painful) way to lose. Let’s take a look at how these Twins have performed in terms of runs scored and runs allowed compared to the usual trends.

    Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

    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:

     

    2019-20 Scoring

    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:

    ScoringChart.png

     

    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)

     

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    Let’s break down each loss:

     

    April 1 @ MIL: The defense makes several key mistakes that all result in runs. Combine that with Colome serving up meatballs

     

    April 6 @ DET: The offense fails to score any runs with 1st and 3rd and nobody out in the 10th. Combine that with a lack of offense in Innings 1-9.

     

    April 10 vs SEA: The offense once again fails to execute with RISP, this time in the bottom of the 8th.

     

    April 11 vs SEA: The bullpen implodes. Also, apparently the offense can’t score runs after the 5th Inning.

     

    April 12 vs BOS: Once again the offense can’t score runs past the 5th Inning. Or, wait, the 1st Inning. Dobnak gets shelled.

     

    April 14 (Gm1) vs BOS: A completely pathetic offensive performance, with 2 key Boston runs coming from a stupid throwing error.

     

    April 14 (Gm2) vs BOS: Berrios cruises until he suddenly can’t throw strikes. The offense once again can’t do sh!t.

     

    April 16 @ LAA: Terrible bullpen management results in 10 runs. Weak ground balls bleed through the infield. Offense can’t hit with RISP

     

     

    I think the main reason the bullpen looks so bad is because the skipper isn’t pulling the right strings. Let’s all remember that Liam Hendricks has a 6.00 ERA right now. Bullpens fix themselves over time. We saw it in 2019. We very well may see it again this year.

     

    The offense is clearly a problem. The fact that we can’t hit anything when runners are on is a recurring theme. We hit into double plays way too much.

     

    SP seems like the strength of the team so far and may be our strength this year.

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    I hope you're right on Sano and it seems like you should be. It was also good to see Kepler get 2 hits Friday, including on to LF. He needs to hit to LF or he will never get away from the shift. Polanco may also be warming up a little.

     

    While those things are all good, this offense suffers from two big problems (1) an overall lack of middle of the order hitters, and (2) a lack of table setters. Kepler, Sano and Polanco don't solve the first problem unless Polanco becomes the 2019 Polanco and I just don't see that happening. The overall team OBP is pretty good but that's really based on a couple of guys - Arraez and Cruz. The rest of the order doesn't add much so we can't manufacture runs and the HRs haven't been there this year. Add in a failure to execute with RISP and you get a team that has some big run scoring days and a lot of small days.The average runs scored obscures the daily reality. None of those 3 can hit 2-5 on a contending MLB team and they aren't really even great in the 6 hole. Ditto for Garver who is looking like a one season wonder. We really start 4 bottom third os the order guys every day. 

     

    This offense is going to be very dependent on 4 guys - Arraez, Donaldson, Cruz and Buxton. IF they can all produce they way they are now, or even close in Buxton's case, and stay healthy/play every day we could have a potent offense. If not, and so far it's a not, we have to hope for production from the 4 bottom third guys and guys like Garlick, Cave, Astudillo, etc. and it just isn't going to be there consistently or in some cases ever.  We just don't have enough secondary hitting talent to survive the loss of any the top 4 guys. Add in an inconsistent bullpen being asked to cover a lot of high leverage innings because we aren't scoring a lot most days and you have a recipe for inconsistency and lots of one run losses. 

     

    Buckle up boys, this season is going to be a rough ride.    

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    SAno really isn't being paid to take walks, while hitting under .100. Yeah, the walks are OK, but the fact that he can't make contact when he is in those situations that call for it will remain a big problem, until he figures it out. Maybe he will. Many here feel its just a matter of time. Still, historically he is still a very below average hitter with a lot of power, if/when he connects.

     

    Donaldson and Buxton MUST be healthy and so far, that hasn't been the case and its early. I concur, this season is going to be a rough ride.. at least so far its trending that way. i really want to see how they fare against Clev,. Chi, and KC.

