How do you like the Twins now?

We laughed last spring when a baseball statistics prediction program predicted 77 wins for your Minnesota Twins. The front office had done virtually nothing to change the worst team in the American League.

Last night, thanks to a walk-off home run by Byron Buxton, the Twins won their 77th game of the season.

How do you like baseball stat freaks now?

The program — known as PECOTA — also predicted Buxton would end the season with a .244 batting average, .434 slugging percentage, 17 homers and 16 SB. As of this morning, he’s batting .253, slugging .420, has 15 homeruns, and has stolen 25 bases.

It said Brian Dozier would hit 25 homeruns, and bat .244. He’s got 30 HR and is hitting .257.

You know what’s almost as fun as baseball? Math.

The Twins, whose front office raised the white flag at the end of July and began unloading players, are likely going to the playoffs and will play the Yankees in a one-game playoff for the opportunity to play the Cleveland Indians.

The Indians won their 22nd consecutive game last night, also in walk-off fashion. They’re kind of good at this baseball thing.

Deadspin says the Twins’ good fortune is partly because the American League has a couple of super-teams this season.

More surprising than the Twins’ decent record is the fact that 85 wins should be good enough to put a team in the playoffs. It’s not so much that the Twins are playing way over their heads, but that the AL has been particularly top heavy this year.

The top tier is so stacked that the Yankees, owners of the third-best run differential in the league, have to settle for a Wild Card spot. Meanwhile, the Rangers, Tigers, Orioles, and Blue Jays all regressed considerably, leaving the Twins to float to the top of the AL’s uninspiring middle class.

The addition of the second Wild Card game was always going to lower the bar, but no club with fewer than 86 wins has made the playoffs in the past five years, and only the Orioles—in the first year of the play-in game—had a run differential worse than the Twins do currently.

In typical fashion, Deadspin dumped on the local franchise, suggesting a Twins-Indians playoff series would be a “stink bomb.”

  • Gary F

    Baseball is always more fun in September when your team still in contention.

    What is also nice is so many of these players are guys we drafted and brought up through the farm system.

    I think we have a team leader and that is Dozier. When they traded those pitchers at the trade deadline, that really ticked him off and I think he sparked the team. He is going to be expensive to resign, but I think you have to do it.

    Hats off to your boys in Cleveland Bob. Unbelievable. They can stay hot all they want and cool down right as they are about to play the Twins.

    I wish my dad were still alive to watch this. We would have to check up on him twice last night, once with the blown save, and then after the walk off home run.

  • Erick

    “Racism is as American as Baseball.” If you need to refer to the team from Cleveland please refrain from using their nickname,
    Oh, and go Twins!

  • MikeB

    Just get in. Then anything could happen

    • Erik Petersen

      Analysis: true

  • Rob

    Meh. Color me impressed if/when the Twins make it past the WC playoff.

    • Bridget L.

      Bob, I’m gonna need you to save your low level enthusiasm for the Vikings.
      Go Twins!

  • Jim in RF

    ESPN had a similar article this morning about how nobody has a chance against the Yankees. Trotting out run differential as more telling than record (even though the Yankees +RD came in the first half of the season and the Twins in the second half).

  • Barton

    Is Deadspin hating on the potential Cleveland/Twins playoff b/c they are two midwest teams? I honestly assume this is the only reason. I mean if it doesn’t include Boston or NY, it can’t be worthwhile, can it? (that was definitely sarcasm).

    • Well, if that’s their reason, that’s an ignorant one. Last year, two Midwest teams provided one of the best World Series in baseball history.

      I got the impression,yes, it has more to do with the fact that Yankees wouldn’t be in the playoffs if the Twins are. Because…. New York.

      A lot of Yankees fans have a hard time accepting their team isn’t that good.

    • QuietBlue

      I think the reasoning is that Cleveland could more easily beat the Twins than they could the Yankees, thus making the series less interesting. While I do think Cleveland would win, I think it would be more competitive than they seem to believe.

