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If you're expected to win, and then fail to do so in spectacular fashion, people are going to have thoughts. It's also safe to assume that those thoughts don't stay surface level for very long. For the 2021 Twins, the last few weeks have been a long trudge past the acceptance of things as they are, and have begun to approach the next station down the line: Why? "Why" is an important question that has consumed the game of baseball since its creation. It is a question that drives everyone involved in the game and almost everyone that follows it. Careers are made and broken attempting to answer it. Out of all the major spectator sports in the world, baseball is one of the most random, volatile, and unpredictable. The best team in the league facing off against the worst still isn't as heavy a favorite as you might expect. This makes answering the question even more important. But this game has been played for over a century, and despite front offices being invaded by every Ivy League sabermatrician with programming experience, there's a lot about the game that just cannot be accounted for. It is within this vacuum that narrative begins to form, and like a gas, expand to fill every available inch of social media. Our emotional investment in the Twins demands an attempt to make sense of a senseless sequence. Words like "implosion" don't feel adequate, because it doesn't do justice to how much it feels like it's a force being inflicted upon the team, rather than the results of internal motivations. Regardless, we try and take an inventory of what hurts, and search for accountability. Is the roster underperforming? Unquestionably. I can't recall ever seeing so much of a single roster falling to the bottom 20% of their preseason projections with such synchrony. Are the Twins seeing their share of injuries? Yes, and then some. Are the Twins unlucky? According to the stats, they're the unluckiest in the league, and have a lot of production stats in common with the Oakland A's, who have more wins than the Twins have losses. Everything is happening, it's all bad, and it's happening all at once. And then, to rub salt in the wound, the White Sox got hot. They started their rebuild later, they were on a trajectory to give the Twins a bit more time to contend, and then they leapfrogged them in the standings while destroying them mercilessly along the way. They're doing this while also suffering from their best players sidelined and being managed by a guy who started his pro ball career when John F. Kennedy was in office, and hasn't updated his worldview since. Where the Twins are punished for their faults, the White Sox seem to glide through life. As a Twins fan, this was supposed to be our time, and the spotlight got stolen by the worst possible division rival. Watching all this transpire, attempting to process it, you're left holding the bag and being asked to put a nice neat bow on a morass of misfortune. Unable to wrap your arms around it, the narrative becomes more and more tempting. "The coaches are too calm, they need to fire up this team and yell more!" "Rocco's lost the clubhouse, it's time to fire him." "The players don't want it enough!" Any time you hear missives like these, and they aren't accompanied by direct evidence from the clubhouse or a credible source, Colin Cowherd-sized alarm bells should start going off in your head. You are being asked to accept generalities to rationalize a giant sea of inexplicable fate. Explaining data points by assuming the motives of strangers is a task that should be reserved for criminal profilers, not Twins Twitter. Kenta Maeda isn't struggling because of some nebulous lack of leadership, it's because he's lost the ability to locate his slider. There's a notable clip from ESPN's First Take in 2012, when Mark Cuban came onto the show, and used every available moment to go after Skip Bayless and his notions of 'narrative'. Throughout the exchange, Cuban lays out his argument for why statements like how the one team "played harder" aren't worth the airtime they're eventually given- because they're not backed up by any meaningful data and are fueled by apathy at best, and intentional ignorance at worst. If you want to convince me how the Twins got to 13-26 and have someone to blame, you're going to have to do a lot more than sell me on a lack of motivation, clubhouse chemistry, or some kind of failing strategic approach, because in the words of Kronk, it doesn't make any sense. Baseball is a cruel game. You can assemble the same roster and play the same way, and end up with radically different results by the end of the season. I have a hard time finding obvious fatal flaws in the approach by the front office, management, or the players themselves. Sure, I'll always agree that ownership could stand to spend some more money, but a few million dollars doesn't magically repair Byron Buxton's hamstring, and it doesn't solve why any game that doesn't go exactly 9 innings becomes an automatic loss. I'm not angry at the team, the coaches, or the FO. I'm just sad. This roster- and by extension, this fanbase- deserves better than the hand they've been dealt, right as the window of contention seemed to be opening wide (and, by some accounts, ahead of schedule). And now, after six weeks of unprecedented horror- which is saying something for a team with this kind of history- the voices are growing louder that it's time to pack it in and start over from scratch. All that said, I'm going to continue rooting for this team. They clearly want it enough. The clubhouse knows what they're capable of, and would love the opportunity to showcase it, if fate and luck would just get out of the goddamn way. In the meantime, I'll be watching, and screaming into the nearest pillow every time a barreled ball goes straight at an opposing fielder. The Twins are dead. Long live the Twins.
