Danecdotes: The Minnesota Twins look ... great?
Seven weeks into the season, and I am not shaking my head in disgust yet? I have to say, I didn't really see that coming.
I guess I didn't have very high expectations for the Minnesota Twins this spring. With the way things have gone for the better part of a decade, can you really blame me?
I figured they could maybe finish second in the AL Central Division, but the division itself has been so weak in recent seasons, I can't really consider that an accomplishment. Heck, I feel like a few beer league softball teams in the area could give the Kansas City Royals a run for their money.
But to my surprise, the Twins have actually been one of the best teams this season.
They have lost very few series so far this year, and those losses have mainly come from teams like the always fierce New York Yankees, the recent World Series-winning Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies, who got off to a solid start after agreeing to pay Bryce Harper enough money to give about 10,000 students a full-ride scholarship to my alma mater (yes, I did the math).
All but four of their losses have only been by three runs or fewer. In fact, the Twins have a run differential of plus-50. Last year, that number was minus-37. When they lost 103 games just three seasons ago, that number was minus-167.
Now, the season is still young, but positive strides right out the gate like this should not be ignored.
Perhaps the two biggest keys to the Twins' offense have been Eddie Rosario and Jorge Polanco. Rosario is second in the American League with 13 home runs and fifth with 32 RBIs, while Polanco is having the best start a Twins shortstop has ever had, batting .324, hitting seven homers and even hitting for the cycle in a game.
New team member Nelson Cruz has done fairly well, batting .270 and knocking 22 runs, but a concerning stat in my mind is that he has struck out in nearly one-third of his at-bats.
As a team, the Twins are third in the AL in home runs with 71. That number blows my mind.
Remember when this team went by the moniker "The Piranhas?" When the team was viewed as group of tenacious small-ball masters? It has been a while since those days, but I really don't think the Twins have ever been viewed as a power-hitting team in my lifetime. As a fan, this feels like a new experience.
Pitching can't be ignored either. As of right now, the Twins have a top-10 pitching staff in terms of ERA, earned runs allowed, walks and opponent batting average. I expect that to level off a bit as the season progresses, but so far so good. One thing to note in the pitching stats is that Minnesota hurlers don't get many strikeouts compared to most teams, so the team's defense deserves a fair amount of credit for their solid performances.
They also have two starting pitchers getting things done in Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. Both of them have at least five wins and at least 40 strikeouts, and Odorizzi's 2.32 ERA is good enough for second in the American League.
Now, the team's record is bolstered a bit by the fact that roughly one-third of their wins came at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles and they are an awful, awful team. When you get to play a team that bad seven times in your first 25 games, things ought to look OK for a team.
Still, they have won more than they have lost and have beat several great teams in the process. Now that the season is roughly one-quarter over, the Twins' success is looking more and more sustainable.
I have been burned by this team before, but for now, color me optimistic.