The Minnesota Twins probably didn’t expect to be where they are now heading in this season. Minnesota have reached the playoffs in three of the past four seasons and were looking to come back again in 2021 in hopes of actually win a playoff series for the first time since 2003. So far however – 35 games in the season – the Twins are 12-23, the last place in AL Central and ten games in first place – tied for the most part of all the Bigs teams.
Minnesota is a much more interesting case study than its track record shows. The Twins are 12-12 in 9 innings this year, but they are 0-11 in 7 innings and extra innings.
It can’t be more than a statistical anomaly, right? In a way, it is. Regardless of the circumstances a team finds itself in, going 0-11 is highly unlikely. However, this streak points to some bigger issues with Minnesota.
The Twins are 0-7 in extra games. In five of those games, the Twins reliever pen allowed at least one run in the 8th or 9th inning, allowing the game to be pushed into extras. Throughout 2021, the Twins surrendered 19 points in the 8th inning (.61 points / inning) and 14 points in the 9th (.56 points / inning). Minnesota’s record range currently holds a 1-13 record (0.071 – the worst MLB record) with a 5.09 ERA – the third highest score in the American League, ahead of only the Angels and Tigers . They also have the fewest saves in the American League with five. Next closest are the Houston Astros… with 8. It wasn’t pretty after the Twins’ starters left the game.
The Twins also don’t have any real power arms outside of their enclosure. A single reliever, Caleb Thielbar, has over 20 strikeouts, and only two relievers – Taylor Rogers and Derek Law – have a strikeout rate greater than one, while maintaining an ERA below 3.50. Overall, the Twins relieving pen recorded a very poor 141 strikeouts in 132.2 innings pitched.
The bullpen is not all to blame, however. The Twins were also exceptionally bad at hitting with runners in goal position. Despite a runner starting on second at the start of each bonus half-inning, the Twins only scored two runs in seven extra frames. This inability to get runners home isn’t just a symptom of extra heats. So far, Minnesota has blocked an average of 7.2 runners on per game basis, more than any other team in the American League.
The losses of 7 innings are more difficult to explain and can probably be attributed to coincidence. Maybe the team just weren’t focused on those games. The Boston double came immediately after Minnesota Police Shot and Killed Daunte Wright. Meanwhile, the Oakland double followed the suspension of three of Minnesota’s games due to Complications of COVID-19. Perhaps these external issues played into the team’s lack of success. It’s not hard to believe considering the Twins have scored the ninth most points per game this season, but have posted just three points over the four games of 7 innings.
That being said, without a doubt, the Twins have a lot of issues to tackle if they plan to return to the playoffs. Are they easily repairable? No, but based on the performance of the previous season, we know that the Twins are capable of being much better than they are now. Perhaps a few recalls later in the season will increase the bullpen and improve the team’s clutch factor. All I know is the Twins are winless in 11 games that weren’t exactly 9 innings, and there will likely be a lot more before their season is over.