Yes, the number in the title is not an exaggeration. The true odds of the moment we find ourselves in at the close of the Twins 2020 postseason campaign, brief as it was, comes to one in 69 billion. Somewhere in the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox fired up the Improbability drive and Minnesota got caught in the wake. Let's do some math, shall we? Setting a baseline Now, there's a very good chance you've seen the number 262,144 floating around Twins Twitter in the last day or two, and that's because if you were to flip a coin 18 times, the odds of each flip resulting in the same outcome are 262,144:1 against, or 218. Already, this feels bad. This feels unfair. We want to fight against this statistic. BASEBALL GAMES AREN'T COIN FLIPS, I hear you cry out. So many of those games were as underdogs against the almighty Yankees, surely the odds weren't THAT bad? And yeah, from that perspective, you'd be correct. @Awoodruff3 on Twitter looked at the problem from a gambling odds perspective: https://twitter.com/awoodruff3/status/1311415416456085510 28,524:1 against! Already, this is 10 times as likely as the coin flip scenario, so the sting should only be a fraction of what we currently feel, right? Sadly, no. Here's how it really breaks down. The Methodology I have gone into the Fangraphs archives for each of the 18 games in the losing streak and made note of the moment in time where the Twins had the highest expected win probability. In 17 of the 18 games, the Twins were favored to win - and in a few cases, extremely favored - before eventually taking the L. With that information, we can look at the odds of losing from these moments where the Twins had the greatest amount of leverage to create a future other than the ones we find ourselves in now. October 6th, 2004: ALDS Game 2 [table] Game State Bottom 12th, 1 out, Twins ahead by 1 at New York Twins Win Probability 87.3% How'd things look? With Joe Nathan on the mound for his third inning of work, John Olerud strikes out and the Twins are 2 outs away from taking a 2-0 lead in the series. What happened? Nathan gives consecutive walks before A-Rod hits a ground rule double, followed by an intentional walk and a Matsui sac fly to win. Odds of a loss 7.87:1 against[/table] October 8th, 2004: ALDS Game 3 [table] Game State Top 2nd, 2 outs, Twins ahead by 1 vs. New York Twins Win Probability 64.5% How'd things look? Carlos Silva gets a ground ball out from Bernie Williams. It's still early, but teams in the lead tend to stay in the lead. What happened? Silva immediately gave up 5 consecutive singles and 3 runs before the 2nd inning was over, and the Twins never saw daylight again. Odds of a 2-game losing streak 22:1 against[/table] October 9th, 2004: ALDS Game 4 [table] Game State Bottom 7, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 4 vs. New York Twins Win Probability 97.0%(!) How'd things look? A-Rod concludes a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 7th by fouling out to first base. The Twins have retired 9 straight batters. What happened? Yankees tie the game in the top of the 8th on an RBI single and a 3-run homer, game goes to extra innings, Yankees take the lead in the 11th, Twins fans begin to wonder if this is the start of something dire. (Narrator: It is.) Odds of a 3-game losing streak 739:1 against[/table] October 3rd, 2006: ALDS Game 1 [table] Game State Bottom 1, 0 outs, tie game vs. Oakland Twins Win Probability 58.3% How'd things look? Luis Castillo leads off for the Twins with a walk. This would be as good as it got. What happened? Frank Thomas homers to take the lead in the 2nd, and despite the Twins making things interesting in the bottom of the 8th, they would never be favored again. Odds of a 4-game losing streak 1,773:1 against[/table] October 4th, 2006: ALDS Game 2 [table] Game State Bottom 6, 0 outs, tie game vs. Oakland Twins Win Probability 57.6% How'd things look? Down 2, the Twins start the bottom of the 6th with consecutive homers by Cuddy and Morneau to tie the game, and Oakland goes to the bullpen. What happened? Oakland responds in the 7th with 2 runs off an inside the park home run. Odds of a 5-game losing streak 4,181:1 against[/table] October 6th, 2006: ALDS Game 3 [table] Game State Top 2, 0 outs, tie game at Oakland Twins Win Probability 56.3% How'd things look? Morneau opens the 2nd with a double, with Torii Hunter on deck. What happened? Morneau doesn't score, Oakland opens up a 4-0 lead, and eventually win 8-3. Odds of a 6-game losing streak 9,569:1 against[/table] October 7th, 2009: ALDS Game 1 [table] Game State Top 3, 2 outs, Twins ahead by 2 at New York Twins Win Probability 68.7% How'd things look? Twins take a 2-0 lead when Joe Mauer scores on a Jorge Posada passed ball What happened? Yankees immediately tie the game on a Derek Jeter home run, and the Twins never score again. Yankees win 7-2. Odds of a 7-game losing streak 30,571:1 against[/table] October 9th, 2009: ALDS Game 2 [table] Game State Top 9, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 2 at New York Twins Win Probability 91.7% How'd things look? After the Twins take a 2 run lead in the top of the 8th, the Yankees go down 1-2-3, and Joe Mauer comes to the plate to open the 9th. What happened? Yankees tie it up in the bottom of the 9th, Joe Mauer hits a double in the 11th