  • TBH

    Just got an email telling me about my postseason ticket buying opportunity starting on the 19th – I’m ready to go! Unfortunately, my hopes are not high and I suspect I’ll just be giving the Twins an interest free loan for a month until the postseason ticket refund is processed. I don’t think our pitching rotation can keep up in the postseason – although, I will concede, I don’t think the 87 or 91 Twins were favored at the time either. Anything can happen once you get in. Crossing my fingers that is not the case and we get to see some home postseason baseball!

  • Erik Petersen

    “The front office had done nothing” is a bit of a know nothing fan thing to say.

    They obviously / intentionally improved the catching and 3rd base situation from last year. This was probably good for 15 wins by itself.

    • Jason Castro’s WAR is 2.5 He’s thrown out 28% of people trying to steal. There are only 6 American League teams with worse pitching. Kurt Suzuki’s waR was 1.1. With him behind the plate, they had the worst ERA in the league

      Trevor Plouffe left Minnesota as a free agent. Sano’s WAR is 2.6. Plouffe’s was -.8.

      There’s ZERO indication these two account for 15 wins or even a significant reason for the increase in the team’s success.

      For that, you can look to Rosario,Buxton, Mauer, and Sano…. all of whom the new front office inherited from the old front office.

      The Twins also benefitted from this truth: Considering the talent — young talent — that was on the team last year, they couldn’t possibly be any worse than last year.

      • Erik Petersen

        It doesn’t indicate that’s a big reason? Not that I can actually parse the stats, but I am actually a believer in the new age of stats, and you just gave stats that demonstrate a difference between this year and last.

        Right, with Kurt Suzuki behind the plate Twins had worst era in AL…. you make a decision to step up the catching to a mere mediocrity that is Castro and you radically change the performance of your team. Bada bing, there’s 10 Wins.

        Sano in right might have been the dumbest thing I have ever seen in baseball, and it was a function of the prior administration not putting on their big boy pants to assertively make a decision on Plouffe, that decision being he needed to be replaced with Sano, who is a 3rd baseman. Bada bing…

        They did do things between seasons, they did not stand pat.

        • Try parsing the stats and come up with the 10 and 15 wins you’re claiming.

          And think about this: You’re claiming that Jason Castro is responsible for the difference between winning and losing in 10 percent of the games in which he’s played.

          Obviously the team improved. Nobody’s arguing that. The team was going to improve even by doing nothing because they had talented kids. You know who knew that? Falvey and company.

          You know who gave up on this team in July and threw in the towel? Falvey and company.

          They’re not getting too much credit from me.

          But anyway, parse those stats and find those 10-15 wins. If they’re there via Castro, the stats will reveal it.

          Cuz math is fun.

          • Erik Petersen

            I believe in the new stats, but I think you make a mistake to understand that the difference between Castro and Suzuki is only going to be 3 wins or whatever because that’s what their difference in WAR says.

            The Suzuki / Ryan catching battery and the Sano in right thing was, Id venture (and not crazily) a 15 win swing.

            The other 15 wins they get are new bullpen arms, Mauer being better, Buxton/Rosario/Kepler maturing, all that.

          • //The Suzuki / Ryan catching battery and the Sano in right thing was, Id venture (and not crazily) a 15 win swing.

            Again, after asserting my lack of knowledge about baseball, you said Castro/and thirdbase was responsible for 15 wins by itself.

            There’s absolutely nothing to show that. Castro’s win replacement is 2.5.

            You’re closer to being correct that the win swing is due to the expected increase in player ability by existing players who were on the team last season. I’d already said that, of course.

            the other aspect of the Twins is that they had some great luck this year. They did sign Robbie Grossman who, in reality, is the kind of player you sign when you need soemone to play and you don’t want to pay anything. he’s not very good, which is why he’s released from other teams.

            But he played above his weight and helped carry the team in April and May, at a time when the power team in this division was basically taking the first three months off.

