How the Minnesota Twins found success

Right now the Minnesota Twins hold the best record in all of baseball. The Twins were not a heavy favorite to be successful this season, let alone be projected to make the playoffs. Except here we are, the Twins have a .662 winning percentage and hold 47 wins through 71 games. I saw a tweet from Devan Fink that if the Twins finish their remaining games just one win above an even record, they will finish the season with a 94-68 record. So that tweet directly speaks to the amount of success that the Twins have had so far in the 2019 season. As I said earlier though, how did they get to this point? This wasn’t expected out of them and I want to know if this is going to continue. Will the Minnesota Twins win the AL Central? The answer is yes and you’re about to find out why.

As mentioned, at the beginning of the season the Twins were not expected to be a team in contention. I will use ESPN as an example that aligned rather closely to the rankings of other media sources. Take a look here to see their opening day power rankings. The Twins were found at the 17th spot while their division rival Indians came in at 7th. The Indians seemed to be a sure bet to win their division for the fourth year in a row but now the Twins seem to have a firm grasp on that title. Needless to say, the Twins were underrated coming into this season. In hindsight, it’s easy to say that they should’ve been given a closer look. So let’s see as to why they shouldn’t have been passed up.

In 2018 the Twins finished with a 78-84 record so they weren’t exactly a competitor but they also were a team that couldn’t be overlooked. Especially after making the playoffs in 2017, the Twins concluded that even after a losing record season, they weren’t far out of contention. Here is the big factor that proves they weren’t far from success. In 2018 the Twins finished the season with a -37 run differential. The Seattle Mariners, who finished with a -34 run differential finished 2018 with an 89-73 record, just missing the playoffs. These two run differentials are so similar but yet are attached to two very different teams. The Twins saw it as an indication that they weren’t far from contention. The Mariners saw it as an indicator that their success was simply a fluke and decided to enter the rebuilding process. I specifically wrote about this exact Mariners situation right after opening day when they started off the season as one of the hottest teams in baseball. Each of these two teams were in very similar situations despite their records, but they both took very different paths to get to where they are now.

Image via The Edwardsville Intelligencer

The Twins entered the offseason as one of the major buyers even though they were never in contention for Harper or Machado. The organization went out and signed Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Martin Perez, and Jonathan Schoop. They even picked up C.J. Cron off of waivers who has been a big producer for them this year. The Twins didn’t sign one big superstar, they signed many productive players instead. In a time when teams are so quick to push the rebuild button, like the Mariners, the Twins bought in and so far it has paid off for them. They found players that would work for them and would contribute to helping their organization win.

They have also gotten unexpected success out of players that didn’t expect it from. Max Kepler is a major example of that as he has outperformed expectations this year, to say the least. Currently, he has a 2.8 WAR on the season which ranks 15th best in all of baseball. Jorge Polanco is an identical case as he too has a 2.8 WAR on the season. So, if you combine the addition of better players to the roster with improved success out of the team from last season, their newfound success makes sense.

The Twins are good and their success is going to continue. Not at the rate they are currently playing at but enough to be one of the best teams in the league. There are a few indications that show that the team should be expected to regress. One example is that they currently rank 5th out of all of baseball in FIP. However, they drop all the way down to 12th in xFIP. This means that based on ballpark factors or just some pure luck, their pitchers have performed better than they actually can. So, their pitching will finish closer to twelfth than fifth when the regular season comes to a close.

Image via NBC Sports

The Twins offense though is something out of this world. They lead the league in almost every offensive category. The lead in wRC+, WAR, wOBA, HR, RBI, R, AVG, and SLG. The craziest part is how much they lead the league in slugging percentage. As a team, they are slugging .507 which is 37 points higher than the second-best team. If they keep that pace up they would shatter the single-season record held by the 2003 Boston Red Sox who had a slugging percentage of .491.

The Twins are here to stay in 2019 and they are obliterating everyone else in the league. I hope they continue because I think they’ll be exciting to watch down the stretch and who knows just how far they’ll go. They may even make a move as the deadline rolls around to bolster their bullpen. That seems to be their weakest part but with the pace their hitting at, they make it seem like it doesn’t even matter. The Twins are really good and 2019 will be a historic season for them.