Are the Twins dangerous?

The Twins have made the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. In 2017 they lost to the Yankees in the Wild Card game and last season they were swept by the Yankees in the divisional round.

Last season seemed to have a lot of promise though as they finished the regular season with 101 wins. However, they were swept by the Yankees in the Divisional Series.

The Twins have a high powered offense as they broke the single-season record in 2019 for most home runs by a team. Hearing that makes it difficult to believe that they were swept in the divisional round but the Twins have their flaws in other parts of the field.

The Twins have had a productive offseason though and it may help them to make a further run in 2020. Their biggest move was signing Josh Donaldson to a 4-year deal to the veteran third baseman who can still rake.

Data via Baseball Savant

At the age of 34 Donaldson continues to mash at the plate. Not only does he mash but he also gets on base. Last season he walked 15.2% of the time which falls in the top 4% of the league. Last year he also hit the ball hard 50% of the time which falls in the top 3% of the league is and a career-high for him in the Statcast era.

Donaldson is also known as having one of the sweetest swings in all of baseball and I encourage you to watch the Sports Science video below as they breakdown his swing. I find it to be very interesting as he can take such a large amount of potential energy and turn it into kinetic energy.

So despite the increase in age, Donaldson is still mashing the ball and isn’t showing any sign of regression. I look forward to what he is gonna do in a Twin’s uniform as he is an exciting player to watch that mashes the baseball.

Donaldson wasn’t the only acquisition the Twins made this offseason as they also signed Rich Hill and Homer Bailey to help boost their rotation. Then just earlier this month they traded for Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers.

The Twins found most of their success in 2019 coming for their offensive production as it carried them most of the way. What they lack is pitching. More specifically, starting pitching. Their ace, Jose Berrios, is a great young talent but he is about all the Twins have to offer in their rotation. The rest of their rotation from 2019 included Martin Perez, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, and Michael Pineda. All are listed from the most to least innings pitched last season.

Odorizzi was, in fact, the best pitcher for the Twins in 2019 as he recorded a 3.36 FIP. Berrios recorded a 3.85 FIP. The remainder of the staff didn’t record anything below 4 in FIP.

Their success on the mound came from their bullpen. They had 3 relievers record a sub 3 ERA and who each recorded anywhere from 57 to 69 innings pitched. Those three relievers were Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, and Tyler Duffey.

So the Twins have acknowledged their weakness and worked to fix it. They have upgraded their rotation but only to an extent. The pitchers that they have acquired are older veterans who don’t have much to offer. In comparison to last year’s rotation this should be an upgrade but by how much?

Homer Bailey had a 4.57 ERA last year which doesn’t seem like any sort of improvement except over Martin Perez. Rich Hill did record an impressive 2.45 ERA but through only 58 innings and as he approaches 40, I question as to how much he has left.

The most intriguing piece that they’ve added is Kenta Maeda. Last season he finished with a 4.04 ERA but his ERA seems to be inconsistent throughout his career and at only the age of 27, who knows what his limitations are.

He does have the potential to make a big impact on the Twins. If you take a look below at some of his Statcast metrics you can form the impression that Maeda is a quality pitcher who tends to fly below the radar based on the numbers he records. Maeda knows how to pitch and he does so by creating weak contact. He records his fair share of strikeouts but he excels in missing batts. Take a look for yourself below.

Data via Baseball Savant

The biggest part of the entire Twin’s organization is their manager Rocco Baldelli. He is entering his second year as the Twin’s manager and was awarded AL Manager of the Year in 2019. Baldelli is, in my opinion, one of the more analytically driven managers in the game. Before his current stint with the Twins, he worked for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Baldelli has even been labeled as the centerpiece of the Twin’s analytic operations by The Athletic which you can read here. Baldelli knows a lot about the game of baseball and is very intelligent. He has spoken before at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in 2012 and you can see him speak in the video below.

The Twins are a dangerous team and even World Series contenders. 2020 will be another productive season and I can even see them making it to the ALCS depending on who they are matched up against. However, I do not see them topping the Yankees or the Dodgers.

At this point, the Twins are heavy contenders for the 2021 World Series as the Yankees will most likely be losing a couple of key pieces to free agency and depending on where Betts signs, the Dodgers may be losing him. Not to mention the increased regression that we will most likely see from Clayton Kershaw. 2021 is far away as we haven’t even started the 2020 season but as for now I label it as the year of the Twins.