            It’s good to be lucky, too.

          • Erik Petersen

            I did not assert your lack of knowledge about baseball ( I read you daily…).

            I said saying they did nothing in the off season was an ignorant fan type thing to say.

          • // a bit of a know nothing fan thing to say.

            OK, though it still strikes me as a distinction without a difference.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            As a long time recreational mathematician I suspect that if I poked at the numbers enough I could make them give up the 15 games. But my suspicion is that the answer is simpler than somewhat convoluted calculations. According to Baseball Reference, young Mr. Buxton has at this point played 34 more games than he did all last season. Young Mr. Kepler has played 20 more games than he did all of last season. With these two in the outfield fewer balls drop for base hits. Fewer hits, coupled with more consistent pitching (okay maybe that’s a stretch) yields more wins.

            Oh yeah and the first baseman is hitting .300 for the first time in 4 years.

          • If you want to be a cool baseball stat person, Jack, you’ll have to stop looking at batting average.

            But, yeah, Buxton is going to be an MVP one of these years.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            I know, Batting Average and ERA are no longer “useful” in determining a player’s value. Just give it some time. Eventually someone will determine that if you look at BA, HRs and RBIs, weighted properly of course, you get a pretty good measure of an offensive players value. 8^)

          • Save time and go right to Ops or Tot. Ops. Or WAR.

            I’m glad Mauer turned it around a bit this year, but, man, what a drag on the franchise that contract is.

      • Erik Petersen

        I tell ya, the trade of Kintzler worked out, by the way, and not because it got the rest of the boys all juiced about being dissed by management.

        9th inning is not the highest leverage inning of the game. You move Belisle into it… ya know, because he’s a veteran or whatever… and you move his mediocre performance into a lower leverage spot, and you end up moving more impressive, younger arms – Hildenberger, Busenitz – to take his place in the higher leverage spots in the 6th, 7th, 8th inning.

        This is why the bullpen is suddenly better than average.

        Hildenberger has brass balls for a man with peach fuzz.

    • Jeff

      You forgot Colon. That was genius.

      • Erik Petersen

        In hindsight it’s certainly one of those rolls of the dice that you can get really rewarded fer.

        I don’t know how he gets guys out though. Well, I guess I do actually, but I’m surprised there is circuitry in MLB hitters brains that can be shorted out with mere variations of fastballs.

        • Jeff

          I think they had used every other pitcher who was available, so one was bound to stick.

          Yes, he’s not very good but maybe facing him after Berrios is confusing. Also, is there a stat for guile? He might get shelled again tonight, so who knows but that’s part of the fun.

      • Wasn’t an off-season addition, though.

        and you guys know he’s not a very good pitcher, right?

        • Erik Petersen

          I dont think hes a very good pitcher

  • Zachary

    Mad props to Paul Molitor for taking this team the direction they’re headed. He’s done a great job over last year’s debacle.

    I’m excited for this postseason – it’s gonna be short I’m afraid (so many other great teams out there in the Twins’ way), but I am going to hang on and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts.

  • Neil

    Sometimes doing virtually nothing is the right thing to do.

    • It was absolutely the right thing to do because Falvey was new and while the fans had given up on Buxton by the end of April, there’s nothing in his career that indicates he’s going to be nothing but a huge star.

      At the same time, the team remains completely hamstrung by Mauer’s contract and the Twins can’t move it and they didn’t have anything of value — other than Dozier — to use in a trade.

      The test with him comes this offseason since the end of next season is a walk year. Not sure how much value they can get for him, though, since great secondbasemen (and shortstops) are suddently a dime a dozen among teams that have something the Twins might want in a trade.

      Cleveland has an abundance of them but there’s no way they’d be foolish enough to swing a trade with the Twins and there’s nothing on the Twins the Indians need anyway.

      But this offseason, if Falvey doesn’t sign Carlos Santana, there should be a rebellion. He’s a perfect fit.