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    The RISP problem will correct itself. For example, Miguel Sano looks like a problem until you look at his big increase in taking walks. The pitchers are expecting him to chase balls out of the strike zone but Sano has become a smarter hitter. The hits and RBIs will come if he sticks with this more disciplined approach.

    This goes back to basic slugger theory, that you must have somebody following your slugger that can punish a pitcher for working around him. If Donaldson stays healthy for a while, I hope to see him batting behind Sano. 

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    Let’s break down each loss:

    April 1 @ MIL: The defense makes several key mistakes that all result in runs. Combine that with Colome serving up meatballs

    April 6 @ DET: The offense fails to score any runs with 1st and 3rd and nobody out in the 10th. Combine that with a lack of offense in Innings 1-9.

    April 10 vs SEA: The offense once again fails to execute with RISP, this time in the bottom of the 8th.

    April 11 vs SEA: The bullpen implodes. Also, apparently the offense can’t score runs after the 5th Inning.

    April 12 vs BOS: Once again the offense can’t score runs past the 5th Inning. Or, wait, the 1st Inning. Dobnak gets shelled.

    April 14 (Gm1) vs BOS: A completely pathetic offensive performance, with 2 key Boston runs coming from a stupid throwing error.

    April 14 (Gm2) vs BOS: Berrios cruises until he suddenly can’t throw strikes. The offense once again can’t do sh!t.

    April 16 @ LAA: Terrible bullpen management results in 10 runs. Weak ground balls bleed through the infield. Offense can’t hit with RISP


    I think the main reason the bullpen looks so bad is because the skipper isn’t pulling the right strings. Let’s all remember that Liam Hendricks has a 6.00 ERA right now. Bullpens fix themselves over time. We saw it in 2019. We very well may see it again this year.

    The offense is clearly a problem. The fact that we can’t hit anything when runners are on is a recurring theme. We hit into double plays way too much.

    SP seems like the strength of the team so far and may be our strength this year.

    At this early stage of the season, half the line up is batting .300 or above and the other half is batting less than .200. The .300 hitters are being bunched together. They get on base, Then the hitters who are in an early season slump have been coming to bat and failing to advance the runners and failing to get hits. Simple physics, 

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    At this early stage of the season, half the line up is batting .300 or above and the other half is batting less than .200. The .300 hitters are being bunched together.

    Probably that is optimal, for a non-optimal situation to have to deal with. To do otherwise would be to intersperse the guys who get on base with rally-killers too much of the time.

     

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    The RISP problem will correct itself. For example, Miguel Sano looks like a problem until you look at his big increase in taking walks. The pitchers are expecting him to chase balls out of the strike zone but Sano has become a smarter hitter. The hits and RBIs will come if he sticks with this more disciplined approach.

    In terms of Sano it is not that he is chasing pitches, that is a good thing, it is he is not hitting strikes and missing them, which is bad.  If you cannot put a strike in play it does not matter if you are not chasing.  Hopefully he turns that around. 

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    I hate articles about run differential or current runs allowed/scored predicating the future.  First, we are barely into the season, to say anything that happens in the first few weeks will predict the full season is crazy.  Yankees are in last place behind Baltimore, do we expect that all season?  There is a reason we play 162 games. 

     

    In terms of run differential predicating future outcomes is just dumb.  All run differential shows is what has happened, and if future games are played under similar situations the expected standings, but it does not predict how the team will play.  You can point to run differential as to how many wins or losses a team would typically have at that point, but you cannot say that means it will equal out over the season, or that the team will continue to have similar percentage of run differences.  

     

    Look at a few years ago, at break everyone was saying no way will Twins keep winning because run differential says they will start to lose, but what changed?  The run differential caught up to record not record catching up to run differential.  You can point out that the odds are they will not have same disparity, but you cannot say one will stay constant and the other will change.  What you can draw is that if team continues to have same run differential percentage the record will be expected to change, but that is only if team does not change their output.  

     

    Run differential is not a predictive stat, as with each win the runs go to positive and with each loss they go to negative, so when a winning team has negative or close to even it can be concluded they won close games and got blown out in losses.  The reverse is also true.  Neither will predict how the team will perform going forward. 

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