that Phil Cuzzi incorrectly rules foul, and settles for a single- only to be followed by 2 consecutive singles that would have scored him had the double stood. Instead, Mauer doesn't score, Yankees walk it off on a Mark Teixeira homer, and just typing out this sentence makes me want to die inside. Odds of an 8-game losing streak 368,333:1 against[/table] October 11th, 2009: ALDS Game 3 [table] Game State Top 7, 1 out, Twins ahead by 1 vs. New York Twins Win Probability 72.6% How'd things look? The Twins have struck first on an RBI single by Mauer, and the Yankees have responded with a Mark Teixeira groundout. What happened? Yankees immediately take the lead with home runs by A-Rod and Posada. Twins threaten to tie in the 8th with a leadoff Punto double, but fail to capitalize. Yankees win 4-1. Odds of a 9-game losing streak 1,344,281:1 against[/table] October 6th, 2010: ALDS Game 1 [table] Game State Top 6, 1 out, Twins ahead by 3 vs. New York Twins Win Probability 87.7% How'd things look? Francisco Liriano has only given up 2 hits to the Yankees, who are down three and open the 6th with a Nick Swisher strikeout. What happened? The wheels come off moments later as Lirano gives up a double, a wild pitch, 2 singles, and a triple to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. The Twins would later tie it, only to lose 6-4. Odds of a 10-game losing streak 10,929,120:1 against[/table] October 7th, 2010: ALDS Game 2 [table] Game State Bottom 3, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 1 vs. New York Twins Win Probability 66.5% How'd things look? Twins opened the scoring in the 2nd on a Danny Valencia sac fly, and the Yankees go down 1-2-3 in response. What happened? Yankees would later take a 2-1 lead before Orlando Hudson ties the game with a solo shot, but that tie doesn't last long. Yankees win 5-2. Odds of an 11-game losing streak 32,624,240:1 against[/table] October 9th, 2010: ALDS Game 3 [table] Game State Top 2, 0 outs, Twins tied at New York Twins Win Probability 50% How'd things look? This is the only game in the 18-game streak where the Twins were never favored. It remained 50/50 after both teams failed to accomplish anything in the first inning. What happened? Twins fall behind in the 2nd, and never get close, losing 6-1. Odds of a 12-game losing streak 65,248,481:1 against[/table] October 3th, 2017: AL Wild Card [table] Game State Top 1, 1 out, Twins ahead by 3 at New York Twins Win Probability 81.8% How'd things look? You remember this inning, right? Twins go into Yankee Stadium and immediately knock Luis Severino out of the game with homers by Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario, followed by an Escobar single and a Kepler double. 3 run lead, 2 men on, only 1 out. We've got this. Yankees don't have a CHANCE. What happened? Buxton and Castro strike out to end the inning, Ervin Santana gives up the lead on a 3-run homer, Yankees win 8-4, and everyone in my generation starts to develop serious anxiety complexes revolving around who the hell we hurt to cause this. Odds of a 13-game losing streak 358,508,138:1 against[/table] October 4th, 2019: ALDS Game 1 [table] Game State Top 3, 2 out, Twins ahead by 2 at New York Twins Win Probability 67.1% How'd things look? Twins were already leading 1-0 when Nelson Cruz comes up big with a solo home run against James Paxton. What happened? As per usual, Twins lose the lead immediately. They tie things up in the 5th, but that also doesn't last. Twins lose 10-4. Odds of a 14-game losing streak 1,089,690,390:1 against[/table] October 5th, 2019: ALDS Game 2 [table] Game State Top 1, 1 out, Twins tied at New York Twins Win Probability 53.6% How'd things look? Inexplicably known as the Randy Dobnak game, the Twins were statistically favored for the briefest of moments when a HBP and a single put 2 men on in the first inning with only one out. What happened? Those baserunners are stranded on a double play, Yankees score first and never look back. Twins lose 8-2. Odds of a 15-game losing streak 2,348,470,670:1 against[/table] October 7th, 2019: ALDS Game 3 [table] Game State Bottom 2, 0 outs, Twins losing by 1 vs. New York Twins Win Probability 62.6% How'd things look? The only entry on this series where the Twins were favored while losing. Why? The Twins opened the 2nd inning by loading the bases with no outs. This is a scenario where you are highly likely to score multiple runs. What happened? They didn't. Odds of a 16-game losing streak 6,279,333,342:1 against[/table] September 29th, 2020: AL Wild Card Round Game 1 [table] Game State Bottom 5th, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 1 vs. Houston Twins Win Probability 78.4% How'd things look? Twins open the 5th with consecutive walks while already leading. What happened? Strikeout, pop fly, groundout. Twins twitter immediately fears the worst due to the failure to capitalize, and their fears are proven valid. Odds of a 17-game losing streak 29,070,987,697:1 against[/table] September 30th, 2020: AL Wild Card Round Game 2 [table] Game State Bottom 6th, 0 outs, Twins tied vs. Houston Twins Win Probability 57.9% How'd things look? After loading the bases in the first inning and still failing to score, the Twins have done very litte. Still, it's a tie game, and the Twins are coming up to bat as slight favorites. What happened? The bats continued to stay silent, and couldn't overcome a 2-run deficit in the 9th. I cried, and then began writing this article as a coping mechanism. Odds of a 18-game losing streak 69,052,227,309:1 against[/table] Conclusions https://twitter.com/GoTwinkiesGo/status/1311406223019790336